Assessing a Made in Italy tailored sport coat.
Sitting at the highest end of the vast Ralph Lauren brand portfolio, the men’s Purple Label offerings are centred around luxury tailored products including suits, sport coats, outerwear and shirts. I’ve owned one of their Italian made sport coats – a windowpane wool/silk/linen number – for a couple of years now, giving it an extensive road test. It’s certainly a quality garment, but is it fit to command its hefty retail price tag?
Construction consists of a lightweight full floating canvas, which runs the length of the front. Shoulders have a thin pad and are roped to slightly enhance the shape. Underneath the collar a combination of machine stitching and hand stitching is apparent; the collar is attached and finished by hand, however two seams across the inner section appear to have been done by machine. The rear has two vents which appear to have been shaped with an iron and clever cutting rather than tacked with fusible in order to give them body, which better helps the garment hug the wearer’s body. The sleeves are nonfunctioning, which is ideal for ready-to-wear as it makes alterations easier. All front buttonholes appear to be handmade, which is to be expected at this price point, and the buttons are of a lovely brown horn.
Negatives include rather shallow pocket bags in both the chest and hip pockets. The front canvas doesn’t lead into the lapel, which instead seems to have a very light fusible backing it and consequentially lacks the lovely roll that it would have should the lapel have been properly canvassed. The pattern matching of the cloth is fairly good, but not brilliant. Armholes are also lower than I’d like for a garment at this level – much lower than I’d expect from Purple Label’s competitors.
The block which this garment has been cut from is perhaps one of the best ready-to-wear patterns I’ve had the pleasure of wearing. Everything feels just right; the shoulders ever so slightly extended, the chest with a hint of drape, a comfortable buttoning in regard to stance and waist allowance. It moves well with me when I move, and is comfortable buttoned regardless of standing or sitting. The collar hugs my neck properly, without leaving a gap as I sit or swing my arms. Pocket placement and overall coat length are just right, hovering in a space which allows the wearer to feel contemporary without disrespecting the traditions of proportion. Lapel width is on the narrower side of what I’d usually wear, though it harmonises well with the other elements of the overall cut. However, the lower armhole is a solitary drawback. My arms couldn’t reach too high without the jacket beginning to pick up. A shame, as the cut is otherwise very good.
One aspect which plays to Purple Label’s favour is the choice of cloths across the range. Tailored clothes right across the spectrum of Ralph Lauren brands are prized for their unique fabrics that are always developed especially for the brand, and the cloth selected for this Purple Label sport coat is no exception. There’s so much depth and life to the wool/silk/linen cloth; a twill weave with medium airiness, the hand of the cloth has an almost tweedy texture. It’s quite nappy up close which gives it a more casual, relaxed character. The cloth is perhaps my favourite thing about this particular garment, with its combination of comfort, versatility and visual appeal.
With these points considered, it’s time to answer the question: is it worth it? The answer is, in most cases, unfortunately not; with a sport coat or blazer starting around AU$3000 from department stores, it’s hard to recommend buying Purple Label unless you’re really in love with the cut or completely enamoured with a particular piece from the brand’s collection. Despite me rather enjoying the piece of Purple Label that I do own, there are simply too many more attractive options; more interesting details, more customised fit. Some excellent bespoke or made to measure can be had within that range, or for buyers looking to stay within ready to wear, makers like Ring Jacket.