I met Francesco Sigalini after lunch, during a busy week, at his showroom in Brescia, in northern Italy. Summer is in full swing, and Francesco, 28, and his brother Piergiacomo, 25, are busy designing their collection to keep up with the high demand from their growing clientele. This is not their first rodeo. While young and easygoing, the two brothers have been designing menswear since they were fresh out of high school. Just over half-a-decade later, they count not one but two growing brands to their name.
Everything started with Conte Francesco Sigalini’s bespoke shirts. The house predominantly specialises in classic button-down shirts for a select clientele of businessmen in northern Italy. As you can imagine, measurements are carefully taken by hand to create a precise model for each client. Technology has no part in this process – it’s all about the craftsman’s hand and eye.
Amazed by the young age of both Sigalini brothers, I’m curious to learn where their craftsmanship and know-how comes from. “We learnt all the basics and tricks of the trade from Camillo,” confesses Francesco. A locally renown tailor from Brescia with a lifetime of knowledge, Camillo Giuseppe Aquila took Francesco and Piergiacomo under his wing. He helped them take their first steps in the trade, teaching them his preferred system for cutting and to create the most accurate paper cartamodello for each client.
This gave the brothers the tools to bet on new ideas. “We have always loved fabrics like batik and paisley and of course silk”, continues Francesco, remembering the presents their father would bring back from his work trips in the East – often loose, light pants with fun patterns they would wear going out with friends.
Fresh out of high school, Francesco used to DJ in Brescia with his brother at his side as his trusted PR. “We would wear the pants our father brought back for us, and everybody would ask where they could buy them. This got us thinking, and we decided to jump into a new project,” Francesco explains. The seed of the idea was planted, and Pantamolle was founded. A way to let out their more colourful and free-spirited creativity, the brand takes up most of their time today.
Finding the suitable cotton was the first step: “We initially weren’t happy with how heavy the cotton we were finding was until we looked into jacquard. It was just the right level of lightness we were after, and we got excited.” In the summer of 2016, the first trousers were born. Sold from Francesco’s car and word of mouth on social media, two days later, they sold out. The fun, relaxed style of the garments, paired with their high quality, quickly caught the interest of boutiques in Forte Dei Marmi, Fuerteventura and beyond the following year.
Pantamolle launched its e-commerce site in 2018, but it was the recent pandemic that escalated sales to international buyers. “Of course, the pandemic was a horrible time, but from a business point of view, it worked in our favour,” admits Francesco. The collection now reaches Japan and the United States, and has spread throughout Europe. “At the moment, our staple and most requested items are the bowling shirts with bowling collars,” Francesco continues, “but we have a high demand for tailored shirts with a classic fit but with unusual, colourful patterns too.”
Clients vary from businessmen to young men with a keen eye for a different take on classic menswear. In Italy, football players, actors and rappers are among the showroom visitors in Brescia. “We feel proud when a client spends time with us to learn about what’s at the core of our brand and products,” says Francesco.
The success is a deserved acknowledgement of the careful craftsmanship the Sigalini brothers apply to the creation of their garments. From the design, to the fabric cutting, to the stitching of the hems, the process is handmade throughout. Whether shirts or trousers,each piece is rigorously made to the highest possible standard. Only the stitching that’s structural is done by machine.
It was decided from the start that they had to focus on creating a luxury brand. Everything starts with the fabric, top-graded cotton and premium silk, bought mainly from Italy. “Our clients love silk in summer, but we also use a lot of linen which we source from Thomas Mason,” says Francesco, “green, beige, white. A lot of denim and oxford for winter too.” Elsewhere, poplins like Downing and Regent, or Thomas Mason’s refined Tribeca cotton is often used for Conte Francesco Sigalini’s shirts.
When asked what was the most unexpected discovery of their entrepreneurial journey in menswear so far, Francesco replies: “I studied fashion at university, but this didn’t prepare me for the real world and the industry I was to enter. Only work has taught me day-by-day how to create something and face the challenges of this craftsmanship.” He pauses a moment and adds, laughing, “so far, I have done much better following my instincts than the books I have read. It is difficult, but we are passionate about the creative process and our brand.”
Thomas Mason is a brand of cotonificio albini s.p.a.
Cotonificio Albini S.p.A. - Via Dr. Silvio Albini 1, 24021 Albino (BG) – Italy Società con unico socio - diretta e coordinata da Albini Group S.p.A. P.I. 01884530161 - C.F. 08743540158 - Iscritta al Registro Imprese di Bergamo - REA 244649 Capitale sociale sottoscritto e versato € 11.170.960