What’s Good in Seattle: Hand-Tailored Menswear from Gian DeCaro Sartoria

Posted on March 22, 2016, 8:00 am
8 mins


Photos by Lois Castelli-Leff.

“I like the one in the blue suit,” my mother Pina whispered to her sister Ada at the Mount Vernon skating rink, over 50 years ago. Best friends Ken and Tony had walked into the skating rink, both handsomely dressed. Tony was the “cool” Dean Martin look-alike sporting a black turtleneck sweater and a sports jacket, while Ken–the one in the baby blue suit–was a tall, lanky and handsome young man who would later become my father. Who knew the power a blue suit could have! If you ask my mother to recount this story, which she happily will, she remembers it as if it were yesterday.

In the ’60s, my father (he of blue suit fame) would buy a suit for $50, about a week’s salary, at St. Laurie’s in New York. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my father preparing his garments for the upcoming work week and putting on the final touches to his outfit–I loved that my father was so handsomely dressed in a suit every day. As a former army paratrooper, my father had been trained in the disciplined practice of maintaining one’s uniform, and even his shoes were immaculate and perfectly shined. His wooden shoeshine box, complete with a footrest on top, opened at the hinges to display all of his shoe-polishing supplies tucked neatly inside. We loved to help him buff his shoes with his brush and finish with the well-worn cloth.

Taking the time to dress in this fashion requires extra thought and care, and oftentimes I feel that dressing in this way has become a lost art. Since the early ’80s, formal menswear has suffered a decline alongside the entire men’s clothing industry. An article from The New York Times, dated April 1981, revealed that menswear had already undergone “severe retrenchment, as American men reduced their purchases of suits and other tailored clothing, rebelling against rising prices and deferring to other family needs.” Casual Fridays and the boom of the tech industry kept the decline going through the turn of the millennium. However, on the corner of First and Lenora in Seattle, a tried and true entrepreneur has been steadfast in keeping the chic in menswear alive for more than a quarter of a century!

Gian DeCaro, owner of Gian DeCaro Sartoria and a second generation master tailor, has spent his life learning and sharing his talent in the time-honored craftsmanship of fine custom-made tailored menswear. Originally from Spokane, Gian was influenced by his father, who had been an apprentice in the men’s clothing business and eventually opened his own tailoring practice. There was a strong presence of fine tailors and menswear stores in that area at the time, and as a young man, Gian’s instincts told him to bring men’s couture to the big city of Seattle. Back in 1990, Gian began planning his store in the city; he wanted it to be a destination shop, away from the “hustle and bustle” of downtown. He landed on First and Lenora right near Pike Place Market, built the business from the ground up and opened his doors to the men of Seattle.

I visited Gian’s store recently, and his wife Trish greeted me in such a warm and welcoming fashion that I immediately felt at home. The three of us sat down in their comfy and cozy leather chairs, and they humorously shared the details of their business, passion, and the thought that goes into designing a custom suit. Working as a team, Gian and Trish are more than happy to serve their customers, and with this spirit they help their customers create their own personal style. “It’s a collaborative effort,” Trish explains. “We begin with choosing the finest fabrics from Italy and Britain. We also carry some rare vintage fabrics that have been handed down from Gian’s father’s store in Spokane. Whichever fabric you choose, each item of clothing is made expressly for you with your input.”

One step into the gorgeously refined Gian DeCaro Sartoria and you will understand why Town and Country referred to it as “Seattle’s most elegant custom shop,” and GQ magazine praised his shop as “the best Bespoke tailoring west of the Rockies.” After leafing through an array of gorgeous fabric swatches to decide on your suit material, the patterns are hand-cut and the clothing is fully finished by hand as well, resulting in a perfect and lasting fit. Trish and Gian have an eye for the smallest details, such as hand stitching, which adds to the unique and special finish of each garment. Finished suits are displayed around the store, serving as inspiration, and an endless selection of whimsical lining fabrics are offered to pair with your suit fabric. Trish continues, “We desire that our client’s personality shine through, and that happens in the added details of the suit, such as the lining, the hand stitching, side buckles on pants for ease of fit, the silk ties, and pocket squares.”

Gian and Trish attribute their success to their loyal customers, who “have kept us going through good and bad times.” The Sartoria caters to old and new generations alike, and because of this, it has kept up quite the client list. “Every day we come into contact with some of the most influential people in the world, and also some young men who are just starting out, and who will eventually mature into serious professionals. And let’s face it: Girls like guys that dress up!”

When you feel good, it shows, and nothing gives confidence like an outfit that fits you impeccably. Build your wardrobe around investment pieces–articles of clothing that are classic, well-made and built to last–and you’ll feel confident and comfortable no matter what the occasion. Gian is catering to a whole new generation of men who simply want to dress up, whether for work or play. So take a look in your closet, clean out your stuff, and as Marie Kondo advises, “Keep just what brings you joy. Wear, use, and love. Whatever pieces remain will be in your closet for a long time.” Then head out to Gian DeCaro Sartoria for a new outfit, designed and handmade especially for you.

Gian DeCaro Sartoria is located at 2025 1st Ave, and is open Tuesday-Friday 10-5:30, Saturday 10-4:30.

Lois Castelli-Leff is a Long Island transplant, 28 years in Seattle. She has a degree in fashion merchandising from FIT and BA in textiles and merchandising from SUNY at Oneonta. Her work experience includes fashion sales and styling at Macy's NYC and Nordstrom. She held regional sales executive position at both Perry Ellis and Anne Klein and has an extensive background in showroom sales, trade shows and fashion show production. Her community service includes serving as an art docent through the Frye Art Museum and speech coach at Our Lady of Fatima, choreographer for the Magnolia Theatre, and is a member of the Katie McKay Circle. Lois founded her business, Senti, in 2010 producing glass crosses. She has three beautiful children and a dog, Baci.