Recently, I made an attempt to traverse some of the idiotic misconceptions of ‘luxury’ products and the underpinnings of the industry in general by way of an article entitled ‘What Is Luxury?’ But despite lamenting the ubiquitous #luxurylifestyle shots featuring rented exotic cars and fake Chinese-market-bought Rolex’s, it was remiss of me to exclude what is arguably the most pivotal point in deciphering the fallacy that is social media marketing; the vast majority of the world’s wealthy don’t really use social media.
It was not until I spoke with Bo Yang – owner of Bolognese shirtmakers, Marol – that this piece of knowledge was retrieved from the depths of my brain and etched into my frontal lobes once more. Alas, Bo and the team at Marol have found it difficult to gain the accolades many other brands have through ‘influencer marketing’ simply because their clientele does not reside on social media, much less with the ‘influencer’ moniker attached to their name. Instead, they are diplomats, dignitaries and businesspeople, or in Bo’s words – “people who get shit done” and whose privacy must be respected. But, as with everything, a silver lining exists – because of this lack of publicity, Marol has remained a gem hidden in plain sight.
Founded in 1939 by Rosanna Suguatti, the first Marol factory was opened 20 years later in 1959 by Rosanna and her husband, Luciano. In 1980, their daughter, Manuela, joined the ranks to form a true family business – cementing the familial foundations upon which the brand has been built. The Marol name itself is a charming reference to it’s founders, (Ma)nuela, (Ro)sanna and (L)uciano – all of whose work and passion for Italian artisanship are embodied in the shirts crafted in the Marol factory.
As proud as Marol are to have maintained their Italian provenance, it is by no means the sole pillar upon which the business has been built. Instead, they pride themselves first and foremost on the real discernible qualities of their shirts – the fit, the wearable functionalities and comfort. Such qualities are of course the product of the profound artisanal acumen extolled by the lovely ladies who work in the Marol factory.
On this note, it is interesting to take heed of Marol’s staunch adherence to Italian tradition, whereby 98% of their workforce is comprised of women. Typically, in Italy, men were known to craft suits, whilst women specialised in shirts – allegedly because their finer hands were more amenable to the fragility of the shirt. Much more than a mere anecdotal remark though, the gender breakdown of Marol’s workforce paves the way for their proficiency in crafting women’s bespoke shirts. Because of the various nuances in the female figure, it often proves rather challenging to achieve the supreme fits in bespoke shirting and jacketing that men have come to expect of the world’s foremost artisans. Not so for Marol though, who can lay claim to the wonderfully rare accolade of supremacy in female shirting.
What’s more though, the Marol workforce is more akin to family than mere colleagues – a microecosystem of shirtmakers whose sustenance is the collective passion they share for shirt making and Bolognese culture. Whilst sustainable and ethical practices surrounding food and animal welfare have become a hot topic amongst consumers, with increased accountability being imposed and reflected in higher prices for products bearing the ‘organic’ or ‘local produce’ monikers, it seems the underground nature of many fashion manufacturers is continually ignored as consumers are consistently price driven – much to the detriment of ethical practices.
Bo however, is proud of Marol’s transparency – so much so that he lists the names of the ladies whose hands pieced together my shirt in all of its Bengal striped linen glory. Claudia crafted the collar and cuffs, Rosa sewed the buttonholes, Nadia – who has been with the company for 52 years – re-cuts the neck hole after the front and back panels have been stitched together, and Anna-Maria ironed the shirt prior to its delivery. How charming and satisfying it is to see this – the quintessence of luxury – products that go beyond their physical properties and bequeath unto the owner not only the pleasure of wearing a fine product, but the pleasure of feeling in some way connected to the people who made it.
This juxtaposition between a small-scale factory, steeped in rustic Bolognese heritage and the sleek connotations of ‘luxury’ is what defines Marol – both as a brand and in terms of their product. Such is their aplomb in working with fine fabrics from silks to cashmere jerseys, that Marol had carved a name for themselves as somewhat of a ‘fancy’ shirtmaker. But alas, this was unintentional and detracted from their sophisticated, more classically inspired version of luxury. In actuality, Marol crafts shirts of incomparable elegance. Their ambition is not to be ‘showy’, but instead, to be sharp and sophisticated – premised to instil energy, vigour and purpose in the wearer – the underpinnings of a shirt to conduct business or other important things in. A testament to this, Marol boasts an impressive clientele – they are the favoured makers for internationally renowned figures spanning the realm of sport in Michael Jordan and Dwight Howard, to Royalty, having crafted shirts for the Sultan of Qatar. Most however, shall remain in anonymity.
My experience with Marol has become a serendipitous confirmation of their values. Choosing a pure linen cloth ended up holding more merit than simply combatting the Australian heat – but gave Marol an opportunity to express themselves as a maker – imbuing in the linen (a casual fabric) a certain formality not often associated with it. Similarly, the cuffs were slightly stiffened by an interlining – making the shirt feel a tad more formal, although not altering it a great deal aesthetically. This is not to say it can’t be worn more casually though. In fact, the generous high spread collar has a beautiful voluminous roll to it when worn sans-tie – making it the perfect warm weather companion.
But more than mere aesthetics is how deeply considered the functional aspects of the shirt are – from the sublime fit to the way it buttons, everything seems so sensible. Arguably the most integral facet to any garment though, is the fit, and so it seems prudent to begin there. The first thing one notices when trying a Marol shirt on, is how roomy it feels – so much so that when trying it on for the first time, there is a fleeting moment of fear – where you feel as if the shirt may be too big. But this soon subsides as you come to appreciate the true genius of Marol’s artisans, who have cut the shirt right at the crosshairs of shape and comfort. Crucial in achieving this shapely fit is the side panel and how the higher-cut armhole appears to hug your body. Similarly to a suit, this gives a greater degree of motion, but also alludes to a very clean fit. Cut slightly larger through the bicep and chest, this freedom of movement and comfort is exacerbated.
Marol is everything luxury should be – considered and refined, made with soul and permeating as much emotional joy as physical joy. Perhaps the best way to describe a Marol shirt is like a lucid dream – you’re always aware of its presence when wearing it, but at the same time, it’s unconscious.