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Cifonelli's yak coat
SIMON CROMPTON
Tuesday 14th of February 2012
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Trust Lorenzo Cifonelli. Only he would choose a grass-green yak coat, without a notch and buttoning to the chin, as a signature piece. 

Lorenzo’s history of innovation since he took control of Parisian bespoke house Cifonelli in 1999 has been impressive. Purple velvet smoking jackets with brown frogging; leather-trimmed pockets and patches; Japanese-embroidered lapels. All done with the most exquisite finishing by the firms’ full-time tailors.
 
The history of the house goes back to Rome in 1880. It expanded to Paris in the twenties, then Rome closed in the 1990s. Just before the turn of the century, Lorenzo and cousin Massimo took it over from their uncle/father.
 
One thing that’s unusual about Lorenzo is that he has such passion for style, yet is also the firm’s head cutter. There are similar men in the world, but not many. Most are either stylist or artisan; several famous partnerships have been built on that basis, for that reason.
 
 
This latest piece is made from Tibetan yak wool. The community that sells it, Norlha, has a workshop that helps retrain herdsmen from the 1,500-strong nomads that live in the Zorge Ritoma area of Tibet, situated at 3,500m.
 
Yak wool – since you ask – is particularly difficult to harvest because it cannot be combed off, unlike goats (cashmere). Instead, you have to wait until it starts to become loose and then collect it from the sides of the yak. And the yaks don’t like it.
 
Plus, the best wool is the underhair that is shed by two-year-old animals as they reach maturity. Rather like baby cashmere, it only happens once in their lives and it is a pitifully small amount. Pure yak wool is great for winter, and yak/silk mixes good for summer.
 
 
The jacket is made with no notch, patch and pleated pockets, and six buttons that fasten it all the way up. It’s quarter-lined, with cloth facings on fronts. It’s also bright green. But you don’t have to have it in green. 
 

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