Douglas Fairbanks once dubbed Savile Row the “undisputed capital to men’s tailoring”, while that is true, it does not mean that suits beyond the Row are substandard. Instead, there have been many men’s suiting boutiques that have served various Royalty throughout Europe, the Habsburg Archdukes for instance, got measured up at Knize Mode Atelier in Vienna.
Austrian elegance survives World War II and the Soviets
The House of Habsburg aka House of Austria is one of the most important royal houses of Europe. Though not as well known as say, the Windsors, the Habsburg family produced elected Holy Roman Emperors all the way from the 14th through to 17th century. Quite obviously the men’s suit as we know it didn’t exist pre-1800s but that’s exactly where Knize’s story begins. Josef Knize, a Czech master tailor for civil and military clothes, took reigns of the J. Einsle. menswear flat in 1858 and slightly under 30 years later, under Albert Wolff’s stewardship becomes supplier of the imperial & royal court.
Nevertheless, the wide reaching influence of the English means that in 1924, Friedrich Wolff, son of Albert, would begin to push the maison into a more modern and stylised approach to menswear, utilising a strong avant garde advertising strategy (for its day) and influenced by English polo, become the world’s first “modern” elegance menswear label by offering an integrated line of men’s toiletries and accessories long before Ralph Lauren ever introduced us to Polo Sport cologne; they offered the Knize Ten fragrance, 10 being the top handicap in the polo world.
Their first flagship operated out of 146 Avenue des Champs Elyseés and in the intervening years before WWII, expanded to Berlin, Prague and New York whilst still maintaining their Viennese holdings. But the aftermath of the war and the intervening years of Soviet rule isn’t kind to luxurious “capitalist consumerist” men’s boutiques like Knize. The current marquee still sports “Knize: New York, Paris, Bad Gastein” as a reminder of it’s heritage.
Knize house style
It’s important to note that all of Knize suits are completed in-house with the exception of shirts, factoring in Viennese standards of living (and rent), their bespoke suits start from a kingsly sum of US$8100. You can expect British cut with a fair bit of drape but instead of structured, Knize house style leans towards Anderson & Sheppard-esque soft natural shoulders; additionally, you can tell many Knize suits by the signature Knize lapel with an angled gorge at the notch instead of a straight one.
A future uncertain…
They survived the total destruction of their Berlin store and Prague and Karlsbad branches shuttered by Soviet occupation. Rudolf Niedersuesz, a former Knize apprentice would later branch out of his own acquiring the former imperial & royal tailor C.M. Frank in 1963 and thirteen years later, merge Knize with his new holdings, setting in motion the return of fine Austrian tailoring and the much-coveted Am Graben address has been home to the Knize & Comp ever since but that’s set to change with ever increasing rents and the incursions by the likes of Zara and H&M. It would be a real pity for the heritage men’s outfitters to survive war and communism only to be done in by something as ignominious as globalisation.
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Fax: +43 1 512 219 925