Sartoria Formosa, Napoli.

Sartoria Formosa has perhaps one of the best reputations in Naples. The tailoring house is tucked away in the same courtyard as E&G Cappelli, right on Via Cavallerizza, between Via Mille and Via Cavallerizza. It’s a small, woody courtyard–not a lot of foot traffic. However, the workmanship brings its own clientele, and people throughout Naples say the best double-breasted jackets are made here.

The original proprietor, Mario Formosa, passed away somewhat recently, and his son Gennaro now runs the shop. Gennaro is an incredibly warm and gracious gentleman. I came with Gianluca Migliarotti, the director of O’Mast, and he welcomed us both into the workshop by offering us some espresso (a cultural custom for Neapolitan tailors). While we chatted, I noticed three tailors fastidiously sewing away, one of whom was a particularly young man. A good sign for those of us who hope to see Neapolitan tailoring continue well into the future.

Gennaro showed me three garments. The first was one of the double breasted jackets that his father was known for. It was a 6 x 2 jacket (six buttons, two functioning) with peak lapels, extended front darts, and slightly puckered sleeves. The natural, soft shoulders (spalla scesa) and subtly sweeping lapel made it something to behold. The second was a navy single-breasted jacket with a few details that you commonly see in Naples—3/2 roll, soft shoulders, extended front darts, and slightly extended lapels to accentuate the chest. Instead of patch pockets, however, there were jetted ones, and in place of the double stitching, there were single seams that ran right up to the edge. These details gave it a nice, sober look. Finally, Gennaro pulled out a grey herringbone coat that his tailors were working on. It was slightly shaped in the waist, and had a beautiful curved roll towards the buttoning point.

Across from the laboratorio is another workspace, which functions partly as a showroom and partly as a working area for a custom denim line that Gennaro is developing. The jeans had a very continental feel, meaning the fabrics were slightly softer and the fit slightly slimmer. There were also some shirts on display, which made me think Formosa did custom shirts here as well. The collars were exactly the kind you see everywhere in Naples—somewhat high collar bands with soft, long points.

Later that evening, Gianluca and I were walking around Chiaia when we bumped into Gennaro again, who happened to be on his way driving home from work. “Come in,” Gennaro said. “I’ll show you the rest of Naples!” Ever the host, he took us through Bagnoli and Posillipo, two western seaside districts where Roman ruins run up right to the water’s edge. The region sits high above the city, and you can see Mount Vesuvius, the Bay of Pozzuoli, and much of Naples itself. The views were spectacular, and you could see the water and city sparkle below the cliffs. After he dropped me off at my hotel, I smiled on my day well spent.

Showroom and laboratorio
Via Cavallerizza a Chiaia, 37
80121 Naples
Tel. +39 081.41.45.92

Showroom
Via della Moscova, 30
20121 Milan
Tel. +39 02.89.45.34.90/91

One beautiful coat, three angles.

 

The standard Formosa 6×2 double breasted, Gianluca, and a glimpse of your humble author.

 

Peak.

 

A single-breasted jacket from Formosa. Note the lapel proportions, elegant roll, and jetted pockets.

 

Notch.

 

 

Formosa double breasted suit with tonal buttons.

 

Collar options, from Italian to really Italian.

 

 

Fabrics and some jeans Formosa’s new denim line.

 

I hope that’s a pinup calendar behind the jacket rack.

 

 

Shopping Naples: Magnifique.

There’s English Style and then there’s English Style, and located just a few steps away from London House is Magnifique Naples, a store with a real Anglo sensibility about it.

Magnifique Naples is a small but densely packed shop that has been on via Filangieri for nearly 50 years. Inside, an entire wall of neatly stacked cashmere sweaters sits behind brightly patterned tartan scarves and colorful umbrellas, which, of course, are made with dense wood or whangee handles. On the other side of the shop are English wool fabrics and fine cotton shirtings for the store’s made-to-measure programs, as well as tweed flat caps, English-style shoes, and various leather goods. Go a bit further back still and you’ll find a display case with accessories like leather-covered flasks, uniquely designed wooden calendars, and English cufflinks.

C’est…

The whole shop feels like a place in England that vanished sometime around the 1930s. You walk in and expect to smell wet tweed, pipe tobacco, and old army coats packed into wooden crates. Except you don’t. The store holds all the charm of the Old England, but with newer goods.

In the back of the shop I met the its founder, Signore Mario Esposito, who sat in a heavy chair as he monitored the shop’s floor like a ship’s captain. Signore Esposito is a no-nonsense looking man. He wore a navy knit tie, bengal-striped shirt, and a blue blazer, and he looked quite serious with his furrowed brow. Still, I approached and told him how wonderful I thought the store was. I don’t think he understood any of my English, but seeing how enthused I was, he cracked a smile and spun a monologue in Italian, which I couldn’t understand. Even after all these years, however, you could tell this man’s heart was in this shop, and he enjoyed meeting people who properly appreciated it.

Not everything in the store is British though. For example, Mario’s son Dario showed me some Valgrisa jackets they were carrying. Valgrisa is an Italian outerwear company that’s inspired by the traditional, indigenous cultures surrounding the Aosta Valley. One of the jackets was based on the Valley’s alpine guide coats, and another was modeled off of the Royal Park’s Hunting Guards uniform. Though both were Italian, however, they fit in well with the shop’s British sensibility.

As Dario later explained to me, his father created this store in order to give men a taste of England and the scent of Naples. I think they’ve done just that.

Magnifique Naples
Via Filangieri, 18
Naples, Italy 80121

Knitwear and accessories at Magnifique.

 

Among the neatest collection of fabrics I’ve ever seen in a working shop.

 

Bundled tartans.

 

Let me just check my calendar… yes, it’s a drinking day.

 

Outerwear in an unusual cut from Valgrisa.

 

\

Brollys.

Messy splendor at Magnifique.

Shopping Rome: Jaja Camiceria

Giuseppe Rossi of Jaja Camiceria. Nice shirt.

 

By serendipity, I found Jaja Camiceria while walking around Rome one day trying to find a good lunch. I’ve always believed that when you’re in a touristy area, you’re better off searching for food off the beaten paths. So while walking down a smaller side street near the Spanish steps, I came across this custom tailoring shop.

Jaja has been around for almost 45 years, but changed ownership two years ago and is now run by Giuseppe Rossi. The shop’s front room is where he meets and fits clients, and all the shirts are made in the back. Giuseppe does all the custom pattern making and cutting, and he and three of his tailors do the sewing.

Since everything is bespoke and handmade, they only produce four shirts a day. Hand-sewn seams go around each of the armholes and down the plackets, and distinctive mother-of-pearl buttons slide through the handmade buttonholes.  The side seams, hems, and collars are made by machine, but they’re done with such a high stitch count (nine per centimeter) that they’re barely perceptible.

Signore Rossi was nice enough to demonstrate for me some of his handwork. Taking one of his current client’s shirts, he slowly and patiently hand stitched up the placket. As he later showed me, monograms are also genuinely hand embroidered, which you could tell by examining the back of embroidered fabric. Truly hand-embroidered monograms lack the small piece of fabric on the back that’s attached on machine embroidery to prevent wrinkling.

Prices for custom shirts start at $260, and go up from there depending on the detailing and fabric. Due to how much work is involved in cutting the first pattern, there is a minimum three shirts for the first order. Jaja can also make boxers out of their Italian shirtings for $50, as well as pajamas out of soft cotton flannels for $235. Looking back, I wish I had ordered a couple of monogrammed boxers. Who can’t use a pair of Italian boxers with a shadowed monogram?

Jaja Camiceria
Via Belsiana 7A
Rome, Italy

Signore Rossi stitches a placket.

Handwork on a Jaja placket.

 

Bolts of fabric at Jaja.

 

Collar styles at Jaja.

 

Spreads.

 

Hand-embroidered monogram from Jaja.

 

A man is not fully dressed until he has a pocket square in his pajama pocket.

 

Embroidered boxers--better than writing your name on the waistband with a sharpie.

All photos and text by Derek Guy. Check out Derek’s other sartorial endeavors at Die, Workwear and Put This On.

A visit to Panico, Naples, part II

Antonio Panico adjusts an Ulster coat.

See also part I of Derek’s piece on Panico.

If you know your way around, some of the best food can be had in Naples. Our dinner with Antonio Panico, for example, took place at Pizzeria Mattozzi, a modest restaurant located just a short walk from Rubinacci. I was actually there earlier that day, but foolishly ordered the pasta. The key, I think, is to always order dishes that use mozzarella, which in Naples is made from the rich milk of water buffaloes. Panico ordered six or seven dishes for us to share, most of which had lots of mozzarella (including pizza, of course).

At dinner with us were Mrs. Panico, who was wearing a lovely dress and fur coat, and two of Panico’s Japanese clients, both of whom turned out to be young dandies. One was wearing a pair of grey flannel trousers and a gun club jacket with softly constructed, roped shoulders, three patch pockets, and a rather clean chest. His jacket was slightly more fitted, which is what I assumed he asked for, given his age. His friend had on charcoal trousers and a navy sport coat with two patch pockets, barchetta breast pocket, and sloping, bald shoulders. Signore Panico came dressed in what he wore earlier in the day—a navy suit, light blue shirt, burgundy oxford-weave tie, and pair of black suede chukkas. In addition, he had on a matching burgundy wool scarf and navy Ulster overcoat that he undoubtedly tailored himself. When he wore the Ulster, he would flip the back collar up, as is often done with this style of overcoat, and it flared out in the most handsome way. The overall look was very masculine.

I asked Panico at dinner about the famous safari jacket he made when he was at London House. “I don’t even think about it anymore,” he said. “But if you’d like, I have some other safari jackets in my workshop. Come by tomorrow, I will show you.” I actually had an 8-hour appointment at Isaia’s factory the next day, but Panico assured me that it didn’t matter. He works until very late at night.

The following evening, I stopped by the atelier. Again, as is the custom, Panico welcomed me in and offered me coffee. This time, there were also cigars and chocolates on the coffee table, and on the other side of the room, where there had been wool suiting, there were now two extremely large bouquets of flowers, presumably from happy customers. Panico and I chatted for a bit before a knock came at the door. An older, slightly heavier set Neapolitan gentleman came in. He had thick, wavy silver hair and a grey chalkstripe flannel suit to match. It turned out he has been a client of Panico’s for 30 years, back when the Maestro was at Rubinacci. Now he lives in New York and does business in South Korea and Western Europe. When he can, he stops by Naples to have his clothes made.

“Thank you for the espresso,” he said to Panico’s assistant. He passed on the chocolate, but took one of the cigars. Panico then handed him a lighter.

The gentleman was very worried about the European debt crisis, so we talked for a bit about the European Central Bank, whether Italy should return to the lira, and if the Euro was a doomed idea from the start. After about 20 minutes, the gentleman turned to Panico and, almost as if he just remembered, asked about his jacket. Panico then politely asked for my permission to bring the client to the fitting room, to which I replied, “Certainly, please.”

The fitting is a private affair, of course, and when the two men returned, we continued to chat about various subjects—modernity, family, and traveling. Soon another knock came at the door and a gentleman with neatly brushed-back brown hair appeared. He didn’t seem like he had time to chat, so Panico asked us to excuse him while he brought the client to the back. The silver-haired gentleman and I continued our conversation, and when the Maestro returned, the topic naturally wended its way to tailoring. “Ah yes, the safari jackets,” Panico said, and then nodded, “Let me show you.”

He brought out three belted jackets. One is made from linen, another from cotton, and the last from cashmere. Without any of the structure of lining or canvas, they wear rather light. Panico motioned me to try on a few. Once they were on, he belted them up, pulled up the collar, and straightened them out. I admired them for a moment in the mirror, appreciating their stylish, unique look. Next, Panico had me try on a few Ulster overcoats, which weren’t too unlike the one he wore the night before. These are made from heavy, thick wools and they have an incredible life to them, particularly in the way the lapel line majestically rolls past the buttoning point.

Panico seems to excel in this kind of construction—shaping heavy, thick fabrics beautifully and making them feel as light as possible. They drape wonderfully from the shoulders, and even with the rougher cloths, there’s the signature spalla camicia sleevehead. The silhouette also harkens back to the Golden Age of Italian style—the 1950s and ‘60s – when suits were a bit fuller and had more bravado. Panico’s tailoring, in this sense, feels grand, aristocratic, elegant, and very masculine.

I thought about this for a moment while looking in the mirror. There’s been enough hand wringing over whether there will be enough skilled tailors in the future. Many Master Tailors don’t have apprentices, and the modern economy no longer allows people to enter into the trade at an early age (Panico began training at age 12). More importantly than that, however, is the problem of taste. There seems to be two generations in Naples. The older generation likes a fuller, elegant cut, while the younger generation likes things more fitted and fashionable. I personally have no doubts that there will be skilled cutters here in 20 or 30 years, but it’s not clear whether there will be people with Panico’s level of taste in the future. For those of us who appreciate that 1950s-60s era of Italian style, such silhouettes may be more and more difficult to obtain in 30 years’ time.

Back in the main room, the original silver-haired gentleman and I decided that we’ve bothered the Maestro enough, and that it’s time we leave him to his work. We bade him farewell, and Panico asked that we visit him again when we’re in town.

As many may recall, Filangieri posted this old article at Ask Andy About Clothes many years ago, before AAAC’s servers crashed. In it, he gives his account of having a suit made in Naples, and waxes romantic on not only the garments, but also the process, experience, and social nature of the transaction. His article is almost undoubtedly about Panico, but I think it represents many other tailors here as well. For example, on the day I met Gianluca, the director of O’Mast, he had just gotten back from his tailor, where he had not only stopped by for a fitting, but also to share lunch.

This kind of kind of gentleman’s approach to business is only really practiced among a certain segment of tailors, however. They tend to be from an older generation, and are often cutters running smaller operations. Perhaps because of age or culture, they don’t seem interested in maximizing profits. Their business is steady and loyal. Their clients bring their sons and close friends, and those people stay for decades before doing the same. In some cases, if the Maestro doesn’t think someone is worthy of being fitted, he may even politely turn down the business. For these men, tailoring is as much more about their sense of personal pride than it is about money, and the people they work with aren’t just customers, but also friends.

To be sure, one shouldn’t get the impression that you can go to Naples and buy this experience as though it were part of a pre-packaged ride. It’s not as though for 2,000 Euros you’ll get a bespoke suit and two espressos, but for 500 more, you’ll get lunch. They’re natural extensions of real relationships. Foreigners who come here, on the other hand, often don’t speak Italian, let alone Neapolitan, and the tailors certainly don’t speak English (at least the older ones). Perhaps both parties can get by with enough gestures and pointing to have a suit made, and maybe a cup of espresso will be offered, but these aren’t the same things. The “Neapolitan ‘sartoria’ experience,” as Filangieri calls it, is still alive, but one gets the impression that it’s only for locals.

Unfortunately, as this older generation ages and eventually departs, so may this social dimension of Naples’ tailoring culture. Many of the other houses are too new, too big, or too busy to engage in such things. Even if they had the time, young people tend to approach business differently. This kind of transition could be likened to the evolution of barbershops in America. While they were once places for socializing and leisure, they’re now places where you simply make an appointment and have your hair cut. Neither the barbers nor the clients have the time or inclination to socialize in the same way anymore. As one young salesman at a sartoria told me, “We live in a much busier time now. I can barely get all my work done; I certainly don’t have time to have coffee with everyone. That kind of way of doing business is from a different time.”

And more caffeine.

 

Flowers in the salotto.

Ulster coat, rear view.

Shoulder detail on Ulster coat.

A raglan sleeve overcoat at Panico.

Coat in progress at Panico.

A coat in progress in Panico's fabric room.

Panico shows off a cashmere safari jacket.

A cotton safari jacket.

A tailcoat from Panico.

Lovely lapel roll on a tweed jacket.

Spalla camicia on a tweed jacket.

All photos and text by Derek Guy. Check out Derek’s other sartorial endeavors at Die, Workwear and Put This On.

A visit to Panico Naples (part I).

Lu Tung, a Chinese poet during the T’ang Dynasty, has a poem about drinking seven cups of tea. The first cup moistens his lips and throat; the second breaks his loneliness; the fourth makes him perspire; and by the sixth and seventh, he’s called to the gods. I imagine this might happen to you if you visit too many tailors in a day in Naples. Many will offer you a small cup of espresso when you come in (sometimes called na tazzulella e café in the local dialect).“Ve site giè pigliato o’ cafè?”(Have you had coffee?), they’ll ask. It doesn’t matter if you have or haven’t. The Maestro will when you’re his guest, so you should, too.

Antonio Panico.

This is how my meeting with Antonio Panico began. Panico, if you didn’t already know, is a legendary tailor in Naples. He was a cutter for London House after Vincenzo Attolini left, and his relationship with Mariano Rubinacci was as close as Vincenzo’s relationship with Gennaro Rubinacci. Together they made important achievements in Neapolitan tailoring. The most well-known is perhaps the summer safari jacket they made out of seven-ounce cloth, which is so light that it’s traditionally only used for papal clothing. These days, Panico has his own tailoring house, for which he’s the only cutter.

Gianluca, the director of O’Mast, brought me to the workshop, which is located in the ritzy district of Chiaia. It was evening, however, and already dark, so I didn’t have a good sense of where we were going. From what I could tell, we went down one of the quieter streets, entered a courtyard, went up some marble stairs, and knocked on a door that I could barely see in front of me. When the door opened, a softly lit room with warm red walls appeared and standing in front of us was Panico, dressed in a navy suit, light blue shirt (which I later found out was made by Matuozzo), burgundy oxford-weave tie, and black suede chukkas.

“Ah, Gianluca,” Panico said with a gentle smile. He welcomed us in, and asked us the customary “Ve site giè pigliato o’ cafè?” We agreed to have some, so Panico asked his assistant to bring out three espressos and for us to sit down.

The main room where Panico hosts his guests is beautifully decorated. On the walls hang original paintings and antique prints. On one side of the room, a dark wooden table with matching chairs holds the Sotheby’s auction catalog for the Duke and & Duchess of Windsor collections, a large book about Neapolitan nobles, and, on my visit, some piles of neatly stacked wool suiting that Panico had just received. On the other side of the room is a desk with small sculptures and an array of heavy, sharp shears. (Panico took delight in showing me how each pair of shears made their own unique “snipping” sound.) Near the desk are two armchairs and a couch, all of which are upholstered in a beautiful blue and gold fabric. In front of these seats is a red marble coffee table with stacks of magazines and books on men’s style and, on that evening, a silver tray with our three cups of espresso.

We sat and chatted about Naples, Gianluca’s new film, and how business has been. Panico has a deep, almost guttural voice, and his face is almost always very serious. He’s less than impressed when I tell him I write for various men’s style blogs. “I don’t like the internet,” he said while holding a cigarette between his puckered lips. He then lights it with a matchstick, tosses the match on the coffee table, and pulls out a cell phone from his jacket pocket. “I was told I had to get this, but otherwise, I dislike technology. I haven’t even seen my own website.” It might sound like hyperbole, but I believe him. I told him that I’d seen it and it’s quite nice. He shrugged and took a drag from his cigarette.

After a bit of chatting, our conversation naturally led to tailoring. I asked to see some of his work and he brought out a completely unlined, unstructured, cream dupioni silk jacket. It’s single breasted with notch lapels, two patched hip pockets, and a barchetta breast pocket. Its beautiful, nubby hand stitching matched the nubby cloth well, and the construction is so light that it truly fit like a shirt. Gianluca and I tried on a few more jackets, including a heavy brown herringbone tweed with “typical” Neapolitan details—patch pockets, an extended front dart, completely unpadded shoulders, and spalla camicia sleeves. The chest was full, but not so much that it draped near the armholes, and it came in a bit at the waist to give the wearer some shape. The silhouette reminded me a lot of the elegant clothing Italian men wore in the 1960s. I asked Panico if he had to treat these heavy, thick cloths in any particular way in order to achieve such softness and lightness. He motioned with his hands, like he’s working through fabric. “I break its balls,” he smiled.

Panico then gave us a tour of his workshop. A room next to where we sipped espresso is where he keeps most of his suitings, as well as a couple of coats that he’s working on. He noted that he likes to collect vintage cloths, even if clients tend to favor newer materials. Like many tailors, he finds the older stock tends to drape better. The room behind that is the fitting room, which holds a beautiful three-way mirror and another couch. Finally, to the left is Panico’s workroom. I saw a few jackets hanging from the shelves, presumably waiting for clients’ fittings, and chalked up fabrics on the table. Panico only does his pattern drafting and cutting here; the sewing and ironing takes place off-premise. I didn’t see any paper patterns, so perhaps Panico is one of the few tailors who directly draws on the cloth.

We returned to the main room, where we were having coffee, and Panico told us that two of his Japanese clients just came in from Tokyo. He and his wife were having dinner with them later that evening, and he invited us to join. Of course, dinner with the Maestro would be quite an honor, so we accepted. Gianluca and I gathered our things and went back to our separate hotels so that we could prepare for the evening.

Antonio Panico lights up the room.

Salotto (where Panico greets clients)

Decor, including shears, in the salotto.

 

Dupioni silk jacket; completely unstructured.

 

Spalla camicia shoulder on Dupioni jacket.

More detail inside the Dupioni jacket.

 

A spalla camicia shoulder in tweed.

The fabric room at Panico.

 

Panico’s working shears.

A jacket in progress in Panico’s workroom.

Another jacket in progress in the workroom.

A final in-progress jacket, giving an idea of Panico’s cut and detailing.

Read part II of Derek’s visit with Antonio Panico.

All photos and text by Derek Guy. Check out Derek’s other sartorial endeavors at Die, Workwear and Put This On.

Shopping Rome: Battistoni

In the version of Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley , the two main characters, Dickie Greenleaf and Tom Ripley, are shown riding a train from Naples to Rome. Dickie thinks Tom should get a new jacket, as he’s always wearing the same one. “Let me buy you a jacket,” Dickie says. “When we get to Rome, there’s a great place. Battistoni . “He then proceeds to sing” Roma, we’re taking Tom to Roma! “As Tom smiles out of the side of His mouth and softly repeats the name, Battistoni , like it was some magical place.

The entrance to Battiston in Via Condotti, Rome.

Indeed, Battistoni is enchanting. The shop opened in 1946, right before the Continental look took off in the 50s and 60s. It was during this time That Rome-not Milan or Naples-was seen as the center of Italian fashion. The city’s style and architecture was shown off through Italian film (directors such as De Sica, Fellini and Antonioni, to name a few), and many foreigners felt safer since visiting Italy That had become a republic. Some of These foreigners were American movie stars, like Gary Cooper and Douglas Fairbanks, who would come to the capital to get Their custom made suits and silk pajamas. And as we all know of That period, where America’s cinematic royalty went, much of the public Followed.

Guglielmo Battistoni with Marlon Brando. Brando made motorcycle jackets and denim look good, but he could make Also with the silk neck.

During this time, many of These figures visited Battistoni. The shop was more of a salon than a showroom, however. The wood-paneled walls, marble floors, and fine art lent to rarified air, and some of world’s most interesting men would come here to share ideas and gossip while they picked out ties and got measured. Artists such as Marc Chagall, for example, would rub elbows with literary men such as John Steinbeck, and the Duke of Windsor and Gianni Agnelli were Also known to stop by. Marlon Brando one day even arm-wrestled the store’s founder, Guglielmo Battistoni, just for fun (Brando won). Humphrey Bogart came Often know That he asked if he could leave a bottle of whiskey for himself here. This salon culture has somewhat disappeared in the modern age, but on a recent visit, the space still felt more like a gentleman’s social club than a store.

A clubby interior at Battistoni.

In addition to the atmosphere, the store has an impressive range of finely tailored goods. Battistoni is perhaps most famous Their shirts. After all, the founder, Signore Guglielmo, was an esteemed shirt makers. He made collar points slightly longer and larger, narrower side seams, and high armholes. Everything was hand finished, but fit very cleanly. Today, prices for custom shirts start around $ 500. They also have made-to-measure suits That begin at $ 2,750, and ready-to-wear suits for $ 1,850. *

Then there are the non-tailored goods. For example, they have a selection of Italian-made Inglese-style shoes for about $ 550. These are made with beautiful, dark brown, fine grained leathers and stitched together using a Goodyear machine. There is Also a room full of one-to four-ply cashmere knits ranging between $ 475 and $ 1,000, Depending on the style and construction. Whether v-necks, Crewnecks, or cardigans, These were all incredibly soft and well finished. In the adjacent room, you can find a variety of belts (including some beautifully rich crocodile skins) and a range of outerwear jackets and coats. One of the navy field jackets was Particularly impressive to me. The shell was made with a smooth microfiber and finished with dark horn buttons. The lining was pure cashmere, and there was a removable cashmere vest, Which you could zip in for colder months. Price On That was about $ 2,250.

Field jacket at Battistoni.

Ties at Battistoni.

More Battistonian silks.

Some of the best items in the store are the ties. The silks feature unique application prints, Which means they have crisper edges than Their British counterparts, and the cashmeres have a very nice, soft hand. Both are made with soft interlining, so they knot and drape beautifully. Silks start at $ 145 and $ 190 at cashmeres. I could not possibly resist leaving without one, so I picked up the red tie you see above. Looking back, I wish I had taken the blue tie with white print as well.

Today, Signore Guglielmo’s children, Gianni and Simonetta, manage the store. Both have kept the store exactly as Their father left it, tucked away in a courtyard off of Via Condotti. It’s a store of good taste immeasurably, and a must-visit for anyone in Rome.

The director of The Bicycle Thief Vittorio De Sica-less in the gritty setting of Battistoni.

* Note That All prices in this article include VAT. If you’re a non-EU customer, you can deduct 20%.

Battistoni
Via Condotti 61A
00187 Rome Italy

T: 06/6976111
info@battistoni.com

Shopping Naples: Gutteridge

Should you ever find yourself in Italy and in need of the most affordable wardrobe possible, you can begin at Gutteridge. The prices at this store—which has locations across Italy, including Naples, Florence, and Milan—are near the proverbial rock bottom. For example, when I stopped by during their end-of-the-season sale, they were selling scarves for $20; sweaters, shirts, and ties for $35; and sport coats for $100. That’s H+M territory, and that’s not even considering the 20% VAT discount non-EU customers enjoy.

Decent styling but middling quality at Gutteridge.

 

 

The downside, as you can guess, is that the quality leaves much to be desired. The sport coats have big armholes and slightly stiff shoulders. They’re also are made with cheap fabrics, although they spare us the exaggerated pick stitching many Italian companies like to use. Gutteridge’s knit ties also felt thin and floppy, and the weaves of their sweaters didn’t feel very resilient.

Not that surprising given the price. Personally, I think there are much better deals at shops such as Boggi, but if you had to get a slim fitting sport coat, and you couldn’t spend more than $100, Gutteridge is a decent—if not the only—place to start.

Nobody beats the ‘ridge.

Gutteridge’s plus is offering some Italian styling, of a type you don’t see much of in the United States.

“Saldi” is Italian for “sale.” Use context clues.

 

Shopping Naples: Milord

Most of the good shopping in Naples is done in the seaside district of Chiaia. Here are your bespoke tailors, high-end tie makers, and ready-to-wear luxury brand shops. As you can imagine, most of this stuff is pretty expensive. There are a few affordable spots, however. One of them is Milord Naples, which has been in Naples since 1996 (and has no relation to the Milord in Florence). Some of the things you’ll find in Milord are things you can, it seems, buy almost anywhere—Lardini suits, LBM jackets, Borrelli ties.

Yes, Milord.

 

Some things, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult to come by. For example, there were Agho chambray shirts for $115 and Dallago shirts for $175. Agho was fairly standard, but Dallago featured hand stitching along the yoke and French placket, as well as handmade buttonholes. The thick mother-of-pearl buttons were also hand sewn with crowfoot stitching and a nicely wrapped shank, and the fabric came from Albini or Mason.

Then there was an Intelato camel colored coat for $700. The double-seam pick-stitching was a bit too prominent for my taste, but I could see it working well for a man in his 20s.

Perhaps most impressive of all were these house-brand suede shoes, which were Goodyear welted and made in either Italy or Romania (depending on the line). At full retail, they were $165, but at the end January, when Italian stores have their big sales, they were discounted to about $82.

Told you there are some affordable deals.


To see more of Derek Guy’s articles on shopping in Naples, visit his author page.

A visit to Cilento, Naples.

 

The scene at Cilento.

Cilento is the oldest men’s store in Naples, possibly even all of Italy. Like many good things in Naples, it’s not something you’d easily come across unless you knew what you were looking for. It’s outside of the main shopping districts and close to some government buildings. Nonetheless, it’s quite well known to the locals and a real treat to visit.

The shop was founded in 1780, but it wasn’t until 1820 when it was moved to its present location on via Medina, where it’s currently spread across two buildings. The main shop holds a range of clothing, footwear, and accessories that would satisfy the taste of any businessman or outdoorsman. Here you see mannequins with waxed field jackets and floppy cotton hats. Fine leather bags decorate the tops of old wooden shelves, which in turn hold stacks of neatly stacked, soft, woolen knits. Casual trousers and surcingle belts hang from the same display rack, and next to them is a large, heavy wooden tray that holds a selection of handmade ties. Further back in the store, bolts of English wools are set alongside Italian cottons, both ready to be made into custom suits and shirts for incoming clients.

Well stocked.

There’s also a large selection of shoes. In keeping with the store’s classic taste, these include models by John Lobb, Edward Green, and Alden. There is an emphasis on brogues, chukkas, and derbies, and a surprising number of them are black, given Neapolitan men’s reputation for mainly wearing brown.

Exotic skin in loafers and laceups.

The secondary shop is just outside and a few steps away. This one is a renovated boutique dedicated primarily to ties. The room’s central display table holds a beautiful array of seven-folds, each handmade out of English silk. The designs are conservative and elegant, often using small flower or figured patterns not unlike those I found at Marinella. More ties are displayed in heavy wooden trays at the sides of the room, and under them are innumerable drawers holding sample fabrics for bespoke commissions. Prices start around 100 euros, which seemed typical of the high-end neckwear in this city.

Tie fabric from the 1930s.

To some degree, much of this description sounds like any high-quality classic men’s store in the world, but what really sets Cilento apart is the small studio above the tie shop. Go through the back, up the stairs, disappear through another set of doors and you suddenly feel like time has stopped. Spread through these five or six rooms is a complete private collection of objects from the company’s 232-year history. There are counters and shelves with old shoes and wool fabrics; beautiful early 20th century furniture, paintings, and prints; and original receipts from the family’s previous business in the shipping industry. There are also forgotten artifacts, such as an old trouser press and sample silk swatches for custom ties in the 1930s. In the other rooms, there are vintage women’s scarves, made for Fiat using some of their 1920s advertisement designs. The whole place is a veritable museum of Neapolitan sartorial history, narrated through the original tools, garments, and even cloths of their time. Ugo, the eighth generation Cilento behind the company, tells me they host many parties and social events here. You can watch video of last October’s and November’s events on YouTube.

Tailoring history everywhere you look.

A vintage scarf made for Fiat.

Before I left, Ugo was kind enough to give me a bottle of the company’s wine. Only 450 bottles are made per year, and they’re usually given to the company’s best clients. I went home that night, had a few glasses, and listened to the street noise as I thought about how satisfying the day was. It’s not every day you get to check out a men’s store as old as America itself.

M. Cilento e F.llo dal 1780
Via Medina 61 A-B
80132 Napoli
Italy

Tel. +39 081 5513363
Email: cilento1780@fontelnet.it

A visit to Rubinacci, Naples.

Mention Rubinacci to any tailor in Italy and proper deference is paid, which is impressive given how much petty sniping there can be in the trade. Gennaro Rubinacci founded the company in 1932. “It actually began as a joke,” Mariano Rubinacci told me on my recent visit to Naples. “But of course, we take our business very seriously nowadays.”

Rubinacci’s space in Naples.

The Rubinacci family made their fortunes in the silk trade, which they entered in the 18th century. They imported silks from India and sold them to tailors, dressmakers, and upholsterers in Naples. The family built such a dynasty that Gennaro—Mariano’s father—never had to take on a professional career. Like other men in his family, Gennaro led a life of leisure and elegance. He socialized with royal families, lived in villas, and built a world-class collection of Capodimonte porcelains. He was an aesthete, a courtier, and a leading dandy in his day.

He was also an arbiter elegantiarum. The Neapolitan gentry was heavily interested in tailored clothing at the time, and many of the men would ask Gennaro to accompany them to the tailors so that they could get his opinion on various cloths and cuts. His presence at these fittings became such a ritual that he decided to start his own tailoring house, but more as a side hobby than a real business. It was called London House, since London at the time was considered the standard bearer for men’s style, and Gennaro wanted to represent that style in Naples. At its start, the firm was more like a social club for gentlemen. Well-to-do men went there to socialize, ask Gennaro for advice, and order suits.

Silk is a theme.

Many, many suits. Orders for 30, 40, and even 50 suits at a time were not uncommon and some men would even come in for five or six fittings before they allowed the tailor to finish the buttonholes. To be sure, this was partly because they were demanding customers, but it was also a way for them to gather and socialize with their peers. Tailoring at the time was not just about the products and craft, but also the social activities that went along with them.

Over the years, some of Naples’s most important tailors have worked for Rubinacci. Vincenzo Attolini, for example, invented the softly constructed Neapolitan jacket while he was a cutter here. The legendary Antonio Panico, who replaced Attolini, took this a bit further when he made a safari jacket out of a seven-ounce wool gabardine. “At the time, the lightest summer jackets were made out of a 9-ounce cloth,” Mariano said. “In fact, this cloth was mainly used for priests’ robes, but we used it for jackets.”

Pattern, texture, shape.

In addition to being lightly constructed, Rubinacci’s jackets are built with lapped seams that run along the shoulder. These give the jacket a bit of strength and structure, which is useful for when Mariano violently pulls down on the jacket during the first fitting, so that the garment can take the wearer’s form. The seams end at the big, full sleeveheads, which are fed into small armholes. This construction gives the sleevehead little pleats and puckers, which are not only beautiful artisanal details, but also subtly show off the jacket’s Neapolitan, hand-tailored provenance.

Then there are the other details. Two patch pockets at the hips, and the barchetta (i.e., shaped like a boat) or pignata pocket (shaped like a brandy snifter) at the breast. In addition, there is decorative double stitching at the lapels, some drape at the swelled chest, and an extended front seam that goes down to the hem, which helps the tailor put in more shape at the waist.

Coats at Rubinacci.

These are merely the mechanical, production aspects of Rubinacci’s bespoke tailoring, however. As many Rubinacci customers have said, part of what you’re paying for is the tailoring, and part of it is the service. Gennaro, after all, was largely an advisor, and Mariano plays the same role today. Clients come in with some sort of idea of what they want, and Mariano helps them translate it into an elegant look. There are some details, however, to which he’ll always politely say “no.” A two-button jacket? Always a polite no. Center vent? Also a polite no. In my limited experience working with tailors, I’ve come to really value this kind of pushback, as it shows that the person has an opinion and is willing to assert their expertise.

In addition to their bespoke tailoring services, Rubinacci also offers ready-to-wear collections. At their flagship store, ready-to-wear is housed on the entry level, which sits just above the womenswear floor. The menswear level is decorated with mounted stag antlers and antique ships, as well as silk scarves with paintings printed on them, each of which celebrate some aspect of Neapolitan culture.

A tailcoat and bolts at Rubinacci.

The first room on that level houses ties and pocket squares, the second has sweaters and a dressing room (which is separated, by the way, by a beautiful and substantial silk curtain), and the third has ready-to-wear odd trousers and sport coats. The most amazing, however, has to be the last room, which is almost like a treasure vault. Here you can sit on tan leather couches and admire various display mannequins with old, bespoke tailcoats and morning coats. Two of the walls also hold bolts of cloth, including some from the early 20th century, and next to the couches are the company’s original order books. Flipping through those order books and handling the fabrics brought the Golden Age of the 1930s back to life.

Slubly neckwear.

A book of orders.

Mariano took me on a tour of the laboratorio upstairs, where bespoke garments are made and some of the business administration offices are kept. Thirty tailors and four cutters work there, and they’re spread across five or six rooms. The floor is very quiet, almost like a library, since almost everything is done by hand. The only thing you hear is the tailors’ almost in-unison “hello” as Mariano walks into the room. Otherwise, everyone is heavily concentrating on his or her work, though the sunlight and sea breeze coming in through the open windows makes the room feel pleasant and relaxed.

As we walked back to the main floor, Mariano told me he plans to expand into another building, located very close to the flagship. The new space will house a conference room, an additional workspace for tailors, and a museum to showcase some of the company’s bespoke tailoring from the 1930s through 1950s. I was most excited to learn that this will include some of the garments made for Vittorio de Sica, such as the evening tailcoat he wore in Il Signor Max.

Before I left, I asked Mariano what he thought of the future of his firm and Neapolitan tailoring in general. He’s decidedly optimistic. Many of his tailors are in their 30s and in the last decade, he has seen more and more young men come into the shop as customers. (I imagine much of this is due to his son often being featured on websites such as The Sartorialist). Contrast this to other tailors, who often struggle to find new workers and customers. Rubinacci, with their unfailing commitment to craft and tradition, an international presence, and a very visible public face, seems to have none of these problems. The future of Naples’ biggest bespoke tailoring house seems bright.


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