May 31, 2012 Leave a comment
Naples – An Italian answer to London’s Savile Row, ‘Savile Alley’ is a collection of storied bespoke-tailoring houses dotting the narrow central streets of Naples.
Harking back to the city’s aristocratic traditions as a European powerhouse to rival Paris and London, the boutiques are proud to tell visitors they have everything the discriminating gentleman needs to step out about town.
“We take care of all a man’s needs, from head to toe,” says Ugo Cilento of the ‘Cilento 1780’ emporium. “Everything is hand-made and made to measure by legions of craftsmen,” says Cilento, 39, the eighth generation of his family to cater to well-heeled clients from Italy and abroad.
“Some of our fabrics are even exclusively created for us by (famed top-of-the-range French textile group) Dormeuil”. Massimo Massaccesi, president of the ultra-exclusive Capri Yacht Club, says he’s glad he doesn’t have to travel much farther than his front door to find the quality he craves. “I’m an extremely demanding customer and Naples suits me down to a tee. I find superb levels of excellence here”.
Massaccesi says he appreciates the more visible high-end Kiton store that is reaching out to a wider market but prefers the backstreet ateliers where tailors are passing on their skills to their sons. Sauntering into the workshop-boutique of 70-year-old Antonio Panico and his son Luigi, Massaccesi can barely keep his enthusiasm under wraps.
“I feel I’m in a London club,” he says. Antonio Panico once stunned a wealthy client in Japan by snipping out a perfect jacket in 10 minutes from a single roll of fabric. But he is more famous for his overcoats, which Italy’s great-and-good recognise instantly by the cut of their jib. Another ‘Savile Alley’ stalwart, 77-year-old Renato Ciardi, says: “Tailoring is a delicate and meticulous thing here (in Naples). We’re not shaping fashion here, we’re making history”.
Ciardi recalls fondly a master, the “late, great” Vincenzo Attolini, who invented a new generation of Neapolitan jackets by removing padding and ‘destructuring’ the garment, a trick later imitated by Versace and others. But coats and jackets don’t tell the whole story here.
Savile Alley also runs to ties, whether the world-famous ones made by Maurizio Marinella (and, incidentally, handed out like confetti as gifts and thank-yous by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi) or the newly relaunched Ulturale range with typically Neapolitan touches like hidden lucky charms and mini-pockets. Then there are the famously lightweight shirts, such as those made by Luigi and Fabio Borrelli, or by up-and-comers like Luca Avitabile who says: “a shirt is like a second skin; to make it fit perfectly you need great technique and experience”.
Not to mention shoes that vie with the best old England can produce; or gloves, a Neapolitan pride since the glory days of the Bourbon monarchy. Or the umbrellas fashioned by another legendary craftsman, Mario Talarico, 79, who says: “In most ways my trade hasn’t changed since the days of (prewar British Prime Minister Neville) Chamberlain”. Massaccesi, the Capri yacht-club chief, says he guards Talarico’s creations jealously. “I tend to take them with me everywhere, even when it isn’t raining. But I never leave one around, anywhere. I wouldn’t find it again, and I’d be quite unconsolable”.