Italian tailoring is a centuries-old artisanal craft synonymous with quality, luxury and style.
Once only accessible to royalty and the affluent, the notion of owning (and wearing) a Made in Italy garment isn't as unattainable as it may have once been.
Renowned tailoring houses, fabrics mills, and designer houses are ever-so prominent in Italy in 2018, and with the help of social media and a digital presence, their craft is being appreciated – and replicated – globally.
A long history
Italian tailoring has always differed from its British and American counterparts, with the Italian style, in essence, worn more relaxed and loosely, yet with an attention to detail unparalleled in the industry.
Since Italian tailoring originated roughly in the 14th Century – with Italy's oldest tailoring association, Confraternita dell'arte dei Giubbonai e Cositori (the Brotherhood of the Jacket Makers and of the Tailors) – the different regions of Italy from the north to south have refined their specific style to offer a truly unique and 'one-off' bespoke or Made-to-Measure tailoring experience.
In the north, you will find a style that is more rigid, structured and square, with an attention to lightweight fabrics but a relatively formal silhouette. Similar to tailoring seen on Britain's Savile Row (but chicer) the notion of "Style Inglese" is notable in this region.
This is the region favoured by Sydney-based tailor P. Johnson, whose deconstructed and lightweight garments have been responsible for the rise of Tuscan style among Australian men.
As you move down the country, the style of garment dramatically changes.
Central Italy sees mixed tailoring, utilising mixed separates. Lightweight jackets are plentiful, whilst still keeping the structure of the north.
Down south in Naples, the Neapolitan style reigns.
"Light as the breeze that blows over Vesuvius," is what its style is referred to, with Neapolitan tailoring meeting the needs of those looking for a balance of ease and breathability, with style and sharpness paramount.
Rubinacci and Attolini
The Rubinacci and Attolini houses are the purveyors of this style, whilst modern-day designers in Kiton and Isaia draw on traditional aspects of Neapolitan tailoring with a contemporary twist.
"The aesthetic of Neapolitan tailoring, in essence, is relaxed and nonchalant; what you get from a Neapolitan handmade garment is something that will grow and develop in character, with its owner," explains Steve Calder of Melbourne's Calder Sartoria, a small tailoring studio in the heart of Melbourne's CBD that specialises in the traditional Neapolitan style.
"The forefather of the Neapolitan jacket and its tailoring style, Gennaro Rubinacci, introduced the signature characteristics of this style: an unconstructed jacket with a generous lapel, minimal to no lining, a barchetta (boat-shaped) chest pocket, tre buttoni su due (three-roll-two) button stance, and of course, the famous spalla camicia shoulder, which features the beautiful drop from the end of the shoulder," says Calder.
From Italy to Melbourne
This distinctive style is what attracted Steve Calder, a Zegna-trained Made-to-Measure specialist, who brought this Southern Italian style all the way to Melbourne, Australia.
"Having trained in Switzerland and Italy with Ermenegildo Zegna, I learnt the craft of Italian tailoring and what went into creating these perfect garments," says Calder.
"I discovered that nobody in Australia was doing Neapolitan tailoring. Brands were trying to replicate its style, but nobody was doing something Made in Naples."
Exploring this concept and visiting Naples, Calder was able to source a small, family-run workshop specialising in traditional Neapolitan tailoring, which he continues to use today.
Since 2016, Calder Sartoria remains the only brand in Melbourne that offers an artisan-made, Neapolitan Made-to-Measure service.
"All of my jackets and suits are made from scratch, finished by hand and are a one-off unique piece. My jackets have their own personality, characteristics and nuances – they are intended to develop in character, shape and style over time," says Calder.
"I want guys to be able to take away a touch of sprezzatura with my distinctive items and style. They can come in and literally design whatever they like. I offer the best fabrics and cloths in the world, and of course, guide each consultation with my expertise and knowledge."