Saturday, December 13, 2008

Naples: Rubinacci, Attolini, Solito

This is the final, belated installment of the Italy trip I took back in February. My sartorial itinerary in Naples took me along: Via Morelli, Via della Cavallerizza, Via dei Mille, Via Filangieri, Via Chiaia, Via Toledo, Galleria Umberto.

Neapolitan window display


Rubinacci seems the most commercially savvy of the sartoria I saw in Naples. It certainly appears to have the largest operations judging by their relative store size and by having a dedicated Japanese speaker on their payroll (at least when I visited). When I walked in the store, I was greeted by a woman sitting at the desk on the right of the entrance. I greeted her in English and she called for Gianni to come over. Perhaps there was a language barrier but Gianni really didn't seem too enthused to interact, which was a pity.

Rubinacci (Naples)

As any active Styleforum member knows, Rubinacci is the 2007-2008 darling of that forum. My two cents: choose a tailor for concrete, tangible reasons. Don't let someone's bespoke garments (including mine) seduce you into neglecting the due diligence you owe to your sense of style. The tailor should fit your style, your schemata, your (out)look, not the other way around.

Rubinacci (Naples)

Of course, for some men, choosing a tailor is a lot like falling in love. They see a picture on the internet of a jacket made by X worn by a complete stranger and it is all butterflies. They fall in love and proclaim X - and only X - is the tailor for me! My search is over, my quest is fulfilled, I am sartorially complete. Not quite. In my opinion, choosing a tailor is just the beginning. But enough pontificating from me.

Cesare Attolini

I was greeted by three gentlemen: Giuseppe, the grandson of Cesare Attolini, his uncle Claudio and Tito, a salesman. This is a small store and when I walked in there was another customer, his wife and son in tow. The customer, a Russian fellow, was trying on a few windowpane sports jackets. The fit was splendid around the shoulders and waist.

Cesare Attolini

The Russian chap is indicative of the new wealth class. I see a desire among these new captains of industry eager to acquire “style” in a manner similar to acquiring a new factory or entering a new market. If it's of value, how do I implement or acquire it? He asked Giuseppe and Claudio, “Why do you show only two buttons [on your sleeve]?” In other words, he was wondering why they left one of the working sleeve buttons undone. He also asked persistently of them, “Which one [jacket] is better?” He was deciding between two windowpane sportsjackets – both of which fit superbly. The three Neapolitans in the store punted on the question, which was surprising since he looked excellent in both.

This little conversation reminds me of Charles de Lucas' comment on the education of his current clients. The best houses can offer good advice at the right time and in the right manner. Nevertheless, I did find the Attolini staff friendly, welcoming and open to answering my questions. For the Attolini MTM program, two fittings is a minimum. The Attolini factory is ten minutes outside of Naples.

Gennaro Solito

Solito was the friendliest and most welcoming of the Neapolitan sartoria I visited. Like my visit to Cisternino in Florence, we had a delightful conversation, albeit in an amusing pidgin of English and Italian - single word sentences and hand gestures go a long way. He was working on a customer's order when I rang. Next time I'll need to schedule an appointment with his daughter (Laura) who speaks English.

Gennaro Solito

Solito has customers from NY, San Francisco and Philadelphia. He's also featured on a recent cover of Monsieur magazine (along with Marinella and the tiemaker Capelli I believe).


At the end of the day, I had an excellent hot chocolate and sfogliatelle at Gran Caffe Gambrinus. As I was sitting at the cafe, I noticed very few men – actually none at all – wearing Neapolitan style jackets. Even in Italy, style is mostly an export good it seems.

Caffe Gambrinus

On the way back to the hotel, I wandered into Salvatore Argenio, a shop on Via Filangieri, and discovered a source of made-to-measure knitwear, which is rather difficult to find. Argenio takes measures on sleeve length, body length and chest. He says he visits NY twice a year (February and September). Price: 700 euros for a MTM cashmere sweater.


Of the three Italian cities - Rome, Florence and Naples - I visited, I thought the Florentines were the friendliest, Rome the best for strolling and Florence offered the most interesting shops. Naples is unique, off the beaten path but potentially quite rewarding. The most striking women were in Paris, followed very closely (somewhat surprisingly) by London. Among the men, the best dressed men were in Rome and Florence (saw quite a few fedoras there).

Additional Links
- Styleforum thread on Solito and trousermaker Ambrosi


Anonymous said...

What?! Both Giuseppe and Claudio wore their sleeve buttons undone? Clearly they have not discovered SF where this was pronounced a sin! It's no wonder SF prefer Rubinacci :)

M. Fan said...

Actually, very few on SF appear enthused about Rubinacci. Other than Iammatt, members who wear Rubinacci are consistently criticized.

sleevehead said...

Touche, Styleforum has its good moments to be sure but leaving sleevebuttons undone is one of those trivialities that acquire unearned significance on the forums - as if they were a true indicator of taste.

Mfan, I suppose "few" is a relative number. Now, I haven't followed all the SF threads on Rubinacci but my impression is that Rubinacci - as a tailor considered on its own merits - has more admirers than detractors.

If I have time during the holidays, I may summarize the responses to one question I asked in my bespoke survey earlier this year - which tailor would you be most interested in trying next? I've only briefly looked at the responses but Rubinacci is up there.

I think the issue that you see on SF is less about R.'s reputation and merit and more about how one chooses to go about selecting such a tailor (or any tailor for that matter).

Anonymous said...

Since 99.99% of people on Style Forum do not own one custom suit, I'm not sure ANY tailor, whether from Naples or anywhere else, being a "darling" on such a website is very meaningful. A friend was bitterly disappointed with a custom jacket made by a very famous Neapolitan tailor. The stitching was very uneven and amateurish. The back of the jacket was too big, which was obvous even to an untrained eye. The jacket cost something like $4,000 or $5,000. We were not impressed so some kid on a style website drooling over this stuff is a joke.

Anonymous said...

The lapel edge-stitching in the Rubinacci jacket is much too strong considering the photo was taken at a distance outside the store window and the stitching is still very visible. Excellent stitching is an art in itself and is small, subtle, elegant and nearly invisible to the eye, not garish as with this example.

sleevehead said...

I should have labeled the pictures more clearly but the first picture is not a Rubinacci. Unfortunately, I don't remember which window display I took the first picture from.

The pick stitching on the jacket is indeed quite visible though, Rubinacci or not, it doesn't really bother me in the grand scheme of things. Finer, less ostentatious stitching is probably preferable but I'd still wear that jacket if it fit me well.

Anonymous said...

Not wearing a Napolitan style jacket doesn't mean one doesn't have style.

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