Photos by Juanito Vinluan
Luigi Dalcuore, of the company Sartoria Dalcuore, has been making bespoke Italian suits for decades. Well, that’s a bit of a misnomer; he makes suits. By hand. Because he’s Italian, they’re Italian. It’s a small distinction, but as I learned from our recent interviews, small things can be very, very distinctive.
Salvatore Ambrosi of the company Ambrosi Napoli, if anything, is much more specialized. He only makes trousers. That’s all he does, and his family has been doing it for… well, he’s a third-generation trouser maker. When it comes to making trousers, he was a wealth of inherited experience.
When you get down to details with these two gentlemen, you learn a lot. In fact, I had to toss out almost all my prepared questions, because it turned out my preconceived notions of the benefits of Italian tailoring were, well, misinformed. (If I was a worse writer, I would have set “a bad fit.”)
I had these ideas about changing fashions, extreme requests, how to make distinctive clothes, and wild requests from unusual clients. All of these were irrelevant. I mean, I suppose if I asked them to make me, say, a checkerboard leisure suit, they’d hear me out. But they don’t usually do it. And their clients, the people who are at the level to appreciate the kind of work these men do… well, they don’t request that. Nobody asks these gentlemen for wild flared slacks or chartreuse jackets, because the virtues of Italian tailoring made to fit your body isn’t that it’s flashy; it’s that it fits you like a glove.
“The differences between a custom-made suit and something altered off the rack are very small… but that’s the point.”
The differences between a custom-made suit and something altered off the rack are very small… but that’s the point. It’s these tiny adjustments that make it fit so well. When Luigi Dalcuore makes a sleeve for the arm, he’s making it for YOUR arm, idiosyncrasies and all. It will fit you perfectly, because it was built using you – literally, you – as the basis.
What they offer is suits (or in Salvatore’s case, pants) that are made exactly to fit you. When Salvatore makes you a pair of trousers, he says, they look skinny, look tight – but they feel loose and baggy. They feel comfortable, because he has made them to fit you exactly, so that the twin gods of comfort and fashion are served as well as they can be in the same garment.
“It’s a small distinction, but as I learned from our recent interviews, small things can be very, very distinctive.”
If there are any, shall we say, difficult body types or issues (I’m being polite) the tailors know what adjustments to make. If they are working with people they don’t know, say, a new customer, Mr. Dalcuore will ask questions. He’ll ask about the client’s age, what business they’re in, what their lifestyle is like. But most people who they work for already know pretty much what they want, because people who don’t know what they want aren’t really the ones who approach bespoke tailors.
Bespoke tailoring is a very expensive path to take, but it gets you exactly what you want – the cut, the fit, the choice of fabric. Their example was, You see a pocket that you like, but you don’t like the rest of the shirt. With us, you can say exactly how you want it to be. And it is fit to you. So it is yours.
“You don’t get your first driver’s license and then go out and drive a Ferrari.”
Bespoke tailoring is something you work your way up to. You don’t get there – you don’t NEED to get there – unless you have very specific ideas about what you’re after, and you can’t get it any other way. As the tailors put it, “You don’t get your first driver’s license and then go out and drive a Ferrari.”
So what Mr. Dalcuore and Mr. Ambrosi mostly make are classic suits and trousers. The kind of thing that will not seem out of style even thirty years from now. They make clothes that will last you that long, and that cost you that much, and so the pieces they make had better be timeless, because they’re going to be around for a while. Sure, an outlandish suit will be eye-catching, but you wear it once and you’re done. Dalcuore and Ambrosi make clothes you’ll wear for the rest of your life.