Italian Lifestyle and Fashion: Attolini - La giacca napoletana
- WTI Magazine #95 Sep 15, 2017
When you think about Naples the first things that come to your mind might involve food like pizza or breathtaking landscapes such as the Gulf and the awe-inspiring Vesuvius.However, an ancient and enduring sartorial tradition flows throughout the tangled streets and alleys of this wonderful city. That is, the legacy of ‘la giacca napoletana’ that traces back to the 1800s. Among the pioneers that contributed to this tailoring breakthrough, Vincenzo Attolini is well-known for being the leading force that revolutionized the design of the jacket.
If you have ever wondered what kind of jacket Jep Gambardella wore in The Great Beauty, the name Attolini will be more than a clue. As it often happens with everything related to Italy, tradition and history as well as mastery and craftsmanship interlace each other. The Neapolitan jacket is no exception.
Until the 1930s, the Neapolitan style closely resembled the English style with a hint of French and Spanish legacy. In fact, Neapolitans would wear impeccable jackets styled after the fashion principles of the masters on Savile Row in London. The characteristics of the British style included several kinds of padding and lining since it was inspired by military uniforms. Even though it was an undisputed fashion model, these traits made the English jacket very heavy and rigid. Then, if you think about Naples’ Mediterranean climate, it is easy to realize how uncomfortable the garment must have been for gentlemen of that area. Notwithstanding, few tailors would contest the fashion dogmas of the English jacket. Among those that were defiant and brave enough to try, a young tailor named Vincenzo Attolini stood out.
In the 1930s, Vincenzo opened up his first shop that served also as a fashion laboratory in Castelnuovo, a town near Naples. There, the young tailor put forth his aesthetic revolution. He dared to challenge the English canon by taking a completely different stance on the jacket design. While the British tradition imposed very rigid lines with copious padding and lining, Attolini moved in the opposite direction. He looked for the essential. Thus, he tried to make the garment lighter, softer, and more comfortable. In order to do it, he removed those traits he deemed to be in excess. The impact of his innovation was tremendous to such an extent that turned the jacket into a garment as light as a cardigan or a button down shirt. The new style was braided with the Neapolitan territory as the names of those technicalities show; in fact, some are spelled in the Neapolitan language. The jacket zompa arrèto (jumps back) has a shorter back that adapts better to the body’s silhouette. Lo scollo a martiello (hammer-like neckline) where the lapels geometrically mirror the frontal opening of the jacket. La manica a mappina (rag-like sleeve) make the sleeve curl up in its upper part and thus it shows the shirt cuffs. Along with these, there are ‘il taschino a barchetta’ that gives the frontal pocket a ship-like shape or ‘il tre bottoni strappato a due’ whose only two out of three buttons are functional. By removing all the unnecessary frills, the Neapolitan jacket was easy to wear, comfortable, and gracefully elegant.
In other words, the Neapolitan sartorial approach was minimalistic and aimed at making the clothing flexible, light, and refined. Attolini did not want his clients to adapt to his designs; he adapted the designs to his clients instead. Suffice to say that Attolini’s motto was ‘a good tailor is none other than a craftsman who creates imperfect clothes for imperfect bodies’. This formula worked so well that it didn’t take long before famous personalities became attracted to the newly designed jacket. From Vittorio De Sica, Mastroianni, and Totò to King Vittorio Emanuele III and the Duke of Windsor, they all fell in love with Attolini’s style and craftsmanship. Because of his clientele’s background, Vincenzo earned the nickname ‘King’s tailor’ that swiftly became ‘the tailors’ King’ because of his entrepreneurial and skillfulness accolades.
When Cesare Attolini inherited his father’s business, he had already personalized all the secrets and techniques learned from Vincenzo. Besides his undeniable tailoring craftsmanship, Cesare showed particular business and entrepreneurial skills. His philosophy still revolved around the artisanal laboratory, where all production stages were carefully handmade, but it absorbed a more modern and organized structure. Under his management, the business thrived and established itself among the major players of the luxury fashion market worldwide. Along with the trademark jackets and suits, the production began to include coats, shirts, ties, knitwear. Made from the finest cloths and textiles, Attolini’s products are imbued with a refined taste for beauty, elegance, and simplicity.
More so, Attolini’s name stands for tradition. As a matter of fact, it still is a family business. Cesare’s sons, Massimiliano and Giuseppe, are now the head of Attolini S.p.A. They have successfully managed not only to diversify the production but internationalized the brand as well. Among their clientele are Dmitry Medvedev, Al-Thani, and Frank Fertitta. With over 130 master tailors, the fashion brand purposely avoids any serial production process. In fact, each suit takes around twenty-five to thirty hours to be made; Attolini makes no more than eleven thousands suits a year. Slowness equals artistry and accuracy. In the last years, Attolini has been expanding his presence around the world and numerous stores and showrooms are present in every continent. Part of their strategy are the so-called trunk shows; in cities New York, Moscow, Hong Kong, and London they create an environment similar to that of their flagship store on Via Filangieri in Naples.
These trunk-shows show how important tradition and legacy are for Attolini. Each showroom recreates the original atelier atmosphere and thus remarks its own history and territory. When you walk into one of these stores, you are a witness of Vincenzo’s ideas taking place. All in all, Attolini’s refined jackets are the symbol of that young Neapolitan tailor’s revolutionary vision. Whereas his contemporaries tried to conform, he showed a different design was not only possible but also proved to successful.
CUNY Queens College will host The Fabric of Cultures: Systems in the Making. The event will take place at The Art Center, Queens College from October 5 through December 15. The Yellow Attolini Jacket worn by Servillo in La Grande Bellezza will be showed during the event.