Craft / January 2018

Dalcuore: Naples' Unconventional Tailor

Renowned Neapolitan tailoring house Dalcuore was born of its founder’s willingness to look beyond his hometown for influence and inspiration.

Dalcuore's double-breasted suit drapes wonderfully due to the soft flannel and features a 6x2 button stance. Photograph by James Munro.

In medieval times, after completing several years of apprenticeship, a craftsman was often required to spend a period travelling, plying his trade at an array of different workshops while honing his skills. He’d be paid day-to-day, and hence assumed the name journeyman, derived from the French word journée (meaning ‘day’, not ‘trip’, as many mistakenly assume). Only after he’d completed his travels and travails, and painstakingly perfected his craft, would he be allowed to open his own atelier, hire others, train his own apprentices, and assume the mantle of master craftsman.

Though he was born in the mid-20th century, the man behind Sartoria Dalcuore, Luigi Dalcuore, followed a similar path to these craftsmen of yore. Deciding to become a tailor relatively late in life, as a teenager in 1966, Luigi faced difficulty finding a sartoria that would take him on as an apprentice — in Italy in those days, budding tailors normally began learning the craft in early boyhood, so the adolescent Dalcuore was considered a tad long in the tooth. Nevertheless, he was eventually able to convince renowned Neapolitan tailors Del Duca to allow him to work gratis in exchange for teaching him the sartorial arts. At his aunt’s neighbouring dressmaking shop, he complemented his tailoring skills with those required to craft women’s garments.

At 16, wanderlust struck, and the young journeyman set out to spend a number of years sampling and absorbing different clothes-making disciplines across Europe. This would have a profound effect on the nascent craftsman. Unlike most Neapolitan tailors, who generally spend many years training up alongside a single master artisan, and can’t help but assimilate and emulate their teacher’s style and philosophies, Luigi developed a unique personal outlook and approach, informed by numerous influences.

When he returned to Naples, opening his first shop aged 26, Luigi set his atelier apart by creating suiting with a distinct Victorian-influenced shoulder line, standing out from his more conventional contemporaries. Colleagues began referring to him as ‘the tailor who is not a tailor’. Far from an insult, this moniker served as recognition of Luigi’s creative flair, his willingness to tweak tradition, and the fact that he was making signature Neapolitan suiting — light, supple, minimally lined, conducive to freedom of movement and lavish hand gestures — that was somehow more artistic, cleaner and sharper than the average.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.