The rake

The modern voice of classic elegance

CraftJuly 2017

Principe di Eleganza: A Bastion of Neapolitan Tailoring

Neapolitan tailoring is no fait accompli: it’s a perpetual work in progress, thanks to the stylish mastery of companies such as the aptly named Principe di Eleganza.

captionA navy double breasted blazer by Neapolitan tailor Principe di Eleganza.

It may have been founded in the late 20th Century, but Principe di Eleganza’s narrative arguably begins some 666 years ago – half a millennia or so before the unification of Italy, no less – with the formation of Confraternita dell’Arte dei Giubbonai e dei Cositori (‘Brotherhood of the Jacket Makers and of the Tailors’). A community of sartorial masters, the Brotherhood would congregate in a gothic chapel in Naples — then the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies —and cut, stitch and hem the basic principles of the city’s artisanal tailoring tradition.

Today, Principe di Eleganza, in its quest to create suits that fit, in master tailor Enrico Manzo’s words, “like a second skin”, are still honing and whetting those principles today. “The inner construction [of our suits] is all crafted by hand in a way that hidden folds and overlaps make them incredibly flexible,” explains Creative Director Nathan Lam. “All that artistry is hidden from the eye once the suit’s closed, but it’s an intrinsic part of Neapolitan tailoring, and the very definition of ‘handmade’. It’s important to us at Principe di Eleganza, as we want all our clients to appreciate the fine details.”

A suit, of course, can only ever be of as high a quality as the fabric from which it is made, and Principe di Eleganza therefore is relentless in its pursuit of the British and Italian cloths most conducive to light, flexible and durable garments. As far as the creative minds behind this enterprise are concerned, this is the starting point when achieving quality which makes corporate branding redundant: their belief that a garment’s sheer tangible excellence is a more potent force than any logo. Hence, the 50 tailors who make up its manufacturing core are specifically briefed not just to maintain the Neapolitan style but to carry it forward, an endeavour expertly stewarded by Manzo.

If branding is considered a triviality, a one-size-fits-all approach is anathema. “At Principe di Eleganza there is no definite style,” says Lam. “We pride ourselves in our own tailoring philosophy. Our bespoke suits are created using our clients’ individual templates – we believe that everyone has their own style, and we strive to help bring it out. This approach can mean customers having their own bespoke canvas, with their lapels, for example, adjusted to suit their proportions and preferences.”

It’s a company for whom fashion and style are relations as distant, as estranged, as infatuation and love, while other key values include durability – “We assure our clients that each and every one of our suits will last a lifetime with the right care and attention,” says Lam – and uniqueness (“Hours of tailoring work are needed to perfect each and every item of clothing and to make it stand out from the rest.”)

There is, according to Lam, no such thing as a typical Principe di Eleganza customer. “We welcome an array of different individuals to come and experience our bespoke services,” he says. “As a haute couture tailoring clothier, we focus on connecting with people who share our genuine enthusiasm for fine clothing. Our clients know why a good life well lived is important.”

If the reader believes, as we do, that a life well dressed is pivotal to this philosophy, then surely you’ll join us in a toast: not only to those wily sartorialists who invented Neapolitan tailoring several centuries ago, but to the visionaries who continue to improve it to this day.


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