Salvatore Piccolo could be Brazilian F1 driver Felipe Massa’s brother, which is amusing because he is also Massa’s shirtmaker. Of all the smaller-volume artisans I have met in Naples, Piccolo’s vision is one of the most international. He’s geared up for global domination and has the product to back it up. Of the various items I purchased during a trip there, the chambray shirt he made me is the article I wear most, and is now an essential component of my weekend uniform.
His shirts are remarkably comfortable, the fabric becoming more familiar with each wash. The collar is a high-spread of his design that is hand-layered and stitched together with aplomb; his sleeves feature innovative design flourishes such as an elbow dart to allow greater mobility. The front of a Salvatore Piccolo shirt is quite fitted, while at the back, a more generous expanse of cloth flows in rivers of pleats from the yoke. The laboratory where his shirts are made is a place of work, where a dozen shirtmakers toil in ceaseless concentration, amid piles of rainbow-coloured fabric.
A wall of patterns from clients around the world hang at one end. His laboratory is a happy place where young and old women work side by side chatting gaily, laughing, stopping to inspect one another’s work, playfully chiding each other. Presiding over all this is Piccolo’s mother who was the initiator of his business. She began shirtmaking at the formative age where most children would still be amid their primary education. Says Salvatore, “My mother started sewing shirts when she was nine years old. It was she who gave me all the traditions and knowledge of her craft. She is an amazing person.” Says Signora Piccolo, “The shirt is an expression of the mood of the man. When you are feeling more powerful, you can use a certain style and colour; when you are feeling playful, you will wear something else.”