Strictly speaking, the first chapter in the story of Neapolitan tailoring is set in 1351, and tells of the formation of the Confraternita dell’Arte dei Giubbonai e dei Cositori (Brotherhood of the Jacket Makers and of the Tailors). This band of stoop-framed artisans would regularly meet up in a gothic chapel and – over chalices of Marchesi Antinori, one would like to think – fill the dusty air with esoteric mutterings, as they hammered out the basic principles that should define the city’s artisanal garment making tradition.
The evolution of Neapolitan tailoring since then has a lot to do with the city’s isolation from other influences until mass transportation, but even more to do with specific interventions – such as that of Vincenzo Attolini, a pre-war head cutter at Rubinacci’s, then called the London house, who one day decided to dispense with coat pads and inner linings, and with it the stiffer tenets of British tailoring. The resulting jackets – which could be folded as many times as a sheet of paper - ushered in sartoria di Napoli as we know it today, the basic tenets of which (for those who’ve just walked in) are soft shoulders, minimum (or no) canvas interlining, scooped pockets (sometimes called ’Barchetta’, in reference to the fishing boats that grace the Bay of Naples) and, often, a sizable scoop of derring-do when it comes to colour and cloth.
Rubinacci remains the master of the bespoke version of the form, while brands such as Kiton, Isaia and Cesare Attolini regularly deliver stunning interpretations of it onto the racks. Savvy dressers, though, should be aware of a relative newcomer who is also making big waves in the realm of tailoring whose appeal always creeps upwards a few notches along with the mercury: Orazio Luciano, a small establishment whose workshop is found in San Giovanni a Teduccio - a coastal block of land nestling between the dozing Vesuvius and Naples’ Medieval, Baroque and Renaissance-era core.