Interview – Sartoria Italiano

This is the second in a series of interviews with the Sicilian tailors who participated in the 2020 Trofeo Arbiter tailoring competition in Milan. They were the largest representative body to represent Sicilian tailoring in at least 20 years.

This interview is with Claudio Italiano of Sartoria Italiano based in Palermo. The pandemic interrupted our fittings and visits for 2020 but I look forward to working together again for more Sicilian Reserve appointments in 2021.

Claudio and his father Luigi Italiano. Photo credit: Sartoria Italiano

1. 2020 has been a difficult year. What has been the most difficult part for you so far? 

The most difficult part of this year that we are leaving behind was certainly COVID-19, which still leaves an indelible mark on the world today. Many companies have found themselves in great difficulty, myself included. I hope that with the new year and the arrival of vaccines there is a recovery, but I am convinced that it will take a little longer.

2. How has the pandemic affected your life and your tailoring business? 

It is clear that both I and many of my colleagues have had to stop our work, as it is not among the essential activities. We could not receive customers, not even travel because many of us work outside Sicily, including abroad. Most marriages are all postponed (hopefully) to 2021.

During the closure I did my part, making and donating cotton masks to those who needed them most, including doctors and people who worked during the emergency, without receiving money. After the summer there was a slight recovery, but certainly among all that happened in this 2020 the Arbiter Trofeo in Milan made me raise my spirits a little.

3. I would like to mention and congratulate you on one positive highlight this year – your participation in the Arbiter Trofeo tailoring event in September. How did you choose your fabric and design your suit for the competition?

I thank you for the compliments and of course I would like to say that even if you were not physically present, you your heart was with us. I originally chose the fabric in New York at the end of January. Actually I was with you in a fabric shop that you introduced me to during our visit to American customers between New York and San Francisco.

Back in Sicily, the managers of Milano su Misura asked me to order the fabric directly from Loro Piana. I chose a gray pinstripe with a blue line and for the details I took the blue line as a reference. The peculiarity of the fabric was a Super 170’s made of wool and silk, which was the same one I bought in America. I took care of this fabric also because I had never worked it before, I wanted something innovative. Then, as I told you before, I played a lot with the details using the blue line as a reference.

4. Have you changed your views on tailoring after experiencing the competition? 

Absolutely! Just the fact of having been among so many tailors from all over Italy is already a victory for me, regardless of the competition. For me it was a party, there was a lot of harmony and I appreciated everyone’s work. There wasn’t a single bad suit and I wouldn’t change anything about those two days.

5. What was the most memorable moment for you at the Trofeo?

Certainly we had two days of celebration and there was a lot of harmony between us. In my opinion the most memorable moment was the catwalk. I remember the round of applause at each exit of the model who was accompanied by the tailor as well as their return. It was exciting!

6. Are you planning to return next year?

Of course! And I already know which fabric to use this time.

7. Finally, in addition to a return to normalcy, what would you like to see more of next year?

First of all health, that we are all fine and that this pandemic will soon end. And if there was even a little work, I wouldn’t mind.

5 thoughts on “Interview – Sartoria Italiano”

    1. How do you say in these cases? nobody’s perfect.
      It is too easy to judge on a simple photograph, I would like to emphasize on this particular photo that at that time I was a little overweight, so you get the impression that my dress is “badly” cut as you say.
      Having said that, with clothes you have to move, not be perfect and immobile statues.
      I thank my friend Juhn, of whom I have great esteem, affection and respect, for the time he devotes me.
      Kind regards
      Claudio Italiano

  1. Juhn @ Sleevehead

    Of course, feel free to disagree. Discussing different viewpoints should always be treated as a useful exercise. Here we clearly disagree and it’s a disagreement I have with much of conventional sartorial wisdom circulating today and in recent years.

    In my view, your criticism shows classic signs of what I call sartorial reductionism – a common malady among sartorially minded men and endemic among the sartorially obsessed. The great sin of the sartorial reductionist is jumbling the key elements of sartorialism – tailoring (craft), style (personal preference/biography), dress code/tradition (social context) – into one simplistic, overarching category and judgment.

    Thus, a complex decision and process is reduced into something either good or bad – usually based on a single snapshot taken in a moment in time without seeing the garment in person and without knowing anything about the person. If you dig deeper, this binary reduction is almost always the result of privileging one of the three elements over everything else.

    I find this reductionism extremely narrow and ahistorical. One need only peruse Western fashion and costume of the last 500 years to find such a black and white view extraordinarily limited. By today’s standards, men wearing hose and doublets look fairly ridiculous but utterly au courant among the aristocratic elites in the 16th and 17th century.

    In this case, I see a few confusions that lead to oversimplification. The principal one is confusing tailoring (measuring, pattern drafting, cutting and finishing) with style. The relative proportions and level of ease (closeness of the garment to the body) are simply choices to be made by client and tailor. And properly so. Some things are truly a matter of personal preference. Many fellows these days like a closer fitting suit and one whose proportions are noticeably smaller than worn by previous generations. But these choices do not determine the quality of tailoring from the perspective of actual craftsmanship.

    The problem is that if you confound and confuse style with tailoring, you make errors in logic and reasoning. If someone is evaluating a suit or jacket and doesn’t like how it appears, it is very easy and common to then say as you do that the jacket is “poorly cut”. This is wrong. The jacket here was cut this way intentionally and with care.

    The mistake here is not fully understanding the nuts and bolts of “tailoring” and conflating it with style, which is inherently personal, contextual and historical. In tailoring, standards of quality (e.g. good v. bad) exist but in the world of style such standards are nonsensical.

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