During my last trip to Naples, Giancarlo Maresca and the young Neapolitans introduced me to their peer and friend Enzo Carfora. After school he started an apprenticeship as a bespoke tailor with Sartoria Pirozzi and has now opened his own Sartoria just outside of Naples. Today, I will introduce you to his workshop, philosophy, garments and discuss the idea of working with young tailors to keep the craft alive.
My first encounter with Enzo was over lunch at Mr. Maresca’s home. I was already a bit late; walking an inch on the Neapolitan map turned out to be longer than I expected. In retrospect, I suppose that it was unsurprising that when I arrived at 2pm I was the first guest.
Gabriele and Enzo picked up some authentic Mozzarella di Bufala on the way to Naples and unfortunately, the Jaguar E- Type overheated (also not surprising!) so they came later. Of course, that is no problem – it’s Italy, after all!
After lunch, we examined some of the pieces Enzo was working on, all hand sewn, the lapels, the interlining, the pick stitching – everything. As I have mentioned before, Neapolitans believe in the soul of a jacket and swear by handwork even though every jacket for the same client will always be a little different. Of course, he also had a suit for Giancarlo Maresca with him and so he fitted him quickly, and afterwards we took a stroll through Naples together.
Enzo Carfora in Maddaloni
Fortunately, Enzo invited me to come visit is tailor shop and so I found myself on a train to Maddaloni together with Giuseppe. Of course, a union was on strike and so two trains were cancelled but eventually we made it to Maddaloni.
After a quick walk through this charming town, I was guided to a backyard with an open door; there were no signs whatsoever. You would have never thought that this was the home of a Sartoria, and without a guide, you’d never find that place.
Once I stepped in the door, I was warmly welcomed by Enzo and his team with a simple pizza, which was certainly not the best one I ever had but it was nevertheless about the gesture. Considering he had just branched out on his own a few months ago, I found it remarkable that he had already people working for him. The younger fellow – whose name I can’t recall – was just learning the craft of tailoring, which is even difficult in Italy because not many young people are interested in pursuing a career in this field anymore. While the apprentice was stitching some lining, the seventy-something year old Umberto arrived in his Cinquecento with a straw hat, a deeply sun-burnished skin tone and a big smile. Although much older and experienced than Enzo, he lends a helping hand tailoring coats by hand. He had worked in Zurich as a bespoke tailor for many years and moved back to Italy for his retirement. Funnily, we were able to converse in German, which made the conversation quite informative.
Last but not least, there is Enzo, who – just in his early twenties – finds himself being a true sartorial entrepreneur. When I asked him why he stopped his apprenticeship after just a few years he told me that in his old job he realized that he only learned to do certain things and that he could sense he was not learning the true art of creating a masterful jacket as soon as possible, but rather over the stretch of a decade. With a number of encouraging friends and family, he daringly started his own tailor shop. Fortunately, Giancarlo Maresca – the man that knows the Neapolitan bespoke tailoring scene like the back of his hand, soon recognized his talent and thus, Giancarlo became his protegé.
Enzo’s tailor shop is a mere 350 square feet large and equipped with the bare minimum of essentials. The shelves and the table are clearly self-made of simple wood, and instead of a closet there is just a hanging bar with all the garments. Even the yarn holder consists of a simple wooden board and nails. Now, obviously, this is quite the opposite of Rubinacci but then again, most tailor shops in Naples are down-to-earth establishments that provide well crafted suits without the additions of designer furniture or a retail store shopping experience.
Personally, I don’t mind places like this at all because they are authentic and people work there to produce a great product, much like a great hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Most craftsmen I have seen work in chaotic workshops – that’s just the way things go.
First of all, Enzo is one of the very few tailors who is actually interested in clothes and accessories himself. He dresses well, and wears tasteful ties, shirts and shoes, while many other tailors may have great suit but the quality and taste of their accessories is subprime. The very first jacket he tailored was for Gabriele – a navy blazer, single breasted with patch pockets…what else? Gabriele told me Enzo needed someone who was willing to pay him for a jacket and so he bit the bullet and had Enzo tailor one.
Of course, the first one was not great but subsequently, he tailored for Gianni, Giuseppe and other young chaps and so the garments improved steadily. In Naples it is not uncommon for tailors to just make the jackets while the trousers are outsourced to special trouser makers like Ambrosi, and Carfora is no different. You can buy a suit, sportscoat or morning coat from him but the trousers will always be made by someone else. Everything else is made by Enzo or his team.
When I looked through the garments hanging in the shop, I saw some great tweed jackets, windowpane overcoats and of course, hopsack blazers in navy. Overall, it was surprising to see quite a few pieces made out of heavy cloth, because I was there in October and it was still plenty hot. While he had a few fabric swatch books available, many customers source their own fabric, which is then tailored into beautiful hand sewn garments.
While I was there, Enzo wanted to show me how he cuts a garments. I was thoroughly surprised, to see that he doesn’t use any patterns – ever! While this rock of the eye is practiced by a few tailors, such as Thomas Mahon, I found it interesting to see that a young tailor would do it as well. When I asked Enzo why he did not make patterns, he replied that every cloth is different and hence he always looks at the cloth first and then determines how he will cut it.
Of course I pointed out that this method will never produce consistent garments with consistent measurements, but he and his clients are willing to pay that price. Gianni was wearing one of his blazers – an early piece – and I could see a few tings that were off, for example the back was a little longer than the sides, the sleeves were not totally flush etc. but that’s just the way it goes. Even if you use paper patterns, no hand sewn suit will be like another.
With regard to cutting, Enzo takes the measurements first. Once the details are discussed, he draws the lines onto the fabric and then cuts it right away. Every once in a while he’ll use his measuring tape to ensure the jacket will fit but I did not seem him calculating or using rulers.
Generally, everything at Enzo Carfora is sewn by hand except a few seams that keep certain pieces of interlining together, where he uses an old school Singer sewing machine. The style is very neapolitan, with a front dart all the way to the edge, and a lot of decorative stitching.
Sadly, I was only in town for a few days, but I would have loved to get a suit from him – hopefully I will be in town a little longer next time. In regard to price, it depends on what cloth you choose, but overall it is less expensive than from established tailors, which brings me to my final point.
Young tailors are an exceedingly rare breed and so I am happy every time I hear of a new one opening an atelier. Otherwise, bespoke suit and garments will soon vanish. Of course, the first suits won’t be perfect but it always takes time to master things. At the same time, the only way to get better is to practice and if you have customers who are willing to accepts your flaws in return for a discount, then that’s fantastic because 20 years down the road, they will still have a tailor. By then he may even produce excellent garments. A young tailor is not for everybody, because a suit is much more than fit, fabric and detail. The style and elegance of a suit are equally as important and a young tailor will generally not really have an individual style quite yet.
So, it is the job of the customer to guide him, and tell him exactly how the shoulder seam should look, how round the quarters are supposed to be cut, or how high the buttoning point should be. However, many customers, especially bespoke novices, have no idea what they like. Hence, young tailors are generally great for people who know exactly what they want whereas people who just want a great suit would be better off choosing a certain house style they like, where they can just be measured, pick the fabric and wait for the suit. Just because you want to tell a tailor how you want certain things, does not mean that the garment will be superior at the end of the day. In fact, I have seen quite a few suits where the customer’s wishes and the tailors style simply didn’t go together, leaving the customer with an oddly styled garment that is neither fish nor meat. So all that matters is that you work well together with your particular tailor.
So, what type of customer are you?
If you would like to visit Enzo, it is best to get in touch with Mr. Maresca.