On November 25, the men’s fashion world received the sad news of the death of Cesare Attolini, a legend in men’s fashion.
Cesare Attolini was the second generation Attolini, and together with his father Vincenzo the originator of what we now call the “Neapolitan style” of jackets. In honor of Cesare’s life’s work, today we tell the story of how the Attolini family made Naples’ suits famous around the world.
The crucible of Naples
Naples is one of the true melting pots of history. It started with the Greeks who founded the ‘new city’. They were followed throughout history by the Romans, Normans, Swabians, the House of Aragon, France, Spain, the Habsburgs and the House of Bourbon before finally becoming part of Italy in 1860.
Naples reached its historical peak in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was the second largest city in Europe after Paris. However, there was no real industrial revolution and the city fell into poverty. During the Second World War, the city was badly damaged and the architecture was also something of a mess, albeit a very beautiful one. Mafia, garbage scandals, pickpockets and, not least, the city’s own highly individualistic inhabitants have continued to shape the image of Naples as “a beautiful mess”.
Vincenzo Attolini creates the Neapolitan style
Besides the world-famous pizza, tailoring was an early art form in Naples. Italy’s oldest tailor’s guild was founded here in the 14th century and it is said that the ready-to-wear clothes… ready to wear – may have been invented here. During the Renaissance, the tailors of Naples dressed many royal families in Europe.
Unfortunately, Naples gradually lost its position to other richer cities in Italy, such as Rome and Milan. Therefore, the city never got its own style. When Vincenzo Attolini was working as a tailor in the 1930s, the Naples suit was still often made after a British model with clearly sculpted features and thick linings.
Vincenzo was working as a tailor for another menswear legend, Rubinacci, when they came up with the idea of creating a suit better suited to the warm Bay of Naples. Vincenzo did away with canvas interlinings and shoulder pads, opting for a thin and cool inner lining. The result was a revolution – a jacket that was as light as a shirt and could even be folded several times! The Neapolitan style was born.
Vincenzo’s new style became popular with style icons such as director Vittorio De Sica and actor Marcello Mastroianni. The Duke of Windsor is said to have been so impressed by Vincenzo’s creation that he stopped a man in the middle of the square in Capri to ask who made his suit.
Vincenzo had six children, with his son Cesare showing the greatest aptitude for tailoring. In the 1960s, he invented the system, similar to an assembly line but for suits, which is also used today by brands such as Kiton. Cesare also worked for several other brands, such as ISAIA, before returning to his roots and taking over the family tailoring business.
Today Cesare Attolini has about 130 tailors in Casalnuovo, producing about 50 garments per day. They still work according to the system Cesare created, where each tailor is a specialist in one of the stages of production. Every step, from cutting to sewing, is still done by hand. A suit therefore takes about 30 hours to create. Although the prices are astronomical – between 40,000 and 50,000 euros for a suit – it is still not expensive considering the time it takes to create the garment and the materials used.
Cesare Attolini is now managed by Cesare’s sons, Massimiliano and Giuseppe Attolini. Until his death, Cesare also continued to be very involved in the business. Another son, Vincenzo, started his own Stile Latino with a slightly more modern and fitted style.
The Neapolitan style once created by his grandfather Vincenzo has continued to evolve and be refined, with details such as the rolled lapels, the boat pocket, the shirt collar and much more. Attolini and Rubinacci have been joined over time by ‘new’ manufacturers such as Kiton, ISAIA, Orazio Luciano and Barba Napoli. And the city of Naples has regained its position as the tailor of Europe’s upper class.