Here is a little 'interview' I did with Davide Tofani.
A CUT ABOVE AND BEYOND
Just behind Piazza Plebsicito, in Naples, is where you will find a small 'sartoria' operated by Davide Tofani. Davide Tofani (49), together with his twenty-year old son, Aristide Tofani (Davide named his son after his father) and his brother, craft some of the best and most beautiful handmade bespoke garments in Naples. Davide Tofani learnt this art from his now retired father.
I met with him during my stay in Naples to chitchat about Naples, his sartoria and the Italian style.
- Tell me about the background of Sartoria Tofani.
Sartoria Tofani was founded by my father, Aristide Tofani, in the heart of the historical city of Naples, in 1954.
Aristide learnt this art as a student or apprentice at Vincenzo Attolini’s, who of course is well-known as the godfather of the Neapolitan jacket. He served as a guarantee and was also a crucial figure in my father's path in becoming an assured and accomplished bespoke tailor. Though my father's main accomplishment was transmitting his passion of bespoke suit-making to me and my brother, Enea.
- When did you start working as a bespoke tailor?
I learnt this art at a very young age. I used to help my father in his sartoria after school when I was 10 years old, but I started to work full time when I was 15 years old. I was fascinated and I am still fascinated by the art of bespoke tailoring.
- Concerning the art or trade of handcrafted suits, what did your father teach you?
My father taught me everything about the tailoring, but the most important thing he taught me is to love this wonderful "job". I am one of the few craftsmen in Naples who work in every garment all by himself. My father always says: "You do not need a big sartoria to become a good tailor; it is more important to be a great tailor in a small sartoria." I like to keep provoding the best handcrafted bespoke garments, and opening a big store would be a nightmare for me. I don't think of making a lot of money by opening a big store. I am an artist.
- Describe your typical customer.
Our typical customer is, first and foremost, a real gentleman. He is a man with a discerning taste for well-made bespoke garments. But of course, most of our customers are avid lovers of the real Neapolitan 'light' tailoring, which through generations and time, has been maintained and never changed.
- Naples is a beautiful city.
Naples is indeed a beautiful city, with rich history, great monuments, culture, fascinating landscapes and warm-hearted people. It is also full of craftsmen.
- Would you trade Naples for any other city in the world?
No, never. Naples is the city where I was born and the city gave me everything. I will never leave "her" for more than 1 week.
- Why is it that when it comes to bespoke, Naples, is regarded to be one of the best places?
Because Naples is full of artisans and craftsmen, who not only passionately execute their work, but are also innovative as well. Take for example Vincenzo Attolini- my father's master. He created the famous Neapolitan jacket we know and make today. He deconstructed the rigid British jacket, that was at that time very well known; he made jackets lighter and more comfortable to wear.
- How does a typical Tofani bespoke suit look like?
Our jackets or suits follow the traditions of the true Neapolitan-styled garments. All our garments we make right here at this 'sartoria' and by hand; nothing is outsourced.
The typical Tofani jacket is really soft and light, and it "wraps" around the contours of the body like a shirt or cardigan. It also has the typical elements of a true Neapolitan jacket, like the "manica a camicia" which is recognisable at the sleeve-head. This a unique style which is the result of lots of knowledge, experience and secret passed down from Vincenzo Attolini to my father, and now to me. And soon to my son. (laughs)
- How many hours does it take to make a fully handmade bespoke suit?
I don't like to make calculations of how long a garment takes to make...I just love to focus on something and use all the time I need to make it perfectly, with my own hands.
But if I should give an estimation, I think it usually takes about 74 hours to complete a bespoke tailored jacket and my brother needs about 48 hours to finish a trouser.
- Tell me about the fabrics you use.
We use different fabrics from Caccioppoli, Vitale Barberis, Carnet, Loro Piana, Holland & Sherry and Drapers. Although our clients basically go for for fabrics from Caccioppoli due to the richness of their fabrics. Caccioppoli is a really becoming famous amongst lovers of bespoke tailoring.
- Is a Tofani bespoke suit made to last a lifetime?
The high quality of the fabrics we use and the attention payed to every detail of the garments I make lets a my garments last for a really long time. They even last longer, if the customer takes good care of them.
This is a jacket I made 15 years ago for myself. The fabric is Loro Piana... (Shows me a nice old jacket.)
- When making a suit, do you follow current trends or fashion?
I respect the good taste of my clients and also the traditions of bespoke tailoring; I love to build a trustworthy relationship with my customers, so it depends on what a customer wants at that particular moment. But of course I always try to steer my clients in the right direction when they are choosing a fabric or a specific style that may or may not be suitable for them. I like to make my clients happy.
- What is the hardest part of being a bespoke tailor?
To me, this job offers great opportunities but the mildly difficult part is that you have to stay focused all day long, because the slightest distraction could cause you, even as an experienced bespoke tailor, to make mistakes. Aside from that, there are no problems. This is a lovely job.
- So your now retired father taught you this art. Do you hope to pass this knowledge of bespoke suit-making down to your son?
Yes, of course. It is only when an apprentice learns from his master and improves on his master's work that the master really feels satisfied.
- Let us talk about the Italian style or sprezzatura. What is your opinion?
Italian style is very important. To understand it and pursue it means one must learn and understand the unwritten rules and learn how to break them. The Italian style is about dressing to suit your personality. That to me is sprezzatura.
- You are a bespoke tailor. What is the most odd or strange request you have ever had from a client?
I have not come across a client who has a strange request. Bespoke is about personalisation and I am lucky to have clients who trust and adhere to my advice and they are always happy when they receive garments I make for them.Edited by Fantastic Mr Foxx - 9/28/15 at 12:54pm