Today our good friend Pedro Mendes completes Part 2 of his review of Neapolitan tailor Pino Peluso, with specific attention to the Peluso jacket.
You can find Part 1 here:
For those of you who aren’t aware, Pedro just launched a new Podcast project for lovers of classic style entitled: “Unbuttoned – G. Bruce Boyer’s Life in Clothes.” In this six-part podcast series, Bruce, the preeminent men’s style authority of our time, looks back over a life and career in clothing.
While Bruce has spent five decades writing about what we wear and why we wear it, he’s rarely told his own story. This podcast series is a great opportunity to hear what it was like to attend college in the 1950s, visit Savile Row in the 60s, and Italy in the 70s. How fashion journalism changed in the 80s and 90s. And the return of classic style in this century. Please subscribe HERE to have a listen.
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Insight on Neapolitan Tailoring
by Pedro Mendes
When I was a kid, my parents bought our groceries at a discount supermarket. Occasionally, when they felt like splurging, they’d bring home a box of Neapolitan ice cream. Inside were three wide stripes, the Holy Trinity of flavours: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. I remember wondering if this was the only kind of ice cream they ate in Naples. How sad, I thought. It was only much, much later that I learned this concoction was an Americanized version of spumone, replacing the cherry and pistachio and losing the nuts and candied fruit. In other words, revision to such an extent, the true experience of the original was lost.
That little story is a clumsy metaphor for my relationship with Neapolitan tailoring. My initial understanding was so naive that it now seems childish. When I first heard of it, talked about breathlessly in the #menswear world, tailoring from Naples was said to be life-altering, artistic perfection, with the tailors themselves more akin to gods than craftspeople. And that is perhaps what I like most about Pino Peluso: he is a real, down-to-earth, human being. Remarkably skilled with shears and a needle, but a man nonetheless. And his work represents not mythology but honest tradition.
Last summer, Pino made me a pair of trousers which I wrote about previously. While being fitted in his shop in Naples, Pino told me about his approach to making jackets. That he doesn’t necessarily believe in a “Neapolitan” style. That mistakes aren’t “art.” That the shape and structure should depend on the fabric, the wearer and its intended purpose, not a house style. Or a tailor’s desire.
I was sold. I commissioned a sport jacket on the spot.
Peluso in Action
We started, of course, with the fabric. I wanted something simple, understated, for two reasons. First, it would be so versatile, I could wear it on a weekly basis. Since I already have a blue blazer, I suggested mid-brown. The other reason was craftsmanship: I wanted Pino’s work to be on display, not the colour or pattern. Pino pulled an old bolt of fabric from his shelf, a wool/cashmere blend that he called “Italian tweed.” It looks tweed-ish, with a visible weave of dark and light brown threads, but it is lightweight, I’d guess around 9oz.
Then we began the measurements. And in Pino’s world, that means an extensive and detailed process. Not only did he do more than what I’ve experienced with other tailors, he had certain approaches, even contraptions, I have never seen before. Pino’s gaze was intense, focused like a laser on every curve, every line. But what surprised me is that he didn’t have a technical form to fill out. Instead, numbers and notes were scrawled on a scrap of paper. But this was not carelessness. In fact, I soon realised he was tracing and drawing while he measured, beginning the process of drafting my pattern.
Once the measurements were complete, selecting the features of the jacket was easy. I wanted single breasted, patch pockets and a notch lapel. Beyond that, I left it to him. I wanted to see what a Pino jacket looked like, if left to his own devices.
For my first fitting, I could already see the sharp silhouette of the jacket under all the basted stitching.
At the second fitting, the jacket was almost complete but the collar needed tightening, the chest opened slightly and the sleeves lengthened. Then, a few weeks ago, the finished jacket was delivered.
As the old Italian saying goes, the jacket feels “as light as a breeze off Vesuvius.” It makes me look taller, more slender. And despite how close it sits to my body, it is comfortable, not tight at any spot.
The lapels are wide, but I like their rakish flair. Most importantly, for me, this is a jacket I will wear the hell out of. It’s a three-season garment (…even as light as it is, I can’t wear it during a Toronto heat wave) which works well with almost any combination of shirt and trousers.
Best of all, working with Pino has allowed me to experience traditional Neapolitan tailoring, and given me a real present-time encounter , rather than a glorified, generalized version of the phenomenon of Neapolitan tailoring. Clothing in itself may not change you, but I believe it can create emotion and affect a person in a positive way, particularly when the cloth is crafted by a master in the great city of Naples, where residents insist on being called Neapolitans instead of Italians.
Yes, my jacket is a well-made, well-fitting garment that makes me look and feel good—which is not an end in and of itself. Such a jacket is a tool for living and makes me feel as if I should put it on and go do something useful. Which, hopefully, I will.
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BACKGROUND STORY FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN PINO’S WORK: At the time of my commission with Pino, I was working with MAROL, the shirtmaker in Bologna, with company’s director Bo Yang, a fellow Torontonian and good friend.
I suggested to Bo that he meet Pino since I knew he was looking for a tailor to partner and travel with internationally (to allow MAROL to offer a “total look)…and I hoped we could find a way to bring Pino over so I’d get my fitting!
Bo and Pino hit it off swimmingly. All the qualities I see in Pino – honesty, clarity of vision, dedication to quality – Bo saw as well. And within a few weeks the idea came to life. Along with MAROL’s bespoke, MTM and MTO shirts, Kenji Kaga’s Seven Fold ties and Enzo Bonafe’s shoes, MAROL can now offer bespoke suits crafted by Pino. And the first time this all came together was last fall in my hometown. Since then, Pino continues to visit Toronto, and now schedules travel with MAROL to New York, London and Paris.
[All above photos by Bo Yang, courtesy of MAROL]