Warmth. It’s the most appropriate word to describe Anna Matuozzo and her daughters, Simona and Antonella.
Coordinating time to meet with Anna was difficult, given that this time around I only had a small window of time in Naples. Simona had suggested I come in on a Saturday (they’re typically closed) which was very generous, made even more so by the fact that they, like everyone else in Italy, had closed up shop for August, for their annual holidays. Despite all of that, Simona was more than happy to arrange for me to come in. Feeling pretty special by this point.
It’s so obvious that Anna’s camiceria is owned and run by women, rather than men. Typically, though not always, the fit-outs of men’s tailoring studio’s tend to be more sober, covered in dark woods and leather. Clubby. It’s the whole “cigars and whisky” thing. Not a bad thing, but consistently similar. So it’s a refreshing change to walk into Anna’s rooms on the first floor of her studio at 26 Via Gramsci and be met with chandeliers, natural light and billowy curtains (the best kind of curtains). An unexpected benefit is that for Naples, a city too well known for its lack of safety, that Anna’s rooms sit across and slightly down the road from the American Embassy. Meaning you’re less likely to lose your watch, with Marine’s wandering around the neighbourhood with automatic rifles.
This was the first time I’d met Anna and she met me with a huge hug and a smile, before we headed upstairs. Simona was instantly off out the back, making espresso’s and fetching mineral water. You feel instantly among friends and it’s thoroughly genuine. My Italian is decent, enough to comfortably get around Italy, but as Anna and Simona only speak Italian, having Antonella there, to translate when things got technical, was an added benefit.
Anna worked for Rubinacci for over 20 years, before finally choosing to open her own camiceria, which has gained considerable recognition over the last several years. Simona is an integral part of the business and, like many of the great tailoring houses, it’s very much a family affair.
After talking about everything not related to tailoring, we eventually got down to discussing the shirt Anna and Simona would make for me. For business, I generally only wear blue and white shirts, occasionally pink and rarely with patterns, so the goal for this shirt was to find a classic pale blue cotton. Easier said than done. Anna’s cloth collection is expansive… really expansive, with several hundred options to choose from in pale blue alone. The first step to whittle down the options was to choose the type of cloth.
I’d wanted a light weight poplin (a smooth, plain weave. It’s a smart cloth, and the smooth surface makes it well suited to the formality of a business shirt). I poured through dozens of bolts of cloth, until Simona had an idea and popped out of the room. She came back a few seconds later with a small but expensive looking box from David and John Anderson’s range “The Diamonds”. The Diamonds range is the flagship of the brand, made from the finest strands of West Indian Sea Island Cotton. The cloth we were looking at was their 300/2 poplin (300 threads per square inch and 2 ply cotton – where 2 strands are woven together to form a single, stronger strand) making the cloth amazingly light and smooth, almost silk like. Thread count has its obsessives, adamant that they get the highest count available, but its never been a decision making factor for me. A higher thread count makes for a more luxurious cloth, but it’s also more likely to wear quickly, as the strands of cotton (or wool, in suiting) are so delicate. However, Anna and Simona had no concerns with this cloth and were certain that with proper washing it would last as long as any other cloth. It was the ideal shade of blue, so we chose that cloth and moved on. There’s no difference in the cost one of Anna’s shirts. Her pricing remains the same, regardless, which gives a client the freedom to pick whichever cloth they like, without having to think of different price points.
Back out into the main room and Anna had a template shirt ready for me to try on. Many tailors do this as it virtually takes the place of a first fitting. It’s not quite the same thing, but it’s still useful. The shirt is pinned in the necessary places and then those measurements transferred on to the pattern for a clients shirt. Given I had limited time in Naples, it made plenty of sense. Anna made a number of changes to the template shirt, shortening the arms, raising the right front and right back balance (breaking my right collarbone twice has shortened and dropped my right shoulder) as well as taking it in at the waist and placing darts in the back.
We also talked about which parts of the shirt would be finished by hand. If I’d wanted it, the whole shirt could have been hand sewn, but there are a number of areas where it’s just not necessary or practical, such as the side seams. It’s usually only done by hand, for bragging rights by the customer or the tailor, as it gives no practical benefit. You want hand work on areas which are likely to be stressed and need to be more supple. Hand sewing gives flexibility to a seam, it’s softer and allows the cloth to give a little as it moves or is stressed. Whereas a machine stitch is rigid and offers no flexibility. So we decided to hand sew the shoulder seam, around the top button and the arm scye (where the arm attaches to the shoulder). The button holes and buttons would also be hand sewn.
We then worked out the specific details for the shirt. Barrell cuffs with a double button closure, a cut away collar and the left wrist opening made slightly larger to accommodate my watch. I’m generally not a fan of having my own initials on anything, at least nowhere that’s visible to anyone else, but I’ve developed a preference for having the tailors initials on anything I have made (such as my bespoke Cleverley’s where I had the team sign the insole), so Anna was happy to embroider her initials at the bottom of the front panel, as well as the fish I have on anything bespoke. It will remain hidden to everyone else.
We’re not going to have the chance to have a formal fitting for this shirt, but given the fact that we were able to use a trial shirt, I’m confident that the finished product should be good. I wouldn’t be surprised if I need to have a couple of small adjustments made when it arrives, but that’s perfectly understandable. Anna’s shirts cost around $400 Euro’s.