At the suggestion of many friends, our second day in Naples found us at 29 Via Carducci where Sartoria Panico is situated one flight of marble stairs above the street. On this warm Napoli afternoon, we were greeted at the door by the maestro himself, welcoming us inside his atelier with its crimson walls and lovely décor. Clearly a gentleman of exquisite taste, Sig. Panico looked to be comfortable in a pale blue dobby weave shirt, striped silk knit tie and pleated trousers as he beckoned in his signature deep voice for us to sit down in his salotto while he lit up a cigarette.
Although Napoli is well known for its beautiful tailoring, Antonio Panico is held in particularly high esteem in the region. Starting from an early age of 11, Antonio has now been working in the trade for over 50 years with more than 20 years spent as head cutter for Rubinacci, famously taking the place of the “father” of Neapolitan tailoring as we know it – Vincenzo Attolini. To our surprise, we didn’t find that his work reflected our expectations for tailoring coming out of Naples. Where we expected that spirit of “effortless elegance” (read: sprezzatura) with not-so-precise handsewing, exaggerated shirring at the sleevehead (spalla camicia) and the charming sweater-like shapelessness that seems characteristic of many Neapolitan jackets, we found that his jackets were quite the opposite. Although not structured in any sense of the word, his jackets were shapely with a graceful but strong taper in the waist and executed with a high level of precision all over.
Trying on a bespoke mixed stripe jacket made for another customer with a similar size
The bespoke mixed stripe jacket example Jerry tried on featured “con rollino” shoulders that hung cleanly without any shirring running down the sleevehead but still provided ample room to move and the chest was full but not so much as to cause the vertical folds one would associate with the English drape cut. Perhaps this is influence from Angelo Blasi whom Antonio purportedly worked for early in his career, this is something we must enquire further about next time when we come back for our fittings. Please note that the horizontal folds on the upper back caused by tightness are there because this jacket belongs to another lucky customer and are not a fitting issue.
Naturally, we were blown away when it came time to select our cloths as the shelves in the room next to the salotto were filled from floor to ceiling with bolts of vintage tweeds, cottons, linens and wools. We think Antonio was quite pleased that we were drawn to these rather than the bunches as he automatically took us next door to the fitting room with a three-way mirror to drape several fabrics over our shoulders to illustrate how they would look made up. What we loved despite the language barrier was that he was paying close attention to our facial expressions and body language and would toss aside the fabrics we didn’t love until we narrowed down our choices to two single patterned cloths – one a checked beaver brown wool/silk/linen blend with sky blue windowpane for Jerry and a burgundy wool/cashmere blend with azure overcheck for Chris. As it is with masters of Antonio’s calibre, besides telling him we would like these to be made up as single breasted jackets, we have left the detailing up to him!