There are a few provincial bespoke tailors in the UK, but not many. Italy has more, though again far fewer than there used to be. The advantage of a provincial tailor is normally a quiet preservation of tradition; and price.
While in Italy a couple of weeks ago I was pleased to meet Gianni Cleopazzo, who runs the third-generation tailoring house Sartoria Vergallo in Varese, about 45 minutes outside Milan.
Gianni is the sole cutter in the lovely white townhouse in Varese’s centre that houses the firm. While it has always been small, Vergallo has expanded in recent years to seven tailors making under Gianni, with three hired in the past 18 months.
That demand is down to three things, that you can put in your desired order: Gianni’s soft but formal north-Italian tailoring; the fact that he visits London every month; and the fact that he only charges €1800. When the big Milanese names are charging closer to €4000 for the same level of workmanship, you can see why Gianni might be popular.
There is no real advantage to making the forepart this way; it is just harder. Extending the dart below the pocket makes it easier for the cutter to shape the bottom of the forepart and stop it swinging forward. It is a shortcut, if a fairly unimportant one. Of the Italian tailors I know, certainly Liverano and Caraceni in Milan make that way.
The style of Gianni’s suits has a lot in common with those in Milan: it is noticeably softer in the chest and shoulder than anything English, with beautifully curved breast and hip pockets, but is not as soft as Neapolitan tailoring. There is even a hint of roping to the shoulder. The armhole and gorge are high, with a close waist and narrow, cuffed trousers.
The Vergallo tailoring name goes back three generations to 1943, but Gianni learnt nothing from them. It was founded by Carmelo Vergallo in San Cesario di Lecce, a village of tailors in Salentino, south Italy. He handed on to his son-in-law Francesco Cleopazzo in the 1970s, who moved the business to the booming town of Varese in the north.
Francesco, Gianni’s father, was very successful but fell ill before he could hand down any expertise. Gianni, initially, didn’t want to go into tailoring and started working in retail instead. After a year he realised that was a bad idea and went to train with another Varese tailor, before studying at the Ligas school in Turin – a technical school for the menswear industry. He then reopened his father’s business, and made it far more international than it had been previously. Gianni has since been recognised by the Italian National Academy of Tailors, which includes the Roman Caracenis, Solito and Puppato among its members.
I’m having a navy two-piece made with Gianni, in a cashmere-mix cloth from Cacciopoli. (A Neapolitan brand with great jacketings – cashmere/wool in winter and linen/silk/wool in summer. Their worsteds are licensed to others but look at the jacketings bunch when you can).
This is the first fitting, which was good apart from both the arms and the body being almost an inch too long. Having seen examples of Gianni’s work at every stage, however, and fitted on both himself and his friends, I’m not worried.
website or email Luca, who organises the London visits and translates for Gianni – firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also add you to the mailing list.
Expect one or two more posts before this project is done.