As mentioned in our post on Marco Cerrato last week, much of the sartorial industry in Naples occurs outside the city - in the suburbs and towns of the surrounding area.
Much of this is in the north-east, just above Mount Vesuvius, the still-active volcano that sits on the horizon, perpetually hulking over the city.
On the northern slope of Vesuvius is Somma Vesuviana, a quiet suburb where shirtmaker Fiorenzo D’Auricchio has his workshop. His brand is D’Avino.
(Not to be confused with Avino, the ready-to-wear and bespoke shirtmaker that is not far away.)
The area has hundreds of shirtmakers (nearly all women) that work at home on the finishing and hand-sewing of shirts.
The larger makers in Casalnuovo, north-west of here (Attolini, Isaia, Borrelli) all make use of these shirtmakers.
When Fiorenzo was at Borrelli (he was the head of quality control in hand finishing for 15 years), he was in charge of 50 women in the area.
Today all his D’Avino shirts are made in the workshop - something he is very proud of.
“In an area like this, it is one thing that sets a maker apart,” he says. “We invest in people, we work together all day long, myself and my wonderful employees. I need to keep them happy, and they know that.”
He gestures to one lady (all six of them are women) who came with him from Borrelli: “We’ve been working together for more than 20 years. So far it’s been a pretty good relationship.”
Fiorenzo's mother also worked at Borrelli, and it was she who taught him to sew when he was young. Later he went to college to study design and pattern making.
The women of D’Avino do everything in-house, from the side seams to the buttonholes - and there is an awful lot to do.
I’ve written before about the quality of the work at D’Avino, which is the highest I have come across. Everything that can involve some hand-sewing, does. Both the practical things (attaching collar, armhole etc) and the aesthetic ones (hand-rolling the bottom hem).
A white shirt is set up in one room, with all the hand sewing done in blue, to highlight it.
You can see some of that below: the stitching under the collar around the collar-stay, and the top of the shoulder.
Fiorenzo even invented a method of using an extended collar-stay in the collar, making it easier for the women to sew in perfect, straight lines around it (below).
"I always want to try to look to innovate, to improve these age-old processes whenever I can," he says.
Fiorenzo shows us around the workshop, starting with the paper patterns created for each customer, then the washing machines outside to wash all the material before working on it (linen is always washed twice).
Then there is the cutting table, where Fiorenzo does all the cutting himself. "I need this kind of oversight, to be able to see everything at every stage," he says.
"In my previous job I had maybe 30 seconds to check the work on every shirt - it wasn't real control."
Another of his innovations is a button-hole sewing machine that he uses just to create guides for the women, rather than actually sewing the holes (below).
"I do this myself usually," he says. "If there isn't any thread in the machine, it will just cut the cloth and the create a dotted outline of where the buttonhole should be. It can then be sewn by hand but with more accuracy."
The underside of Fiorenzo's collars always have a middle section in linen/cotton (the white bit you can see in the image below).
This is softer than the rest of the collar, and makes it a touch more comfortable. The ends need to be cleaner and sharper, where the middle does not.
Interestingly, Fiorenzo increasingly offers a floating lining in his collars as well as a fused one.
Although I personally prefer the look of a fused collar, I do appreciate the extra work required for floating lining, and it is nice to see that Fiorenzo offers both.
There are three thicknesses of lining, all on rails in the picture below. All made in France.
It's always nice to see the workshop where your favourite clothes are made. The fact they are often small, personal places is a further bonus - and a lovely aspect of bespoke clothing.
After Fiorenzo and I had toured the workshop, we wandered down to the local cafe in Somma Vesuviano, and talked about the area.
The land around here is particularly good for growing fruits and vegetables, partly because of its volcanic earth. This is something I had spotted on the farms on the drive in, and I noticed several shops offering fresh produce.
After we had ordered coffee, Fiorenzo's brother-in-law (a lawyer) and his assistant joined us.
The assistant spoke fluent English (Fiorenzo's is not perfect) and we had a pleasant conversation about the history of Somma Vesuviana while Jamie wandered the street, taking shots of shops and brickwork.
I'm not sure when I would ever go back to the D'Avino workshop, given Fiorenzo's travel to London and its location outside Naples.
But every time I see Fiorenzo, or indeed wear one of his shirts, I will have a pleasant and very personal memory to go with it.
Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man
I am wearing my tobacco-linen suit by Dege & Skinner. Details on the suit at that link, and thoughts on the combination coming soon in a separate post.
I really am not sure about D’Avino and several of the bespoke suppliers you use. Don’t get me wrong if I could afford I would have bespoke everything but even then I don’t think I would approve of D’Avino. I understand that the craft of men’s tailoring has been under threat and that anyone that goes above and beyond to protect the craft should be applauded. And yet …… I love my suits and shirts because they fit and have little idiosyncrasies that probably only I can see. Providing that which has to be done by hand is so done I would not give a jot if the rest was produced on machines. I suppose what I am saying is that just because something can be done by hand does not necessarily mean it should be done by hand. I am certain your other readers will not agree with this but to me fit has to be the priority and if that isn’t correct all the hand finishing in the world won’t help a shirt or suit.
I completely actually john, and I think a lot of readers will too. It depends entirely on what you prioritise, and your budget. At the least, that’s why I recommend Abbarchi, Avitabile and D’Avino at very different price levels
Simon, I must agree with John that fit is the most important component. I’ve seen very expensive bespoke shirts that fit poorly despite all the handwork. And I’ve seen made to measure shirts,from Zegna example,that fit extremely well that were produced mostly by machine. Obviously you must be very pleased with the fit of the D’Avino shirt as well.
On a side note, would you remind me please who your current favorite Italian tailors are?
Big question Scott, not really room to answer it here…
But it’s mostly just Neapolitans now, with perhaps a Liverano in Florence for that style if I can afford it.
Are Caliendo and Solito still on the list?
Caliendo yes, but less Solito
Simon, May I ask why less Solito?
Seems to be doing a roaring trade on London…
Luigi has improved recently, but in the past I’ve had small issues with fit and with quality (stitching coming apart etc)
is there a reason why Simon? do you just prefer a more relaxed look, or you have gone off the English tailors?
You mention D’Avino is the best shirtmaker you’ve come across.
Would be good to hear who you consider the top 5 bespoke shirt makers and the top 5 ready to wear.
Sure, although those are very big questions. What counts as ‘best’ depends on how you prioritise aesthetics, functional handwork, value etc. I prefer to list who I prefer at different price levels, with my personal view on those points (usually Abbarchi, then Avitabile, then D’Avino)
And RTW is even harder, because often there is little obvious difference in quality, because it changes regularly (designs with collections, quality with factories, service and fit with staff…)
Rabster – I must say in terms of RTW I bought a drakes shirt recently and it is one of the best quality (non-bespoke) shirts I own. Saying that looking at the price level compared to Abbarchi it makes much more sense to go to Simone if you have easy access to him in London (or Florence, NY etc). I know this is not practical for everyone so I would certainly recommend Drakes.
Always interesting to hear more details on how you think quality comes across in RTW shirts – given the difficulty in rating them easily or objectively
It is very difficult because I find that one brand may make you a great shirt one year but not the next. I am wearing a shirt today from Reiss. It is fantastic and i have had it for years, it still looks as good as the day I bought it. I have bought some recently that after 4 or 5 wears are only good for gardening.
For me I think you have to keep it simple when comparing the quality of RTW shirts. There is not much to compare on the quality of the stitching itself , or how well the button holes are made for example – (things you would compare bespoke shirts on ) – as that tends to be similar on a £40 high street shirt or £150 shirt (such as drakes) but rather, is there double lines of stitching in high stress areas, is the fabric selection appropriate for the price of the garment -one big area of in-consistency, quality of the buttons, and the big one which you cant review without owning over time – washing. Is there any shrinkage, are buttons falling off are collars falling out of shape. I never buy multiples of RTW anything without buying one and wearing it regularly first. There are other indicators such as if the shirt comes with multiples of spare buttons and collar stays. Whilst that makes no difference to the quality of a shirt – it does tend to show that a brand or maker may care more about the quality of the garment. The other problem with RTW as we all know is price does not equal quality, after all there are some brands out there selling RTW – made in Napes for more than Luca – and close to what Fiorenzo charges for bespoke.
My biggest crave though is for consistency in RTW brands.
I do find it interesting how much ‘quality’ often includes quality control – which is not something anyone would ever say they want to pay for.
Good points, Adam. I am happy that certain RTW makes fit me -Drakes are good and I have some of Luca Faloni’s shirts in linen and brushed cotton. Getting a decent fit though is largely trial and error so venturing into bespoke starts to make sense. Having a relatively modest budget it is good that in shirts at least there is a scale of price in achieving good fit, if a shirt functions whether or not certain parts are machine sewn then all well and good. I wouldn’t dismiss shirts like D’Avino though – the sheer pleasure of owning and wearing something with that amount of craft and dedication put into it must give an extra edge.
Adam is wise to recommend Drake’s.
I’ve used their new ‘made to measure ‘ service twice and have found that their system allows you to prescribe a good fit with the resulting product representing great quality at a realistic price.
Great to read this post. How far is it by car from the city to the work shop. Have a great weekend.
About a 40 minute drive, but very dependent on Naples traffic
Why, when you are is a sleepy backwater 40 minutes from Naples in what is obviously a very relaxed atmosphere, are you wearing a tie?
I dress fairly smartly on any such visit because I consider it an important event and something I want to make a good impression at.
And I wear a tie often because I like ties.
It suited both the occasion and the atmosphere.
Echoing the previous comment and given the video the other day, I am baffled as to why you are wearing a tie here. Each to their own though.
Even a suit, in my mind, is overkill here for visiting a laboratorio. If anything, it is Mr D’Auricchio who should be wearing the tie. He isn’t though as he is dressing for the occasion.
How is your Caliendo cotton suit wearing btw?
Really nicely, actually.
It should also be said that of course this was only one of four appointments that day – the rest in the city. And I’m not at the stage where I change between appointments
Then rather than look like a complete fish out of water, why not remove your jacket and tie for this part of your day? I would have.
Thanks, but I didn’t look or feel out of place in my opinion
You were appropriately dressed for the situation without question. This did not go unnoticed by Mr. D’Auricchio and was much appreciated as well in my opinion.
I agree with Simon. Linen suit, shirt and tie isn’t at all overdressed for the occasion specially in Napoli for him as
an important blogger for men’s clothing.
he wasnt in Napoli, he was in a village 40 minutes drive away, and not sure he is important though
Fiorenzo from D’avino is very pleasant person. He always come to my hotel at time discussed and some time we meet at airport.
I agree with your comments regarding D’Avino. Fiorenzo has been making my shirts for about 3 years and I mostly visit his workshop as I enjoy discovering new ideas from other customer orders. Not only are his shirts the best (and I’ve tried them all) but he is also a perfect gentleman and his passion for quality is to be applauded.
Ian, how do the shirts hold up over time?
When a shirt uses floating lining/ non- fused collar , is it always means the neck band should be floating lining as well? I got a bespoke shirt that the collor and cuff is floating lining but the neck band is still a fused one?
Any reason why you haven’t covered Borrelli on this blog?
Not particularly, mostly just that I have tended to focus on bespoke shirts (given how great value they can be) and the lack of availability in London
Do any of these gentlemen in the vanguard of Italian shirt making actually use collar-stays?
My Borrelli collars never seem to need them and their collar stays are so thin to begin with. Makes me chuckle to think some people still use metal or mother of pearl collar-stays.
I am also a client of D’avino and I agree that he is the best in Naples.
I saw him personally last week in Naples))).
Even today I am wearing d’avino Friday polo ))
simon, with hand stitching in a shirt around the armholes for instance, are there problems caused when washing the shirt? I’m wondering if natural shrinkage negates all that effort if you just whack shirts in a washing machine (I don’t want to take my shirts to a dry cleaner each week). cheers.
No it doesn’t, particularly as all the shrinkage will have been taken out of the cotton.
Try to avoid taking shirts to a dry cleaner. It substantially shortens their life. Wash at home and line dry
Have you ever heard or tried Finollo in Genova?
Heard of, but not tried
first of all, great Report about (really) the best shirts that money could buy.
In the past I had a lot of shirts (RTW and bespoke) from the most famous shirt makers, but nothing is like a D`Avino shirt.
John is right, if he said that the fit is the most important thing, no contradiction. But why could a nearly fully handmade shirt not have an excellent fit?
Maybe it is not necessary to do every processing done by hand, maybe.
But for me the handwork of the shirts are a little bit like “going the extra way” and a tribute to the great work of the tailor and the sewer/seamstresses.
Today I have about 60 shirts from D´Avino and I share the opinion of Ian, if he say about Fiorenzo “his passion for quality is to be applauded”.
You mention that the cloth is washed before sewing. How big an advantage is that compared to others makers who don’t do that?
It isn’t – most do
I have also been to Fiorenzo’s workshop and certainly agree that he is a genuine and charming person, in addition to the excellence of his shirts. I tried around six bespoke shirt makers before Fiorenzo and now don’t use anyone else. The fit has been superior to any previous shirts and the handwork is excellent. Pricewise he is more expensive than most Italian shirtmakers but his shirts are still cheaper than some British bespoke shirts!
Great article, will you be doing anything on a shirt makers called Will Whiting in England and Alex Kabazz in New York?
Two very different operations, but I hope to at some point yes. Will I already know and I like a lot of his work – although the plain dress shirts are more English than I wear these days. His innovation and originality, however, really have the potential to set him apart – and in an industry in the UK where there are very few young shirtmakers.
Interesting, would second this request for more on Whiting. Also what makes a shirt more “English” than you want and why? Collar roll and some handwork?
I haven’t seen all his work so can’t say comprehensively, but yes. He was English trained, with David Gale
Is David Gale any good? I’m not confident.
David Gale is a great cutter – used to be head cutter at Turnbull & Asser, where he made for me years ago. Now at Hilditch & Key. One of the most experienced English shirtmakers around
I had shirts made by him at both Sulka and Dunhill. Sadly I didn’t get the best experience. There was no split yoke which was different from the previous order and when I asked about it, he said the perfect measurement is when there is no split yoke. I thought he was just selling me on the rush job as I thought one of the signs of a quality bespoke shirt was a split yoke.
Not necessarily. It can make a small difference to comfort if that split yoke means both sides are cut on the bias, but not one that I’ve ever noticed.
Who in your opinion is/are the best shirt makers in the UK?
It’s a while since I’ve used one, but I had good experiences with David Gale and with Sean O’Flynn.
How does the lifespan of a bespoke shirt compare to that of a lambda RTW shirt (assuming same conditions: wear, care…)?
It doesn’t really wear any longer or better, unless the RTW shirt is made particularly poorly, and the seams have the potential to come undone
Likely that RTW will be relatively speaking inferior cloth and thus will age more quickly
It’s interesting, but actually that’s often not the case. The most expensive shirtings, for example, are the finest and most delicate, and therefore cannot be worn as often for as long as cheaper ones woven from coarser cottons.
I’ve been wondering, what kind of cuffs do you like best — rounded, square or mitered — and why?
Rounded, generally. It’s subtle and everyday
Do you think mitered is tacky/attention grabbing?
It’s pretty subtle compared to some things, like massive trouser waistbands or lapels that fly off your shoulders. But yes, it’s more showy than others
Incredible photos and thank you for the insight into such an interesting industry.
Simon,do you think that one way to emulate the curl that one finds on an Italian shirt is to remove the collar stiffeners on an H&K or T&A shirt to reproduce that lift at the collar points?
It can help, certainly, but the way you can shape a fused lining is what makes it keep that curve
Apologies if this is not the right place to ask, do you know where I can buy thick Gritti mother of pearl buttons? I want to buy about 100 to change the buttons on all my shirts.
It doesn’t have to be Gritti buttons, but thick mother of pearl buttons. Your advice will be very much appreciated.
I’m meeting D’Avino tomorrow to have some shirts made and I wonder….if you could have only 3 shirts made by such a maker, what would your choices be?
It depends a lot on what you wear – suits, if so how formal, sports coats etc
But personally I’d start with:
– Plain blue spread-collar shirt
– Light-blue denim button down
– White plain poplin spread-collar
Hi Simon –
Since you’re now wearing more watches I’ve seen, what do you do for your cuff on your watch wrist? Do you give it a little bit more diameter to facilitate the watch slipping under the cuff or do you just leave it unbuttoned those days you decide to wear a watch?
I always wear a watch Peter. And they’re mostly quite slim, so it’s not a problem for them to slip under the shirt cuff, either by making the cuffs a tiny bit looser, or making the left a little bigger. But it’s a tiny difference
In my experience Davino makes his cuffs so they’re rather tight, in what I’ve been told is more traditionally Neapolitian, and to my surprise I’ve come to like because it prevents the cuffs from moving about. Thing is, I’ve started wearing watches – mostly vintage Rolex Explorers and vintage Cartier Tanks and am conflicted about what to do. Half tempted to go all Gianni Agnelli with watches outside the cuffs but don’t like that either. Stuck between less than optimal options.
Yes there’s no easy way out of that. Probably just have to accept that if your watches have changed, your sleeve cuffs will have to change slowly as well