Sartoria Formosa – bespoke-made RTW and MTM tailoring

Monday, September 25th 2017
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Sartoria Formosa - led by Gennaro, above - is similar in some ways to the likes of Dalcuore or Ambrosi, in that it is a traditionally bespoke Naples house that has expanded into ready-to-wear in recent years.

Five years ago it did no RTW or made to measure; today they are 50% of the business.

The big difference is that, unlike the vast majority of tailors, Formosa RTW is made to the same level as bespoke.

Those are RTW jackets you can see hanging up below - waiting to go off to No Man Walks Alone in New York.

All made in the same workshop, hand cut and with hand-padded chests and collars. Just on a standard block rather than a bespoke pattern.

It seems like an odd approach, but it does give Formosa an immediate USP.

And it’s the only way RTW or MTM garments could be made in this workshop. (Consumers often forget the inertia created by the need to invest huge amounts of money in machinery.)

Readers that came to our pop-up shop earlier in the year might also have seen the made-to-measure suiting that Gennaro was offering, which I was very impressed by (both for fit and for that bespoke-level make). 

The workshop itself is in a lovely courtyard, off Vico Cavallerizza in Naples.

Formosa actually has three buildings here: a showroom for the tailoring, a showroom for shirts (stacked with bolts, above) and a basement workshop.

There is also another, larger tailoring workshop outside the centre.

Lino Pommella makes the trousers for Formosa - and readers may have seen his name around, as he’s done trunk shows for his trousers at The Armoury and elsewhere.

I had a pair made and will publish a review in a couple of weeks.

The trousers he makes for Formosa, though, are more straightforward than those under his own name - with less handwork and more standard designs.

Pictured above in the Formosa workshop is Donnelli, whom readers might recognise from the superb O Mast film on Neapolitan tailoring by Gianluca Migliarotti.

Behind him is the master cutter, Dionisio, who oversees all the cutting.

He and cutter Antonio are getting on, and the latter doesn’t travel any more; Dionisio generally does Milan, New York and Japan.

Gennaro Formosa is therefore trying to work more with two young cutters - pictured in my fitting for a bespoke jacket below.

Unfortunately the fitting wasn’t great - and this is the third, after previous meetings in London and Florence.

The waist on the jacket (a linen/wool/silk Cacciopoli cloth) was too tight; the vents were opening sharply; and the shoulders still both needed lifting up - although the top of the back and the neck were very clean.

Hopefully the final jacket will have corrected these issues, and the young cutters can take a step up to provide a long-term foundation for Formosa.

The increasingly important RTW and MTM offerings, of course, are less affected by these issues.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

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Anonymous

If that is what you get after two previous fittings, it is a good enough reason to give these folks a wide berth.

Dreadful.

Sam

Great post on Bespoke tailoring by Sartoria Formosa…It was very interesting and I loved reading it…Thanks!

Derek

Hi Simon: how would you compare the quality of Sartoria Formosa’s RTW offering to that of Anglo-Italian’s? Thanks.

Rups

I thought Anglo Italian was all hand stitched too albeit in a factory rather than bespoke workshop?

rups

good point, just checked their description on website and it just says floating canvass so I guess padding is done by machine. do you think its still worth it for £1200 as it seems well made and nicely cut?

Phil

I understand they have a ‘closet’ of uncollected bespoke items that they offer at a substantial reduction. Sounds like a good idea.Did you happen to see any of these?

Walter Sickinger

Simon…I am surprised that at the 3rd fitting for your bespoke jacket that the fit was still so poor. You have mentioned in previous posts poor fits by Neapolitan tailors even after several tries. Is this a common occurrence?

Don Ferrando

My general impression is that not doing the whole process at the tailors workshop from measuring, fitting until handout creates often problems. E.g. the complaints about Ambrosi.
It seems to me always better to visit the tailor at his shop and do all the fittings there.
Adjustments are easier to be carried out etc.

Nick Inkster

I’m pretty surprised that this was what was waiting for you on your third fitting Simon.

Not only is it all wrong in the small of your back, but I’d question the sleeve pitch also.

What is the price point for a coat there?

DKP

Something I’ve wondered about bespoke – when issues of fit arise, how often are these flagged by the tailor himself and how often is it something that you, as the client must point out. I’m not really referring to issues of personal preference here I don’t think. In the examples in this article for instance, would the tailor have commented that the waist was clearly too tight, the vents too sharp, the shoulders needed lifting or would he have merely stood back, said nothing and hoped you were happy enough with what had been done?

It’s a concern to someone with no experience of such things that the first time a toe is dipped, I’ll walk out with something not as it should be because I didn’t know enough to call them out. The hope of course is that the tailor wouldn’t permit such a thing having pride in their craft.

DKP

Thank you Simon and that does raise another conundrum, i.e. how one determines the style of a tailor and if that style will “suit”. Reading will only get one so far as will walking by tailor’s shops and from what I’ve seen, there’s often not much to go by within the shops themselves – at least from what I can see from the street. Don’t think I’d feel terribly confident just walking in to essentially have a look around, make a judgement and then walk out again.

DKP

Again, thank you. What I’m beginning to sense is that I may be better off with Neapolitan. I very rarely have occassion to wear a suit and so odd jackets and odd trousers feel like what I’ll get most use from. Add to this that my working environment is far more casual and the softer drape seems like it may be the way to go. Of course, being based in London complicates all of this hugely if that is indeed the best option.

Something else I’ve wondered – what are the key differences between the tailoring of Florence and the Neapolitan offerings?

Anonymous

How can you say that most tailors should not be rated on fit? That bespoke clothes are specifically made to fit you and you alone is a cornerstone of the craft.
I’d take a well fitted garment with less than perfect (and by definition manly invisible) finishing than a work of art that is too tight!!

Barry Pullen

I would remind everyone that ordering bespoke, even under the best circumstances, requires an extraordinary amount of patience. I am the only person I know of who had his first bespoke suit stolen from the shop before ever having a chance to wear it, so from day number one I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for.

But look on the bright side: If all you wore was RTW, you couldn’t sit around with your pals over a drink and swap gory bespoke war stories, the way we’re doing right now on this post.

Dan

Thanks for sharing your experience, Simon. Last year, I had a single fitting in a U.S. visit that was much better than this; the final suit came out beautifully. I wonder if the growth of RTW and the addition of the younger tailors is causing some growing pains.

Graham

Simon,

I have some experience with Formosa as well, having worked with Dionisio on a couple of bespoke items. Unfortunately, what you’re seeing is very similar to the issues I confronted as a customer.

Fit is tight (to very tight) – on both trousers and jackets, and while Dionisio is perfectly pleasant to deal with, most changes requested hardly ever make it through (the language barrier is an issue). It is weird as his own clothes are much more elegant and classic.

After 2 jackets and one pair of trousers, I gave up. All three garments are now used exclusively as foul weather substitutes.

Sam

Simon,
Graham touches on an interesting point re language barriers between client and cutter. How off have you found this an issue? Have you found any good ways of ensuring the such issues don’t effect the finished garment?

M.

I had exactly the same experience with their MTM, Jacket was too tight and too short. It was also with Dioisio(Must be a NY thing). Nice guy but was very willing to pass it off as perfect. After 3 tries I just took it home. My friend yelled at me that I didn’t get my $ back and I regret it now. Stay away from their MTM, if they are doing everything “Fatto e Mano”, than buy off the rack or go Bespoke. Handwork was beautiful though.

Stephen Dolman

If you had to pick just one tailor to make you just one bespoke suit, who would it be?
Stephen Dolman

S

Simon,

I realise this is not the finished jacket, but given that this is a third fitting and they have even put on buttons on the sleeves, I doubt very much that they will able to remedy what «ails» this jacket at this stage.

I am surprised that you are not more severe in your review. In bespoke, fit is everything, if they can’t get that right then there is no reason why anyone should try them again, especially at this price point.

S

Joseph

Hello Simon,

Is this a spalla camicia (shirt shoulder)? It seems slightly extended as well.

Anonymous

Interesting. Firstly thanks for your honesty – always appreciared and at the heart of PS. Whilst I, and I suppose many readers, are grateful for an insight into this element of geographically based bespoke it yet again begs the question as to why you would repeatedly spend time commissioning from here (with increasingly questionable results) rather than commission from (let’s say) more deserving offerings. I applaud the democratic approach to commissioning but wonder, with no disrespect to Formosa, whether Brioni, Boateng, Charlie Allen, Battistoni, Campagna, Fioravanti, Poole, Caruso, Martin Greenfield, Malcolm Plews etc. would be more befitting of your expert time and analysis? The last two, particularly, are regarded by many as the finest in their field and, without being unkind, are at the senior end of their careers – an interview (if not a commission) with each would be most appreciated and welcome.

Gonzague

What are their tarifs both for a bespoke, MtM and RtW 2p suit? Thank you

Anonymous

Thank you for your review, Simon. After having ordered a significant amount of MTM clothes from Formosa, I have now decided to put them in my past. Approximately 75% of the sport coats/suits I ordered through SF did not include the adjustments I had requested, which added up to well over 10,000 USD of garments that did not fit. I found your article very validating to my experience – and throughout this process, I continued to note how slim their cut is in the hip (causing the extreme vent flare I don’t find with many other houses/RTW options).

Andrew

Simon, or anyone else who can kindly offer help – I’m in the market for 3 new work suits with a budget of 6-700. The bespoke prices of cad and the dandy, graham brown etc all seem to start around 1000 so seems that’s not an option but is it possible to get a fully canvassed RTW or made to measure for this kind of price? Cad and the dandy MTM start at 600 but half canvassed. Richard James is slightly over budget but some suit supply options are fully canvassed at £700.

Any suggestions on where I should go in this price bracket would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Gonzague

To be honest, I never tried them, but if you care about style (cut+fabric) I would go Suit Supply, style being rare at this price point. And it seems SS is good value too. Without style a classic is merely ordinary.

Adam Jones

I think at this price point the best option is going to be suit supply. They are probably the best value I have found in this price range I have not used the MTM service yet myself but have heard good things. MTM starts at under £500 for a suit or if one of the blocks fits you well with minor adjustments they do a very good made to order option on standard sizes.

Lord Lonsdale

Dear Simon,

What a great article on this Sartoria. Is Eduardo de Simone and his RTW Edesim, at the same level as Formosa ? I think this is also a bespoke atelier that creates RTW suits.
Yours.
Lonsdale

Anonymous

Edesim is outsourcer of many brands))
As far as l know – he is making a lot of cofonelli RTW , mtm and even bespoke

Gonzague

I thought Cifo RtW and MtM were done by an italian workshop that worked exclusively for them. At least that is what the salesperson said earlier this year.

Timofey

But is cifonelli bespoke is also outsourcing partly or fully by edesim??

GONZAGUE

Today, L Cifonelli is posting pics from the Soragna workshop. Does that mean C is reverting to Caruso for the rtw mtm line instead of Edesim?

Eduardo De Simone

Yes we do bespoke service as you can see on my Instagram account Eduardo De Simone – of course I invite you to come and see my world

A.

Edesim doesn’t work exclusively for Cifonelli RTW. It works for other RTW brands too.
The level of Edesim Selection (its RTW line, online shop only) is high, don’t know if at the same level of Formosa RTW but at that price level is REALLY HIGH.
Edesim’s heart is Eduardo De Simone, the Sartoria and the bespoke service is really good, with a definite style. Try yourself!

Michael

Simon, what exactly is a hand padded chest in a jacket? What is involved in the make of this? Thanks.

Sam

Simon, how much difference does doing the padding by hand make?

NESTOR VALIÑO PUIGCERVER

The result isn’t good so far. Let’s see if they can solve the issues before delivering.

Anyway, the prices you quoted, Simon, are well above the standard rate in Naples and if the work is not performed by a well trained tailor (and you know a master tailor takes at least a decade to be trained) seems to prove that they are trying to scale the business without success.

Do you plan reviewing Panico and Ciardi? It seems they are the only two big houses from Naples that you haven’t reviewed yet.

Timofey

I think at least 10-15 of big names in Naples which was never mentioned in this blog.))))

Timofey

Absolutely. discovery of sartorial Naples is endless)))

DKP

Just watched the O Mast film last night – definitely recommend it to anyone who’s not yet seen it. One thing I did take away from it that was the cause of a little concern was the attitude of the various tailors interviewed when it came to the client/tailor relationship, i.e. the impression given was that they’re really only interested in working with clients who are highly familiar and educated in the art of tailoring.

Whilst I can understand this leads to perhaps a finer appreciation of the craft, what is one supposed to do if this is a new experience? I don’t think that means their work will be any less appreciated but it’s a little off-putting to think that as someone new to the world of bespoke you’re essentially under scrutiny with regards to your own fledgling knowledge.

john

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you but is there ever a point when you say to a tailor, “Look, I am really sorry, but this isn’t working out.” Or “I really think if we don’t get things better at the next fitting I must go elsewhere”. It has happened to me twice and I decided if by the third fitting something wasn’t close to what I wanted, then the tailor gets the “final warning”. I would love to say it worked for me but on the occasions I have had to use it I have ended up walking away as often as being pleased with a final result.
I think therein lies the rub. Pleased but not ecstatic.

Philipp

Simon,
I recently read that Benedikt of Shibumi is doing trunkshows in London for his newly established bespoke service. Though Shibumi is based in Florence the bespoke suits are made in Naples as far as I`m informed. You might want to do a review – your German readers may appreciate as Benedikt eliminates the language problem between German client and Italian tailor (I bet even his English is far better than the one spoken by Italian tailors – so might be an option for English readers as well).

Philipp

Great, thanks. Don´t want to make this to a wishlist, but to something different than Neapolitan I´d be interested in Andre Luparelli`s Sartoria Ripense as well.
Btw your advice on keeping the tie knot up helped a lot – thanks for that as well.

Adam Jones

Simon, this may seem like a silly question but it makes sense in my head at least. I have been thinking about this for a while and this post seems the perfect place to ask. I am looking at my next purchase, and it is likely that this will be a Neapolitan style jacket. I have been questioning if I should have this made bespoke or not. It seems like the obvious choice but given my working environment it is likely this jacket will only ever be worn with jeans or casual trousers, would this be overkill? and would a simple MTM jacket be a more sensible choice? I worry I would have a beautiful jacket made that, despite it construction still looks far to elegant to sit on top of a pair of (smart dark) jeans.

Anonymous

In real dal cuore and ciardi are widely outsourced. It’s a lot of theatre in this : they take huge amounts of orders (for any bespoke houses) and then outsource them with another Sartorias which makes items for them at least 3 times cheaper)…

Anonymous

Yes. It’s partly true ))) they need to have workshops just to show to customers that that is not 100 % truth. It’s simple mathematics)

Anonymous

Do the prices quoted include VAT?

Andrew

I would like to have a number of bespoke jackets made but have never been able to decide on the best approach. Get it wrong and you will own a collection of expensive jackets that you will rarely wear (if ever). I have been convinced (by Simon) that Neapolitan tailoring is the way to go if you would like to wear your jackets in a more casual way. The limiting step for somebody of little experience (like myself) is deciding whether your structure will be amenable to a particular cut and then to choose your cloth wisely (so as to have jackets that give you the most options when pairing with pants and shoes). If you have the basic collection of black, navy, and grey pants and a wide collection of shoes and boots, which three jackets would give you the most options when trying to create a varied and interesting wardrobe? I think, if from the beginning, you had a blueprint such as this in your mind, more people would take the plunge and enter the world of bespoke tailoring.

Andrew

Hi Simon,

My work place is unusually informal, however, the nature of our industry means people are always very interested in design and that includes clothes. Most people would wear a jacket, shirt (without a tie) and maybe twill trousers from somewhere like Reiss.

We all read and discuss your articles and obviously have differing opinions. One thing that I find people agree on, is the difficultly bridging the information provided and actually having something made. I find most people want to start with a casual jacket for socialising outside of work. As engineers the idea of using a matrix is always attractive: with navy, black and grey pants (twill, jeans or otherwise) and brown and black shoes/boots, the idea of say three bespoke Neapolitan jacked that give the most versatility, makes sense. Your brown tweed, oatmeal and navy jackets by Elia Caliendo certainly make me want to go down the Neapolitan route. I find the soft Anderson and Sheppard style particularly attractive, but the Neapolitan style seems to work much better for the informal/casual look I want.

Petronio

Simon
thanks again for your very independent judgment.

Any idea of the range of prices ?

DKP

Simon – would you be able to recommend any Neapolitan tailors who produce MTM, but are either based in, or accessible in London? Also, what would you say the average price of Neapolitan MTM jackets are currently?

DKP

Thanks Simon. Do Rubinacci not offer MTM? I thought perhaps they might. Their website appears to at least have some RTW blazers available.

Mujtaba Wani

Simon–will you be writing a complete post on your bespoke commission with Formosa? I would like to read about how the final product turned out.

Scott

This is a fantastic article and has sparked serious interest in Sartoria Formosa. You’ve also written about Orazio Luciano. Can you comment please on any main differences in terms of workmanship, style, etc between these two tailors.

Henry

Dear MR.Crompton,

Thanks for your thoughts on this sartoria.
Would you suggest then to go through bespoke with Sartoria Formosa or Rtw or Mto would be pretty much similar in terms of results?
I know that bespoke fitting is unique but from what I read here handwork and general fitting is already decent in RTW and MTO.

Thanks and have a great start of the week.
Regards
Henry

Anonymous

Hello Simon, in the case of a commission not meeting your expectations for some reason or other, have you ever refused the garment altogether (and refused to pay for it)?
I just had an unsatisfactory second fitting with a tailor and there were so many issues I can’t see how he possibly could fix it.

Anonymous

No, I paid the whole price.
In the case of Formosa, what did you do? Did you accept the jacket anyway despite knowing it didn’t fit? We’re paying for a garment that fits after all, so do you think it’s unreasonable to ask for your money back or to demand that the tailor make another one from scratch?

Anonymous

I understand your point perfectly, Simon. Thanks for your opinion. However in my case, it clearly doesn’t fit, with the back and chest being so tight that the lapels buckle and I can’t raise my arms.

I’ll keep in mind your first caveat from now on. And yes, truly puzzling of Formosa — or other tailors you’ve reviewed for that matter. If I were them, I would have spontaneously offered to make a new one…