Sartoria Melina – bespoke Neapolitan leather

Share
Monday, September 4th 2017
||- Begin Content -||

As regular readers will know, I am a big fan of leather and suede outerwear - whether from the superfine Seraphin, historic Chapal or uber-modern Stoffa.

I have tried, used and love them all.

When it comes to tailored jackets, however, I want to stick to tailors who can render a fit similar to bespoke suits.

I have done so with Cifonelli, which produced superb results (details at that link), and others such as Camps de Luca also work in leather.

But the number of tailors that do so is small, and as a result there aren't many styles to choose from.

This is why I was excited to see Sartoria Melina when I was in Naples over the summer.

Melina is a small one-family bespoke leather operation, based in Sarno (about an hour’s drive from Naples).

Jolanda Caruso and her mother Carmela (pictured above) set up the operation last year, when Carmela left the larger and better-known leather house Rifugio.

Rifugio also makes bespoke, hand-sewn leather garments, but had expanded into some machine-made pieces, and the Caruso family wanted to focus solely on bespoke.

Now, when I say bespoke, this is very different to the product offered by the likes of Cifonelli.

Most importantly:

  • It has no canvas in the chest, let alone a hand-padded canvas, and is therefore not shaped like traditional bespoke.
  • It emphasises hand finishing on the outside, with pick stitching around all seams, hand-sewn buttons and buttonholes. This is something Cifonelli, for example, could do but generally doesn’t.
  • The pattern is drawn from scratch and hand cut, but is based off standard patterns and sizes, and is therefore closer to some made-to-measure in fit.

Given all this, I could understand if someone said it was best described as made to measure.

But given how much MTM leather outerwear there is, all machine sewn and based on small alterations to existing jackets (length, sleeve etc), I think perhaps bespoke is a more useful term.

Sartoria Melina offers a wide range of styles.

Their classic and most popular is a single-breasted, two or three-button jacket. But they also do blousons, reversible coats (above), trench coats, and double-breasted jackets.

I have included photos of some of them here.

They work in a few different leathers and suedes, but the most popular is a baby calf with a nubuck-like finish - a lightweight and very soft leather that is also nice and matte.

Not only does this feel lovely, but the texture is very subtle - a world away from the shininess we might associate with tailoring-style jackets.

Most other leathers they use are exotics such as alligator and ostrich, which of course are more showy.

They’re experimenting with washed leathers (below). And there are linings in both cashmere and furs, such as mink.

The central attraction of the product, however, is that pick stitching.

This is beautiful stitching to watch, as we did with Caruso senior as she worked on a navy jacket.

“It’s a very difficult process, because you can’t afford any errors,” says Carmela. “Once you’ve made the hole, that’s it - you’ve left a mark.

“This makes it particularly hard to train up young people, because it takes them a long time to be good enough to work on a real garment.”

With hand craft generally, there is a delicate balance between something that looks handmade, but is not sloppy; that approaches the precision of a machine, but doesn’t lose the character of craft rendered by an individual. This stitching gets that just right.

Interestingly, a three-sided needle with sharpened edges has to be used to cut through the leather.

Cutting on such leather is a challenge, because it moves and stretches easily.

And before the cutting begins, a good hour needs to be spent working out how the pattern can fit on the skin.

This is rather like a jigsaw puzzle - as the colour varies slightly across the skin, and pieces that will be next to each other (eg along the side seams) need to be of a similar shade.

In other construction points, the only thing used apart from the leather is a lightweight fusing that is ironed to the inside of the fronts, and taping around the bottom edge and vents (below).

This is fairly common in ready-made jackets that use very soft materials like suede. 

The back of the tailored jackets is made out of two pieces of leather, rather than four, which makes them look more like tailoring than most ready-made leather.

The buttonholes are also cut with a hammer and chisel, before being hand-sewn, which is nice.

A single-breasted jacket in baby calf costs €2900, much of which is of course the cost of the leather itself.

Prices rise from there for bigger pieces such as coats, and there are small additional costs (€150 or so) if a customer wants them to copy an existing jacket.

I’m having a three-button jacket made in dark-brown leather, with patch hip pockets and a welted outbreast pocket.

There will be a fitting in canvas first, before the final piece is done.

I will report back on both, but if the result is good enough I hope to encourage Jolanda and her mother to come to London for a trunk show.

Jolanda’s English is not perfect, but her brother works in London and is fluent, so hopefully he can help out.

They'd certainly be offering something different.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkfman

www.melinaemme.it

 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
40 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Paul Fournier

Just met Yolanda and Carmela over the week-end in Belgrade. I couldn’t agree more with the fact that their products are beautiful and very fine. It’s indeed quite different from what you’d see with Chapal and Seraphin and is somehow closer to real tailoring.

They had an outstanding suede bomber with castor interior. Truly a work of art!

Gonzague

Wondering if they can source (and work with) calf suede for unlined jackets, meaning that the other side of the suede skin is clean enough for display (and looks like normal non suede leather). Hermes TF and Zilli do it. I tried to buy such skin from skin dealers in Paris but none had a clue where to source such inside-clean calf skins. Theirs all looked rough/raw on the other side, unsuitable for unlined garments. I can send pictures if unclear. My guess is that these skins come from Italy.

Gonzague

Cool, thank you Simon. Let me/us know when they do.

Kev Fidler

I notice the lady is measuring you whilst you still have your jacket on. Is this a usual practice?

Kev Fidler

Thank you. I didn’t know that. Is this a personal choice of the cutter/tailor or specific to certain garments, styles etc?

Elva

Regarding sources for tanned skins, I have a tanned, dyed deerskin which has a beautiful suede backside, it is so supple that I’m considering getting some to make a shirt for myself. Source is Americanelkanddeer.com, located in Denver, CO. I don’t know if they ship overseas, but anyone could certainly ask. I got the website name from a friend who makes leather items, and their quality and prices are very good. Cheers from Elva

Gonzague

Does it look like suede or normal leather on the backside? Thanks.

Elva

The deerskin I have has a slightly “pebbled” appearance on the outside, and the inside is a beautifully finished suede. It is a rich chocolate brown color. As I frequently am asked to alter leather jackets, I can tell you from my experience that the tanning job is excellent. Deerskins are also available in black, ink (navy), honey (golden), and saddle tan. They also offer elkhide, buffalo hide (bison), and some cowhide. Selections vary according to season, and what might be available from their sources. If you see something you really like, best get in touch with them right away, as some of their stock is one of a kind or limited supply. Hope this info. will help.

Leonard

Hi Simon,

How would you say does the quality of these leathers compare to previous makers you covered (Chapal, Seraphin, Zilli)? Furthermore, would you say that this is ultimately better value for money compared to the other makers, considering it does offer a ‘bespoke’ service. I have heard that Zilli offers a fantastic MTM service, but I am sure it runs at an exorbitant cost.

Kind regards,

Leonard.

Federico

Good evening Simon
I’m looking to have a pair of grey flannel trousers made by my tailor and I have two doubts:
– Slant hip pockets or besom pockets? http://henrydavidsen.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/IMG_3294.jpg I really hate when the pockets flare, so I’m interested in the besom pockets, I also like the look. I realize that if pockets flare that means there’s a fit problem, but still.
– I would like to try a waistband with daks adjusters. How do you feel about them? I’ve only tried the side metal adjusters so I don’t have any experience with the daks adjusters. Pros and cons?They would be too formal for a pair of flannel trousers?

Gernot

Going back to Seraphin: I understand they do m2m. Can you actually order/buy from them or only via distributors? Other than Colette, who’s a distributor?

Phil

Loved the Cifonelli suede jacket referenced in this piece; possibly the loveliest thing featured on this site, for me. But I’m wondering how much wear you’ve got out of it, and how it’s held up over time, -both matters of debate at the time of the piece, I seem to recall. By the way, I visited Cifonelli’s RTW shop recently and can’t recommend it highly enough. The service was superb, as were the clothes, though that gpes without saying.

Burt

Interesting article, thank you.
Would you consider and wear the finished jacket as piece of outerwear?
Just asking since I’m looking for a leather bomber jacket for leisure and weekend wear that can withstand some rain. Perhaps Chapal’s the better choice then?

Giacomo

How would you compare their product with Rifugio. they do awesome suede jackets

Muki

Thats great news to know that still exists around a good Bespoke leather tailoring professionals around , algthou I know them personally and there work to which is amazing!!!

Thank you fior sharing!!

Kind regards

Muki Bespoke

Peter Borden

Starting to consider a leather jacket for my wardrobe. The navy and green fabrics in the photos above sure are appealing … but would dark brown be preferable? I’m on the fence. Admittedly sometimes the commissions I’m immediately drawn to are not the ones that last, sigh, so I’m checking myself.

Yosef777

Absolutely beautiful work!
I know you mentioned that you are hoping for a London trunk show, am I safe to assume they don’t travel to NYC as yet?

Scott

Simon, I’ve been interested in Sartoria Melina since reading this article and have done research on other leather companies as well. One small company of interest is actually in London, Cromford Leather. I didn’t see any information on the PS website about them. Do you know anything about Cromford in terms of the quality of the craftsmanship and design?

Scott

Simon, my apologies for a premature post concerning Cromford Leather. I did a second search and did indeed find two articles on Cromford. I gather that you consider their craftsmanship excellent, but didn’t really care for their designs? May I assume that you prefer the garments of Sartoria Melina over those of Cromford due to design preferences?

Anonymous

Thank you sir. When in London next I plan on visiting Cromford,among other PS recommendations, and take a side trip to Sarno to visit Melina. I’m becoming a big fan of suede jackets. Cromford has two shearling lined models that looked interesting. Would Melina be able to make a shearling lined bomber jacket as well?

Scott

Perhaps too luxe in this case! Is there a hotel in Sarno that you recommend or is it best just to stay in Naples?

Alec

What is ‘washed leather’ btw?