Renato Ciardi, who sadly passed away earlier this year, was truly one of the greats of Neapolitan tailoring.
Succession planning is rarely one of a bespoke tailor’s strengths, but fortunately the Ciardi family began planning for this several years ago, and Enzo Ciardi (above, left) has been the head cutter for some time.
It was with some confidence, therefore, that I visited Enzo and his brother Roberto earlier this year, to commission a suit in a grey high-twist wool.
The Ciardi atelier is on the ground floor of a relatively new block on Via Giuseppe Fiorelli, in the middle of the historic centre of Naples.
The atelier itself is deep with history, though, with Renato’s awards and photographs of the great man around the walls, and two rows of historic irons on facing tables.
As a visitor to a famous tailoring house you secretly hope for these little things - souvenirs and ornaments that make its history manifestly real.
It shouldn’t matter (it should be the product that matters), but it is a pleasurable part of the experience.
Downstairs there is a small workshop (some is done off site) with space both for Enzo and Roberto (cutters) and five coatmakers.
As this was summer a lot of linen and linen mixes were going through, including blues, creams and forest green.
The detail of the green jacket below shows one decorative element that the Ciardis like - piping in complimentary colours on the inside of the jacket.
This jacket has been self-lined in the front (with the same material) but the pocket on the outside requires this supporting cloth on the inside, which is then finished with a brighter green.
It’s a little strong a contrast for me, but I did very much like the brown lining that Enzo had in his grey jacket - shown below - and opted to have that in the jacket of my suit too.
I generally just have matching linings in my tailoring, but some subtle lining colours can be particularly complimentary, or bring out a nice aspect of the cloth.
The Ciardi style is pretty typical Neapolitan: very soft canvas and shoulder pad, broad lapel, curved and open quarters.
The shoulder is not extended, tends to have a ‘shirt shoulder’ construction, and is finished with a subtle roping or ripples where the cloth is gathered at the top of the sleeve (shown on Roberto, below).
Both, again as with most Neapolitans, are quite subtle but do serve to give an impression of width to the shoulder without the need for padding.
One thing the Ciardis always do is cut the canvas of their chest on the bias, which gives it greater stretch and therefore comfort.
This is something not all Neapolitans do, and only Anderson & Sheppard and related tailors do in the UK.
The make and finishing at Ciardi is pleasingly neat - something that has a tendency to be better at the larger bespoke houses in Naples.
And the brothers occasionally like pick stitching on the jacket’s lapels and elsewhere in contrasting colours.
Again, not for me, but there is a fondness for brightness there, particularly in the summer.
One thing that tickled me about the fitting was that Enzo held the ends of the trouser legs for me as I put them on.
This is slightly awkward, as they have to be lowered gradually as your foot goes down the leg, but it is a nice traditional touch that I have only experienced elsewhere at Edward Sexton and Chittleborough & Morgan.
It is supposed to stop the trouser trailing on the ground as you put it on, and therefore prevent it getting dirty.
The basted fitting, shown here, was very strong.
This first fitting is for the tailor, of course, to get the balance right and sort out the fundamental structure of the suit.
There are few design questions and it is not for the customer to begin judging the overall look.
But it is always nice to see the cloth already running cleanly up the back and hugging the neck.
And to hear that the cutter is considering all the body points you know from experience will be an issue, such as my hollow lower back.
I hope to have the suit fitted again during Pitti in January, and finished soon after.
It will be great to be able to report that the house of Ciardi is in great hands, and with the new generation still deserves to be considered one of the best in Naples.
Price: Starting from €2800 for a two-piece suit (in Naples)
Travel: Currently the Ciardi brothers travel only within Italy, to Japan and Korea. But they are planning London (Enzo’s English is coming along impressively).
Cloth: A high-twist charcoal wool from Vitale Barberis Canonico: Spring Four Ply (853.601/56, 390g).
I am also wearing:
- indigo linen shirt by D’Avino
- navy blazer in 'mesh' wool from Holland & Sherry, by Ettore de Cesare
- natural-coloured linen trousers made-to-measure by Salvatore Ambrosi
- sisol panama hat by Lock & Co
- bark-grey Sagans by Baudoin & Lange
Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man