Atelier Bomba, Rome: Chic handmade tailoring

Wednesday, August 3rd 2022
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Rome doesn’t have the menswear reputation of Milan, Florence or Naples. But there are some unusual little gems nestled in different parts of the city. 

One of the most interesting is Atelier Bomba. Started by Cristina Bomba in 1980, it has a reputation for fine knitwear and unstructured tailoring. 

Neither the website nor recommendations we were given really do the place justice, however - particularly on the tailoring. 

It’s a small, narrow shop, just off the big Piazza del Popolo. But the whole rear half is a working atelier, with drapey jackets, coats and trousers being made to measure. 

The walls are stacked with a stunning range of cloth. Much of it is vintage, and all of it is unusual but tasteful. The example below is a vintage hand-loomed cashmere. It almost had Milad and I ordering based on the cloth alone. 

Cristina was on hand, but the day-to-day running of Bomba is done by her son, Michele (pictured top) with his sister Caterina and wife Julia also closely involved. 

Michele is actually a trained bespoke tailor, and makes his own suits entirely himself. 

“I made a deliberate decision years ago not to make that part of the business,” he said. “The only way to have done it would be to outsource production, to become a manager, and I didn’t want to do that.”

Michele didn’t understand how anybody could make a bespoke garment without the cutter, and ideally the maker, seeing the customer. That led to a long conversation about practices among tailors and shoemakers, which is probably not worth reproducing here. But I guess might make an interesting future post. 

When we arrived at Bomba a customer was having a pair of navy linen trousers made. He was wearing them with a black polo shirt and soft slip-ons, and looked very much the easygoing part. 

The trousers looked nicely fitted. Inside, they had an awful lot of handwork - not all necessary perhaps, but probably part and parcel of the experience if you like everything being made on site. 

The jacket I tried on (below) had an equally impressive amount of handwork, and was nicely styled. Though personally, I’d probably prefer a bit of structure in a classic DB like this. The lapel peaks were a little unruly without it. 

“Sometimes we do put a little canvas in the jackets, just one layer of linen,” said Michele, “and no shoulder pads. The pieces can really be whichever combination the customer wants - that’s the obvious aspect of having everything made here.”

The style of some of the jackets was also a little quirky - the jacket I tried on had two buttons of different sizes. But again, Michele emphasised that this was just one style, and many customers made more subtle commissions. 

There were lovely craft details elsewhere too. The shirt/jacked pictured above had deliberately matched checks on the buttonholes, for example, which I can’t remember seeing before. 

We didn’t have time to try many pieces - I hadn’t realised quite how interesting the shop would be, or how engaging Michele and Cristina - but I suspect a shirt/jacket like this might be more my style. There are also long coats, work jackets and gowns. 

The knitwear was equally lovely, and might have broader appeal too. 

Apparently one of Cristina’s early obsessions was knitwear with the look of shetland, but light enough to be worn in the Roman climate, so she worked with melange cashmere to get a similar mix of colours. You can see the range in the cabinet above. They're all very light and very soft. 

The other knit they’re known for is super-fine merinos. (As in super-fine knitting, not the fibre itself.) 

Rather like Umbria Verde, their factory in Como uses old English looms that the founder took apart and remade, in order to get a finer setting. They now work at 45-gauge, which is why the pieces are so transparent (above). Again, particularly suited to Rome. 

Bomba, although small, has history and connections. The family was good friends with Vittorio Solbiati, and always made use of their linens. 

“When the company was being sold recently, we got a call to come and take what we wanted from the stock room,” says Michele. “That old cloth had been part of the sale, but no one wanted it. 

“So we drove up in a van and filled it to the top with the most beautiful bolts. We still have a lot of it in the back of the shop - it will take us a while to get through it.”

They've also been pivotal in retaining the character of their street, Via dell’Oca. “After the pandemic, there were a lot of empty streets here,” says Michele. “We convinced some friends, such as Patrizia Fabri next door, to take them. Otherwise they could have just become tourist places and sandwich shops.”

Those aren't Fabri straw hats below - they're by Bomba - but Fabri's are all made in a little atelier on the other side of the river. Another little Roman gem. 

I’ll definitely be back to see Bomba, hopefully this year. There was so much to explore, and Cristina and Michele were so lovely. 

Cristina in particular looked achingly chic despite the 35-degree heat, in an white linen tunic, jewellery and sandals. She reminded me rather of the equally stylish Audie Charles at Anderson & Sheppard

Both are also full of fun. Michele was happy to have his portrait taken, but Cristina said she’d only do so if there could be some knitwear in the shot too. 

The first photo below is what she gave us. Then she said the knitwear would look better on the dog, and proceeded to dress him up. 

Michele watched on, arms folded, with a smile.

Bomba is not cheap, largely a result of making so much by hand, on site. The jacket I was wearing cost €2800, and a work coat in linen was €1700. The cashmere knits start at €570. 

atelierbomba.com 

Via dell’Oca 39, Rome

Photography, Milad Abedi

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James

The clear conclusion from this is that you urgently need to write a PS city guide on Rome!!!

Gregoire

Terrific. I spend a lot of time in Rome and have nailed the food & culture scene but yet to pin down tailoring. Excited for that to change!

Bamboccio

Great idea – can I share a couple of names for inclusion?

V

I can highly recommend Gabriele Corvino

Bamboccio

Certainly will do.I would recommend Carbone near the Vatican. My shirt maker Beatrice Campagna closed during the pandemic. Usual story of rent etc.

Oggi

Looks a lovely shop.Good find,Simon.

Neil

Thanks for finding such craftspeople. It is a joy to know such dedication to their art exists, even if not exactly my style.
The female section of the website is equally if not more inspiring.
Beautiful and unusual concepts and skillfully made.
Neil

TIM JAMES

Really pleased to see you feature Atelier Bomba Simon. It is such a beautiful shop. We were lucky enough to visit in 2019 and will hopefully make it back in late September. The knits are fantastic. Glad you liked it and found it so interesting. It certainly left an impression on us.

Hans

Permanent style at it’s best🙏

Bourbon

I second this

Gioacchino (czgio on Instagram)

I must confess, I knew about this store even though I’ve never been there. Your article invites me to go there soon. Thanks Simon

Gioacchino (czgio on Instagram)

Sure, I will visit soon when back from holidays

Parker

They’re quite well known in female fashion circles, aren’t they? I learned about them through a friend’s wife who owns a few of their pieces and read about them in some fashion magazine. Their style seems to be wealthy alternative crowd along the lines of what shops like Adret offer nowadays. Simple materials, monotonous colour palette, mostly muted colours and well made. During my visit I found their women’s collections far more interesting and worthwhile, the men’s pieces seemed quite expensive for what they are. Any more info on their bespoke offerings?

Parker

I’d say this style is intentionally boring, even if you take the textures into account. The cuts, the models available, the colours all point into a certain direction and your average Savile Row/Napoli/… customer will most likely not be their target audience.
It is expensive for what it is, no matter the angle. I’m well aware about your professional position on this though.
Yes, but on their website it says:”Our bespoke tailoring service is offered by appointment” and there are some photos of fittings on their instagram. As their RTW is too small for me, XL being ~52/54, they mentioned that bespoke was possible but due to the language barrier I’m not sure they actually meant that doing larger sizes was possible as in they have larger patterns available.

Ray_Bentos

Putting a £500 cashmere jumper on a dog is the kind of relatable content that keeps me coming back 🙂

Cacofonix

I came across the shop too in May and really liked this shoe in the window but failed to follow through, which I’m regretting now

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Fredrik

Very interesting article, looks like a lovely place! I absolutly have to visit when Im in Rome next time.
I got some strong anthropsofic vibes when I see the clothes and the fabrics – maybe Im wrong? (I grow up around a lots anthroposofic designs and hand dyed fabrics) Also got some Shaker cloth/fabrics feelings.. anyway, very fascinating! I really appreciates this type of PS articles.
Look forward to the Rome city guide!
//Fredrik

Flaubertine

I like this enormously – although I’m not sure when I’ll next be in Rome. Following the link to the website, some of the designs reminded me a little of Maureen Doherty’s Egg, and maybe Issey Miyake too – with perhaps a bit of Yohji in the mix as well. I’d love a tunic like Cristina’s too. And the buttons! I’m now dreaming of a tunic in black linen with a mixed row of buttons… Is this crazy?

Flaubertine

You’re right, of course – I think I was just entranced by that photo of the buttons!

Ole Thomas Thommesen

Im going to rome in october and will check out the sweaters. Are they by any chance a bit slim and long?

Regards from a tall guy

TIM JAMES

Hey Simon, a bit of a leap here I know, but when we last stayed in Rome (diagonally opposite Atelier Bomba) I remember seeing beautiful suit carriers at Ripense. All the other good examples of suit carriers I can think of were expensive but with some travel again on the cards, I was looking for something to protect a suit, a jacket and a couple of shirts. Have you had any personal experience of the Arterton suit carriers and could you please provide your thoughts?

TIM JAMES

Thanks Simon. It does. I didn’t know Bennett Winch made one other than as part of the SC Holdall. I’ll have a look at their site.

PSR

All these years I genuinely thought the “SC” element stood for “Simon Crompton & not “Suit Carrier” without giving it a second thought. A touch of double entendre might have perhaps always been intended – but I never even thought it was anything other than your initials!

Romanoabroad

Any thoughts on Sartoria Ripense? Will they be off of the Rome guide? Thank you for this article!

Phil

I love pieces like this highlighting shops I’d probably never come across otherwise. I will definitely visit Bomba next time I’m in Rome. What did you think of the work coats Simon? They look beautiful on Instagram but are they wearable for a conservative dresser of mature years?

Brendel

superb – rich in tones, textures and the cut – just superb

Patrick

Thank you for this Simon. I have a trip planned for Rome next week – I appreciate your city guide is coming out later but is there any shopping advice you could give in the meantime please? I would be especially interested to know if there are any particular streets worth visiting?

Patrick

Many thanks Simon

Stamos

What is the black shirt jacket (?) in photo 10 made from?
Cheers

Justin

I happened to be in Rome for a few days returning from Puglia and went into the shop today. Even though the shop was open based on their hours, the shop was closed with the gate out front locked (very Italian situation). Michelle, who saw us loitering, was nice enough to let my wife and I in anyway. A beautiful shop, though given that it was technically closed, we didn’t get the full experience and didn’t want to bother them with too long a visit. The vintage fabric bolts were beautiful, particularly a brown and black seersucker that felt almost like a linen blend. Curious to see a piece made up if you end up going that direction. Thanks as always for showcasing these types of makers.

Robert Demers

Simon, I am traveling to Milan in mid-September and have one maybe two days free. At 75 I am not looking for bespoke suits but for smart casual wear. What three-five shops should I visit? Thank you.

Rob

Simon, Thank you for your feed back on shops in Milan. Robert

Ed

Do you speak Italian Simon?