The post on the Isaia factory in Casalnuovo was extensive in terms of photos, partially because there was much to absorb at the storied Neapolitan tailor, but also because the process is so involved. Making a suit jacket is an intricate endeavor that requires not only great skill, but also equal amounts of finesse. It is a wonderful time-honored process and something magical to witness in person. So to help convey the complexity, I wanted to give you as many perspectives as possible.
One thing that really struck me at Isaia was all of the work that is done by hand, the relative ease at which the processes are performed and the general skillfulness that the workers exude. Even though I shared photos of the factory in general, I thought it would be interesting to drill down a bit into the work done by hand — one of the things that separates Isaia from other makers — and also into the little details that make these suits truly unique.
During the tour of the factory we stopped to watch this woman baste a jacket — very quickly — by hand. As you will see in the short video, she has a lot of skill and expertise in performing this process. The purpose of basting is to temporarily join two pieces of fabric together so other construction steps can be performed to the jacket. At a point further along in the process the basting will ultimately be removed. Generally, the more work that is done by hand, the more basting the garment will require. This further compounds the expense of making garments by hand, first for obvious reasons that hand sewing is slower, more laborious and thus more costly, but it also adds to the end cost because it takes time to add the basting and then later to remove it.
One unique aspect of Isaia jackets is the extra flap of fabric that wraps around the edge of the collar. (Note: for a better look, refer to the first image at the top of the post.) I learned that this detail, while added only for aesthetic reasons, is something historically and quintessentially Neapolitan. The story goes that, in the old days, poor Neapolitans would have their tailor add this extra flap of fabric to the outside collar so when the jacket became soiled and dirty, it would be possible to give the jacket more life by turning the fabric inside out. Without this extra tab of fabric, reversing the collar (and ultimately the jacket) would be impossible. The detail remains on Isaia jackets today as a nod to Napoli’s humble past and as a badge of Neapolitan honor.