Made In Italy 2011 | A Continuous Lean.

The Details | Isaia Napoli

Jul 6th, 2011 | Categories: Clothing, Italy, Made in Italy 2011 | by Michael Williams

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.

The lining is attached manually to the sleeve opening. Note the pucker, a sign the sewing was done by hand.

Made in Italy | Isaia Napoli

Jun 28th, 2011 | Categories: Clothing, Factory Tour, Italy, Made in Italy 2011, Napoli | by Michael Williams

The third installment from the ACL Made in Italy tour focuses its sights on the Neopolitan tailor Isaia. Located on the outskirts of Napoli — in a small town called Casalnuovo, a place that has been the home of tailors for generations — in a factory where nearly everyone that works in production is a second or third generation tailor. Isaia itself is a family-run business; founded in 1957 by Enrico Isaia, the clothing maker is now helmed by Enrico’s grandson Gianluca Isaia, and has various other family members involved in its day-to-day operations.

The factory is an expansive two story building that is tucked away in an unmarked alley with a large gate. If I were to find the place without the assistance of Isaia’s driver, I’d venture to say it would have been impossible. More than that, if I had to drive myself through the traffic in Napoli, I don’t know if I would be alive to report about the wonderful tailoring I witnessed. But all of that just adds to the allure of Napoli and of course, the Neapolitans. I find Southern Italians to be charming and friendly with a good sense of humor. I find Napoli to be intense, exciting and renegade. Definitely unlike any other place in Italy that I have been.

Brunello Cucinelli’s Italian Shangri-la

Jun 7th, 2011 | Categories: Italy, Made in Italy 2011 | by Michael Williams


Anything in any way beautiful derives its beauty from itself and asks nothing beyond itself. Praise is no part of it, for nothing is made worse or better by praise. -Marcus Aurelius

Ask Brunello Cucinelli about the company he has painstakingly built over the past 30 years and he will likely explain that he is simply the caretaker not the owner and certainly not the CEO. The man is humble and spiritual in a way that rubs off easily. He openly states he would rather be reading (and re-reading) the texts of Marcus Aurelius than doing almost anything else. Me being someone who doesn’t spend much, if any, time in a church, visiting the world of Cucinelli in the small village of Solomeo is probably as close as I can get to having a religious experience.

The Cucinelli company headquarters occupies a 14th century castle on the top of a hill in the middle of the landlocked Umbria region, an area referred to as the “green heart” of Italy. Cucinelli moved to the castle (which was in need of some repair) in 1987 and has since transformed the place into what could be the most idyllic company head office in all the world.

Made in Italy | The Iconic Gucci Loafer

May 24th, 2011 | Categories: Factory Tour, Italy, Made in Italy 2011 | by Michael Williams

On the outskirts of Florence, in Italy’s traditional shoe-making home, sits a nondescript, boxy building that was built during the post-war Italian industrial boom of the 1950s. While the factory doesn’t look like much from the outside, once through the door it’s an altogether different story. The facility has the honorable distinction of making the Gucci loafer, one of the most iconic shoes made by one of the most prestigious and revered brands the world over.

If teleported into the building without any knowledge of the craft that held within those walls, one could reasonably think workers were turning out semiconductors or some other ultra-modern device. The neatly-organized space is bright and clean with machinery clustered sporadically along a looping line. It is the perfect marriage of technology and traditional craft with a seasoned group of shoemakers, sewers and cutters all under one roof. The nexus of old and new world is best exemplified in the attire of the tradespeople themselves; each worker wears a white lab coat with a beautifully tanned leather apron in a charming way that only Italians can pull off. The craftsmen attach the leather loafers to the last by hand with a nail and hammer while sitting on a little wooden stool at a well worn and purpose built work bench. Even the tools have their own Gucci embossed leather kit to keep all necessary instruments organized and at hand. Looking around, I had a vision of what it would have been like for an Italian 1950s me driving my Cinquecento to the factory, grabbing my apron and going to work as a skilled (and humble) craftsman. If Daniel Day Lewis can do it, why not me?

ACL Field Trip | Made in Italy

Apr 29th, 2011 | Categories: Made in Italy 2011 | by Michael Williams

In an effort to further explore the concept of “craft” and what “made in” means to countries other than America, I will be spending the next eight days all over Italy with some of the most well respected menswear companies in the world. I’ve got my 5D MKII, a pair of Red Wings, notebook, a bag full of Steven Alan shirts and a lot to learn. Posting will be intermittent and your patience is appreciated. You can always follow the espresso-powered live action via the ACL Twitter feed.