The Details | Isaia Napoli

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.

A handsewn button hole. The video below illustrates the time that this process takes.

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.

The Isaia trousers have a secret pocket inside the waistband.

Comments on “The Details | Isaia Napoli

    Ramalhoni on July 6, 2011 9:03 AM:

    ISAIA is the bomb… love it!…

    Jeremiah Simmons on July 6, 2011 9:44 AM:

    Impressed by Isaia’s attention to details as well as your photos and commentary highlighting them to educate your readers on Neapolitan tailoring.

    Brook on July 6, 2011 10:08 AM:

    Great post, thanks for the additional info.

    WIsco on July 6, 2011 11:17 AM:

    I would have an entire closet full of Isaia if I could afford it! A couple of pick ups from eBay and other discounters got me hooked in the “shirt-like” feel of their jackets. Yum.

    Peter on July 6, 2011 1:09 PM:

    My thumb would be a bloody pulp if i tried to sew that fast. Very impressive. Thanks for the videos and factory tour.

    Sangsouvanh Khounvichit on July 6, 2011 7:32 PM:

    Thank you for highlighting the details. The videos are great too.

    JES on July 6, 2011 7:59 PM:

    Hand-tailoring is like sculpting. Beautiful post.

    FAME on July 7, 2011 6:16 AM:

    Isaia must be mentioned in the same sentences with other great tailoring houses like Brioni, Cesare Attolini, and Ermenegildo Zegna. Truly a great company!

    Bo' on July 8, 2011 12:47 PM:

    Well not so secret now.

    Danny on July 8, 2011 5:48 PM:

    I tried to watch “The Perfect Suit” documentary on the BBC iplayer, but could not get it to work in the states.

    Here is a corresponding article that I thought was an interesting read.

    Also, here is the BBC iplayer link in case someone knows how to get around the regional blockage.

    Paul on July 9, 2011 7:45 AM:

    The story about the Isaia collar being a badge of Neapolitan honour is nice but the detail is far from unique. The turn-under collar appears on almost every English bespoke coat and I understand that it is the traditional way of achieving a smooth and flat finish.

    Robert Marshall on July 11, 2011 2:43 PM:

    Thank you for the info! Great insight and the videos are excellent.

    Teabiscuit on July 13, 2011 11:56 AM:

    I’m guessing you don’t buy a lot of suits? You can pucker a seam on a machine — it just means you’re doing a terrible job. You can probably find a puckered lining at banana republic.

    You want to see if a suit is quality made and hand sewn, look for the full canvas and for the absence of chain (straight) stitches in places like the armpits. Hand stitches will be little loops stacked diagonally.

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