On 28 February 2021, exactly one year ago, we heard the heartbreaking news of the passing of Master Tailor Luigi “Gigi” Dalcuore, founder of the world-famous Sartoria Dalcuore. This short article is written to commemorate Maestro Gigi’s craft and a review of his creation.
Suffice to say that I first got the ‘menswear bug’ when I first discovered Neapolitan tailoring. It was like opening a Pandora’s box! The idea of soft tailoring really changed my perspective on how suits should be (having been accustomed to structured English suits). While being an overused term, to me Neapolitan tailoring captures the essence of ‘sprezzatura’ – which I would define as ‘the art of dressing up with nonchalance or without an apparent effort’.
If you want to know more about the history of Neapolitan tailoring, check out this great article by the Rake: https://therake.com/stories/craft/the-history-and-anatomy-of-neapolitan-tailoring/.
I strongly believe that Dalcuore is now one of the main pioneers of modern classic Neapolitan suits. They have been instrumental in introducing and making the Neapolitan suits available to a wider audience, thanks to how actively they are with their trunk shows across the globe.
I first came across Dalcuore when visiting Archie Jakarta – a classic menswear store located in the heart of Jakarta’s CBD. I was captivated by how beautiful a Dalcuore jacket could look on a mannequin, how the lapels beautifully drape whilst being super light-weight and soft. Trying it on was a like breath of fresh air – it was effortlessly comfortable! The only thing that stopped from pulling the trigger was, of course, the price tag.
Dalcuore jackets (without trousers) start at around USD2,000 for RTW and USD5,000 for bespoke (Archie does host Dalcuore trunk shows but they have been cancelled since the pandemic until further notice). That said though, I do believe that the price is justifiable, taking into account that it is handmade in Naples. I suppose being too accustomed to the relatively more affordable suits here in Indonesia (given the significantly lower labor costs) made it difficult for me to justify purchasing or commissioning something from Dalcuore.
I was fortunate enough to visit their trunk show at Archie Jakarta back in November 2018. I also had the privilege of commemorating it with a picture with Maestro Gigi (below). Though it was difficult to converse with him (he did not speak any English), I told him that I admired his craft and that one day soon (fingers crossed) I will get him to measure me for a bespoke commission!
Even though it is no longer possible for Maestro Gigi to measure me, I still have a bespoke Dalcuore suit in my bucket list.
Acquiring the Suit
I had the privilege of visiting Tokyo back in March 2019 for a short business trip. I knew at the time that Tokyo probably offers one of the best thrift-shopping experiences, particularly for menswear/sartorial items.
After all of my business meetings wrapped up, I was had a half-day off to do shopping. After the mandatory whisky bottle purchases (they were so cheap compared to Indonesia), I decided to pop by a few of their thrift shops based on a few recommendations from friends.
I had been particularly following the Instagram account of a shop called “Safari” (https://www.instagram.com/safari_kouenji_3/?hl=en). The store is located at the Koenjiminami area (https://goo.gl/maps/NA1j5o9gjuDnks61A).
They offer vintage and preowned menswear clothing items, such as dress shoes from famous English brands, jackets and suits from Japanese tailoring houses (mainly Ring Jacket) and other European tailoring houses. A very nice shop, indeed. A heaven-like place for all sartorial items on display. My main aim was to look for any good deals for one or two tailored jackets from Ring Jacket.
I asked if they had a few Ring Jackets in size 48. They handed me around two to three Ring Jackets to try. Sadly, while they looked great, the fit was not quite there – very tight at the buttoning point.
As I almost gave up, I looked at a nice blue suit hanging at the corner of the display and asked what size it was. With the help of my friend translating, they told me it had no size as it was a bespoke item. Out of curiosity, I took out the suit and was surprised to know that it was a Dalcuore! Tried it on and voila…. It fits! The suit was made for a certain Mr. Otsuka and was completed in April 2012. The suit fit almost perfectly straightaway; perhaps Mr. Otsuka and I share the same body type.
On careful inspections, the shoulders and back would need some alteration and the sleeves were a bit short. The suit set me back about 8,000 yen (around USD700). After the power of persuasion from my friend and the store managers, I finally pulled the trigger!
The padding is light/nonexistent and the shoulders are super soft (almost no padding), like a properly made Neapolitan suit. Like a proper Neapolitan suit, the front darts extend past the hip pockets to the bottom.
Tailors generally prefer working on structured, fully padded and fully lined suits – which would help with achieving an easier fit with less room for error. Unless you pay extra, tailors would much prefer working on padded and structured suits, which they can do in a significantly shorter time.
A proper Neapolitan suit can only be primarily made by hands. Achieving the right fit (whilst still showcasing some drape) without padding and lining requires next-level skills. Think about the painstaking process and hours spent just to get one jacket done.
The fabric’s bunch is not apparent. According to the store manager, the fabric is probably from Holland & Sherry’s summer bunch. A proper blue fabric with a herringbone-like pattern.
The lapels are peaked, yet the front features a three-roll-two. This juxtaposition between formal and casual makes the suit a bit quirky. Granted, to the vast majority of people, this will be overlooked. But to those in the know, this is a detail that makes the suit more interesting.
The lapels are quite moderate in width; not overly wide and no belly. The high peak (almost at the shoulder line) is very much indicative of the trends between 2010 to 2015, when these types of lapels were very popular.
The trousers are cuffed with belt loops (which I was not a big fan of) but with high waist. The trousers had no zippers as instead used 5 buttoned trousers (a pain to put on!). Well to me, the main star was not the trousers. I had no complains as it was a bonus that the trousers fitted me and I had to do no alterations.
Generally – at least in Indonesia where tailoring isn’t as expensive – if you have a little extra to spend on a suit, you either have the option of going custom-made with a local tailor (and spend the extra funds on perhaps a more luxurious fabric) or going off-the-rack with a foreign maker (and spend the extra funds as an entry way into some world-famous makers). Indeed, the latter is the option that a lot of people take. This particular suit was not off-the-rack, but the purchasing process closely resembles one (i.e., I didn't need to get measured and have basted fittings).
So instead of having Brillington & Brothers or A&E Tailors make a suit in a Holland & Sherry fabric, one may prefer to buy an off-the-rack suit from Ring Jacket or Zegna. And this preference makes sense so long as the suit fits well.
I really got lucky with this one. Not only is the suit great, but the fit is also almost perfect, which puts this purchase in the latter option above. The very kind Adit from A&E Tailors was generous enough to help with the alteration work. At the time I had a few suits commissioned with him and brought the Dacluore jacket during my fitting sessions. Upon inspection with Adit, we found out that minor alterations were needed for the back and upper neck. Unfortunately it was challenging to try and alter the sleeves to make them longer, as it comes with the risk of damaging the inner linings of the sleeves.
Despite the peak lapels, I would generally wear this suit casually because of the color and super light-weight construction. I would not wear it to business meetings in which I do not wish to stand out, given the slight quirkiness and flamboyance. But everything else is fair game.
I would mostly wear it to attend wedding events, especially in the outdoors and daytime. As the blue is somewhat light, the suit goes well with both black and brown shoes. But I prefer the latter. For the most part, I only wear the jacket with odd trousers (mostly khaki or cream) and if I am feeling a bit adventurous, pair it with denim! I would also generally go with loafers.
Understandably, the suit was made for the southern Italy weather. So the general lightness of the construction coupled with the light fabric works perfectly well for Jakarta’s heat.
Picture an outdoor wedding by the beach, facing the Mediterranean waters during the Italian summer. I suppose if I ever got the chance to attend Pitti Uomo, it would be a no brainer to wear this suit!
As mentioned above, having a bespoke Dalcuore suit is still on my bucket list. Bespoke will give me more freedom to pick the details and will obviously fit better. I didn’t get to pick the details and have the perfect fit (while the suit fits well, it will never fit the same way a bespoke suit will). Despite this, what I did get is something else that is arguably most important, second only to fit: Gigi’s vision.
This suit is a product of Gigi’s vision. What a suit should look like. How a suit should fit. What it takes for a fabric, canvas, lining, and padding (or lack thereof) to be blessed by Gigi. As a bespoke suit made for a gentleman in Japan, I would imagine that I would not be wrong to assume that Gigi may have been actually involved in finishing this suit. While I cannot have Gigi measure me anymore, I could still romanticize in at least owning a suit that went through the hands of Gigi.
No doubt that Gigi’s passing was a huge loss to the sartorial universe. Gigi’s daughter Cristina Dalcuore and son-in-law Damiano Annunziato are now the new faces of Sartoria Dalcuore. One year since Gigi’s passing, we have seen that Dacluore remains very much active on social media. Cristina and Damiano have been instrumental in the last five years in expanding the international presence of Dalcuore.
With covid restrictions now slowly being lifted across the globe, the Dalcuore team will no doubt start packing their suitcases for temporary trunk shows nomad life.
We are heartbroken to commemorate the one year passing of the Maestro. However, we are excited and are looking forward to what Dalcuore will bring to the sartorial universe.
Ti auguro ogni bene to the Dalcuore team!
Written by: Jeremiah Purba