The Italian Almanac


Tailors Wanted

Once the preferred outfitters of the international jet set, Italian tailors are a dying breed, according to artisan association Confartigianato. Nearly half of the 1,810 new tailors, seamstresses, pattern makers and hatters required by the industry to keep pace with demand are nowhere to be found, a recent report showed.

``Tailor-made apparel has been a niche market for at least a decade,`` said National Confederation of Artisans spokesperson Maria Paola Marta. ``But there`s still a demand for it. The problem is that there`s a lack of turnover between the generations. It`s not a line of work young people these days are interested in pursuing``. Marta explained that the market for made-to-measure clothing has proven surprisingly resilient to the kind of economic downturns that wreak havoc on retail apparel. ``The people who can afford it prefer to save on other things. They`re willing to spend what they have to on fine clothing.``

But while the promise of jobs with high earnings potential should be drawing new tailors to the trade, this has not been the case. A 2007 study by the Union of Artisans reported that one in two bespoke clothing makers in the Milan area were looking for help. Of these, 90% said they would be willing to train. Professor Lilliana Tudini of the Academy of Costume and Fashion described a similar situation in Rome. ``We have enormous difficulty finding tailors to execute our student`s designs,`` said Tudini, who blamed the state for not doing more to sponsor careers in fashion.

If Italian fashion is falling behind, with native stylists like Antonio Marras and Antonio Berardi snubbing Italian runways for shows in Paris, Ria has no doubt that a shortage of fashion`s foot soldiers is at fault. Italy`s tradition in bespoke clothing was largely responsible for the launch of names like Armani and Versace onto the runways of high fashion. In 1949, the Fontana sisters of Rome made international headlines with a wedding gown for the high-profile marriage of film stars Linda Christian and Tyrone Power.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis became one of world-renowned designer Valentino Garavani`s first big-name clients in the 1960s, donning Valentino dresses during her year of mourning after the assassination of John F. Kennedy as well as for her wedding to Aristotle Onassis. Onassis himself had suits made by the Caraceni brothers along with actors Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and a number of European royals. Now in their third generation, Caraceni remains one of the top names in men`s bespoke fashion today.

Depending on the material, a double-breasted suit from Mario Caraceni`s atelier in Milan can run from 4,200 euros to 50,000 euros.