Siniscalchi shirtmakers was founded by Vittorio Siniscalchi in 1948.
After working beside his father for many years learning and coming to love the profession, in 1982 Alessandro took over the business. A master of the art at only forty years of age, he is among the last in Italy who still makes these high quality items of clothing, which are custom made completely by hand. The set-up is just like it was once upon a time: each client has his own pattern, made by hand on paper, and then used to make the shirt, following the rules of handcrafted shirt making.
How did you come to this profession? What schools did you go to?
"My father was the one to pass on the passion for this profession of shirtmaking to me. As often happens with so many other artisans’ workshops, then, the business is handed down from father to son. And since I grew up in a shirtmaker’s shop, I inevitably fell in love with shirts. I attended a basic course at the Marangoni school, but then most of the trade I learned by hanging around the workshop ".
My shop is unique because I am one of the last in the world who can make a product according to the true standards of shirtmaking
What makes your workshop unique?
"My shop is unique because I am one of the last in the world who can make a product according to the true standards of shirtmaking, in the sense that I take measurements, make a first pattern and then take it through all the different phases, until I arrive at the client’s first personal shirt. The key to success is the passion for this trade; what sets us apart is the refinement verging on perfection that goes into every shirt we make.
How do young people come to your profession? Do you promote activities aimed at teaching in your shop?
"We have tried to promote teaching the profession, but we have not had enough support from the institutions. When Moratti was mayor, we were about to open a school for disabled people, giving them, too, the opportunity and increasing their desire to do something. In particular, the initiative was intended for young people with Down’s syndrome, who are suitable for this type of work because of their tendency toward repetition. However, we unfortunately did not succeed in going on with the project. Now, with the Fondazione Cologni, we are trying to create a sort of course to draw young people into this profession. More generally speaking, we are looking for people who want to be apprentices. Only in this way can they, in fact, learn how to train new shirtmakers ".
What sort of clients do you have?
"Most of them are businessmen, but there is no shortage of so-called "shirt lovers", that is, fans of this item of clothing, who for economic reasons may only be able to buy one or two shirts a year, instead of the more well-off who order around forty. Our clientele is mainly from Milan, but we also have a lot of foreigners: once there were a lot of Swiss, Germans and Americans (English and French, no, because they have their own schools of shirtmaking). Now the nouveau riche are arriving: Arabs and Russians."
What problems are there in the sector?
"The category of shirtmakers has been left on its own. Both the institutions and the European Union ought to be more protective of this profession that is disappearing. Of course, Italy ought to be the first to promote projects to protect it, since our country – the only one that can boast of all categories of craftsmanship spread so widely throughout the land. Promotional activities have only been initiated for big companies: craftsmanship is Della Valle, but it is actually an industry. The problem is thus the quantity and size – not quality".