Born in 1957 to Giuseppina Marrazzo (a celebrated dressmaker for Naples' Teatro San Carlo), Raffaele Antonelli grew up among his mother's needles, threads and cottons, and, inevitably, inherited her passion for tailoring. In 1985, he established his tailor's shop, now very well known atelier even outside Naples. His success is the result of his deep commitment to the ancient and noble tailoring craft and of his forward-looking vision, extending far beyond his Neapolitan atelier and the work he is doing there.
Tell us about the story of Sartoria Antonelli.
Sartoria Antonelli was born, after many years of apprenticeship and sacrifices, in the heart of Naples' Montesanto district. At 28, I longed for an atelier of my own and decided to open this workshop, still very famous in town. The early stages were not easy and to cover the expenses of the atelier, I made repairs for important Neapolitan clothing stores.
No garment is unique for its fabric, but by the way it is worn
At first, I worked as a trainee in a renowned tailor shop in Naples' Galleria Umberto I
What was your training? What or who prompted you to start this job?
At first, I worked as a trainee in a renowned tailor shop in Naples' Galleria Umberto I, where, at twelve years old, I learned to hold a needle in my hand. I took up this trade partly because I was curious and partly to provide my family with a financial support. Over time, I developed a passion for it until I ended up loving it, which made me want to make it my job and devote my life to it. Passion and a wish to put to good use the teachings I had learned from my tutor made me want to open an atelier. I undertook a long, tortuous apprenticeship, full of sacrifices and difficult times, but, at 28, I knew I was ready and conscious of my dexterity, gained over the years thanks to my dear Master. So, I decided to open my tailoring shop.
Your workshop boasts a wide variety of fabrics. Do you choose them personally? What are your criteria for choosing?
That's true, my shop can boast a great number of fabrics which I choose personally. Each time, I tell myself this is the last time, that I must wait before buying new materials, that I have a huge amount of them in my shop, but each time I give in to the temptation. Actually, I fall in love with fabrics: as I touch them with my hand, feel their softness and weight, I recognise their quality and start fancying about the bespoke garments I can make to suit my clients' requirements. And, I usually rely on my taste, normally reflecting my customers'. They are all kinds of fabrics, classic, plain, striped, with houndstooth motifs, all of them of exquisite workmanship and quality. They are never outdated, are good for any occasion, and anyone can wear them. Yet, I keep updated about people's tastes and novel fashions, and align my shelves to any new fancy colours my most demanding clients may ask for.
What makes a garment unique?
No garment is unique for its fabric, but by the way it is worn. A garment may change thanks to the accessories it is matched with, a pale blue or a white shirt, a small handkerchief or a cuff, a regimental or plain tie, but it's only personality, and the way it is worn, that makes a difference. Just as each of us has a personal character, a peculiarity, so have garments.
Do you think modern times have influenced the long-standing Italian tailoring?
Tailoring traditions are not subject to time, and this profession sinks its roots in a time honoured tradition, so, it is too difficult to modify the care, technique and love characterising this craft. Admittedly, though, modern times have enhanced the techniques and labour force needed to create overcoats, and it is our peculiarity to keep up with modern times without giving up tradition and craftsmanship.
Your atelier boasts awards, acknowledgements and honours. Which is the experience you remember most?
For sure, the most emotional experience I remember is the “Forbici d’Oro Regionali” competition, which was the first competition in my life. I was swept by a whirl of excitement and enthusiasm, as is typical of competitions, and I even won the first prize! Also, I remember MAM- Maestro d’Arte e Mestiere award with great pleasure, I felt as if it acknowledged the many years of sacrifices that have made me what I am now.
What is the “Youg Talents” project?
I am trying to focus my work toward young people, because the tailor's trade is disappearing, to my huge regret. My main goal is to teach this amazing and noble art to young people, to pass it on to the new generations, teaching them this wonderful profession’s secrets and keeping the tailoring tradition alive.