Nicoletta Caraceni is the daughter of the great tailor Ferdinando Caraceni, originally from Abruzzo. In her atelier in via San Marco, in Milan, Nicoletta Caraceni and her team continue the family heritage with passion and dedication.
Tell us the history of Sartoria Ferdinando Caraceni.
My father Ferdinando Caraceni was born in Ortona (the home town of all the Caraceni tailors) on 30 May 1923: the same day and place as the great Domenico Caraceni. He started working when he was still a child and by the age of 16 he was a “full-fledged tailor”, as he proudly used to say when talking about his childhood. When Agostino Caraceni saw my father work, he decided to take him to Milan, where they arrived in 1939. Then came the War. After the conflict, he resumed work with Agostino and they stayed together until 1967, when my father opened his own atelier in via San Marco. Agostino was his master and he never forgot his teachings.
I remember that on Sundays my father would tell me “come with daddy”, and I thought he would bring me to play in the park. Instead, he used to take me to his atelier.
Some of our tailors have been working with us from more than 20 years. It is very important.
When was your passion for tailoring born? I remember that on Sundays my father would tell me “come with daddy”, and I thought he would bring me to play in the park. Instead, he used to take me to his atelier. He was thinking of an adjustment that he wanted to make on one of his models, or how to solve a particular request from one of his clients. I used to sit next to him, playing with chalk and small pieces of fabric. I remember it very well.
You make tailor-made suits. How many steps and how long does it take to achieve the final product?
Many steps are required to make a suit completely by hand. First of all, as my father taught me, the fabric must be pre-shrunk. Linen and cotton are soaked in water for 48 hours: in this way they loose their starch and shrink. Wool, instead, is wrapped and squeezed in old damp sheets, in order for the water to moisten the fabric. Because wool shrinks too!
Then we prepare a paper model with the client’s measures and the fabric is cut to the model. Canvases and horsehair are all hand-quilted. Once the pockets and sleeves are basted, we can assemble the jacket for the first fit. We adjust defects (lower or higher shoulder, client’s posture etc.). The jacket is unstitched and the alterations are made.
In the second fit, the jacket lapels are covered with fabric and the sleeves are completed. Sometimes the jacket needs other adjustments, but otherwise we proceed with the final ironing. It’s a special phase, in which the shoulders are moulded and the lapel is shawled. The ironing operation takes a whole morning.
Once the client has his own precise model, the next suits are easier to make, and only one fitting will be necessary.
Do you personally choose the raw materials and fabrics?
Yes, I personally choose the fabrics. We have always used cashmere from Scotland and linen from Ireland. The fabric is important. It must guarantee excellent quality.
Quality, fine fabrics and attention to detail are just some of the features of your atelier. Another is the consideration for the people working with you.
The human capital is fundamental. In order to make a handmade product, it is necessary to have skilled tailors, who were trained following my father’s style and manufacturing process. Some of our tailors have been working with us from more than 20 years. It is very important.
Throughout years, a number of young artisans have trained in your atelier and some of them have remained. Do you think that young people could be interested in following in your footsteps?
This trade has a great artistic significance and I believe that it could be interesting for young people. I define it a “zen” job. To see a suit reach its final shape in your own hands gives you an enormous satisfaction. My father considered it a pastime, a hobby. He didn’t mind the hard work. It isn’t as stressful and alienating as modern-time jobs.
Your atelier received various awards all over the world. Which ones are you most proud of?
Last year in France my company was awarded the “Entreprise des Métiers d’Art” prize from the Centre du Luxe et de la Création. I’m very proud of this prize. I believe that my father would have been very happy.
Many publications have been dedicated to Sartoria Ferdinando Caraceni; it is also on social media and on web platforms dedicated to craftsmanship (italia-sumisura.it, well-made.it). Do you believe that the internet is important in promoting contemporary crafts?
These networks are fundamental. Through the web we can get in touch with everyone in every part of the world. My products could never be sold online, but the web is an important instrument to make people understand the difference between a ready-made suit and a tailor-made suit.