The alarm clock starts ringing: it’s 9:30 in the morning and we have a meeting scheduled at 10 am at Sartoria A. Caraceni. I was wrongly sure the meeting would be at 10:30.
We get ready in a hurry, we don’t think too much about what to wear, and we reach the number 13 of via Fatebenefratelli 10 minutes late. An acceptable delay.
We ring the bell and Mr. Carlo Andreacchio Caraceni in person opens the door showing us his perennial bright smile.
“Finally we made to see you again!”
We’ve been running after each other for months in order to organize the first fitting of two suits we ordered back in 2015: both db breasted , one blue with a burgundy finestrato pattern and the other one in traditional gray with thin blue tripes. For both a Vitale Barberis Canonico fabric.
Meanwhile Massimiliamo, son of the Master, joins us in his perfect double-breasted pinstripe suit. He’s early thirty but he has already acquired the safe attitude and the kindness of his father.
While we wait for our clothes to arrive we sit on two chairs in the main room of the Sartoria.
I look around. Ruby red bright carpeting on the floor, ebony wood paneling, forest green velvet chairs, a big mirror from the ‘50: a fané charm that creates a timeless atmosphere, almost solemn.
Here come the clothes and I start with the fitting.
“- You’ve lost weight.” A always smiling Mr. Carlo told me. “Clothes don’t lie, they are more accurate than a balance.”
While he tightens my waist, I can only be pleased with the early, warm, fitness results.
It’s now time of the other Filippo: his suit already looks perfect.
After the two fittings we sit in the living room, on the same green velvet chairs, while Massimiliano casually opens the double-breasted jackets and leans on the counter of the fabrics.
In the morning I pinned a few questions on the agenda but I left it at the entrance.
“I do not want to talk too much about the history of the Sartoria, many have written about it and you already know everything.” Master said. I can’t agree more.
I quickly look at the agenda I stupidly abandoned at the entrance but I don’t want to interrupt the conservation. I keep seated.
“We are here since 1946 so this year we celebrate our first 70 years in via Fatebenefratelli. We try to change the layout of the Sartoria as little as possible and we try to keep the furnishing unchanged in order to make our customers feel at home. Even our employees are always the same. Think that one of the tailors is 82 years old but he looks barely 70. For both him and me working is passion and we could not live without. ”
The Master start talking about his passion for tailoring which began in his early childhood sewing clothes for his sister’s dolls. The final goal was clear since the beginning: Carlo wanted to become a tailor.
However, his family was expecting something different for him: a diploma or perhaps a degree.
At 14 he secretly started working as “fac totum – apprentice clerk” in a clothing store, but the experience rapidly ended when his parents found him working at the store.
After the diploma, he began a series of work experience culminating in the famous Sartoria of whom would later become his father-in-law, Mr. Augusto Caraceni.
“This is something I generally do not tell ...” – says Andreacchio with is perennial smile but this time a bit ’embarrassed – “I generally never tell how I met my wife. It all happened by chance, one of those nights when you just don’t want to go out.
I was skating at the rink when I met her: love at first sight. After an initial courtship and several tet a tet dates, she told me her last name, “Caraceni”, and it looked impossible to me. The coincidences of life “.
The door bell suddenly rigs.
“It’s always like this. Or they come too early or they are late, never on time. ”
The client enters the room, he’s the founder of a famous fine jewelry brand, and he’s here for a fitting.
Fifteen minutes later, after a quick coffee and few emails, the Master comes back in his chair.
“Sorry for the wait, where are we?”
At this point I make him my first question after the first half-hour conversation and I ask him something about his clients.
“70% of the clientele is foreign and only 30% is Italian: this doesn’t mean that Italian people abandoned the Sartoria, they just order less compared to the past.
We lost orders maybe because of the economic situation or maybe because in Italy it’s better not to show but, anyway, now Italians are coming back with orders.
In many years of activity hundreds of clients walked these rooms but the ones I’m most fond of are 2.
One is Eugenio Montale for whom we have realized the tails for the Nobel Prize: it was a thrill to know him and to dress him.
As for the second customer the story is a little bit more ‘complicated’... ”
Massimiliano smiles, he already knows it.
“In the ‘70s, one of our best customers asked me to treat well a dear friend of him that was about to visit the Sartoria.
One day this unknown person came in a black suit, white shirt with wide pink stripes and bright gree tie, all wrapped in a long astrakhan cloak. In addition I spotted a long ponytail.
Let’s say that it was not our ordinary customer prototype or even a person that you could easily meet on the street.
I did sit him in the dressing room and asked my father-in-law Augusto what to do. He unhesitatingly said that we could not dress him and to send him away, but since I had been recommended I decided to give him a chance.
Only later I realized that he was Karl Lagerfeld.
Then he became a devoted client and he ordered more than 400 suits. He’s a really nice person and elegant, in his own way. ”
What is the most common style mistake for a man?
“Surely the excess: elegant men don’t need to exaggerate nor to follow fashion compulsively. Because as long as you are young a slight style fall is still acceptable, but when you are more than forty this becomes unforgivable. Exaggeration is never the answer. ”
He fixes his blue tie while crossing the leg and leaning his elbow on the armrest. Then he takes a long breath.
“The Avvocato was always perfect” – He says nostalgically when he starts speaking of Gianni Agnelli -“whatever he wore he was always perfect: on his boat, while skiing or at the theater.
Such an innate elegance, a confidence and a nonchalance that distinguished his unique charm that we all still remember. ”
“Avvocato was okay,” said Maximilian in a deep voice. “But this does not necessarly mean that his style was the paradigm. Each person must find his own style to represent him and with whom you feel comfortable, otherwise you may be a copy of tune”.
“Everybody can be elegant in his own way“- says Andreacchio- “The elegance receipt doesn’t exist. A couple of years ago a historical client brought some very old, ruined damask tent of his family house and he asked me to create a suit with them. We were very skeptical about the final result but when he tried it on he was really elegant. Of course, in his own way, it’s not an easy suit”.
Our conversation is about to end so I ask the final question to Massimiliano about the future of A.Caraceni.
“Surely it will be positive: we have very loyal clients and at the same times also the new generation is interested in our world. We’ll try to keep the same quality and the same know-how that made our tailor so famous.
The only thing that I’m worried about is that sometimes the client is confused: someone doesn’t understand why we need so much time in order to create a suit when there are other tailors that realize a suit in just 2 weeks.
This is generally more common to the foreign clients, so we have to explain that the time for a totally handmade suit is completely different that for a half-tailored one.
But I believe that in the near future less and less people will have this doubts”.
A glorious past, a rising future. This is A.Caraceni today, a real example of Made in Italy (the real one) created by people that knows how to work. Their job is their passion and the never-ending improvements is the key of their success.
Massimiliano and Carlo Andreacchio Caraceni
Sartoria A. Caraceni
Via Fatebenefratelli, 16, Milano