Vico Satriano is a lovely little Neapolitan street. Cobbles; wrought-iron balconies; ancient wooden doorways. And at the end a view of the bay, running out over sun-tipped waves to Capri.
It’s hardly unique, though. Naples is woven with such cobbled streets, populated by a mix of slow pedestrians and fast scooters. No, what makes Vico Satriano significant is house number five, an old stone building leading to an open courtyard, featuring, on the ground floor, the door of a shirtmaker: Satriano Cinque.
As a brand Satriano Cinque is quite new, having been set up by Gabriella de L’Ero in 2008 when she split from her partner in the relatively well-known shirt maker Merolla e de L’Ero. Gabriella has expanded, doing more women’s shirts and clothes (she is a designer and stylist, not a tailor) with the men’s shirts being run by long-time partner Luca Avitabile.
Indeed, it is a little off-putting when you first step through the little stone doorway. You are confronted with silk blouses, oversized linen scarves and bright sweaters. There is not a male garment to be seen.
Then, with relief, you hear the reassuring sound of shears from upstairs. Down comes Luca, who cuts his patterns on a little mezzanine above the main showroom. He takes us through the adjoining room, where there are stacked bolts of blue-hued cloth and shirts waiting to be collected. The silky Carlo Riva cottons are prominent, but so are linen/cotton mixes and scores of sample collars and cuffs.
“And while we make a Neapolitan style, we prefer a clean shoulder to the shirt,” explains Luca. “So although we place just as much importance on a high armhole, and working in the sleevehead by hand, the excess cloth is at the bottom.” This contrasts with some shirtmakers in Naples, who take pride in the number of ripples streaming from the top of the sleeve.
Both Luca and Gabriella come from families of shirt makers. Luca is third generation, training with his father and grandfather when he was young, while Gabriella’s uncle was a shirt maker. Both families ran small, local companies making for Neapolitan clients, and making largely by machine.
Photography: Luke Carby