Updated: Sep 28
Today's featured artisan requires little introduction.
He is renowned for his brilliant handwork, excellent selection of cloth, and most importantly, his expertise in making the collar of his shirts sit still even when they are unbuttoned.
I am, of course, talking about the superb shirtmaker Luca Avitabile.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the artisan, Luca's background is exactly like what you would expect from a Neapolitan shirtmaker.
Rich family heritage in shirtmaking, check. Grew up surrounded by sewing machines and fabrics, check. Studied textile technology and then pattern-making for shirting, bonus points.
Needless to say, it is no surprise that he quickly gained his popularity as the men's shirt cutter at Satriano Cinque, before venturing out to start his own brand of bespoke shirting back in 2014.
With him now traveling to London (as well as other cities, including New York, Stockholm, and Milan) as frequent as every six weeks, I found Luca to be quite accessible, and definitely on par with other shirtmakers in London in that sense.
Anyway, I assume the follow-up question from you readers would be 'How's the make?'
The most straightforward answer would be 'it's great but not quite like the Luca Avitabile style you would have expected'. Confused? Let me tell you a backstory and you shall see why.
On the day I first went to Luca's trunk show, it was one of the more hectic ones among all of their visits here. Rather than their usual spot at the Travellers Club, it was actually held somewhere else, and thus there were some delays in delivering the swatches.
Usually, that wouldn't be a problem at all. But when there are a few clients already waiting ahead of you, you would then have an even shorter amount of time to first meet and then communicate your needs to the artisan.
(This is by no means Luca's fault. Circumstances like this happen, plus it's necessary for him to fill in as many clients as possible considering he is charging the same in London and in Naples.)
So since I was wearing an old Turnbull & Asser shirt (more stiffed overall, with longer sleeves as well) on that day, we went with that configuration along with Luca's usual collar style, without thinking how it would turn out.
The result? Excellent fit and a decent amount of handwork overall actually, except having some minor issues with the sleeve length and the collar.
For the former, because Luca usually makes tighter cuffs than most English shirtmakers would, the sleeves would still look fine even if they are longer. (The tightness at the cuff would hold the excess material along your arm up.)
However, since I made a request that I tend to prefer my watch (and my bracelet) to be covered by the cuff, Luca enlarged its circumference without changing the length of the sleeves.
With that said, I should point out sleeve length is usually a minor point in terms of the fit as they are easily adjustable.
As of the moment of writing, I have already commissioned another shirt. This time, we would have both sides a centimeter shorter ― that should do the trick.
As for the collar, it is definitely way stiffer than I expected; and this is even by the standards of most English collars.
During our initial conversation at the first trunk show, Luca and I discussed the fact that I tend to wear more ties more often than not (in contrary to most of his clients I assume), so we might as well make the collar stiffed so it could sit better with my ties.
This would normally still sit quite nicely, as shown in the first picture. What we didn't anticipate, however, is that since I wear my waistcoats quite often, the collars would occasionally go above the former, as demonstrated in the picture above.
And this leads to a wider conversation ― it's always tricky when you ask an Italian shirtmaker to do a little bit of English style, or vice versa. Luca is renowned for making light Neapolitan cutaway or button-down collars, so this is definitely outside of what he would usually make.
In any case, this is also true when it comes to bespoke tailoring and shoes. It's always a better idea to go to an artisan for what they are skilled at making.
Either way, Luca and I have decided to do a different collar style for my next shirt. It would feature a lighter fuse in the collar, some amount of tie space, and perhaps a different collar shape as well.
Intrigued to see how this would end up.
Overall speaking, I should say the result of the two shirts is better than I expected already.
Bespoke shirts, unlike their tailoring counterparts, are harder to achieve the perfect silhouette in one go. To put it this way, once the piece is finished, you could only tighten it from now on and not loosen it. And parts like the collar could only be changed if you replace the whole thing.
Regardless of which shirtmaker you use, chances are you would still need a few commissions to get everything right.
But that's also why you tend to stick to only one or two shirtmakers. Not only through different commissions the fit of your shirts gets better, but also you build up a closer connection with your shirtmaker as well. And that's the beauty of it.
Anyway, I would be picking up the finished piece when I next visit his workshop in Naples. And hopefully, I could share my experience visiting there with you all. Stay tuned for any updates.
The cloth used for the pink shirt is from Alumo, the blue-stripe one is from Thomas Mason.
Elsewhere I am wearing ties from Turnbull & Asser, braces from Albert Thurston via The Armoury Hong Kong, worsted flannel suits from Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, a ring from Penko, pocket square from Lisa King, and a watch from Longines.
Photography by The Suitstainable Man Team unless stated