To appreciate fine Milanese tailoring is not to notice it at all. Following the contours of the body with exacting precision, the best Italian suits allow you to move freely and comfortably. The only thing that might make you feel uncomfortable will be all the eyes on you.
If you’re an Agnelli, a Hollywood scion, European royalty or merely wanting to pass as one, this is the place for you.
A.Caraceni doesn’t make customers pass an entrance examination, but it could. Discreetly located on the first floor of a building near Milan’s fashionable Quadrilatero d’Oro, the tailor is often called a club.
“My clients will be visiting from New York, London, Paris, and will bump into each other and then go out for lunch,” says Carlo Andreacchio, who runs the business with his wife, Rita Maria—the granddaughter of founder Augusto Caraceni—and their 27-year-old son, Massimiliano.
Augusto Caraceni was born in Ortona (Chieti) in 1893 and as a young man, along with his brothers, learned the art of tailoring from their father Tommaso, who had a tailor’s shop in the town, but was known throughout the region. When the eldest brother, Domenico, opened his own tailor’s shop in Rome, he asked two of his brothers to work with him: Galliano and Augustus, and it was here that Augusto accrued much sartorial experience.
In the 1930s, Augusto moved to Paris where he was hugely successful, with some of his clients being the most visible personalities of that period. Due to the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Augusto, who was by then married and had 4 children, returned to Italy. In 1946 he opened his tailor’s atelier with a partner at the site in Via Fatebenefratelli 16 in Milan; at his side was his son Mario, who from 1946 to 1972, when his father died, managed the shop.
In 1972, after the death of Augusto, Mario renamed the atelier in memory his father, giving it its current name, A. CARACENI From 1972 to 1998, the business continued and thrived, acquiring an international clientele thanks to the determination and commitment of Mario, who held with tradition. Mario received a number of awards, including the Sant’Omobono and the Unione Milanese Sarti (Milan Tailors’ Guild). Mario retired in 1998, leaving the company to his daughter Rita Maria and son-in-law Carlo Andreacchio, who had worked with him for 20 years as an administrator and tailor respectively. Carlo has been a member of the Accademia dei Sartori (the Tailors’ Academy) since 1997 and was awarded the gold medal from the Milan Tailors’ Guild in 2002. Their children, Massimiliano and Valentina, have been working alongside them since 2004 – although their fascination with the business began in childhood – thus continuing the family tradition and preparing themselves to receive the baton when their time comes!
Caraceni have crafted handmade suits for various celebrities over the years, including Tyrone Power, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Agnelli, Sophia Loren and fashion designer Valentino Garavani. The Caraceni label is also famous for dressing generations of The Kings of Greece and Italy, The Prince of Wales, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Aristotle Onassis.
“We have continued the style of Augusto and Mario throughout the years,” Carlo Andreacchio says. “I think the only exception today is that we cut a slightly narrower lapel – perhaps narrower than some of the other Caracenis – and overall we are more open to customer suggestions and requests.”
“In this age you have to be more flexible, yet retain that style that links you to your heritage,” adds Massimiliano. His style is a good example of this, with a classic Caraceni jacket make up in denim-looking wool/silk cloth and some colourful accessories.
“The style is still tight through the waist,” continues Massimiliano. “That’s a feature of a lot of Milanese tailors – trying to make the man looks his best, his sharpest, in tailoring. In fact, there is a story that one of the tailors here refused to make for any man that was overweight, as his suits wouldn’t look as good.”
“There’s still a lovely collegiate atmosphere among the Milanese tailors, even though there are fewer of them than there used to be,” adds Carlo. “They used to all meet up at Bar Campari in Piazza Duomo on a Friday night, to talk about the industry. It always ran late because no one wanted to leave – they knew that as soon as they did everyone else would start talking about them.”
The Caraceni family is something of a tailoring dynasty. There are several shops in existence today, all linked to the family, but A.Caraceni is considered the Krug of the lot. The shop is said to have invented the pagoda shoulder, the padded, slightly concave look that became the archetype of Milanese tailoring. Patented, their design is a trade secret and known to only one tailor per generation within the firm. “We hand the secret down from father to son,” says Carlo.
Patterns are drafted on canvas rather than paper for easy adjustments. Using a combination of discreet hand and machine work, they create suits that are, in general, more classic than other Milanese tailors. Jackets are shorter and suits are designed to be worn to the office. Other characteristics include blunt edges, silk-threaded buttonholes and silk linings. Suits are made using mostly natural English fabrics, with some Loro Piana thrown in for good measure.
Photo by Claudio Sforza
Via Fatebenefratelli, 16
Ph. +39 02 6551972