Quartieri Spagnoli is a place you won’t know unless you stop here, in the centre of Naples. It’s more likely to be part of a different world. You get impressed enough to think that everything keeps going following rules unknown to foreigners or strangers.
There’s also a clock which stood still and you must look at it to get what time means.
An imaginary line marks the end of the world I belong. I’m here and from now on I will follow those rules:
Firstly, I must ask for permission.
Secondly, I mustn’t speak. There’s no words I’m going to whisper: silence is the secret to forget clichés which undermined the dignity of a city whose beauty still resist despite all.
You won’t think or say I’m wrong: Naples is so amazing and so damn!
I’m offered an ideal scenery as the colour of clothes and sheets fixed on the washing line barely hide those old women eyeing me aka the stranger suspiciously. Here people cry out loud and it feels like a unique scenario, where the show goes on and won’t ever stop.
I’ve just stepped into the beating heart of Naples to explore the secret world of Marco Cerrato. He’s a trouser maker but you’d rather call him Pantalonaio. In other words, it’s an old job you may call unique.
Marco Cerrato’s is within walking distance of the nearby church of Santa Maria Francesca. This third generation trouser maker is doing what his ancestors did many years before.
“I started when I was very young. I would spend my days here looking at my father working. Then I’d crouch and lay somewhere and then start sewing”.
Marco comes from a family of tailors whose craft tradition dates back to many years ago: his grand grandfather’s dad designed and tailored waistcoats but with the passing of time his successors turned their attention to the creation of bespoke trousers.
“However my uncle Mario still creates waistcoats. He’s the one and he’s 73” he says while showing his grandfather’s old patterns.
Ciro is Marco’s father. He’s still here and he’s a tireless worker. “By the age of seventeen he had taught me everything. Now I’m 40. My wife and I, we work close to my brother and my sister in law. We carry on an old family tradition but technique is unchanged. Basically it’s been the same for 6o years.”
I can’t help admiring his talent while talking. Marco is applying some changes to a pair of trousers that a customer has already tried on. A piece of chalk marks what should be changed and then he cuts off a piece of cloth before handing it over to his wife.
By the way, she has been sewing a pair of trousers I can’t wait to wear…
“If we consider each stage of the process, a pair of trousers may take a whole day or more to be finished though we generally ask our clients to try them on just once”.
The little oval window looking out onto Quartieri spagnoli captures sounds of everyday life. The coffee I’m about to drink adds that touch of flavour still missing. Now the view has turned into a picture and nothing fails. Everything is perfect.
Let’s talk about your job. Technique is still the same but what about your job?
The advent of the Internet has profoundly changed it. The Internet has opened up new horizons and gave us the chance to be known worldwide. The web helped us reach International markets but it’s a double edged sword being equally accessible by all, even those who emphasize appearance rather than quality. But people get what you mean: If you work well and do it properly, your brand enjoys a long life span. I mean, we are an example of how quality counts.
Are your customers italians? Or do they come from abroad?
Our customers were mainly Neapolitans until 15 years ago. People here used to dress well and classy, that’s why bespoke tailoring tradition took root in Naples. Nobles and entrepreneurs as well professional people, they wore bespoke suits once created exclusively in a shop like this. Important brands like Rubinacci and Attolini came to prominence and gave a large contribution to the establishment of Neapolitan tailoring tradition. Nowadays our customers come mainly from Japan, US as well Northern Europe. It’s not just a matter of numbers as they can afford more expensive clothes. We still take our Italian customers into great account. I mean, we’ve been working for so long because they have turned to us with confidence over the years. And we’ll never forget this.
What are the distinguish features of Marco Cerrato’s trousers?
Trousers we create are completely handmade. It’s pure Neapolitan style and you may call it Ice cream cone as the upper part is wide and then becomes gradually narrower. But our pants are also a smart wearable piece of clothing: they fit smoothly though they collapse onto the shoe with no breaks. But keep in mind: nu sbacchettea annanz…Our trousers don’t flare, it’s something I can’t stand. I hate it.
I’ve just tried on my trousers and I’m ready to go. I’ve drunk off my coffee and now I must say goodbye though I will stop here whenever I get to Naples. It’s now become a necessity like a cup of coffee that you may taste only here and nowhere else.
Marco is telling me something. It proves a kind of mantra to him.
“The right foot before – don’t forget” I was told the same before I walked up the narrow staircase leading up to the mezzanine where he usually works.
…While heading to Via Toledo I keep on thinking of things I have seen. Their passion as well the art and craft tradition of Cerrato is something so difficult to explain. I mean, there’s too much that needs to be seen and talked about. I may say it’s a big world in a small place.
Then a phrase I read some years ago comes to mind.
“Sometimes I think that Naples is humanity’s last hope”.
It’s by notable Italian writer and director Luciano De Crescenzo. At first I tried to understand it, but I failed. Now I finally got it.
Marco Cerrato, Vico tre, a cross of Via Toleto, Napoli, +39 081416722
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Photo courtesy of Fabrizio Di Paolo