Santillo 1970: “Slow Tailoring” and the Modern Age
by Laura De Rochas
If you’re wondering what handmade Italian bespoke tailoring has to do with “see now, buy now” shopping, your question is a good one.
The new movement toward buying direct from the runway has a lot of people concerned (as all changes do). But Old World craftsmanship and online sales are anything but mutually exclusive. And if you don’t believe us, just ask Gennaro and Saverio Santillo.
Old World craftsmanship and online sales are anything but mutually exclusive.
When it comes to suits, certain names come to the forefront in terms of Italian craftsmanship: A. Caraceni, N. H. Sartoria, Rubinacci; among others.
But when it comes to shirts — painstakingly handmade, in the oldest traditional style — you may hear the brand “Santillo” bandied about by more than one aspiring or established style icon.
Santillo 1970 was founded in the Calabria region of Southern Italy in 1968, when Mrs. Angela Lemma opened a small workroom in Catanzaro, then passing the baton to her three children — Gennaro, Annaluce, and Saverio — who continue the family tradition today.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Gennaro and his brother Saverio at their showroom in Milano, where they very passionately spoke about their love for shirtmaking, the creation of their most recent collection “Patrimonio 1970,” their family, and their expectations for the future.
Q: Hello Gennaro, thank you for joining us here at FWO.
Thank you Laura for your pleasant interview.
Q: This all began with your mother Angela, and your father Giovanni Santillo. Together they created the family business Santillo 1970. What was it like growing up in the household with such passion for shirtmaking?
My mother is a great woman, with a lot of passion for her job as well as a very ethical approach.
And she still has the same passion she had when she started out: as well as so much love for her sons and grandchildren. She is by far the best seamstress in the world; she can create a model fit for our clients just by looking, without any measurements or knowing their size. This due to her 50 years of experience creating handmade shirts.
She can create a model fit just by looking at a client.
I grew up in a tailor’s. My favorite games were to cut the material with huge scissors — many times by utilizing textiles that were ready to be used! My mother used to get angry at me [he laughs]. But I was too young to understand that. For me the tailor store was my playground, and my tools were my toys. What wonderful childhood memories!
My favorite games were to cut the material with huge scissors.
Q: What does Santillo 1970 represent to you in your heart?
Santillo is not only a trademark, but it’s my family name. It’s a huge responsibility to carry on this business with my brothers and especially a third generation tradition.
Q: Having a business organized by family members must have its ups and down. At the end of the day, how do you resolve those differences?
Santillo 1970 is a family run enterprise, but it follows trade, development rules, and regulations, just like a more structurally complex company. The members of the family add value to the company. Execution and ideas are our common goal.
My father Giovanni deals with the administrative sector, while Saverio takes care of cutting and preparing models; Annaluce of the preparation and the sewing, and I’m in charge of the commercial aspect. We work everyday, together, as a team, discussing every single decision.
We work everyday as a team, discussing every single decision.
Q: What is the force that has kept the family business together for almost 50 years?
The love toward this job and the absolute uniqueness of our shirts and blouses.
The absolute uniqueness of our shirts and blouses.
Q: You have two sons who have shown a great interest in the business at such a young age. Are you hoping your boys follow in your footsteps and carry on the family business?
Yes I have two sons, Mattia five years old and Luca, three-and-a-half years old, who have tailoring in their DNA.
It couldn’t have been otherwise. Mattia himself chooses the textiles for his fitted shirts, while Luca adores yellow and bases his choices on his favorite color: their minds are really made up.
I leave them free to do whatever is best for their personalities. Then if they decide one day to pursue this career, that would make me very happy. But first they need to study and acquire some experience.
Q: What is the process in shirtmaking: from the beginning of the creation, clip and customization, to the most popular collar style and color?
We begin with cutting the shirt once, both for bespoke and RTW. Every single part of it is handmade: collar, cuffs, etc.
Afterward we start working on the ironing board, sewing, flat fell seam, buttonhole, and finally the ironing and folding.
Every single part of it is handmade.
Q: This year you launched the “Patrimonio 1970” collection. Please tell us the inspiration and creation behind of one of my favorite Santillo collections?
Patrimonio represents love for the land of our roots, Calabria. The results of this connection to our work is seen through the use of an ancient technique dating back to the Magna Graecia [8th Century B.C.] era: such as using old looms and the crochet embroidery.
We use a technique dating back to the Magna Graecia era.
Q: Honestly I think all of your shirts are my favorite; but we all have our favorite favorite, which for me are “Dean Denim,” the luxury handmade white shirt, the “Sea Island Cotton Shirt” and the “Positano Vintage” … to name a few. Customers are able to order directly from the website from bespoke suits, shirts and accessories. What is the ordering process for a customer who cannot come directly to your showroom in Milan?
Online our clients — in any part of the world — can purchase our RTW models designed with the same particularities of bespoke.
Our clients — in any part of the world — can purchase our RTW models.
For this reason we have created a new word, “slow tailoring.” Bespoke means that both the the customer and the tailor are in the same place.
We are very interested in the USA market; in fact we have lot of U.S. clients who shop online, especially from New York City. We are planning to be more present in the USA market by opening a store.
It’s a combination of resources: philosophy, details, the fit and fine textiles. Our vision concerning the product and the classic idea of elegance.
We have created a new word, “slow tailoring.”
Q: Will you be launching a women’s collection in the near future?
Yes! We will create a women’s RTW capsule collection inspired by the fashion icons Audrey Hepburn and Jaqueline Kennedy.
We’re creating a women’s capsule collection inspired by Audrey Hepburn and Jaqueline Kennedy.
Q: What sets Santillo 1970 apart from other shirtmakers?
The passion and background, in addition to perfection. Our creations are the result of research of old textiles and models updated to a man’s need for practicality and versatility.
Q: Where do you see Santillo 1970 in the future?
To have our creations in the world’s best department stores.
Thank you Laura for the wonderful interview!