When Neapolitan Tradition Meets High-street New York

Custom tailor Nedo Bellucci has brought Neapolitan tradition (and an imposing piranha) to his clubby New York atelier

Published: Sep 26, 2014 06:17:18 AM IST
Updated: Sep 26, 2014 08:26:12 AM IST
When Neapolitan Tradition Meets High-street New York
Image: Franco Vogt

“If i can show American men, one on one, how they can improve, they are going to love me!” says Nedo Bellucci, New York’s tailor to a celebrity clientele that includes Liam Neeson and Rupert Murdoch. I am contemplating myself, not altogether comfortably, in the triple mirrors of his clubby tailoring aerie above 57th Street off Fifth Avenue. Bellucci has a fistful of my shirtback, giving me a kind of armpit wedgie: My Brioni shirt, bought on sale, makes me look like a schlub.

Bellucci is sporting jeans and a white tee, with a perfect dark blazer set off by a cranberry-check linen scarf and a blue felt hat, from his fellow Neapolitan expat friends at Worth & Worth. A fit 39, he looks like the perennial club kid he in fact is. (The morning we meet he had been out on the town with a client, actor Zach Roerig from The Vampire Diaries, until 4 am.) He is right at home in his two-year-old atelier—three private-elevator-accessed floors he calls Palazzo Bellucci (belluccinapoli.com), done in shades of black, white and grey, that include a VIP club downstairs with a terrace view over his neighbours Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and Tiffany.

We are having a teachable moment with my shirt. Problem number one: The shoulder stitching falls below my shoulder line, giving it what Bellucci calls a “slope-y look”. This happens 99 percent of the time with shirts, he claims, professionally amazed by the obliviousness of it all: “Most tailors still take their measurements from the collar to the cuff, the classic ‘34 length’ or whatever. The issue is that when you design the shirt this way, you don’t know where the stitching of the shoulder sits. But the stitching is a visual point—and that gives a rounded-shoulder image.

“In the moment that you raise the stitching up onto the shoulder”—here comes another armpit wedgie—“you enhance the shoulder; you are defining the space geometrically. What we do, we measure two points, shoulder blade to shoulder blade, then design the sleeves. This opens up the eyes of all our clients: ‘Oh, my God! My shoulders looked slope-y, and now they look athletic!’”

The Gospel of the High Shoulder Cut is a Bellucci addendum to the great Canon of Sartoria Napoletana, the received tradition of Neapolitan tailoring he preaches: Unpadded, lightly lined or unlined jackets with unstructured “soft shoulders”, high armholes and lots of hand stitching (30 to 40 hours’ worth in his $3,500 top-of-the-line bespoke suits). The whole assemblage is designed to facilitate natural movement and comfort. (“Napoli jackets are famous because they wear like a second skin; when you can manage this, you are a success.”)