July 12, 2017 by Ville Raivio
The Neapolitan tailoring factory of Isaia was founded in 1957 by the eponymous brothers Corrado, Enrico and Rosario. They moved their father’s fabric store, which also housed a small tailoring section, to Casalnuovo, some 13 kilometres from Naples, and changed its focus to made to measure garments. The move was smart because nearly half of Casalnuovo’s residents worked in tailoring already. Over the years, the company has spread its woollen tentacles towards ties, sportswear, bags, and shirts. Most garments are made by hand or finished so, and the House Cuts seem to be on the trimmer side, jacket constructions are light, while cloths show strong patterns or colours. Today’s example is a smart shirt courtesy of a lucky sales find.
A size 40 shirt in the regular sizing, the cut is on the slimmer side but not overly so. Definitely closer to the body than most English shirts, not near the prophylactic dimensions like those on fashion house shirts, this is a nice medium way. The armpit to armpit measure is 59 cm and sleeve girth next to the armpit is 42 cm. The sleeves are cut high for greater movement. As for the collar in this model, which features white constrast fabric in its stiffener slots, its back height is 4,2 cm with a point length of 8,5 cm and a spread of 15 cm. The collar and cuffs are lightly fused. The most surprising thing is the sleeve length from shoulder seam to cuff end: 68,5 cm, definitely longer than on most RTW shirts I have owned. Too much for most hands. The shoulder’s back portion has no split yoke, all seams are very narrow and tidy, sewn with a very straight and dense setting. The cotton fabric feels soft and strong, light plays beautifully on its surface.
A paper leaflet comes with each Isaia shirt, summing up the patience and effort devoted to their make. Along with machine sewing, the sleeves have decorative, neat hand-sewn seams. The sleeve plackets have hand-sewn bar tacks, a small gusset with the Neapolitan red coral Isaia logo is hand-sewn at the hem. All buttons are hand-sewn with the decorative crow’s (or chicken’s) foot stitch and all buttonholes are hand-sewn tightly. The thick mother-of-pearl buttons are very lively and beautiful. The shirt has no placket under them. The last button is attached with a dark red thread that mirrors the coral logo’s shade. The fabric is twill, with a small pattern, but the angle of this pattern is closely matched on the sleeve placket.
In sum, Isaia offers the finest RTW shirt I have tried so far. While a handful of companies, such as Kiton or G. Inglese, use finer fabrics and feature more hand-sewn details, these additional sewings are decorative instead of functional. What’s more, hand-sewn seams have a tendency to come apart with repeated laundry washes. Once one stitch is loose, many more will unravel. This prettiness also comes with a hefty additional price. Isaia’s shirts cost around 200 euros in Europe and are worth their salt, even more so while on sale. Several fine makers, such as Turnbull&Asser, Charvet or Brioni, offer shirts at a similar price but lack the beautiful finishing that sets the Neapolitans apart. My oldest shirts from Isaia have turned five years now and look as well as feel new. For me, theirs is the finest combination of cut, make, materials and finishing in RTW shirtmaking.