IN THE CAPITAL for its first pop-up, fourth-generation Neapolitan menswear couturiers Oscar and Tiffany Bencivenga, dressed in sharp, double-breasted suits, examine swatches of some of the world’s finest fabrics, laid out on a long table. “This is a double-twisted 130 wool (a grading for men’s tailoring suiting cloth, a light mix, soft to the touch) and this is velvet from Holland & Sherry,” says Oscar, as he points out the swatches intended to create one of his customised su misura suits. “Here is cashmere from north Italy, and flannel and silk — 180 super S top quality.”

What began as a dressmaker for royal ladies back in 1940 in Campania, southern Italy, by ‘nonna’ (grandmother) Giuseppina has evolved into a family of designers, with uncle Agostino and father Giuseppe in key roles. Today, the Bencivenga name evokes classic double-breasted suits for affluent clients not only in Italy, but in London, and across Europe — and bespoke wedding wear (they are famous for wedding dresses and after-party dresses). Oscar and brother Tiffany are the only two in their family who speak English, and have spent several years outside of Italy. “I currently live between London, Naples, and Dubai,” says Oscar, who worked with U.K. designer Vivienne Westwood for a year, in the early 2000s, before moving back to Italy, returning to set up a studio in Knightsbridge.

What is the fuss about a Bencivenga suit? It’s got the fundamentals of a heritage Neapolitan suit intact to begin with, but modernised. One of its attributes is the soft shoulder pad, which gives the wearer freedom to move, where he feels less encumbered (perfect for Italians’ fondness for gesticulating.) Oscar himself loves the double-breasted suit. “I tell my clients, you get a lot of single-breasted suits, so why not swap with a double-breasted suit?” he says. “It can be six-button, or four-button; what’s trendy is the two-button style. Finally, wearing the double-breasted suit gives a man his shape.”

Oscar says what’s currently trendy right now are trousers that are a bit wider at the bottom (17 cm), with two pleats and a high waistband that define a Neapolitan suit, with a buckle on the side (instead of a belt). What’s also very classic yet trendy, is a 9 cm shawl lapel (that runs continuously from lapel to collar to lapel, one of the most formal lapel types for a jacket).

“In Italy, we say a tailor is like a priest or a barber,” says Oscar. “He gets all the information from a client — about his business or personal life — but he keeps it a secret. When you do a tailoring experience, you become a friend. There needs to be trust. A tailor can convince his client to get a double-breasted suit, or a nice lapel.” In the end, it’s about customer experience — from the su misura suit, to the shirt, blazer, or even a sportier silhouette for the day, a combo or trousers/shirt/blazer.

More than 95% of Bencivenga’s suit fabrics come from Italian mills in the north, except for fabrics from Holland & Sherry, which is from the U.K. “For silk, the best mills for fabric are in Como, and for wool and mixed wool, it’s Biella near Piedmont,” says Oscar. “Biella has the largest mills for Loro Piana, Burberry, and Cerruti. I get some fabrics from Zegna’s mills too. I brought fabrics from Ariston as well, which are finished in Naples, with excellent quality and patterns.” He says his clients, especially those from West Asia, are fascinated by the idea of the ‘Spezzato’ suit (a style where fabrics and patterns are mixed and matched, to create a sharp contrast). “The jacket may be in orange or yellow, or with checks and stripes.”

The Bencivenga name evokes classic double-breasted suits for affluent clients not only in Italy, but across Europe.
The Bencivenga name evokes classic double-breasted suits for affluent clients not only in Italy, but across Europe.

All the suits are made in the Bencivenga factory in Naples. “We are 27 of us, plus admin staff,” says Oscar. “Half focuses on ladieswear, the other half on menswear.” The dressmaking and tailoring talent is passed on from parent to child, though there has been a dearth of staff in recent times. “We are trying to get support from the Italian government to incentivise people to go back to their roots. Young people today no longer wish to work with handcraft. It is a great weakness for the future. A few have a passion for it, and want to carry on the tradition,” says Oscar.

The price of a Bencivenga su misura suit starts €2,000 onwards (it takes four-six weeks time to make), with custom-made shirts (in 100% cotton or linen) for €150 onwards. The maison also does a groom’s collection, with tuxedos for cocktails and after-parties. “I had a wedding in central London, where the groom changed twice — from a three-piece smoking, to a spezzato velvet jacket,” he says. “Many of my clients are Indian, and choose our tuxedos for one of their five-day celebrations!”

For the groom, Bencivenga offers two shirts, one tie, one bow-tie, suspenders, two pocket squares (one in white, one matching the inside satin lining), and cufflinks, made of the same satin lining. The groom’s package costs upwards of €3,000. (Women’s wedding dresses, all custom-made by hand, cost €5,000 onwards.)

Oscar, usually dressed in a Bencivenga suit, a Rolex, necklaces, and a ring with stones from his grandmother, and loafers made by his company (they also make wedding shoes), is anchored in his roots. “It’s about supporting the community I come from, and our brand is proud to be Made in Naples.”

The brothers are looking to expand their bespoke suit tailoring business in India. “We see a lot of potential in this market,” says Oscar. “Most of my customers in Dubai were Indians, and we would love to be more present here. The idea is to get someone who wants to invest in us — so we can set up a studio or small branded boutique.” He is looking at Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru — but Delhi first, because he believes the customers here already know about Italian craftsmanship.

Neapolitan suit, take a bow.

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