Tailoring Is Art at Sartoria Eleganza
NEW YORK—”Sartoria Eleganza” has a nice ring to it. In Italian, “sartoria” means tailoring and “eleganza,” elegance.
Nick prefers to be called by his first name, but sometimes people will call out to him, a friendly: “Hey, Mr. Eleganza! How are you doing today?” Even strangers will ask the tailor, who is always impeccably dressed, “Where did you get your suit?” Nick then gives them his business card.
“Presentation is number one. I get a lot of compliments, even when I walk down the street,” Nick said in his tailoring atelier, Sartoria Eleganza, on East 56th Street.
A royal blue suit jacket placed on a mannequin stood by the three-way mirror of the atelier. Nick showed the double-tracking and single-tracking stitches on the shoulders, the collar, and the pockets of the jacket. The buttonholes were hand-stitched with a thick thread inside to create volume.
He explained there are at least 2,000 stitches connecting the canvas in the interior of the jacket to the exterior fabric to give the jacket structure. “It has to be flexible, but it doesn’t move,” Nick said, chuckling. Once the jacket is finished, it drapes over the chest, looking like an elegantly contoured piece of armor.
“I believe the small details inside, plus the details on the outside, on the whole make a huge difference,” he said. “A suit looks like it is something simple, but it requires millions of operations inside to create it.” He smiled.
Friendly and professional, Nick joked about how tailors generally seem to be complicated. Maybe because it is so difficult to understand that a millimeter difference in a stitching line could throw off the whole balance of the sleeves or the angle of the lapel. It’s challenging. Overall, tailors always have to consider how to put together separate pieces of fabric to create a three-dimensional garment in such a way so as to compensate for the various shapes of human bodies that are not exactly symmetrical, regular, or immutable.
Above all, Nick sees tailoring as art. “When you do something, if it comes from your heart, and if you know what you are doing, you execute every detail, step by step, very well. The whole suit then automatically becomes high quality.”
Men wear all kinds of suits every day, but it’s the well-tailored suit that really builds confidence and that looks the most distinguished.
A Sartoria Is Born
Nick never thought he would become a tailor, despite the profession running in his family. His brother and sister, his father and aunt are all tailors, as well as his grandfather. But by age 14, he was already starting to help at his father’s alterations business in a very small location on 61st Street and Lexington Avenue.
As fate would have it, by the time he turned 40 three years ago, he would upgrade the family business from an alterations operation to a top-of-the-line sartoria.
His customers started asking him to make custom-tailored suits and shirts for them. They could then not just have ready-made clothes altered for them but also choose the fabric and the style—single- or double-breasted, piccolo or large lapel, double or single vents, and so forth.
“My customers urged me to do this,” Nick said. “Then they started to bring their friends and family members, and their wives for alterations.
“I have a lot of clients, but I’ve never counted them,” he said, laughing, as Frank Sinatra played in the background, along with the sound of the steam iron. Some customers tell him that they only want to have clothes made at Sartoria Eleganza.
Most are regular customers he has known for many years, including Phil Donahue, Harvey Keitel, Will Smith, and other celebrities or high-profile people. He also has returning clients from other states.
From the time a customer makes a request to when the suit is delivered to their home, the process takes four to five weeks. First-time clients come into Eleganza for at least two fittings. Nick sometimes goes to customers’ homes or workplaces.
Five tailors work with him, including a jacket maker, a shirt maker, a pant maker, and a stitchery expert, who stitches the buttonholes and other details. Nick makes shirts alongside his 80-year-old father, who still likes to work at least twice a week at the atelier. While all the tailors work in-house, since all the fabric is made in Italy, the garments are labeled “Made in Italy.”
Sartoria Eleganza only uses natural fabrics: 100 percent wool, cashmere, cotton, or silk from the world’s foremost manufacturers like Loro Piana, Holland & Sherry, and Piacenza. The threads are made in Germany.
Prices for suit jackets start at $2,500, sport jackets at around $1,700 and up, shirts $295 and up, pants at $550 and up, and ties at $95 and up. The price for his sports jackets can go as high as $7,000, depending on the exclusivity of the fabric.
Passion and Care
“I feel so bad when I see someone wearing a shoulder bag or backpack over their suit. It breaks everything, it hurts me,” he said, laughing at himself for getting so emotional about it. He recommends men carry a briefcase instead, unless they are wearing something casual.
“We do a lot of work on the shoulders. The shoulder has to sit well on your body, and then when you are putting something on the shoulder, it stretches everything and eventually breaks the fabric. The shoulder is very hard to repair,” he said.
Nick stands by every garment Sartoria Eleganza produces. His own suits last him 10 to 15 years, depending on how well they are cared for, and he wants his customers’ suits to last just as long.
“After the garment is made, if anything happens to it (if it gets ripped or stretched) within three years, we don’t charge customers for repairs, or for pressing. … I’ll give a new life to your suit or jacket,” he said, with a big smile.
201 E. 56th St. (corner of Third Avenue)
New York, NY 10022