About the Film
MEN OF THE CLOTH is the story of three humble and accomplished master tailors who create masterpieces of elegance and style to clothe the human body. Working with the skill of engineers and the soul of philosophers, Italian artisans Nino Corvato, Checchino Fonticoli and Joe Centofanti celebrate the individual in both mind and body.
By weaving together the individual stories of these master tailors, MEN OF THE CLOTH unfolds the whole tapestry of their lives, unravels the mystery of their artistry and reveals how their passionate devotion to their craft is akin to a religion.
Some background: Tailoring as we know it began with the Italian Renaissance — in the age of Raffaello and Donatello — when the art and science of tailoring became a highly specialized, complex, and jealously guarded craft. And it dovetails with the rise of Humanism and the accentuation and glorification of the human form.
But starting in the mid-20th century, in the wake of the growth of ready-to-wear clothing and the industrialization of the tailoring trade, many of these Old World artisans had to abandon their beloved craft. Italian tailors were forced to leave their towns and even their country, and to forfeit their dreams in order to work in factories. They were casualties of the industrial advances and global economic changes that continue to the present day.
MEN OF THE CLOTH is a film about how these master tailors are navigating their challenging role in the 21st century. The film gives us a window into the past, present and future of custom tailoring, a craft whose roots are in the Italian Renaissance but whose branches extend from small towns in the Apennine Mountains of Italy and the outskirts of Palermo, Sicily, all the way to New York’s Madison Avenue and the suburbs of Philadelphia.
Master tailors Nino Corvato and Checchino Fonticoli acquired their old World tailoring skills while working as young apprentices in local tailor shops. After they finished their apprenticeships, however, neither one was satisfied with the local opportunities available as independent tailors.
MEN OF THE CLOTH develops dramatic tension by initially focusing on the love and devotion these tailors have for their craft, and subsequently by exploring the different crossroads and career paths taken by Nino and Checchino. Until recently, Joe Centofanti, a 93-year-old master tailor in Pennsylvania facing retirement, foreshadowed the dilemma that Nino faces — working for a lifetime to perfect a craft yet having no one to succeed him. Now Joe has unexpectedly acquired an apprentice, thereby refuting the prevailing trend in his trade, albeit in a small way.
As for Checchino, the future of his craft is reflected in the Brioni “factory of artisans” and its innovative school for training young men in this trade. MEN OF THE CLOTH explores the hopes and dreams of one former student, master tailor Angelo Di Febo, to better understand how he envisions his career in a changing global economy.
Through a richness of visual detail – the whir of the sewing machine, the whoosh and clank of the steam iron, the sharp slicing sound of the tailor’s scissors, intricate scenes of the construction of a suit and multiple fittings on a customer — MEN OF THE CLOTH unravels the complexity of the tailor’s artistry and how a tailor crafts a garment in such a way that it moves with the person who’s wearing it.
We see the intimate connection between Italian master tailors and their tools, how they cherish their day-to-day interaction with their customers, and the immense satisfaction they get in creating such beautiful clothing. We observe these tailors working with their fabrics and trimmings, and carrying on fittings. As they go about their daily tasks, they share observations and reflections — by turns nostalgic, poignant and humorous. Each recollection and story adds up to a larger, nuanced portrait of their lives and their passionate devotion to their craft.
The evocative landscapes of Italy are a compelling presence in the film because they reflect the time and place that influenced master tailors Nino, Joe and Checchino. The spectacular mountains and olive groves of Abruzzo and the sensuous coastal panorama of Sicily are more than physical locales — they represent memories, and serve a metaphoric role as a topography of the soul.
“The Tailor: In Memoriam,” a poem by Irene Musillo Mitchell (written in honor of her father) perfectly captures the film’s elegiac quality.