We recently visited De Petrillo factory in Naples, and spoke with its founder Mr Benedetto De Petrillo — about the history and future of his eponymous tailoring house.
Mr Benedetto himself (during two days spent in his company) appears to be highly passionate, but also philosophical about his work. For the first time ever, he tells in detail about his humble beginnings, his product development during the course of more than three decades, as well as why he started using his family name as the name of the brand, only in last couple of years. Bonne lecture!
Family is more important than anything else, and the photos of his family members are spread across his office. This, and the love for style are the reasons why Benedetto began working as a salesman in the early 1980s at his father-in-law's well established factory in Naples. He was very interested in the tailoring and manufacturing process, and he quickly learned business skills as well. Those skills allowed Benedetto to develop his own product line from 1987 to 1995, which were based on his own style preferences.
In 1996, he introduced the "La Pignola" concept, his dream-come-true of making the perfect, one hundred percent tailor-made Neapolitan style jacket, according to all traditional tailoring rules. La Pignola opened doors to the Japanese market where the appreciation for quality and craftsmanship was much higher than in Europe and put his newly founded brand next to the biggest names in tailoring such as Liverano, Caraceni and Cifonelli.
Total of 13 tailors were able to make only two jackets per day, with more than a thousand steps in the process. The price point was very high (more than 100 euro from his competitors, and this was the 1990s) so his clientele moved to other, more simple garments around 2003, when the style had changed and the luxury brand labels became more important than the craftsmanship. When asked about its name "La Pignola", Benedetto says he felt it wasn't right to use his own name as he was not a tailor himself, so he named his brand after his master tailor, Mr Antonio La Pignola.
De Petrillo was then producing garments for other brands, growing his business and acquiring knowledge until 2009, when he introduced Gaiola Napoli. This is when the current company, based in Frattamaggiore, near other great masters of Neapolitan tailoring such as Cesare Attolini, was established. The main reason he named the brand "Gaiola" is because he still thought it wasn't the right moment to use his own name as a brand. Few years later the brand grew across the world and the Japanese customers who knew Benedetto for many years, finally convinced him to use his own family name as his main brand – De Petrillo.
Both Gaiola Napoli and De Petrillo garments are made by same tailors in the same factory in Frattamaggiore. However, Gaiola is a more young, experimental brand currently run by Bendetto's two sons Fabrizio and Cristiano De Petrillo, together with Alessandro Agazzi who is responsible for business development and sales globally, while Benedetto buys all the fabrics and make sure the brand stands for the quality and craftsmanship, he is known for. De Petrillo brand is completely Benedettos product, made in a modern Neapolitan style, where jackets have more passages done by hand than those of Gaiola. Both brands use Italian and English fabrics but De Petrillo brand invest more in research and development of its own fabrics for each collection, while Gaiola uses ready-made fabrics from renowned Italian and English mills.
There are about forty coworkers in the factory producing between 40-50 garments per day, which during the pandemic became 30-35 garments per day. Bendetto himself is very fond of his brand and his team, and finally believes he has enough of knowledge, competence, organisational and structural skills to call it by his name. Having two sons who both work at his company and can continue his business legacy, helps him investing even more.
The main asset of his brands lies in its quality, without cutting any corners while still having a price point that is accessible for his global customer base. This is where shops like Lund & Lund help De Petrillo, getting his brand in front of the customer who know what he wants, and who does not buy garment for its brand label, but the quality and craftsmanship it represents. Benedetto strongly believes that a customer who wear and understand De Petrillo brand will come back, year after year, and in this way buys into Benedetto's own life-long creative commitment. This is what makes him happy and push for excellence even more.
One of the perks wearing De Petrillo suits and jackets is that they make the customer look younger and more fit. In fact, Benedetto's wife is in fashion business too, and they always compete who is best dressed in the family. Getting approval from his wife is one of the biggest achievements in making his garments, he explains. We asked Benedetto where is he going now in terms of his style and product development. His answer was precise and confident, followed by another cigarette and a smile:
"De Petrillo makes some of the best products, always based on what is currently happening in the market."
"We add more room here and there, try to add or remove some details, experimenting in shapes while developing the comfort and the quality furthermore, rather than following short-lived trends. Currently we work on two new models for the next winter, one of them totally unstructured, made of the fabric only, no canvas or anything. It flatters the body better than anything we've done so far. It is a further development of our previous Cloud Line jacket. The other one is a secret and you'll have to wait for the next winter", he adds.
This article was originally written for Lund & Lund