MEN OF THE CLOTH 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 90-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 these students to better understand how they envision their new 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 and breathes with the person who's wearing it.
In MEN OF THE CLOTH 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.