Master Tailor: Romualdo Pelle

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Romualdo Pelle has been making custom clothing in his shop in Madeira since 1968. For the right price, he will make a men’s suit from scratch, drawing the patterns and sewing it  by hand. He’s also handy with shears.

I was 6 when the war came to Italy, and we went to the refugee camp. Everybody lived together. During the war, what the heck are you going to do? You got nothing. I met my godfather. He was a good tailor. He said, “I think you are made to do this kind of work.”

I was an apprentice for 12 years. You have to learn step by step. I try to teach people, but when I say it takes 12 years, they panic. You could become a doctor in the time it takes to become a tailor.

We never heard of alterations or ready-to-wear. If you needed a suit, you came to the tailor, and he made the suit. In 36 hours, you can make a suit.

I am very fast. I worked with a guy in Italy, Gus. He lost one eye in the war, but damn, he was fast. It fascinated me to watch. I challenged him. I prepared all of my thread on one side of the shop. He prepared the other side. The boss told us when to start. He beat me.

Everything has to be done by hand. It’s all in the details. Handmade buttonholes and pockets. The lapel is smooth. The sleeves hang straight. The trick is that when the garment is finished, you don’t need to press it because it’s made so well, it lies so perfect.

It is better to live one day like a lion than 100 days like a sheep. Do you capisci?

If I keep drinking the wine and eating the spaghetti, I’ll be fine. I will keep working as long as I am useful.

You have to work with a conscience. You can’t just say, This guy doesn’t know how he dresses, so it doesn’t matter. No. It matters a lot because somebody else will see and will make a judgment. That’s my philosophy.

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