A beloved tailor from Ardmore, Pennsylvania, who died three years ago, is now a subject of a documentary film about master tailors around the world.
Joseph Centofanti opened Centofanti Custom Tailors in 1956, spending the next 54 years making high-quality, custom-tailored suits. He is a featured subject in “Men of the Cloth,” premiering locally at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.
Centofanti was born in Philadelphia, but his parents almost immediately returned to their hometown in northern Italy, in the Abruzzi region, when Joe was just 4 years old. There, he grew up amid what he calls a “nursery of tailors.”
“We call it ‘il vivaio dei sarti,’ said Centofanti in the film, with his signature twinkle. “If you couldn’t be a lawyer or a doctor, the next thing was a tailor. In the town like where I’m from, there are more tailors than people.”
“Men of the Cloth” follows three world-class master tailors — all Italian — as they explain how to tailor a suit to a man and muse on a life dedicated to a centuries-old, hand-made craft. The film’s soundtrack is filled with whispers of intelligent hands stroking bolts of the finest quality cashmere and merino wool, and satisfying cuts of heavy scissors confidently shaping a suit.
Filmmaker Vicki Vasilopoulos says the art of making fine clothes by hand is at risk of dying with the tailors.
“There’s no standardized apprentice system here in America, and there isn’t really in Italy either, except for a few small schools here and there,” said Vasilopoulos, a former men’s fashion editor who spent 11 years making “Men of the Cloth. “You never stop learning — it’s a lifelong pursuit, essentially.”
“Men of the Cloth” ends with a sign of hope for the future of tailoring: Joseph Centofanti had taken on apprentice, Joseph Genuardi, who is now making a name for himself as a world-class tailor in Brooklyn.