On the top floor of an 18th century palazzo, Mauro Squillace runs the internationally renowned glove business, Omega srl Guanti. Fifty years ago, small glove shops filled the Sanità district in downtown Naples, but organised crime and large manufacturers from China and the Philippines drove most of them out of business. Mauro, on the other hand, took over his family business that has existed for over one hundred years. Proud of his company’s long heritage, a photo of his grandparents hangs on a wall of his office.
Today, Mauro distributes his gloves internationally, including to France, Germany, and the United States. Many of his gloves have appeared in magazines and the President of Italy even visited his company, writing him a thank you letter.
What’s the secret to Mauro’s success? Every one of his gloves are handmade by expert craftsmen. His employees still use the non-electric Singer sewing machines from the early 1900′s, they cut the leather by hand, and use natural light to distinguish color shades.
Mauro buys his leather from several Middle Eastern countries through intermediaries. From there, the leather goes to a company outside Naples that separates the skin from the wool in large vats filled with water and calcium. The skin goes into a tanning machine, which heats the material for several hours along with vegetable oil and chrome. The leather is then dyed various colors. Mauro takes this prepared leather to make his gloves.
Fifteen people work at the top floor of his palazzo. First, the leather is stretched, being careful to make sure the stretch of the leather will be vertical rather than horizontal. The material is then carefully cut and pounded so that the impression for the fingers becomes clear.
At this point, Mauro has about fifty different elderly women throughout the city who receive the cut leather and sew the gloves together. Many of these women once worked for the glove shops and now continue their craft from home. They return the gloves to Mauro, who gives it to his employees inside the palazzo. They use scraps of leather from the cutting room to fill in the gaps between the fingers. One of these women has worked in Mauro’s company since she was eighteen – she is now eighty years old.
The gloves then go on to be lined with cashmere, silk, or other materials. Mauro explains that the only difference between the way he makes gloves and the way his grandfather made them is that his grandfather used one stitch to marry the lining and the leather together, but Mauro uses glue. The lining and leather are then sewn together at the cuff – usually carried out once again by the elderly ladies in the city. The gloves often come and go from this palazzo twenty-four times before they are ready.
At the very end of the process, every glove is put on a hot broiler that looks like a metal hand. Then it’s placed between two slabs of marble for several hours in order to make it flat. Mauro checks every glove individually before it’s ready to be sent to stores.
Mauro gives tours by appointment. You can visit him at Via Stella 12, Napoli, call him at 081 299 041, email him at email@example.com or find him on Facebook