Moda Positano dresses nativity scenes: the creativity of Gennaro de Luise

The local sartorial craftsmanship elevates the Christmas traditions

 By Antonella Florio, photo by Arianna de Luise 

The unique art of Neapolitan nativity scenes is recognized worldwide as an Italian symbol.  Gennaro de Luise, born in Positano in 1964 and praianese by adoption, is a tailor that combined his craftsmanship with the art of the Christmas nativity, adding his creative touch.

From mother to son

It started all with one special woman, Anna Marrone, the 78 years old mother of Gennaro. She is a nice, lively woman known around here as Anna ‘i Ferel (of Fedele, her father’s name) that started working as a seamstress when she was only 16 years old. But this passion continues to live on even today, and that’s why Anna still spends time creating gorgeous linen and lace bags. Anna’s workspace was in business until the 1980s and was a reference place for celebrated shops such as Moda Positano, Pepito’s, and Brunella. It was indeed in this workroom set up in their house that Gennaro learned the differences among fabrics and how to sew on buttons from an early age. «Other than my mother in the studio worked my two sisters Carla and Donatella as well, and two other seamstresses. When I was little, I loved wandering around textiles and sewing machines, so my mum had to find a way to keep me calm. That’s why she told me to sew on buttons».

Working his way up

Gennaro decided to follow in his mother’s footsteps since he was 12, and he went to Positano to learn from Alfonso Esposito, called Mast Alfons. «While I was in middle school, I used to skip class to go sew. Mast Alfons was sure that I had my mother’s approval to spend my time there, but I hadn’t. Let’s say that when she discovered it, she didn’t like it, not even a bit». After completing the mandatory school, he was finally able to work for Mast Alfons full-time sewing trousers and shirts; he worked there for five years in total. After that, he was able to gain experience in various places and settings: «I remember that when I was working at Pepito’s I would only crease trousers for the clients that needed something fixed. I even did it for Renzo Arbore and Edoardo Bennato (two famous Italian singers)» he says, full of pride. He also went to the studio Murat down the road where Mrs. Assunta, a great teacher with a strong character, unveiled all the secrets of tailoring for him.


sewing San Giuseppe's clothes
The final touch on San Giuseppe's trousers
Madonna and San Giuseppe ready to be seen
Gennaro de Luise and his creations


Making the best of it: from face masks to nativity figurines by Moda Positano

Then 2020 came around, and Gennaro, just like many others, found himself without occupation during the first lockdown. But the coronavirus didn’t tear down his spirit. He set out the sewing machine in his home, gathered fabrics, Moda Positano textiles, and elastic bands, and started to create face masks for friends and family. These beautiful and colorful cloth face masks have three layers, and they can be washed and ironed. It started quite the local buzz quickly, and Gennaro found himself getting requests even from the neighboring cities, not only concerning face masks. «Christmas is coming up and, one day, I found myself working with two shepherds, a Virgin Mary and a Saint Joseph, obviously all nativity figurines. A friend sent them to me because their garments were worn out, and he needed me to replace them with something new. I didn’t have all of my equipment at home, but I still decided to work with the fabrics that I had at the moment, so linen, cotton, and Moda Positano textiles. That’s how I created a skirt and a blouse of pure linen for the Virgin Mary, while for Saint Joseph, I came up with trousers, a shirt, and a vest made with a textile that celebrates our Vietri ceramics tradition. I also created a pure linen shawl for each of them and added a pretty collar on the Virgin Mary’s shirt».

The future

«2020 has been a tough year for everyone, I’m not the first nor the only one who lost his job. But to keep going, I only focus on doing what I love every day without thinking about the future. Since a very young age, I guess that practicing Aikido has helped me live in the moment; that’s what my late teacher Pasquale Aiello has always taught me. But I do have faith in the future, and I do believe that if we stay positive new opportunities will come, even if life is a very unpredictable lady». It seems like this Zen mindset mixed with a little bit of wit is Gennaro’s winning card. «I have always been patient – he says about working in a mainly feminine environment- but I must admit that even after 40 years, the feminine world is still a mystery to me».

(Translation by Michela Pandolfi)

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