Pepito's for Ever

He dressed the rich, the famous and the rest of us

By Gail Hammer

Positano fashion started at the end of the 50s but the town was already famous for its canvas weaving in the first half of the 19th century. And before that there had been a silk industry.

When the silkworms were wiped out due to an illness and canvas weaving became industrialized, the local people started to look for another source of income.

In 1959 local tailors started to design beachwear and evening dress in mixed linen, crepe de chine, silk, georgette, and cotton borrowing the bright colors from their landscape: blue from the sea, yellow from the sun, green from the mountains and red from their amazing sunsets.

The cotton prints were a mixture of floral designs or ornate arabesques, initially inspired by Emilio Pucci.

One of the first such tailors was the late Salvatore Esposito, better know as Pepito, who at 28 took a chance and opened his own store.

Pepito's was then one of only two boutiques in Positano. At first he made men's clothes gaining a well-deserved reputation for his custom-made trousers, shirts and jackets dressing the regular, the rich and the famous.

Liz Taylor and Jackie Onassis were two of the later.

My relationship with Pepito began much later, somewhere in between his local and more universal fame, during the wonderful early 70s when artists, young unconventional adventurers and the well-healed spent long periods of time in Positano.

Even then Pepitos was still only one of just a handful of boutiques. For me it was the most special. First of all there was Pepito, who was unique, enigmatic and innovative. At home with foreigners and locals alike, he greeted everyone with a smile. And it was clear that the conversation and relationship were more important than any sale he might make.

But there were also the clothes. As a poor adjunct professor at the University of Salerno who sold water colors in the summer to make ends meet, I couldn't afford the prices of his handmade clothes. So when Pepito noticed that there was something I felt "I had to have," he would sell it to me for a fraction of the price. I can remember everything I've bought there, and I still have most pieces, as they are timeless.

Unfortunately, Pepito is no longer here. He died in September of 2011. I miss him, but my memories and relationship with him and his store continue through his wonderful wife Silvia and lovely daughter Monica, who now run the store and design the made-in-Positano creations.

Even without him, Pepitos remains my favorite store in Positano. Whenever I wear a Pepito's creation in New York, where I've lived since my days in Positano, I always receive compliments.

Pepito's style is clean, simple, elegant, sophisticated and professionally cut. The clothes are made of the best fabric, almost always fine quality linen, and are wearable at the beach as well as in the city.

The store is always my first stop in Positano. I often go just to say hello to Silvia and Monica, but then my eye cannot help but wander around the store and see the many new and wonderful surprises.

The Amalfi Coast’s most well-known towns are Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, three jewels, each with its own unique character and beauty and all world renowned. But at the heart of the Costiera is a fourth jewel, Praiano, a less hectic and more authentic town, where many discerning tourists have begun to stay, using it as a base for their Amalfi Coasting. Try Praiano, trust us!

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