At 76, Sebastiano Deluca is still passionate about tailoring. It took him mere seconds to size me up – “40 short, right arm is lower than the left by 1.5 inches… I can fix this,” he says. I talk about the chiropractor pulling my leg back to proper length, but he just laughs. Sebastian started in the tailoring business at age 13 in Sicily. In those days he pressed suits with an iron that was heated by charcoal inside – a carbone. “If you weren’t careful, a spark would land on the suit,” he adds.
At the age of 17 Sebastian moved on to work for the best tailor in Milano; “Mussolini bought his suits there.” The north-south divide of perceived superiority, that seems to exist around the world, haunted him in Milan – “they called us terrone,” or dirt from the south, “you just have to prove that you’re better at it, and I did.”
In 1960 he immigrated to Canada. Here, he worked for some local shops, but moved on to open his own in Scarborough, where he stayed and lived for 20 years. “I made 30 suits a week.” Then lamented that “in the old days when people were poor, they dressed better.”
Over the years he moved his shop around – Newmarket, East Beaver Creek, and Yorkville; it’s a bit hard to follow as it has been a full life experience for Sebastian. He even bought a factory in Mississauga, employing 40 people where they produced 120 suits a week. Meanwhile, Sebastian had moved to the north, living on Vandorf Sideroad, in Goodwood and in Stouffville. He and his wife had two children. Later, “I finally got fed up with all the driving.” He closed up shop as a result and retired for a while.
Though, Sebastian got bored – “fed up with doing nothing”, so he opened a shop in Downtown Stouffville at 20 Freel Lane in a building behind the Earl of Whitchurch. He explains that a fine tailor will start with the finest cloth from England. The climate in England, apparently, is the best for the production of wool; this wool is very expensive these days.
“It’s a careful balancing act – you don’t make money selling, you make it when you are buying.”
There are fewer fine tailors out there these days – “if you want a good tailor, you have to visit the cemetery,” he states as a matter of fact. When asked about his most unique clients over the years, there have been many, but pictures on the wall display photographs of Sebastian with Oscar Peterson and another with Lou Ferrigno (Incredible Hulk) – “If we can fit Lou, we can fit you.”
A client phones during our interview – evidently he already knows that Sebastian is planning a trip to Cuba. “When are you leaving? I need a hem and a button”. The two talk like old friends. Sebastian offers, with friendly sarcasm, to bring the machine to his house.
Tailoring is his passion –
“If I pay the rent and have a few dollars to buy cigars, I’m happy … I do this because I love…”
Sebastian is warm and friendly, and good character is a natural trait for him. “People come here because they want to be a client, not a number,” he says, “and I can make it for half the price of the top tailors in downtown Toronto”. He adds that you should come to him if you have a problem and want a suit to fit perfectly, then he reminds me that he can fix that sagging shoulder of mine.