The Thoth Radio Telescope in Algonquin Park
About ten years ago, one of my interlining suppliers showed me a new product they were developing. At the time there were concerns (principally in Europe, where this company was located) about the health effects of cellphone radiation. There are still such concerns, as reports continue to surface about exposure to wireless devices. This new product was meant to protect from such radiation. I, however, had another idea about it.
My mother may have taught me to sew, but my father taught me to be curious about things. An engineer at the National Research Council of Canada, my parents were living in the wilderness at the site of the Algonquin Radio Observatory around the time I was born. They moved to Ottawa where my father worked at their primary research campus and on family days I would go visit him at a wind tunnel or a wave tank or other such facility. To my very young self it seemed the coolest thing that my father got to do what seemed like playing giant games and push flashing buttons at work all day. So even though my artistic side won over my scientific side when it came to studies and career paths, I was still familiar with and highly curious about the inner and outer workings of things, and had a basic understanding of things like wireless signals and frequencies.
So when the supplier showed me his product, a cloth with a copper mesh woven into it, I asked him to go back to the lab in Germany to see if the size of the mesh were sufficient to block certain types of frequency. He later confirmed that it could so I explained my idea to him.
Merchants had been introducing mobile payment systems, the PayPass type of thing where you would wave a key fob near a reader on a gas pump or a credit card terminal and your payment information would be transmitted automatically. Powered by Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, these key fobs and credit cards used the same technology as many remote car keys, enhanced drivers licenses, passports and security access cards. I knew that it was a fairly simple and inexpensive thing to build a skimmer which would allow a criminal to collect data from these devices merely by passing close to a person carrying one. David Beckham later made the news when his armor-plated BMW X-5 was stolen by thieves using a skimming device. It's become more and more common these days, as instructions for building skimmers are available on the internet, and some cel phones can also be used to surreptitiously collect this data.
My idea was that this new material, when properly applied, could be used to create a shielding pocket which would block RFID skimming. I suggested it to my boss at the time, but the RFID-enabled payment systems were still too new and he didn't get it. Over subsequent years I would bring it up again from time to time, usually to the same quizzical looks. Clothing people are not always the most technologically-savvy people. But now Apple Pay has entered the arena, and other mobile-payment technologies like LoopPay, and while the companies supplying these technologies tell us the data is encrypted and secure, the recent hacks at Target, Home Depot, and Neiman Marcus, etc. have shown that things may not be quite as secure and encrypted as they really should be. The only way to really be sure that nobody can collect your personal data from your phone and credit cards is to enclose them a shielding device. One which is, in this case, soft and fully dry-cleanable.
So now that people are more aware of potential risks of wireless identity theft, and I also have a much freer hand to experiment with things at work, I am finally going to be able to bring this idea to market. Some of my Fall 2015 garments will be equipped with a pocket that will be lined with the shielding material and closed with a special zipper that we can only get in Japan so that cards and other devices can be shielded form skimming, but also so that you can zip up all your stuff in a pocket when you chuck your jacket in the x-ray bin at the airport or when traveling through crowded, pickpocket-prone areas. The labs in Germany are now working on other interesting new textile solutions like heated fibers and silver anti-microbial treatments (which have the added bonus of protecting against vampires!) so I am converting part of our design process into an experimental lab to see how some of these developments can be applied in the real world.
My job just got that much more interesting.
Shielding test data on our new copper mesh textile
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Monday, January 19, 2015
The shears being made in Italy have been cast and are ready for grinding. Then they will be tempered, then the holes drilled for the adjustment screw, then tuning, sharpening, plating, and final assembly. Of course, they are behind schedule, but some things are worth waiting for. Good shears are one of those things.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
These days I'm working on a big project, converting a men's suit factory from an entirely fused construction to a half-canvas construction. In fact, to be more technically correct, it should really be called a 2/3 canvas since the coat front we will be using is pretty much identical to a full canvas front but the lower 1/3 of the canvas is omitted. To do this conversion, and generally to bring the factory up to date, we have planned our capital expenditure budget over three years- the very first round of spending being around a million and a half US dollars.
New basters, new sleeve setting machines, new felling machines, new plotters, new pressing equipment, new software, new cloth, new trim, new fits, new patterns... nothing is being left untouched.
While many of the machines have already started arriving so we have begun training people on the new methods, one special set of machines is being made for us in Germany so won't be in for at least another month. The Strobel KA-ED single thread rollpadding machine is a pretty neat piece of equipment. To hand padstitch a lapel the traditional way takes up to an hour per pair, one left and one right. You roll the canvas portion of the lapel over the cloth, invisibly stitching the canvas into place while maintaining the rolled shape, so that the shape will be permanent. A fused lapel has none of this rolling so the shape is pretty limp and lifeless, and has a tendency to curl away from the chest. These machines, however, can execute a similar action, rolling the canvas over the cloth while stitching invisibly, but do so in about a minute. The machines come in pairs, one for the left side and one for the right, and the operator places the coat on the machine, lining up a guide with the roll line of the coat. The machine has sensors which see the start and finish of the cloth, so it knows where to start stitching, and knows where to stop. Beginning at the roll line, it sews a line of invisible stitching, stopping at the top of the lapel, then like a typewriter carriage, stops, returns to the beginning, and rolls the lapel, advancing a row, ready to start the next row of stitching. The operator can place one coat, then forget it, setting up the next machine while the first is sewing. A good operator can run two pairs of machines, or four sewing heads, rotating between each so that one is being set up while three are sewing. In an eight hour day one person could easily do eight to nine hundred coats this way, compared to the six to ten coats you could do if doing them by hand. It comes at a price, though. Each pair of machines costs almost one hundred thousand US dollars.
Padding by hand
Grabbed this video from the internet, I think it comes from a Turkish factory, showing an older model of the Strobel machine in action.
Josch of Pattern Design Analyst asked how we will do the shoulder construction. We are changing pretty much every single step of the coat construction, going from a two-shell construction back to a modified open coat construction.
Currently the sleeve head is attached to the sleeve with a shirring machine, then the sleeve is set to the coat, going through the chest piece. Obviously the seam can not be opened so you get a rope shoulder effect which they then attempt to press down. This will all change.
We will have two basic shoulder constructions- one for most of our production and then a softer variant. The basic one be done as follows-
When shaping the fronts we will also measure and trim the canvas in the armhole, leaving the armhole free from the canvas.
Attach shoulder pad to the chest piece with a jump baster.
Later, set sleeve through the coat only, then press the seam open.
Baste the armhole into the chest and shoulder pad from the outside.
Baste the lining around the armhole, then set sleeve head and trim armhole.
Close armhole lining.
For the softer shoulder we will do something similar to a spalla camicia shirt sleeve- set the sleeve as above, sew in a 3/4" bias strip of silesia at the top of the sleeve, and press the sleeve and armhole seam allowances toward the coat.
Baste the armhole into the chest from the outside- the silesia will be used to secure the top of the armhole into the canvas. The rest is the same, but using only a very fine sleeve head (or none at all, depending)
So far we have had decent results. We got in new Durkopp sleeve setting machines yesterday and we like them a lot. We also got a series of finish pressing machines which we will install next week.
Monday, January 5, 2015
Just as some of my favorite internet reading is being wound down (RJdM will be sorely missed, until he finds a new home), a new and worthwhile appearance in the blogosphere:
Written by a senior member of one of the most recognized menswear teams in the world, and someone I have known for almost 20 years, he will offer a fresh new perspective on the discussion of the technical side of menswear, beginning with an examination of the development and use of different types of shoulder pad.
Bookmark it now.
Friday, December 19, 2014
Men of the Cloth has announced screening dates for the New York area.
Thursday January 8 at 7 pm
City Cinemas Village East
189 Second Avenue at 12th, NY NY
Advance Tickets Available
Wednesday January 14 at 7:30 pm
423 Park Avenue Huntington, Long Island
Advance Tickets Available
Advance Tickets Available
Sunday January 25 at 7pm
175 Wolfs Lane, Pelham NY
Advance Tickets Available
Friday, December 12, 2014
My shears are in production. And they look hot!
There is now a possibility of a second run, and also the development of a 16" model. Go to this thread on StyleForum to get in on that.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
I was made aware of a job which would have been a great one for me had I a) known about it sooner and b) not already committed to an equally fun new project. So I'm putting it out there in case anyone is interested. I also know of three similar openings in the U.S. but for the sake of discretion, if you're interested, get in touch with me and I'll give you more details.
First job is at Ralph Lauren in Bologna, Italy
DIRECTOR OF DESIGN, PATTERNMAKING AND TAILORING
Ralph Lauren Corporation (NYSE: RL) is a leader in the design, marketing and distribution of premium lifestyle products in four categories: apparel, home, accessories and fragrances. For more than 44 years, Ralph Lauren's reputation and distinctive image have been consistently developed across an expanding number of products, brands and international markets.
Purpose and Scope: Must have extensive knowledge of men’s fine tailoring and patternmaking as well as advanced knowledge in sartorial, semi sartorial and industrial make. Creating and maintaining archives of all RL patterns.
Responsible for creating and developing protos, sample developments and patterns for Purple Label, Black Label, Polo, RRL, women’s MTM - based on the direction from design office in NY
Oversee sample and proto development at different factories.
Overseeing quality control and optimization for pre production and new projects
Fitting and overseeing MTM orders.
Organize and participate in fittings of new protos and for samples for production approval – in NY and Italy.
Extra projects such as needs of Lauren family, VIP made-to-measure and event related projects (Olympic games uniforms, etc.)
Participate during rigging time for showrooms in NY – 2 or more times per year.
Digital archiving for all RL patterns.
Ability to travel
Extensive patternmaking and tailoring experience in high end men’s clothing industry
Patternmaking by hand and on computer
Knowledge of computer programs like Investronica to create digital patterns and maintain digital archive.
Knowledge of Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Outlook and CAD
Proficient in written and spoken English
Ralph Lauren is an equal opportunity employer. We offer dynamic career opportunities with growth potential and a generous company discount.
Monday, November 24, 2014
Roberto Cabrera's book, Classic Tailoring Techniques is getting a revision!
Cabrera's textbook has long been one of the only references on tailoring, and certainly the best one available to novices. Stanley Hostek wrote a few exhaustive books but they weren't as accessible to learners and Cabrera's book. My one quibble about the Cabrera book was that some of the techniques were somewhat dated, and hopefully this revision will address those issues.
Copies can be pre-ordered, and as of this writing there are 171 days before the release date; I have requested a review copy so I will hopefully have something more useful to say about it soon.
Friday, November 21, 2014
The Wall Street Journal posted an article this week on the loosening up of the slim suit.
One of the suit lines they mention is Todd Snyder White Label, something new to Nordstrom. I developed that fit for Todd (it's being made in Chicago by Hart Schaffner Marx, the company of which I was VP Design until recently) and long-time readers of this blog (and StyleForum) may find this interesting since it involves a personal journey that started online several years ago. (Hint- it involves DRAPE!)
Like many of my colleagues, I had been trained in the clean-lines school of tailoring, that a well-cut suit should look like polished marble, without rumples or wrinkles or fullness of any sort. The coat should be cut close to the body and be reinforced by canvas and interlining to maintain that cleanliness. I encountered a group of people online who challenged that notion by their adherence to a diametrically-opposed school of tailoring, known by its early-twentieth-century moniker The Drape Cut. A lot of ink has been spilled on the subject, but the reader's digest version of that story is that tailored clothing at the turn of the century was rather close-fitting and followed the natural contours of the male body, the downside to that being that the less ideally-proportioned among us would have those proportions revealed by their clothing. A dutchman named Frederick Scholte who was working on Savile Row at the time was inspired by military greatcoats whose broad shoulders and cinched, belted waists gave the illusion of a more athletic body so he gently extended the shoulder of the suits he cut, increased the fullness in the chest and the top of the sleeve and slimmed down the hip. The resulting sihouette became known os the Drape Cut, the London Drape, or the Blade Cut, and was widely copied around the world, perhaps most visibly by the tailors dressing 1930's Hollywood. Like any trend it became exaggerated to the ugly extremes of the zoot suit and fell out of fashion. Certain houses, such as Savile Row's Anderson and Sheppard, as well as a handful of other tailors like Rubinacci and Alan Flusser have kept the drape alive to a certain extent and we see influences in some of Ralph Lauren's clothing (certainly his own, broad-shouldered suits) and Tom Ford. Most of the examples of it that I had seen on people, however, just looked like sloppy, ill-fitting messes to me so I dismissed it.
Online discussions about the cut revealed a certain amount of passion on both side of the fence, and Nicholas Antongiavanni's riff on Machiavalli, a book titled simply "The Suit" but which extolled the superiority of the drape cut made me a little bit crazy.
Back then I was in the habit of tearing apart interesting clothing so see what I could learn about how they were cut and made (and which partially prompted this blog) and I came across a vintage drape-cut suit from Anderson and Sheppard. It was a pivotal moment for me because once I got past some of the glaring deficiencies in the sewing (a dark period in the history of clothing from which they seem to have recovered), I saw something interesting in the cut. From my post at the time-
"A&S has a possibly unwarranted reputation for cutting shapeless sacks. Certainly the ones I have seen were ugly things. But not this one; instead of wide, droopy shoulders, it has a moderately wide, softly padded shoulder which is in balance with the rest of the garment. And there is a shape. The most shapely garment I have ever examined. A huge drape allowance on the back, and bizarre sleeves. But shape- good shape. So, curious, I tried it on. It’s not my size, but I know about putting garments on my body which are not my size.
And then I paused again.
I think I stood looking in the mirror for a full fifteen minutes. Looking past the awful sewing, and some of the stylistic things that bug me, this silhouette did not look bad at all. I even caught myself thinking that if the cloth were not in such rough shape I could cut it down and wear it myself. Then I started moving around, and thought, damn, this thing IS comfortable. Then I had another look at the chest and the drape there. It was not the lumpy chest I was used to seeing, but a nicer fold, a real drape, not just bulk, and I can honestly say that at that moment I got it. I understood it."
I started rethinking my opposition to the principles behind the drape cut and started to do some more research.
Once I had located as much as had been written in tailoring journals dating to the period of the original Drape, I started to synthesize man of the ideas in my head and created an experiment. I would cut myself a draped coat using my own modern drafting style but the vintage pattern manipulations, and wrote about it. The result was far from perfect but I learned a lot if things in the process.
Shortly after that I took over at Hart Schaffner Marx, an old American clothing company, and got to work redoing all the silhouettes and patterns. The company had some boxy silhouettes and had attempted a slim-fit which was poorly received because people felt it was just too tight. I studied all the other garments on the market and found that the slim-cut clothing in general was tight all over. Fine for Hedi Slimane-esque skinny people, but certainly not fine for those with some extra meat on their bones. The other thing I found common in these suits was that the drop was wacky. The drop is the difference between chest size and pant size and the standard is about six inches. A seven inch drop is considered "athletic" so most slim suits carried a 7-inch drop. A size 40 suit would have a size 33 pant instead of a 34, assuming that these slim suit-wearing people had small waists. The thing is, though, that meant that the pant was smaller ALL OVER instead of just in the waist. I had other ideas about that, too.
Whereas slim coats would have a slim waist, but also a narrow shoulder, a small armhole, and a narrow sleeve, I created something with a slim waist, but a slightly extended shoulder, an armhole that was high but wide front to back to allow for a bigger bicep and added a little bit of the dreaded drape to the chest, both front and back. The sleeve was much fuller around the cap to allow for a fuller deltoid, but then slimmed it down at the wrist. In many respects, the description of those first drape models. My first iterations had a trim seat in the coat, but I realized that athletic figures generally had a more prominent seat and thighs, so I needed to give more room for that. And as for the trouser, instead of cutting the smaller size 33 instead of 34, I made a pant that had a smallish waist but had the room to allow for a full seat and thighs, inspired by alterations I was having to do to my jeans. The moderately slim cut we called the New York, and the slimmer, much shorter version we called the Los Angeles.
The Spring 2013 Los Angeles coat looked like this
compared to Dior's slim cut which was one of the biggest influences on slim tailoring-
So when Todd Snyder, who at J. Crew had created the Ludlow suit, came to us at HSM to create his White Label garments, I showed him what I had been doing with these silhouettes and he liked it. I softened up the shoulder of the LA model, he created a lapel shape for it and we developed a cool trim package for the line, and it's now in Norsdtrom stores. I'm now working on a new project and a few new lines of clothing that will appear in stores in Fall 2015 where I will continue to develop ideas about a modern drape cut. So I guess I have to thank Antongiavanni and the Drapists at StyleForum for pushing me in a direction I never would have taken without them. Somewhere, Réjinald Jérome deMans is yelling "I TOLD YOU SO!" at his computer screen.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
There is a discussion going on in another part of the internet and a question was asked which someone felt I may be able to answer. I would rather not wade in to that mess of a discussion, but the question still deserves a bit of an answer. For serious clothing nerds only.
The question revolves around job titles in men’s tailored clothing, a business which is, in some respects, stuck in a bit of a time warp. I know a person who was deeply insulted by another colleague who called him a “patternmaker”, despite the fact that he does, in fact, make patterns. “Paper cutter” and “calzolaio” (shoemaker) are other, similarly pointed, epithets in the tailoring trade. To understand, we have to back up about 150 years.
Ready-made clothing (and for the purposes of this article I will use the archaic meaning of the term “clothing” to refer exclusively to men’s tailored clothing, as opposed to sportswear) was virtually non-existent until the American civil war. A man would get his clothing from his tailor if he could afford one, or it was made in the home. The only things one could buy ready-made was cheap work-wear, made principally for miners, sailors, and slaves. The civil war created a demand for mass-produced uniforms which happened to coincide with the second industrial revolution and an industry was born (more on that another time).
The person at the tailor shop who was responsible for interpreting a person’s measurements into cut pieces of fabric to be sewn together was, logically, the cutter. Scores of books had been written at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century on what was known as the art of cutting gentlemen’s clothing but what we would today refer to as patternmaking. The early ready-made industry employed cutters to cut clothing according to these new systems which would typically be sent out for sewing. In 1910, a trade organization then known as the National Association of Clothing Designers was incorporated in New York City. From a 1917 report by the U.S. department of trade-
“Very conservative styles of men’s clothing are worn in England; the models do not change from one season to another as they do in this country. High-salaried designers are employed by the larger clothing factories in the United States who are constantly introducing attractive styles…”
The “designer” was what we would now call both “stylist” and “head patternmaker”. His job was not only to develop new styles but also to determine what he though was a statistical representation of the average human body and to clothe that body. He might study the library of measurements that the government collected when making uniforms for the soldiers in the civil war, or, later, either of the two world wars, and establish that the average American male was of a certain stature and chest size (these days, we are studying vastly larger sets of data provided by body scanners to determine averages and sizing) . A person whose own measurements resembled those averages would be sought to serve as a fit model and the designer would create his styles to fit that person in the same manner as a cutter would in a bespoke house. A first draft of a pattern would be subjected to a number of different trials and fittings until a satisfactory base pattern was produced. Junior designers, or assistants, would be tasked with taking that base pattern and increasing or decreasing the proportions of it to create a set of different sizes in a system known as grading. Those graded pieces had to be traced off on hard paper and individually cut out. Those junior people were often known as “paper cutters”.
The job of designer was eventually split in to two different jobs in the nascent sportswear industry, specifically those of stylist and the patternmaker who would interpret the stylist’s creations, a split so complete that, these days, a good stylist may have little real understanding of patternmaking and a patternmaker may be a good engineer though completely lacking in taste and creativity. The tailored clothing industry still clings to the nomenclature and job description that existed a hundred years ago so a suit designer is still a patternmaker who may also in some cases work with a stylist, while that stylist would be known as the designer in all other parts of the garment industry. So to call a suit designer a “patternmaker” is to imply that he lacks the necessary taste to execute the job in its entirety. To call a suit designer a “stylist” implies that, despite their good taste, they lack the technical understanding of drafting and tailoring to be capable of actually designing a garment. And to call a tailor or designer a “calzolaio” which, in Italian, means shoemaker, is to imply that their sewing is so crude as to be only suitable for stitching leather and not fine woolens.
Which is all to say that people who make clothing can be temperamental divas sometimes.
But back to the question which concerned the difference between a bespoke cutter and a Ready-to-Wear designer (or patternmaker). The cutter is fitting one specific person while the designer is fitting a hypothetical set of people but will probably employ one real person as representative so the end result , in terms of fit, should ideally be the same. That said, as in the bespoke world where some fitters are better than others, some designers are better than others so ill-fitting ready-to-wear may be the result of either a consumer whose body is very different from the chosen “standard” or it may be that the designer did a lousy job of fitting that standard in the first place. In that respect, the jobs are almost identical. The main difference is that the cutter will leave a lot of adjusting to the tailor so his pattern can be much less precise, and generally is. The tailor may have to baste, adjust, trim, and re-baste a sleeve two, three, four, or more times before they get it into the armhole correctly but once it is in, it is forgotten; in fact, I have heard from a number of different people on and around Savile Row that it is common practice for tailors to have their own sleeve templates to reshape the sleeve caps that are sent to them by the cutter. In a factory setting, the sleeve has to go in correctly on the first try so the designer spends a lot more time perfecting his pattern before it goes anywhere near a cutting table, which is no guarantee of a good sleeve- there are plenty of atrocious sleeves on both ready-to-wear and bespoke garments.
A great bespoke cutter may be a fantastic fitter and produce a perfectly-fitting garment using a pattern which would be an absolute disaster in a factory setting, and a RTW patternmaker could make a pattern which flows beautifully through the shop but which fits nobody. Having some experience on both sides of that cutting table generally produces the best results.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
For people in and around Montreal, Samuelsohn is having a warehouse sale. Definitely worth a visit.
Friday, November 7, 2014
Good shears are very difficult to come by- they just don't make them anymore. One of the members of Styleforum has located a factory in Italy that still has the molds for 13" shears and is willing to make a batch if they get enough orders. If you're interested, check out the thread here and sign up.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
I am often asked where people can go who wish to learn tailoring and I don't often have much to tell them.
There is so little by way of educational material available to the aspiring tailor, and my feelings on this are mixed. I really do think it's a craft that is best learnt at the hands of an experienced teacher so the few books available should be used as guides for someone undergoing an apprenticeship and not for those who wish to teach themselves. That said, not everyone has access to an experienced tailor and I suppose they have no choice but to turn to the scant material available so the latest arrival to the self-tutelage sphere will be welcome to many.
Andrew Ramroop, of the justly famous Maurice Sedwell of Savile Row has teamed up with Mastered.com to produce an online, self-guided course in tailoring. Video lessons and some very handsome photography are provided along with supporting print material. In a smart move, Mr. Ramroop shows a technique, then his assistant does it. This gives the viewer the benefit of seeing an experienced master do, and then seeing some of the mistakes that he or she is likely to make and teh corrections as suggested by the teacher. Of course, not every possible misstep is covered, but students are encouraged to upload photos or other evidence of their work for evaluation by Mr. Ramroop. Certainly not failsafe but better than a book alone.
So far the site has been fairly quiet but I imagine that once more students sign up there will be more discussion, and I look forward to seeing future lessons.
The Savile Row Coat
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
I'm back, sort of.
The last few months have been crazy with moving and starting a new job in the southern United States but I hope I can start picking up where I left off.
First up, an interesting read that voxsartoria was kind enough to bring to my attention. I am happy and envious in equal parts that someone was able to express so well something that I have been struggling to convey for years. In short,
Craft means skill; and handcraft for its own sake is as much an enemy of good craftsmanship as bad mass-production. It would be a hard thing if human beings, having taught robots to speak like Shakespeare, could only prove their voices human by learning to stutter.
Though it was voxsartoria who brought it to my attention, all credit for unearthing the article must go to RJMan. I stand corrected.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Another film screening coming up, this time in Chicago!
Here's the press release-
The documentary Men of the Cloth will make its debut in Chicago on April 28, 2014, in Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington. The film by Vicki Vasilopoulos is an inspiring portrait of three Italian master tailors.
Doors will open at 5 p.m., and the screening of Men of the Cloth will begin at 5:30 p.m. Following the film at 7:15 p.m., a panel of tailors and menswear experts will discuss the film and the bespoke industry, led by Trideep Das, managing director of JollyBrowne. The panel will include director Vicki Vasilopoulos, Nicholas Hansen of Nicholas Joseph, bespoke tailor Chris Despos, Jeffery Diduch of the Made By Hand blog and Vice President of Technical Design at Hart Schaffner Marx, head tailor Joseph Genuardi of Martin Greenfield Clothiers, and master tailor Rocco Giovannangelo of Oxxford Clothes. A reception will conclude the evening. The event is free and open to the public and students.
The film centers around Nino Corvato, Joe Centofanti, and Checchino Fonticoli, master tailors who have spent a lifetime perfecting the skills necessary to construct flawless custom-made suits for their clients in New York City, Philadelphia and Penne, Italy. Now in the twilight of their career, they fear that their Old-World knowledge will vanish with them. Enter Joe Genuardi, a tailoring apprentice who reflects the resurgence of popular interest in artisanal craftsmanship as an alternative to corporate mass production, providing hope for the future of this craft.
Men of the Cloth is structured like a triptych: each character’s story gives us an insight into the past, present and future of their craft. We see the intimate connection with their tools and the tactile nature of their trade as they work in studied concentration: sewing, pressing, cutting, marking, and pinning. The whir of the sewing machine, the clank of the steam iron, and the sharp slicing of the tailor’s scissors create an aural symphony. These artisans cherish their interactions with their clients. And as they go about their daily tasks, they share observations that are, by turns, nostalgic, poignant and humorous. Men of the Cloth unravels the mystery of the tailor’s artistry, and how he fashions a garment in such a way that it moves and breathes with the person who’s wearing it.
Director/producer Vicki Vasilopoulos was Senior Fashion Editor at DNR, the men’s news magazine (now a part of Women’s Wear Daily). Vasilopoulos was also a contributor to Fashion Wire Daily and has had features published in The New York Times, Esquire, Time Out New York and New Jersey Monthly. She has served as a film series programmer for New York Women in Film and Television. She is also a member of the Independent Filmmaker Project and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Vasilopoulos graduated from NYU with a B.A. in Journalism and has studied at the Paris Fashion Institute in France and at The Fashion Institute of Technology.
The Men of the Cloth screening will be hosted by the Fashion Studies Department of Columbia College Chicago and sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Mayor’s Fashion Council Chicago, Oxxford Clothes, and Nicholas Joseph.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Part of our business is making made-to-measure clothing. We have a library of patterns to which almost two hundred alterations can be done to account for size, posture, preference, etc. The alterations are pretty comprehensive but there are limitations and parameters. The pattern can only be stretched so far before you have to draft something from scratch, not something that is generally done in the industry because of the amount of time involved in getting a draft trued and production-ready. Today we hit some of those limits.
The lady who is in charge of the blue pencil department (the department that applies the alterations to the patterns before the garments are cut) came to see me with a problem. A client had requested some alterations which were well outside the usual limits. By several multiples. Shorten sleeves by six inches, shorten the coat five inches. And so on. I sent her to see my boss, our president. His answer, as expected, was a very firm NO. We would not be able to accommodate these requests.
Some time later he came to see me, his tone softened.
"About that pattern", he said.
"It seems the customer in question is a thirteen year-old boy. And he has leukemia. Make this boy his suit."
And with that, I will get to work on a new pattern.
Monday, March 31, 2014
I've posted a number of videos made by Andrew Yamato showing the work of Rory Duffy, which I enjoyed.
Last weekend I was working a show in Brooklyn, where both Rory and Andrew are located, so I had the great opportunity to meet them both.
Rory is Savile-Row trained and I have spent most of my career in the RTW industry so we were sharing notes, which proved to be very interesting. Rory provided some fascinating insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of Savile Row which I really enjoyed, and I gave him some pointers on production-ready sleeve patterns. I loved one observation he made that "Rock of Eye [a very loose pattern making technique] is only good for those who don't actually have to sew up their own cutting. I pity the tailors who do have to sew that up." I quite agree.
Talking about drafting is one thing, however, and doing is quite another, so Rory pulled out a roll of pattern paper and started drafting. Then it was my turn to draft. I think we both learned a few things, and if nothing else, we had some fun.
This sort of thing should happen more often, and if it does, hopefully Andrew will be able to get it on film.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
April is a month full of film screenings, it seems.
The first up is a documentary called I Colori di Antonio, about the Italian tailor Antonio Liverano.
The screening is being hosted by our friends at The Armoury New York and will take place in Chelsea on April 3 at 7 pm; it will be followed by a Q&A with Antonio Liverano and Gianluca Migilarotti, moderated by Bruce Boyer. Details and tickets can be found here.
I really wish I could attend but I just got back from 5 days in New York and have much catching up on work to do...
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Kim has asked several times about it, so here goes...
The sewing machine I use at home is an industrial Brother high speed single needle straight lock stitch machine. What a mouthful. I used to have an industrial overlock as well, but those suckers take up a lot of room so I got rid of it in favor of a domestic Husqvarna overlock/coverstitch machine.
Industrial machines are typically cheaper than the fancy domestic ones that do a million stitches, especially if you get it used. The garment industry having been decimated, used equipment is plentiful and cheap, and since those machines are built to last forever, getting one from a reputable dealer who will have tuned it up is generally a safe bet. Some people need the zig-zag function on domestic machines, if for nothing other than buttonholes, but you do get a better stitch out of a machine that is only made to do straight-stitches for a number of reasons. Since I never use pins when sewing, I also HATE the presser foot lever on the back of the sewing head of a domestic machine (I need both hands when loading); basic industrial ones will have a knee lever and fancier ones have an automatic lift built into the pedal. Being used to the speed of an industrial machine (up to 5,000 stitches a minute) I find domestic ones impossibly poky. It's also nice that special presser feet, folders and attachments are nearly universal so it's actually much easier to get them for an industrial machine than a domestic one. And once you've got yourself a couple of scroll hemmer feet and a binding folder, you wonder how you ever lived without them. Compensating feet make top stitching and edge stitching easier and neater, and I like to use a hinged quilting guide as a seam allowance gauge because they are easy to adjust and can be flipped up and out of the way when not needed.
Fancier straight stitch machines will also have automatic back tackers and thread trimmers, and a few other functions that are really overkill for the home sewer.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
I had an accident over a year ago which affected my ability to sew, among other things. But my visit to the company's archives last week made me want to try to start again.
We have a lot of old frock coats that are very fitted through the back, most with a type of princess seam and a waist seam, both details which I chose to incorporate. Also, the seams are being raised with a 1/4" machine stitch, but sewn with vintage silk buttonhole twist.
Also, the pockets are flapped but without visible jets.
The buttonholes will be particularly challenging, but I figure that if it comes to that, I could maybe do them by machine.
Oh god, who am I kidding? Machine-made buttonholes? Me?
Thursday, February 27, 2014
I've been thinking a lot about heritage lately.
I work for a company that has been in business since 1887. It's occasionally humbling to think of the generations of people who have held my position in this company over the many years, but yesterday I was able to put my hands on some of the tangible evidence of that history.
We have a collection of about 75 garments, some of which date all the way back to the early days of the company. Probably half of them are the body coats of the type that fell out of favor in the early 20th century and as I work on prototyping for Spring 2015 I wanted to have a look through some of them. We are in the process of cataloging, documenting, and properly storing them, so at one point there will be proper quality photos, but I snapped a few quick ones yesterday. More to follow...