After years of men's tailoring school programs being shut down for lack of interest, it's nice to see not only renewed interest, but also to know that there still are training programs around.
Located in Dublin, Ireland, the National Tailoring Academy runs an accredited post-graduate course in Bespoke Fashion Tailoring. An email from one of the instructors advises us that
"It's designed for students with fashion qualifications or industry professionals who want to go further into the garment manufacturing process, both hand and factory method. There is a limited amount of time but we can start the students off on the right path and some have gone on to paid apprenticeships, others to work with international manufacturers.
Our staff are qualified Master Tailors and we have frequent visits from Savile Row tailors for talks and master-classes, along with a few other short courses to make use of our facilities.
Our facilities are the best in Ireland..."
Certainly from the photos available they seem to be very well-equipped and while I can't speak to any of it fist-hand, those interested in advancing their studies in the craft might want to explore this option.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Monday, March 9, 2015
At the suggestion of a friend (or rather, his daughter) I just finished reading Mary Blume's The Master of us All: Balenciaga, His Workrooms, his World. I can't say for sure whether it was the quality of the writing, the subject matter itself, or merely nostalgia for a time when I had it in my head that I would some day move to Paris to work in one of the great couture houses, such as they still existed, but it was a book that I put down at the penultimate chapter (but just for a while) merely because I didn't want it to end.
"The master of us all" was the way in which Christian Dior referred to the reclusive Spanish couturier, details of whose life are so scant that a large portion of the book deals with the subject from the viewpoint of his primary vendeuse, though that doesn't much diminish the story itself. It may seem odd to our selfie-obsessed society that the namesake of one of the twentieth century's most important fashion houses should shun the spotlight, having granted a sum total of one interview over the course of his career and who preferred to hide behind the curtain at the end of each défilé rather than the customary appearance on what would eventually become a catwalk, but one does not have to read too deeply between the lines to understand his longing for privacy.
I had always admired his sculptural cutting and it had a profound influence on my own obsession with shape, and I was surprised to learn that we were similarly afflicted with a somewhat unhealthy fixation with sleeves, the story of one of his shipments being delayed when he decided to rip them all out and have them reset to his liking being somewhat close to my own experience...
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
A post for industry nerds.
I'm beta testing Accumark V10 which will be released to the public soon. We have been using V8 and a lot of the major interface changes were made in V9 so there are a lot of big changes for me. But I just came across the most exciting new feature.
In the past, in order to share files between systems like Lectra and Gerber one had to convert files to .dxf (drawing exchange format) first then reconverted to native format on the new platform. The process was long, somewhat painful, and buggy. Data like floating notches and internal lines and drills were usually lost.
A friend just texted me to ask if I could open a pattern for him. Not a problem, if it was Gerber. It's .MDL, he said. Groan. That's Lectra, which would normally have been the end of the conversation unless he went back to the originator and asked them to convert it to .dxf, then I would have to reconvert it to Gerber format in order to open it. I couldn't find the V10 conversion utility since the new interface is very different so I shot an email to my contact at Gerber.
"You can open a Lectra mdl directly in PDS or plx in EasyMarking. (File Type drop down, select the lectra file format). You can also use the Data Conversion utility to convert a group of data if you just wanted to convert a lot at once. DCU is found in the AM Explorer Ribbon on the Process Tab.
Hope this helps,"
Hope this helps? It would be bloody miraculous, if true. I had my doubts. So I opened PDS, navigated to the folder and found the Lectra model. Then opened it directly, with grading intact. No more conversion, no more .dxf! Finally!
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
The first of our new half-canvas samples for Fall 2015 start coming off the production line. There is still a lot of work to be done, but considering where we were six months ago I think it's a decent start.
Monday, February 2, 2015
We got some new machines in our factory last week- some state-of-the-art sleeve setting machines from Durkopp-Adler in Germany. Anyone who has ever attempted to hang a tailored sleeve knows it's probably one of the most difficult jobs, if not the most difficult. These machines are created to help an operator sew in ten to twenty pairs of sleeves PER HOUR. Fancy things, these machines.
In a timely coincidence, the German chapter of the International Association of Clothing Designers and Executives just visited the Durkopp-Adler facilities in Bielefeld, Germany. My friend, Joachim Hensch, the Senior Head of Product Excellence, Man, at Hugo Boss wrote about that visit on his new blog, patterndesignanalyst.com. His post is reproduced here, with permission.
A VIEW INTO THE ENGINE OF THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY – HOSTED BY DÜRKOPP ADLER AG
Words and Images coutesy of Joachim Hensch
Have you ever been to a sewing machine supplier ? No ? Well, here’s how it can look like.
During our annual IACDE meeting of the german chapter in Bielefeld we had the chance to take a deep dive into the current and historic sewing machine industry. For textile addicts like the IACDE members it was a stunning experience. We started with a general introduction about the history of the companies of Dürkopp and Adler, which were founded in 1860 and 1867 and learned a lot about their ventures in many different arenas like cars, bicycles, motorcycles, and many more, but also from the beginning the sewing industry. Today they are the third largest sewing machine supplier in the world and as such are well structured. If you are interested in more details about them you will find more here.
Then we started our visit in the product development area. Now the biggest surprise for me was the fact that even in this highly engineering industry you find product designer doing hand sketches. As we learned the company works since many years with industry designers and you could see in the hand-drawn sketch that these were a true professionals.
Then, when the designs meets the needs of the inner mechanical secrets, which is fundamental and pretty much the same as in the car industry, and the overall look seems to be nice, the machine block is pre-produced in a whole piece and they do some first trials with attachments and further develop the new machine type. The good thing here is that due to simultaneous engineering methods all involved other teams also develop the inner parts of the new product, either in digital way or in reality.
We learned a lot about this process step, how all the thousands of small pieces are designed in a 3D system and it was also possible to check the resilience and the movement of the corpus digitally when under pressure.
An absolute advantage to our industries movement into 3D design is the fact that only a few materials are elastic, every other piece is somehow stiff and rigid and as such much easier to precisely design and digitally prove in function in CAD systems than our products are. But you will learn in another blog entry that our CAD partners have made a lot of improvements here as well.
For sure, as we read a lot about it in the internet, some of us asked the engineers about 3D printing in this step. What we learned is that for some operations its quite useful but for heavy metal parts like the production of the “transportation feet” they still use CNC-controlled multifunctional lathes. They are much faster, very precise and at the end one machine can handle 5 different operations in one.
Next part was the testing. Here they care a lot about the movement and processes in the machine itself, for example the mechanical parts around the transport and needle handling, how the thread is moved and “tied” in the sewing process, but also how to make the machines move more quietly and smoothly during usage and much more.
In a special Lab they use high speed cameras making movies with 8000 pictures in a second and we could see exactly how and when the needle moves down and up and leaves a small bow with the thread where the circling part of the lower thread compartment can grab it and “tie it” together.
In the same video they can listen to the high end microphones and check if there are some uneven or straining movements and redirect this to the development engineers to improve the machine accordingly.
Also what we visited was a room where they stress test the machines and let them run under full speed and usage. It was incredibly loud there but a made a video. So however loud it may sound on your computer, just double or triple it :-)
VIDEO LINKED HERE
After that we went further to see the production of the machines, the electronic parts and programming, the logistics and distribution and finally the showroom with all its various types for many industries, not only textile.
But this will be continued in the next blog – stay tuned !
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
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
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.