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Best Areas in the U.S. for Tailoring?


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#1 Dirk

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Posted 19 July 2011 - 10:56 PM

I've been wondering were the best states/cities in the U.S. are, in terms of amount of clients and such due to the fact that I've decided to take it to a professional level and wanted t know where to go. I currently live in Oregon, and Portland does not look very promising.

Would anybody say that it would even be possible to run a shop in cities 600 - 2,000 population?

Edited by Dirk, 19 July 2011 - 10:59 PM.


#2 tailleuse

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Posted 19 July 2011 - 11:56 PM

I've been wondering were the best states/cities in the U.S. are, in terms of amount of clients and such due to the fact that I've decided to take it to a professional level and wanted t know where to go. I currently live in Oregon, and Portland does not look very promising.

Would anybody say that it would even be possible to run a shop in cities 600 - 2,000 population?



I have a very good friend who lives in Portland, Oregon, and agree that the casual lifestyle pursued by most people does not suggest a need for fine tailoring. At times I've had discussions with my friend about New York being more formal than Portland, even though I'm not a high-maintenance, fashion-forward dresser. I can't find it, but earlier this year I posted on this forum a link to an interview with the writer Gay Talese, whose father was a tailor. They lived in a small town in New Jersey and his father was unsuccessful because there was little demand. I don't think that a population of 2,000 would support a shop unless it's a really unusual town, such as a very wealthy suburb. And just think of it, at least half the people won't be men, many won't be adults, and more still won't be willing or able to pay thousands of dollars for a suit.

Dignity. Always, dignity. (Singin' in the Rain)


#3 greger

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 05:40 AM

If you want to live in a small community then you will have to make nearly every kind of clothing there is. Tailors have been doing this for centuries. It is in the big cities where you have tailors who only make suits. Back in the day when there were lots of people wearing these kinds of clothes some tailors only made coats and others only trousers and others only vest and others only white tie coats, etc., but those days are pretty much gone. Savile Row still has parts of this in some shops. Maybe NY City. I read of an over supply of tailors one place where tailors, probably younger ones, moved from house to house, farm to farm making all the clothes needed for that house hold and then moved on to the next house hold, this means they made clothes for farm work and childrens clothes and clothes for the women. Some people think that tailors only make suits and clothes close to that but that was only possible in cities that where large enough to support some, while others made everything worn. Afterall, somebody had to make the other clothes and that would be tailors and women dress makers. In the good old days at least the clothes fit better than what 90% worn today. The fashions of the past were no more liked by some like some people are with todays fashions. So that hasn't changed. Tailors generally kept their mouths shut about fashion because they needed the income. When asked point out what they think is better. Fashions are about themes and not always about good looks. If you just want to make suit type garments then you need a town with maybe as small as 50 doctors to have enough lawyers and business men and extras to make 50 suits worth a year. Maybe the number needs to be 100 doctors? Or, 200?
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#4 Nishijin

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 07:33 AM

Greger, you're talking about a time when ready-to-wear shops wasn't as common as it is today. Shops were in the cities, so in the country people had to choose between mail order (tailored garments were available via mail order at the end of the XIXth century) or the tailor.

Today, only wealthy people go to the tailor, for suits or whatever (selling other things than suis is a matter of marketing and advertisement).

So, Dirk, you need a city with enough wealthy people living there. If Portland, Oregon, isn't big enough for a tailor, then a 2000-souls town certainly isn't either. In a place like that, you would do mainly alterations, and maybe one or two bespoke garments in the year, if you're lucky.
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#5 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 09:02 AM

Portland is plenty big for a tailor, I've received a ton of interest by clients in Portland :D
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#6 tailleuse

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 12:12 PM

Portland is plenty big for a tailor, I've received a ton of interest by clients in Portland :D


Don't count on my friends as customers. Posted Image They wear sneakers and Birkenstocks. One doesn't understand why I can't outfit myself from Filene's Basement. I've told her that the clothes are horrible, cheap and ill-fitting.

Seriously, Portland has a very self-consciously aggressive laid-back image. Have you ever seen the IFC comedy Portlandia? It's about how bohemian, hipster and generally weird a lot of Portland people are and there is a certain basic truth to it if you've ever been there.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XM3vWJmpfo I went to a wedding in Portland. The guests stayed at a lodge for mountain climbers and the wedding was on the slope of a mountain. The day before, we went on a hike.

Portland has law firms, of course. But i'll bet that they are not as formal as big New York law firms, and even the latter have "Casual Fridays."

Dignity. Always, dignity. (Singin' in the Rain)


#7 Nishijin

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 05:48 PM

Formal means business suits. Tailoring is not limited to business suits, maybe there are customers for other things as well.
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#8 greger

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 08:40 PM

Nishijin, I still think there is room for making many different garments as in the old days but with a smaller part of the population. Sometimes advertisement does make a difference, such as a local radio station. The fact that a customer can get a fashionable garment with a few changes than what is on the rack will certainly draw some people. Shirts, twill trousers, shorts, board shorts, ski or snow board clothes, etc as the customers shows designs will attract some people. A few basic pattern systems that can easily be converted into fashion the client wants. The pattern is a skeleton of what you draw and then the fashion is design on it. There are women who do this but buy fashion patterns from the store, which I would avoid (patterns from the store). The reason why a suit cost so much is the time. If you divide the time by price you get the hourly rate. Take that hourly rate of pay and apply that to the other garments you make to figure the price. Some of the cloth you may want the customer to find, but you would need to tell them how much to get. Some cloth should probably be cut with a hot knife, which means you need the appropriate gas mask.


About 25-30 years ago a couple of tailors here said that there was plenty of room for more tailors, and that was like 40-50 thousand people here in town, maybe attitudes have changed here since then for general suits, blazer, sports coats, trouser, shirts and even vest. (Both did alteration, too.) If you lived in Bend OR (a few hundred miles away) the sales would be Western clothes, including leather such as vest, and ski and snowboarding clothes with probably a few suits. From one region to another people want certain clothes and that is what is made. An open mind if you are not going to work in a large city. Some people have money and know about custom made, while others who have money need to be told what custom is. It is to a certain extent like fishing- there is different types of baits to hook them. Some places you will certainly need another job.

#9 Nishijin

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 09:25 PM

Nishijin, I still think there is room for making many different garments as in the old days but with a smaller part of the population. Sometimes advertisement does make a difference, such as a local radio station. The fact that a customer can get a fashionable garment with a few changes than what is on the rack will certainly draw some people. Shirts, twill trousers, shorts, board shorts, ski or snow board clothes, etc as the customers shows designs will attract some people.



There is room to make many garments other than business suits, indeed. Shirts, trousers of course (cotton twill, denim, moleskins, corduroy, flannels...), sports coats ("blazers" for Americans), but also overcoats, jackets, hiking garments...

Ski and snow board is a different matter, since it may be very hard to explain to people that GoreTex is not the best in the world (and GoreTex is not possible for a tailor). If one can design good ski apparel with fabric available and workable for tailors, then why not. On the seaside, nautical apparel could be a market too, that's much easier and there is a lot to do in this chapter.

So you see, I really think tailors can do many things other than business suits. I just don't believe it will be like in the good old times when the tailor made everything for each household. Today, doing custom work, even with simplified technique, costs some money, so it's mainly for wealthy people.

BTW, even for business suits, they don't have to be made to the highest standards of bespoke tailoring. I sell full bespoke, but also fused coats entirely machine-sewn, for a much more affordable price. Same for trousers, there are many different grades of sewing, people come mainly because the can choose the cloth and get trousers that fit, then they choose the making quality they can afford.


Oh, tailors wanting to do other than business suits should learn to work leather. There is a lot of work to get in custom made leather. And I believe sourcing leather is easier in the USA than it is in France (tanners don't want to sell small quantities to craftmen anymore).
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#10 Dirk

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 11:21 PM

Thanks for the feedback everybody.

What Tailleuse says is why I believe that Portland wouldn't be good business - "Portland has a very self-consciously aggressive laid-back image" is completely true. You're almost breaking the law if you wear black tie there. It is certainly big enough, but it's just the cities 'personality' so to speak. (In other terms, a lot of hipppies - hippies don't like 'stuffy' clothing)

Also what I got from everybody's feedback is that I need to live in a big city: for the most part I am looking for some place along the upper portion of the U.S., such as (and preferably) Wisconsin, Washington or any other border straddling state - maybe even in Canada.

"So you see, I really think tailors can do many things other than business suits."
That reminds me: I was watching something on YouTube about Saville Row where a guy was getting a wilderness jacket of sorts made for him with many features built into it, such as the fact that you can wear it from Antarctica to Peru.

Also, I wouldn't necessarily just be making suits.

Edited by Dirk, 21 July 2011 - 01:47 AM.

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#11 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 03:06 AM

Fine by me... I'll take the business from Portland :D
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#12 Hedges

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 03:54 AM

This is interesting, I lived in Portland for a couple of years. While it is generally casual, there are people at all income levels that appreciate custom made clothing.. and the fact that something is made local, by someone they can put a face to is a big deal.


I know a fellow in Portland that makes a honest living making custom suits and sportcoats as well as jeans, shirts, dresses, coats, even swimwear.

Think of the bicycle culture in Portland, wool is making a comeback for bicycle clothing.

#13 greger

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 01:44 PM

Portland is probably big enough that if 99% want casual the 1% would be more than several tailors could handle. If you want to live there give it a try. Black Tie- even NY tailors probably rarely make them anymore. The rules of proper dress is always changing. The first black tie was probably considered scandalous for many when they first heard of it. And it was probably nameless for a while, too. So, what are people doing today? How can you maximize it? Tailors always had to step into the future.

#14 CoronarJunkee

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 05:32 PM

@Nishijin: then order in Germany

#15 Dirk

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 05:36 PM

I suppose that you're right, Greger... from my knowledge, there are only a few (Say, 10 - 15) actual tailors in Portland.

Well if you know that, Hedges, you must have lived there - an almost obsession with knowing who made their stuff and what it's made of. You wouldn't mind giving the name of his business, or possibly if he or anybody else might be taking apprentices, would you?

Anybody think that Wisconsin would be good for business?

#16 tailleuse

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 11:06 PM

Formal means business suits. Tailoring is not limited to business suits, maybe there are customers for other things as well.


That's true. I was fixated on business suits, probably because all the men I know who ever were interested in clothing of that quality and price were lawyers or investment bankers who wanted suits.

Can one make a living making bespoke jackets and more casual pants?

Isn't there some kind of analysis that tailors use to determine whether a particular market will support a shop? I'd love to read about the factors that have to be taken into consideration.

Or has everything changed, what with the economy and a general trend towards more casual styles?

Dignity. Always, dignity. (Singin' in the Rain)


#17 tailleuse

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 11:45 PM

[Portland people have] an almost obsession with knowing who made their stuff and what it's made of.


Posted Image


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2LBICPEK6w

Dignity. Always, dignity. (Singin' in the Rain)


#18 tailleuse

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 11:50 PM

Don't count on my friends as customers. Posted Image They wear sneakers and Birkenstocks. One doesn't understand why I can't outfit myself from Filene's Basement. I've told her that the clothes are horrible, cheap and ill-fitting.

Seriously, Portland has a very self-consciously aggressive laid-back image. Have you ever seen the IFC comedy Portlandia? It's about how bohemian, hipster and generally weird a lot of Portland people are and there is a certain basic truth to it if you've ever been there.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XM3vWJmpfo I went to a wedding in Portland. The guests stayed at a lodge for mountain climbers and the wedding was on the slope of a mountain. The day before, we went on a hike.

Portland has law firms, of course. But i'll bet that they are not as formal as big New York law firms, and even the latter have "Casual Fridays."


BTW, I really like the parts of Portland I've seen. I've considered moving there. But it is seriously weird. In a good way.



Dignity. Always, dignity. (Singin' in the Rain)





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