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Competing With Wrinkle-Free Shirts


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#1 Kevin Koch

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 12:43 PM

I am honing/adapting some skills for cutting and make-up of custom shirts in hopes of offering another item for my existing bespoke customers (I want more business!). My conundrum is an appropriate and acceptable shirting. I am not very happy with the "high-end" cotton shirtings that I have tried so far and I simply cannot spend countless dollars on more unknown cloth that misses the mark. I aim to offer a more desirable shirt, but the competing RTW's that customers buy are "specially processed" or "wrinkle-free."

Do I really need to compete with a wrinkle-free world? (sigh) I love the feeling that I get ironing crisp edges and shape into 100% pima and the transformation of a freshly laundered shirt into something that invites you to put it on - but you can bet my customers won't! If they had time or inclination to iron, they wouldn't know how (neither do most of the Laundry Shops around, BTW).

For those fortunate enough to have and wear either MTM or bespoke shirts, what are they really like to launder anyway? Am I expecting too much of my aspiring cotton? Will my "commoner" compete alongside the "royals"? A rejected nouveau riche? Or am I creating a problem that doesn't exist? Perhaps I only presume that someone wearing a T&A, for example, has it laundered (by a competent Laundry), and never sees it between washing and pressing.
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#2 shirtmaven

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 09:17 PM

I am not sure what your real question is.
Wrinkle free/ non-iron shirts are produced in two ways

the first is made in a very expensive factory.
shirts seams are glued together during stitching, to prevent puckering, then dipped in a solution and then baked.
there are some made to measure programs that offer this process. i know that Brooks Brothers offers this.

the second is to use pre cured fabric. this fabric is dipped in an ammonia bath during the finishing process.

I have made some shirts from this type of fabric. some of the fabric is undertreated and is not truely wrinkle free. and the finishing process wears off after 10-20 washes.
heavily treated fabric sews very poorly. seams pucker. it is not a pretty garment.

#3 Terri

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 09:35 PM

Perhaps the lack of chemicals used in producing your shirts and the fact that those chemicals won't be worn next to the skin might be a selling point to accentuate.
It is a good question though-will people who spend those $ on a bespoke shirt be laundering it or ironing it themselves?
Can you investigate launderers? But that is a time consuming project.
Maybe an internet link to how to properly iron on every business card that goes out with a shirt.

Early morning ramblings.

Edited by Terri, 02 May 2011 - 09:36 PM.

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#4 Kevin Koch

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 10:31 PM

I am not sure what your real question is.

No worries, I like to rant :-)
(see next post - Terri speaks with more clarity than I do)

Wrinkle free/ non-iron shirts are produced in two ways

Thank you, very informative! Never really like sewing with highly finished fabrics. Now I know why.
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#5 Kevin Koch

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 10:38 PM

It is a good question though-will people who spend those $ on a bespoke shirt be laundering it or ironing it themselves?
Can you investigate launderers? But that is a time consuming project.

Exactly!

Perhaps the lack of chemicals used in producing your shirts and the fact that those chemicals won't be worn next to the skin might be a selling point to accentuate.


Excellent idea! I live in a very green-conscious college community.


Maybe an internet link to how to properly iron on every business card that goes out with a shirt.


Also an excellent idea. What's your link address? lol
(just kidding of course)
Perhaps I could make a trifold instruction sheet to slip in the pocket too. Thanks, Terri! I like the way you think.
Kevin A. Koch
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#6 Nishijin

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 07:15 AM

Also an excellent idea. What's your link address ?


Here you are :

http://lavraiechemis...ne-chemise.html
http://www.paulgrassart.com

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
Mark Twain

#7 Kevin Koch

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 07:43 AM

Here you are :

http://lavraiechemis...ne-chemise.html

Hey thanks, Nishijin. Yeah, I had forgotten all about that link... I can just see them trying this at home (shudder).
Hmmm, maybe I will send that to our local laundry...
;-)
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#8 R.m.Bakker

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 09:58 AM

I am a bespoke shirtmaker. Most of my customers are enthousiasts; they appreciate the shirts they wear and they take the characteristics of the individual cloths as they are. They either iron it themselves or the wife irons them. Almost nobody goest to a professional launderer (and in Holland, I would actually advise them not to go there since they iron everything flat; I have yet to come across a good launderer that actually knows how to iron a shirt).

The customers that aren't enthousiasts, but merely typical customers are to be advised. Typically what I see is that the highest grades of shirting cloth, wrinkle with the first move made; sea island cottons especially. Only sell these cloths when the customer knows how to treat, wear and iron it. This is not for everyone.

To properly advise your customers you have to develop a certain feel for how the cloth is going to behave when worn, out of your experience; It's hard to tell from the swatches/feelers. For every quality I offer, I have 1 big feeler and then the individual, tiny swatches. Greatly examine the feelers before you set up your shirting business and "feel" how it reacts. Is it supple? or does is just feel supple and acually is quite rigid (ie does it flow or not)? Try to get some wrinkles in. Can you get em out again without ironing? It''s a little hard to explain but I guess it's what tailors do with woolens and other cloths. I am still learning that part of the trade and haven't developed that feel yet for wool, but as I said I guess every tailor or shirtmaker knows his cloth; You develop a feel for the cloth when you touch it and work with it and after a while can easily identify good cloth from bad cloth in different respects, both for yourself in making up as well as in wearing for the customer.

How the shirting cloth will react when washed is another thing entirely. I have some ofxord cottons that come out of the washing machine quite well, others would cause a heart-attack to anyone who doesn't want to iron; it looks like a wrinkled tissue. If you really want to know certain characteristics, call the weaver you're buying from (in my case, Tessitura Monti). They can always help you out. As I said my customers are mostly enthousiasts and appreciate that a more expensive cloth will wrinkle more and will be harder to iron. If I do however encounter someone who really doesnt like to iron, I call my supplier.

But even then, ironing a shirt is not hard. I find the link given by nishjin to be on the complex side for a customer. I have been thinking of doing a little tutorial for my customers myself, since Ironing as I said is not hard and if you know how to do it properly will only take a mintute or 2 and will give much better results than a crappy launderer.

The little card with a good illustration of how to iron a shirt is quite a good idea actually, I might think of doing that for myself as well.

In any case, "wrinkle-free" shirts are not my cup of tea. As said by others, they mostly have chemical finishes that either do not last or give the cloth certain undesirable characteristics. I have some swatches but never used them. I always advise shirtings that I know will iron well and will not wrinkle too much; in short, cloths that are a pleasure to have as a shirt.

And yes, you are probably asking too much of your cotton. There are some truely magnificent shirtings that wear great , wash great and iron great, like Zaffiro 140/2-140/2 from Tessitura Monti (Prince Rose collection), and you need to learn to identify them. Once you've found one then you can look for those same characteristics in other weaves. Then there are the ultimate luxury shirtings which frankly I hate to wear; the Sea Islands and anything above 200/2 200/2 are a pain in the ass. They feel like silk but wrinkle like printers paper.

Long story short; my advice to you would be to pick a good supplier (Albini/Thomas Mason, Alumo, Bonfanti, Tessitura Monti, Acorn etc of which all can be found in the directory somewhere on this forum). Explain what you need, let them advise you, and order accordingly. Also, educate both yourself and your customers.

Owner at Tailored.

Experienced Bespoke Tailor, Bespoke Shirtmaker.

Check out my blog, and business, at:

 

http://www.rubenbakker.nl


#9 Kevin Koch

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 01:09 PM

I am a bespoke shirtmaker. Most of my customers are enthousiasts; they appreciate the shirts they wear and they take the characteristics of the individual cloths as they are. They either iron it themselves or the wife irons them. Almost nobody goest to a professional launderer (and in Holland, I would actually advise them not to go there since they iron everything flat; I have yet to come across a good launderer that actually knows how to iron a shirt).

Thank you! It's great to hear from a bespoke shirtmaker. Outside this forum, most coat & trouser tailors don't know the first thing about shirts. I appreciate your informative comments. Very encouraging.

p.s. I will work on my cotton feelers :-)
Kevin A. Koch
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#10 Claire Shaeffer

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 03:48 AM

My husband has custom shirts from Hiditch and Key, Custom Shirt Shop, and some Asian tailors as well a range of rtw in various price ranges. The custom shirts are all cotton; since I don't have time or a maid to do the laundering, they go to the dry cleaner.

I'm a bit picky about how they look when returned and if I don't like the way they are ironed, I take them back. You don't have to do this too many times before the laundry gets the message--iron it right the first time.

The wrinkle free shirts are pressed at home. They could be worn without pressing but I don't like the wrinkles.

A major adv. of all cotton, untreated shirts is comfort. When you show your customer your fabrics, show him also a treated or wash and wear fabric. This will speak louder than most words. Fit is the major advantage of bespoke shirts. Have you considered working with a laundry in your area that would iron shirts they you want them so you could recommend them to your customers.

Claire Shaeffer

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claire.shaeffer@gmail.com

www.sewfari.org


#11 Kevin Koch

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 07:38 AM

My husband has custom shirts from Hiditch and Key, Custom Shirt Shop, and some Asian tailors as well a range of rtw in various price ranges. The custom shirts are all cotton; since I don't have time or a maid to do the laundering, they go to the dry cleaner.

I'm a bit picky about how they look when returned and if I don't like the way they are ironed, I take them back. You don't have to do this too many times before the laundry gets the message--iron it right the first time.

The wrinkle free shirts are pressed at home. They could be worn without pressing but I don't like the wrinkles.

A major adv. of all cotton, untreated shirts is comfort. When you show your customer your fabrics, show him also a treated or wash and wear fabric. This will speak louder than most words. Fit is the major advantage of bespoke shirts. Have you considered working with a laundry in your area that would iron shirts they you want them so you could recommend them to your customers.

Thank you for responding. Indeed I want to make custom/good fit my noticeable difference and I am still developing my shirts. They keep getting put on the back burner, but I really hope to launch something concrete in August. "This thing" depends on "that thing", etc.

I do have a local laundry that I believe might work with me. Good suggestion!

Kevin
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#12 shirtmaven

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 10:13 PM

My issue with Wrinkle free is how it glistens. I can spot this from 10 feet away.
this is different then the sheen on fine fabrics that are not overfinished with resins.
and yes. most mills finish with resins or enzymes that add a soft hand. these do wash off.
I have some 40 year old English, woven Sea Island cotton. it feels fantastic to the touch, as opposed to
the over finished fabrics that most mills produce.

#13 greger

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 07:19 AM

Todays world is different than many years ago. Can you buy cloth without fire retardant? The list of discoveries that has been added to cloth by now is long. All natural fiber cloth today has some sort of wrinkle resistance substance added. Non-iron-poly shirts became popular before wrinkle resistance was invented, and many women, who ironed their husbands shirts, didn't believe it worked for awhile. We have it so easy today, but I wonder about my health, but people are living longer, so maybe some of these inventions are not bad, but I wonder how many have been banned. Putting a damp cotton shirt in a plastic bag so to get rid of all the wrinkles when ironed hours later, less than half the population knows about that, the younger have never heard of it, have no idea how easy life is today.

#14 Kevin Koch

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 12:34 PM

Putting a damp cotton shirt in a plastic bag so to get rid of all the wrinkles when ironed hours later, less than half the population knows about that, the younger have never heard of it, have no idea how easy life is today.

:-) My maternal grandmother, may she rest in peace, ironed shirts for the business men in town around WWII. She not only wrapped the shirt up while damp, but then put them in the freezer before ironing to get the best results. Sometimes the simple ways are the first ones lost to technology.
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#15 greger

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 04:12 PM

There is freeze dry.

Also freezing whites will make them whiter.

#16 Schneidergott

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 03:19 AM

I work for a company that sells non iron shirts by the million each year, and we also offer them as a made to measure version.
The surface of the fabrics is very different from the natural versions, and I don't like the artificial feel.
Despite the fact that they don't let the skin breeze, they are the most selling product and customers are extremely fond of them.
I sometimes have to iron shirts at work and usually the ones that are not treated with chemicals are easier to work with. It seems that the non iron fabrics have a sort of built-in memory for wrinkles.

I'd say that the bigger problem for bespoke shirt makers is not to demonstrate the difference between untreated fabrics and the non iron ones, but to "fight" against the big marketing promises those non iron shirts are sold with.

"Nur der ist Meister seiner Kunst, der immer sucht, das Gute zu verbessern und niemals glaubt, das Beste schon zu haben."
"Only he is a master of his art who always seeks to improve the good and never believes to have the best already"

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