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Best Areas in the U.S. for Tailoring?


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#19 greger

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Posted 24 July 2011 - 06:01 AM

Can't imagine the first video guy is from Portland. More like the other side of the continent. Maybe a transplant. We have so many of them here now, and they're awful. They can't drive. Don't know how to think about the outdoors, which there is lots around. Need help making decisions. And the list of helplessness and misinformation goes on and on. They are so terrible I want to move to a more sensible place as this place had been. So many transplants around here need their hand held like 3 year old's need it. I doubt that guy has ever seen a chicken lose its head from an axe, feathers plucks and the hairs burned off before it goes to the dinner table. The dreadful city slickers.

#20 Dirk

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 06:15 PM

"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."

To be honest, Portland is a very odd, yet strangely interesting place. I've got to admit I've only been there about four times, so perhaps I'm a little harsh on them. The only parts I've seen were IKEA and the hospital.

"Fine by me... I'll take the business from Portland :D"

Does that mean you're moving to Portland, Jason?

#21 tailleuse

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 03:08 AM

Can't imagine the first video guy is from Portland. More like the other side of the continent. Maybe a transplant. We have so many of them here now, and they're awful. They can't drive. Don't know how to think about the outdoors, which there is lots around. Need help making decisions. And the list of helplessness and misinformation goes on and on. They are so terrible I want to move to a more sensible place as this place had been. So many transplants around here need their hand held like 3 year old's need it. I doubt that guy has ever seen a chicken lose its head from an axe, feathers plucks and the hairs burned off before it goes to the dinner table. The dreadful city slickers.



When I was a kid, New York City still had live poultry shops. Once, when I was about 10, I was taken to one and without any warning, a chicken was grabbed from a cage, the man stepped into a back room, and a moment later he emerged with headless, featherless dripping thing (I think he had dunked it in boiling water). I ran from the shop.

I am a city slicker.


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#22 greger

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 11:12 AM

So, you still haven't seen a chicken the second after it lost its head. Dunking in boiling water is for plucking the feathers.

Been around black bears, cougar, bobcat, deer (a nuisance in the garden), beavers, muskrat, porcupines (thought about petting them a couple of times), raccoons, coyotes, attacked by an owl, mountain sheep, mountain goats (thought about riding them several times) When I was four or five and six granddad would put me on a heifer when it was leaving the barn, (quick short rides). Some places young male black bears really are a danger. Pitt bulls should be shot on sight, which has given me more concern than all the others mentioned (they are also in the city).
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#23 Dirk

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 08:06 PM

"Seriously, you can get killed out there! Posted Image It's dangerous. Posted Image"

Is it not true that a man dies every day in Dallas Texas? Man is the most dangerous animal out there, as they kill not instinctively, but emotionally. I am more afraid of a human than a cougar.

The mere thought of Portlanders driving makes me never want to even look at it on a map.

Nobody know's how good Wisconsin would be for business, a town of 8,000?

Edited by Dirk, 30 July 2011 - 08:17 PM.


#24 rs232

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 06:32 AM

Dirk, if you're doing brief market reserach, look up how many people are already doing it to get an idea of entry barriers. I would venture that if you can't find many <10K population towns in Wisconsin with tailors, then it would be a hard market to crack. If the opposite applies, then you just need to find yourself a town that doesn't have a tailor.

And yes, you'll need to get good at making hunting and recreational clothes.

#25 Dirk

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 10:17 PM

Well, it looks like Wisconsin won't be any good for having a shop: According to Dex, there are about 10 actual tailors in Milwaukee, and about 5 or so in Madison, the two biggest cities.

See, I'm researching this because I need to find a place where I can go under an apprenticeship, and have a shop of my own somewhere afterwords.

Edited by Dirk, 10 August 2011 - 10:26 PM.

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#26 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 07:33 AM

What are you defining as "Actual" tailors? because you'll be surprised to find how many are just alterationists or outsource their garments to MTM factories.
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#27 Schneidergott

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 03:12 PM

According to this site and the names in the list, the majority of shops seem to offer mostly alteration services, with a little bit of "custom" tailoring at the side.

http://www.findacust...m/USA/Wisconsin

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#28 Dirk

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Posted 12 August 2011 - 11:24 PM

By actual tailor, I mean bespoke tailoring. This is why I think Wisconsin wouldn't be any good for business - if there aren't many true bespoke tailors, there isn't large enough demand.
What other states would be good for tailoring? The only I can find that have a high demand for bespoke tailors are cities such as New York and Chicago, and I don't exactly want to move to a big city, nor do I have the money to move to a rich suburb... now that I've been researching for a while, Portland isn't looking so bad.

Jason, it sounded like you said before that you were moving to Portland? Great book by the way!

I'll look at that site a bit, thanks Schneidergott.

I don't suppose anybody knows of any Portland tailors willing to take an apprentice?

Looking it up in Dex, it appears that there are only a few there, namely being; http://www.dexknows....iloring-b279282 http://www.dexknows...._tailor-b306733 and http://www.dexknows....ilor-l805583441

Edited by Dirk, 13 August 2011 - 12:09 AM.


#29 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 06:17 AM

Actually SG... I'm sure a lot of those are misnomers. Here in Seattle there is "Marios Custom Tailors" and they only do alterations, not having done bespoke since Mario died many years ago.

Dirk, no I'm not moving to Portland. There are enough clients there that I would travel down from Seattle.
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#30 Schneidergott

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 06:36 AM

Actually SG... I'm sure a lot of those are misnomers. Here in Seattle there is "Marios Custom Tailors" and they only do alterations, not having done bespoke since Mario died many years ago.


Add to those the resellers of machine made "custom", most likely not even made in the US. Terms like "at affordable prices" are always suspicious!

"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"

http://www.dressedwell.net/ It's snarky, but fun.


#31 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 06:39 AM

Yes, despite Dirks concerns, there are really very few "real" tailors about. I am sure you can find alterationists that can and do custom work, but they are few and far between and I guarantee they don't do enough custom work to warrant an apprentice.

America really needs a proper tailoring school... you hear that Mr. Koch?? ;D
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#32 Todd Hudson

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 07:36 AM

First I would like to address the topic of good/bad city related to selling bespoke suits and operating the business appropriate to available skills and price point. Then I will address the question of where to learn to cut and sew the bespoke suit.

In every city, across all demographics, people need suits for events (marriage, divorce, promotions, Sunday church) and body type (short, tall, portly). By making your service available to the community you are connected with, the service will be used by people either participating in those listed events or with body type issues.

Within the city of your choice, find the community you connect with and sell them suits. Your community is based on the language you speak, your educational background and your "lifestyle". Lifestyle is a codeword for class. Read Paul Fussell to learn more. Anytown, USA needs a bespoke tailor as long as the community you connect with is large enough and your price point meets the market. If you speak Chinese, it doesn't matter how how big the town is, as long as there are a bunch of Chinese speakers living there. Some cities have higher percentages of your community living nearby than others. For example, San Francisco and New York are full of people with advanced degrees from Ivy League schools. Joliet, IL is not full of Ivy League grads, but rather full of ex-convicts. There are many people in Joliet who need custom suits so as to celebrate the event of being released from prison.

Your price point must meet your market. If you need low prices in order to move the product, you need cheap rent and cheap labor. One form of cheap labor can be contracting a suit factory in another city to do the CMT (cut/make/trim). The factories typically work with their own patterns based on your provided measurements and technical sketches. They can send you a baste-up for first fitting so you can fit it as you client likes it. Most likely they will send you an easy, boxy suit which is a good place to start when fine-tuning the fit. If you are bad at fitting, the final suit will fit badly and you can not blame the cutter. If the baste up can not be fitted, either you don't know how fit or you provided the wrong measurements. Unless you are an expert cutter/fitter yourself, you have no grounds to convince the factory that it is their fault because they don't trust inexperienced fitters. Tailors who work with factories either send it back for final sewing, or finish the suit themselves or have an alterationist on hire who can finish marked-up suits.

Another way to keep your suit making costs low is to locate your workshop in very low-rent area to save money on rent. Do sales calls and fittings at the client's location instead of making them travel to the ghetto or boonies. If you have a crappy car you are self-conscious of, park it down the street away from the client's house. My rep told me about a clothier that does that.

Instead of using cheap labor to do the sewing, you can force yourself to become really quick at sewing suits thus increasing volume and effectively cheapening your labor cost. It can take years to become really quick but it is humanly possible. The best tailor I met could cut and sew a bench-made two-piece suit in 2 days or less. He has been sewing suits for more than 60 years and is very valuable to the theater he works for. They called him "magic fingers" cause he was so good at controlling the cloth either by machine or hand stitching.

The approach to learning to sew suits quickly is to start with a fixed price product with limited weight/weave of cloth, limited design choices and same internal construction. That way you get used to working with the same kind of cloth over and over and the same construction over and over. As a new tailor, most of your trouble will be fitting and getting over the neophyte awkwardness working the cloth. Getting used to radically different kinds of cloth makes construction even more awkward for a beginner. You can help yourself to work efficiently by limiting the cloth offerings to easy-to-make weights/weaves.

When you are a green tailor, don't be embarrassed to tell clients, "sorry I can't recommend that cloth choice at this time because my skill set is not up to that yet and I am afraid you won't be satisfied with the final product." The client will respect your honesty and trust you more. That trust is very important to building long relationships. That same client will someday buy suits from you that cost twice as much because your skill level will have caught up with his taste for fine cloth.

When marketing yourself, push your bespoke suit product itself rather than the bespoke "anything you want" service angle. It is bespoke because you make it yourself and fit them in person. However, when speed and volume are of the essence for a poor,inexperienced tailor, you must shy away from clients who equate bespoke with frills they have seen more experienced tailors offer in London. You are not there yet. You can say yes to all their frilly requests and they may agree to the extra charges, but the landlord will not be fooled when you take too long trying to figure out how to make a frilly suit to pay rent. The time spent on making the frilly suit is time lost from practicing your basic suit skills which is the gravy of your business. You must master the gravy before you can serve the foie gras.

Once you know how to make and fit the basic suit by yourself, you barely need sales skills because your position as the maker of the product sells the product. If you are still poor at sales, you can hire that service out easily. Your sales person can be a part-timer from the RTW trade. Also, once you know the making and fitting well, you can train labor to do the sewing under your supervision while you concentrate on the most valuble skills: cutting and fitting.

So how will you learn to make a bench suit since there are no bespoke tailors available to train you in the town of your choice? If you want to learn to make fine suits there are suit factories full of men and women trained in making hand-made suits. Some of them worked for bespoke tailors when they were young in the old country. Although I do not contract factories at this time, I have a warm spot in my heart for them. I like factories but only if I am in them myself.

At first you will have a lowly job in the factory sweeping floors. Somehow, you need to get into the union if there is one. Then you will work your way up from sewing simple seams to more complicated tasks. The best tailors in the factory are setting sleeves and collars. They will lose patience with you right away and tell you to stop asking advanced questions when you don't even know how to sew well. You will have to earn respect from the elders so that they will share skills with you. Those tailors know every job of making the suit and they usually are the factory foreman.

Entering the world of apparel as a know-nothing, you must work as hard as a poor immigrant. You can't speak the native language of the masters and you have no fine skills to offer. You pay your dues by living cheaply, living in the ghetto and trying to learn a new language (either foreign language or technical language). At home, you practice making suits for yourself and friends. Bring your homework into the factory to show the foreman and they will give you tips and maybe promote you step by step up the latter until you know all the suit making tasks by heart. Maybe it will take 10 years, but a good bespoke apprenticeship takes 9 years right?

Although you may develop the tenacity of the poor immigrant, you are not fooling anyone at the factory. They are giving you training, secrets and skills knowing you will ditch them to start your own shop and sell $5000 suits. They may resent or envy you because of your privilege. You are coming from a position in society where is it easy for you to learn cutting (the most rare, highest paid skill in the factory) because you can read English and have internet access and free time on your hands instead of washing dishes overtime at a restaurant. Also, you can connect with rich people at any given moment because you have the background, lifestyle, speak/read/write proper English and you are familiar with social networking. You have a hand above the factory workers.

The foreman and manager, conscious of your ability to borrow money easily and hobnob with rich gentry, will be afraid you will steal labor from the factory when you leave to open your own little shop. You should make friends with the accountant to find out how long the factory will last in the this over-seas labor economy. The other person who will tell you how long the factory will last is the guy who sells them thread and canvas. Maybe if the factory closes, then you are the only person who will hire the workers and buy thread.

Or perhaps I am wrong about the attitude of the veterans. Maybe they will celebrate your journey toward high-class tailoring, give you warm-fuzzy feelings along the way and wish you the best when you resign.

Here are some suit factories that make floating canvas suits that might need floor sweepers:
Adrian Jules in Rochester, NY
Oxford in Chicago, IL
Hart Sharfner Marx in Chicago, IL
John Daniels in Knoxville, TN
IC Clothing in Los Angeles, CA
Martin Greenfield in Brooklyn, NY
Southwick in Haverhill, MA
Hickey Freeman Rochester, NY
Giliberto Designs in NYC, NY
Trinity in Ridgeland, MS

BTW, I hear from my cloth rep that Texas is going crazy for suits right now. The economy is booming there. However, most of the purchases are for suits made in factories outside of Texas. The Tejano cutters have already died off.

Otherwise, you should intern at a theater costume shop. The bigger the better. Thanks to patriarchy, most lead roles in plays are men who happen to need suits.

Good luck! Contact me directly if you need a talking too.

Edited by Todd Hudson, 13 August 2011 - 07:36 AM.

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#33 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 05:34 PM

There are many people in Joliet who need custom suits so as to celebrate the event of being released from prison.


I nearly pissed myself on that one Todd!
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#34 Sator

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Posted 13 August 2011 - 06:11 PM

Great post, Todd!

Within the city of your choice, find the community you connect with and sell them suits. Your community is based on the language you speak, your educational background and your "lifestyle". Lifestyle is a codeword for class. Read Paul Fussell to learn more. Anytown, USA needs a bespoke tailor as long as the community you connect with is large enough and your price point meets the market. If you speak Chinese, it doesn't matter how how big the town is, as long as there are a bunch of Chinese speakers living there. Some cities have higher percentages of your community living nearby than others.


Observing the clients that come in for fittings at an Italian tailoring store I am amazed that about 75% of the clientele speak Italian. In this community there is still a living culture of going to the sartoria Italiano for your abito su misura.

This new world city used to have its fair share of Jewish tailors, who had fled the turmoil of Europe last century. There was a similar situation in the US, but the children of that generation have mostly taken up other professions. Perhaps in the Jewish community you may still find a nostalgia for old world bespoke suits to be worn for special occasions. Advertising that your coats are shatnez would be important in this situation.

#35 Dirk

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 12:17 AM

Wow, thank you Todd - that answered many questions I was looking up answers for. What kind of population do you think a town of 8,500 would need to have to support a tailor? As far as I understand, there might be one tailor where I had in mind.

J: Ahh, I see what you meant now - there isn't much business in Seattle than?

That's interesting, Sator - I'll have to remember that, what about the shatnez.

Edited by Dirk, 14 August 2011 - 12:17 AM.


#36 Todd Hudson

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 05:46 AM

What kind of population do you think a town of 8,500 would need to have to support a tailor? As far as I understand, there might be one tailor where I had in mind.


By "population" do you mean size of target market within town with population 8,500? Or by "kind of population" are you asking for a description? Please restate question more clearly. You must ask questions very carefully when doing research because the types of people who gather and disperse large sums of knowledge are typically overtly literal such as those with Asperger's syndrome. Compose specific queries and you will be provided specific answers.

Cut to the chase: Call cloth reps that might serve that tailor and ask them "Is this guy moving any suits?" and "Who is making this guy's suits?". Ask them other questions too about good cities and if they know a nice cutter/fitter/tailor/factory willing to train you. Check this list here: http://www.ctda.com/...dors.htm#fabric

Now that you have inside information on tailors call them and find out if they are taking on apprentices.

If you want know about what kind of suits can be sold in a city, find out what particular tastes for cloth are already present in that city. You've heard that expression "follow the money" when investigating? In fine tailoring, FOLLOW THE CLOTH. The cloth finds the market for which it is intended. The proof of the power of the cloth is that it makes the sale. Our job is to find people that appreciate the cloth we present (dry goods we have sourced and imported), and then convert the desired cloth into raiment.

All the reps are trying to break into all of the markets whether they be big/small/low class/upper class. All the reps offer cloth appropriate to each market, despite the price points. Since only cutter/tailors and clothiers have the means to convert the cloth into suits, markets are dry without the those local sellers. However, if you research that dry market and find out that dressmakers are doing well selling expensive silk and lace dresses, then there should be a bit of vacuum for a men's tailor to get sucked into. The vacuum is that sucking sensation you feel from men desperate for fine suits. Their wives have "couture" (they claim) dresses, but the men are stuck in ready-to-wear shame.

Thus, an additional avenue to research a town is the nearest, best, most expensive home sewing fabric store. Ask the store if they have imported cloth and what kind of customers are buying it. Ask them the names of tailors and high-end dressmakers nearby. Also look up the store itself and the names they give you on Yelp. If people on Yelp complain the store workers act like snobs, that is a good sign. The upper class people with real money don't use Yelp because they don't want to publish their pecuniary habits to the world - it is distasteful. Then call the dressmakers/tailors to make friends and get their description of the local market.




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