OTC is honored to welcome guest contributor Jon Green. Jon is best known as one of the finest bespoke clothiers to be found anywhere. Jon is also a remarkable teacher, formally trained musician and a stellar arbiter of sartorial wisdom. We are more than happy to call him a friend.
There are those who believe that to be a credible custom clothier one must actually be a tailor and make the clothing. It recently occurred to me that what I do with my bespoke clothing business is much like what I did, and sometimes still do, as a conductor.
Although the vast majority of conductors play at least one orchestral instrument and/or compose music, (I am a pianist, a singer, a percussionist, and an orchestrator and arranger by training and experience), the conductor usually does not compose the piece or make the sound.
The conductor’s responsibility is for those who do produce the sound.In the aforementioned assessment the fact that I am not a tailor misses the point. My understanding of patterns, pattern making, how garments should be made, fit, and look, offers benefits for my clients that complement and enhance the efforts of the person who actually cuts and makes the garment.
To me it is impossible to be a great craftsman responsible for making the clothes and a ‘front’ man responsible for sales, marketing, and administration. Artisan craftsmen have very special skills, but they are not all encompassing. However, there persists a tradition in New York of custom tailors who “do it all.”
That tradition, it would seem, developed after WWII following the immigration to the U.S., specifically to New York, of European tailors, many of them Italians. At that time in Europe, most men wore suits every day (there was no sportswear) and young men in Italian villages apprenticed to a tailor at age 8 or 9, as one told me, to keep him off the street and out of trouble after school. (He understood then that his choices were to be a tailor, a butcher, a barber, or a mobster.)
Nino Corvato, an Italian-American New York tailor featured in the documentary film “Men of the Cloth” said, “It is impossible to train young tailors in the States. When young people come to me to learn tailoring after they have completed their basic education at 18, they have adult responsibilities and expenses and cannot make enough money to live on in NY as an apprentice.” I would add that, like an instrumentalist, if it is “not in the fingers” at age 14 it is too late for a major career.
In the global economy of today many of my clients require an international look that functions well wherever they go around the world; others want something more personal, or both. The background of an artisan tailor does not usually provide the breadth of expertise to be of use to these clients. My clients depend on me to coach them and to make for them what they want and need.
In a recent advertisement for a museum show in New York featuring the work of Leonardo da Vinci, the headline “Genius is Timeless” reminded me of what many call the ‘timelessness’ of our look.
If there is genius in what we do, it shows up in our clothes. We respect what our clients want their clothing to be for them. In distinguishing what they have not distinguished for themselves, we collaborate in the creation a personal expression that functions so well that it does not become dated. Fashion is fleeting, but (individual) style is for life.