Luxury clothing tailor in New York shares his job

  • Ronald Moore has been a tailor at French American Reweaving Co. in New York since 1967.
  • He repairs designer clothes with tears in the fabric or moth holes – and he’s one of the only ones left.
  • All of his team members are over 70 and are currently working at 50% higher capacity than usual.

It might look like a thrift store sorting room in some fancy place – Palm Beach, maybe, or Beverly Hills.

But better consider it the luxury fashion secret emergency room. Tucked away on the 14th floor of a nondescript 57th Street office building in Manhattan, every surface is filled with garment covers – designer names like Tom Ford, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani and Hermes are everywhere.

None of these garments are for sale, but rather sitting around awaiting surgical repair – the specialty of Franco-American weaving company. If a ruined item of clothing has been brought in tears to a designer store somewhere in America, there’s a good chance it will end up here hoping for a material miracle performed by Ronald Moore and his team.

The 70-year-old tailor who calls every customer “my friend” has worked for French American Reweaving Co. since 1967, when the city was teeming with such services.

Coming from the thriving clothing industry, weavers can mend snags in fabric, mend moth holes in fabric balls, or salvage a sleeve from a cigarette burn. But as clothing production has been outsourced – there are barely 11,000 garment workers today against 61,000 in the 1980s – the weavers have also disappeared.

“Lift up five fingers and pull out three, that’s the answer to how many of us are left – two in New York, at most,” Moore told Insider (or maybe it’s three, y understood Karlton Weavers and Zotta). The only remaining customers for such expensive and intensive services were upscale designer boutiques and a few savvy fashionistas.

Here’s a look at Moore’s work today.

Repairing an item of clothing is like real estate: it is all a question of location

man standing behind the counter in a business suit

Ronald Moore.

Courtesy of Mark Ellwood

Moore has been living in an upscale boys’ house since her mother passed away at the age of 13. Another of the residents was leaving for college in the fall of 1967 and suggested that Moore return to his after-school job shopping for the French American Reweaving Co.

The high-end name, Moore said, was a nod to both American owner Nathan Singer and the workforce, largely women who had trained in France before emigrate. It also served as a disguise for the Jewish entrepreneur so he could avoid the impact of anti-Semitism on his business when he founded it in 1930.

Moore started out as an apprentice, but stayed and ended up inheriting the business from Singer and his wife.

However, he does not do the weaving himself; this laborious process is still carried out mainly by European immigrant women who trained in the fabric factories there. “You intend to hand duplicate something that was originally machine woven, that has been calibrated to be so exact,” Moore said. He likens the process to a skin graft: the fibers are scooped from the hems or seams, where they won’t be noticed, and then peeled off. The hole, tear or burn is then rewoven, end to end, an invisible mending.

He turns down business if he thinks the results will not be acceptable. “I’ve had people pushing the problem on me, but I’m uncomfortable knowing the results won’t live up to my standards – I want it to be 100% perfect, or at worst 80%, ”he said. . “It’s like real estate: location, location, location – a tear on the back is different from a tear in the lower leg that no one will notice. Eye level, it must be right.”

Some fabrics are much harder to repair than others – and the hardest one might surprise you

His team cannot work with leather because it is not woven, and silk and muslin, both so light, are tough as well.

Strangely enough, cotton is particularly delicate. Its fibers are unruly when not plucked and become blurry, much like the end of a cotton swab, making it much more difficult to weave. Patterns vary in complexity – some are easy, while those where the pattern is part of the construction, like gaberine, are much more difficult.

Velvet is another difficult fabric to salvage – and that’s due to the construction, which Moore likened to the filter of an air conditioning unit through which fibers were pushed and secured, rather than woven. Still, he didn’t hesitate when boutique Giorgio Armani recently sent him a velor sports coat with a huge tear, especially when they mentioned it was for one of their VIP clients.

Thoroughly, Moore’s reweaving team tackled the project and managed to make an almost invisible repair. A few days later, Moore received a note from this client, a personal thank you from Liam Neeson. Another recent project: The costume department on the next

biopic of gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, who commissioned Moore’s team to mend vintage clothing.

Moore doesn’t have a website and doesn’t accept photographs of damaged clothing – it’s too hard to really assess them, he said, so locals can pass by and those outside New York will send him the troubled article. He has to deal with them personally to see whether or not he can tackle the problem, often ducking into the back office where his reweaving team is working to consult them.

It’s also the only way for him to offer a quote since prices vary: a small moth hole in a sweater can cost $ 55, while a cigarette burn on an intricately patterned jacket can cost $ 160.

The highest amount anyone ever spent on a single item of clothing was $ 900, to repair a costume that was badly moth-ridden. Moore said the owner found it valuable enough, both financially and emotionally, to spend so much.

The pandemic has made his work even more in demand

Considering the backlog of work, it usually takes several weeks for completion. But it might take a little longer right now, Moore said, as demand for their work has increased this year, in part thanks to the pandemic – or rather, its easing. At the start of the back-to-office mandates, the white-collar workers went to retrieve the formal wear they last wore in the spring of 2020 only to find the moths had feasted on them while they were in hiding. No wonder he said he was working at 50% higher capacity than would be typical for any given summer.

In fact, the biggest challenge Moore faces right now is not the demand but the supply of labor. Forty years ago there were six reweavers on the payroll – now he has only two and another part-time. “And no one on the staff, including me, is under 70,” Moore said.

Its workers, all European women, were trained in the mills there and learned their skills when they were young. He periodically instructs them to pass on their know-how to future apprentices, but this rarely succeeds. “That’s the problem around the corner – at the end of the day my staff are so exhausted because no one is as young as they used to be, and so they can’t cope with a mentorship or a training, ”he said. “We’ve had people here in their 30s, 40s and 50s who want to learn the trade, but they always give up at some point because it takes a long time to develop.”

Moore’s own children have not shown interest in taking over the business, but he said some of his grandchildren may. “Where I am right now is that I want to continue as long as possible, as long as the quality of our work is maintained and my staff are in good shape,” he said. “And so far we all seem to be healthy so far.”


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