Today I decided to drop by Mr. Trabalza's workshop on La Cienega just north of Melrose. It's tucked away among other local businesses on this busy street in West Hollywood. A lady answered the door and walked to the back workroom and brought out the tailor. I didn't have an appointment but wanted to see what Trabalza would recommend for me as a walk-in visitor looking to become a potential customer.
I was wearing a recently made MTM blazer and trousers and asked him what he would do if he were to make a suit for me. What I had read about his preference for raised shoulders and shaped waists was indeed true. He went to the shoulder first, placed his palms on my shoulders and pressed in and up slightly, saying that he would raise and narrow the shoulder a bit. He said he'd also shape the waist just a bit more. But it's all a matter of a quarter inch here or there, nothing drastic. Trabalza liked the length of my blazer (which was reassuring to hear as I had heard he liked longer coat lengths). For my build, he said he was looking at the relationship between my shoulder width (fairly broad) and chest/waist (not as built or broad). Good point, I thought. But I was most impressed when he moved in to take a closer look at the shoulder of my blazer, stating succinctly, "Brooks Brothers". As a matter of fact, I was wearing a MTM Brooks Bros blazer.
I mentioned I had read the recent Robb Report article on him and Joe Centofanti. I also heard a bit about him from Victor, a salesman who works at Brooks Bros. Trabalza also mentioned that he was interviewed recently again (though I didn't catch the name of the publication). It seemed his business has been doing quite well. He said that for a few months last year it was incredibly busy but things have since tapered off to a more manageable level. On the long table near the front of the store, he pointed out three packages of suits and jackets that were being sent to customers living outside of California. On one of the walls, Trabalza has photos of Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarznegger, The Rock and others. With such high profile clientele, it is perhaps no surprise that he sees he has no need for advertising (cf. my previous entry on marketing 201 for tailors).
He's been working in the trade since he was 14 years old, which is a remarkable span of time. In two or three years, he mentioned it might be time to retire. Incidentally, this means that the two leading bespoke (or bench) tailors of Los Angeles - Giacomo Trabalza and Jack Taylor - might be retiring at roughly the same time. If you're thinking of going bespoke in LA, now's the time to start considering it.
The only question remaining is whether Trabalza will be able to find and groom a successor to his business. Whoever it is, he needs to be a tailor, Trabalza said. I hope he finds some takers. The other trait that he recommends for this business is having a real passion for tailoring. That explains why he's been in the trade for more than seven decades and still going strong.