Sunday, October 26, 2008

Open source tailoring

I came across a fellow blogger AstoriaUnderground, who put in a nice mention about visiting Sleevehead. In one of her recent entries, she also mentioned Burdastyle, which is a site dedicated toward "open source sewing" and patterns for women's clothing.

This is an intriguing and brilliant idea I think. It's a mashup of the open source concept that originated in software development with the world of patternmaking and pattern cutting. The idea is to assemble a forum and community of designers and patternmakers of women's clothing to create new designs and inspire new ones. One of the side benefits would be a common language of patterns.

How might this concept benefit men's tailoring specifically? Bespoke production is highly skill dependent and labor intensive. As we know, the supply of skilled cutters, coatmakers and tailors of men's clothing is very constrained, at least in the US. And the costs of bespoke production remain extraordinarily high. If there is a way to a create a standardized language of pattern cutting, this could potentially make it easier to educate and train cutters and tailors and lay the groundwork for affordable, high quality garment production.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vietnamese shoemaking: Tran Quoc Lan

At the height of the financial crisis a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) observing from afar the US-led meltdown in financial liquidity, solvency and accountability with a certain measure of disbelief. Nonetheless, I was in the region on vacation and had a specific place to visit in my itinerary - a shoemaker to be precise. I had read about AskAndy member m@t's experiences with a Vietnamese bespoke shoemaker named Tran Quoc Lan and thought to follow his footsteps so to speak.

Tran Quoc Lan store

Tran Quoc Lan store

The first step was getting my feet measured. The lady who measured my foot took two measurements around my right foot and drew an outline of both feet in her notebook. The older gentleman with glasses promised a very quick three day turnaround, perhaps because I requested a derby style that had been made for another customer. The older gentleman spoke English and the lady who measured my feet also spoke a bit of English. I showed her a photo of the design on my iPod touch and she pulled out a JM Weston shoe catalogue to find its pictorial equivalent. As I looked through their leather selection, the following colors struck my eye: 43 dark brown (the one I ordered), 74 chestnut, 78 maple, 35 maple (slightly darker than 78), 17 acorn, 101 deep brown and 108 olive/dark brown.

Tran Quoc Lan 2 eyelet derby 01

I ordered on a Saturday and picked up the shoes the following Monday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised by the results. I was most curious about how the overall shape would turn out. It reminded me a bit of the Edward Green soft square 888 last (see below right). For a shoe (and last) that was made in literally days, it was a remarkably well-fitting shoe. Given the time constraint, I suspect my last was probably a modified version of a preformed last (using the addition method). Nonetheless, the fit is superior to any RTW shoe I've tried out of the box. And the price? 65 USD.

Tran Quoc Lan 2 eyelet derby 02Tran Quoc Lan / Edward Green 888


The leathers are not nearly the level of quality you'll find at British, French, Italian, Austrian and other European shoemakers and the lastmaking may not be quite as refined. But if current results are any indication of future potential, don't be too surprised to find within the next 10 years a decently constructed pair of shoes with the label "Edward Tran" or "John Tran" in a store near you.

Additional links
- Styleforum thread on TQL's MTM Chelsea boots
- Styleforum thread on Hong Kong shoemaker Zee's Leatherware
- NY Times article on Kow How and Mayer Shoes in Hong Kong

Updated 05/09/09

Monday, October 13, 2008

Foster & Son fall schedule

I spent a very pleasant morning today chatting with Sarah Adlam and Emma Lakin. This is their first visit to Los Angeles. I also was there for my fitting, which Emma conducted. Below is their visiting schedule. If you've have any interest in fine bespoke shoes, do visit them while they're here in LA or the other cities below. They're absolutely delightful to talk to. Sarah's US mobile number is 978-967-5313.

New RTW samples (based on the Edward Green 88 last and a new last designed by Terry Moore)
Foster & Son LA visit

Closeup of RTW samples
Foster & Son LA visit

Foster leather accessories
Foster & Son LA visit

Bespoke samples 1
Foster & Son LA visit

Bespoke samples 2
Foster & Son LA visit

Bespoke samples 3
Foster & Son LA visit

Los Angeles
Monday 13th October 9.00am - 6.00pm
Tuesday 14th October 9.00am - 2.00pm

InterContinental Los Angeles Century City Hotel
2151 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles CA 90067
Tel: 310 284 6500

San Francisco
Wednesday 15th October 9.00am - 6.00pm
Thursday 16th October 9.00am - 12.00pm

The Fairmont Hotel
950 Mason Street, San Francisco CA 94108
Tel: 415 772 5000

Chicago
Friday 17th October 9.00am -6.00pm
Saturday 18th October 9.00am - 6.00pm

InterContinental Chicago
505 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago IL 60611
Tel: 312 944 4100

New York
Monday 20th – Tuesday 21st October 9.00am - 6.00pm
Wednesday 22nd October 9.00am - 12.00pm

InterContinental The Barclay
111 East 48th Street, New York NY 10017 1297
Tel: 212 755 5900

Washington
Thursday 23rd October 9.00am - 6.00pm
Friday 24th October 9.00am - 2.00pm

University Club of Washington (non-members welcome)
1135, 16th St. (NW), Washington DC 20038
Tel: 202 862 8800