Category: Interview

Homemade: 611 Menswear

I’m guilty of it – bashing overseas production and praising domestically made products. At its core, that’s what this series, Handmade, is about. While I root for team USA, there are times when I side with China, India, and Sri Lanka. That’s what Nigel, owner of 611, taught me. A men’s clothing line based in Philadelphia, 611 only dealt with local manufacturers when it launched in 2007. Ironically, and at the suggestion of several domestic partners, he transferred a percentage of his manufacturing overseas. With a few points of reasoning, he proved to me that both have their strengths and weaknesses. While I’m still passionate about this series and its message, I think it’s important to look at both sides in order to make a fair judgment. Your story: Hi, my name is Nigel and I am the founder of 611. Before I launched the line, I owned a music store called 611 Records, named after its address, 611 South 4th Street. In addition to selling music, we produced t-shirts with our logo printed on them, and that eventually expanded to bags and different varieties of t-shirts. After 14 years in business, 611 Records closed in 2007. About 2 years after, I lost a quite a bit of weight, and like any man or woman, became interested in fashion. I had the urge to bring the brand back to life, but this time, I wanted it to be something different. Working with a design consultant, I relaunched 611 as a clothing line for both men and women. Right before the relaunch, my wife and I attended Milan Fashion Week and seeing the international trends inspired the initial collection. The t-shirts that 611 Records made were laid back, but I wanted to make something more upscale. I had grown up and…

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tags: Fashon, Interview Comments: 6

Homemade: Wild Chairy + Giveaway

One of the purposes of Portrait of a Seamstress was to stretch the definition of a sewer to the max. The tie between sewing and sewing garments is so tight that most people automatically make the association when they hear the word. Think about people’s first response when you tell them you sew; most respond with the question, “Can you make me….” But there are so many people involved in the hobby who don’t sew clothes, as evidenced by Sara, who manipulates and stretches silk over canvases, and Caitlin, who crochets skeleton. I’m carrying that purpose into this series by featuring domestic makers of all types of products. The only common thread is that it involves fabric and a sewing machine somewhere in between start to finish. What makes this Homemade most interesting, at least in my opinion, is that Andrea Mihalik, owner of Wild Chairy, doesn’t know how to sew. That’s probably not the way Andrea would like me to introduce her, but I think this is inspiring. How many of you can bang out a Renfrew top or and Albion coat, but wish you could make shoes to go with it? Well, you can. Just because you don’t know how doesn’t mean you can’t. Stick around to the end because Andrea is offering approximately 2 yards of awesome fabric. Tell us your story: Hi, my name is Andrea, and before I started Wild Chairy, I was a photographer. I started photography when I was 5-years-old because my dad was in the trade, and I spent a lot of my childhood in the basement flipping images from the stop bath to the fixer and washer. Later I attended Tyler School of Art and became a photographer at the Philadelphia Daily News. Twelve years later with three children and a husband…

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tags: Interview Comments: 32

Homemade: Norman Porter, American Made Jeans

There are secret worlds of garment making. The bra industry is one of them, and it heavily guards its patterns, fabric, and notions, making it extremely difficult for any seamstress to become skilled in the trade (believe me, I know!). Another one is cordwaining, and the ability to receive training in this field is few and far between. Denim is another cloak-and-dagger industry. Just like lace, denim is its own breed of fabric, and it requires special treatment, care, and skill. It’s hard to find artisans specializing in making jeans, but luckily, one lives close to me. Norman Porter is based in Northern Liberties (north Philadelphia), and was started by brothers Mike and David Stampler, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania. There are moments when you meet someone and you think, “he’s got it going on.” I had that moment with Mike when I asked him to show me how his buttonhole maker worked (video below!), he said, “It’s broken, but I haven’t had time to fix it.” Yes, he fixes his own machines. This is the first of many posts in my new series, Homemade, which will highlight burgeoning, domestic businesses and companies. Just how Portrait of a Seamstress was meant to show how far the definition of seamstress can be stretched, Homemade is meant to show as well as inspire sewers that a hobby can be turned into career. They did it, and so can you. Tell us your story: David and I started Norman Porter as a response to our trouble finding consistent clothing that fit well and looked good. Because I am so tall, I’ve always had a hard time finding jeans for my height. I taught myself how to sew years ago when I wanted to make a pair of jeans for myself. That idea…

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tags: Interview Comments: 28

Shop Feature: Shop Juju’s

We hear Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Coco Chanel considered style icons a lot, but Angelica Huston, not so much. I remember watching her in Witches and boy, could she play a part. That movie scared me more than Jurassic Park, and Jurassic Park had me lying in bed, motionless and breathless because I thought the dinosaurs would notice me if I moved (true story). Witches didn’t scare me with its plot, but its character, Angelica, who could move an audience. I’ve only recently learned about her story – the New York Times wrote a great article on her a month or so ago. For someone to spit out Angelica as their number one style icon, well, it gets my attention. Leslie, the owner of Shop Juju, did just this, and when I read that answer, I knew she had a knack for what she does. I am a hunter.  I started rummaging through the attic as a child and honed in on my digging techniques. I really think it’s an innate thing – you are kind of predisposed to it, and either have it or you don’t. From the attic, I hit the streets, and I began haunting thrift shops. At age twelve, you don’t have a ton of loot so you make do with $5. I can stretch a buck, let me tell you. Then I was introduced to estate sales by my mom. I bought my first vintage dress at 15 years-old, and I remember that I brought it home and hand washed it. Then I altered it to fit me and that was the first time I sat down to a sewing machine.  I am not a sewer by any means imaginable, I don’t have the patience to stitch a straight line, but I use it…

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tags: Interview Comments: 1

Keeping Up with Portrait of a Seamstress

I’ve kept in touch with some of the subjects of Portrait of a Seamstress, and one of them, Caitlin, is an artist that I’ve had a lot of fun following. Her craft is split into two parts. On one hand, she makes dolls, including their clothes, and then photographs them in quirky vignettes, and on the other hand, she crochets skeletons based off drawings she previously sketched from memory. When I first interviewed her, I was really impressed how much of her heart was poured into each piece. As she makes each stitch, she relives memories in order to deal with them and move on from the past. I’ve been invited to a few of Caitlin’s shows around town, but until last week, I haven’t been able to make it. She’s currently showing new and old piece at a really cool coffee shop, Milk and Honey, in South Philly. It’s a different venue than where I first saw her work, Paradigm Gallery, but I like how the space brings her work into contact with everyday people, because sometimes, not everyone has the time or the interest to go to a gallery. I stopped by the opening, and Caitlin and I were able to catch up. We talked about projects we were working on, and I also met her boyfriend. Aren’t they the cutest (pictured together in first image)? Keep up the good work Caitlin!

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tags: Interview Comments: 0