(M Mathew) When I was still a fairly active member I received a couple messages from a high-profile member telling me, in no uncertain terms, not to divulge too many things related to the world of fine clothing. I don't consider myself an expert. But for him to tell me not to say certain things, and to feel that he alone can choose what can be divulged and share information accordingly was...just not right. The information which I shared was not "top secret" or information I gathered from him, either.
There are many. many reasons not to post information about the suppliers to small niche trades. One of them is that tradespeople spend an entire lifetime investigating their resources and these become prized possessions which they guard with jealousy from all, but especially from clients. Why? My client of this year may be John the Shirtmaker's client of next year. Do I really want my client to know that I buy my interlinings from Sam's Austrian Interlining Company so he can tell that to John the Shirtmaker next year? Another is that, specifically in the industry of fabrics, mills weave thousands upon thousands of patterns each year. Clothing clients will find hundreds of these attractive. Mills will require a purchase, usually of 60 meters minimum per pattern and per color. That, in the field of shirts, is 30 shirts per pattern per color. It is the rarest of clothiers that can possibly sell this quantity of shirts in every available pattern. Therefore, by making knowledge of these available, one does nought but cause a great deal of disappointment when the chosen maker simply cannot afford to purchase every single fabric pattern a client might happen to want. Another is that most of the resources you were posting are, by virtue of the miniscule size of this niche trade, small firms. Their sales/customer service staffs are, likewise, small. I use the specific example of a member who, last month, posted the contact information for the U.S. Agent for Pantherella socks. By increasing the quantity of telephone calls from a wholesale level of a few hundred shops to a retail level of thousands of interested sock wearers, the agent will have to increase the size of their sales force. The only way they will be able to pay for this larger staff is by increasing the price of the socks. Is this in the interest of the sock wearer? I, personally, think not. And that is exactly what I said to the poster who, upon reflection, deleted the contact information from his post. Another is that, in any trade, from hair cutters to machine shop operators, there is, by virtue of the fact that the tradesman knows how to do what he does and his clients do not, a certain amount of "mystique". Just as my awe exists at the work of some of my clients ... living in a multitude of homes, travelling amongst them on their own jets, running some of the largest firms on the Planet ... so does theirs for me in that I know how to take a set of measurements and manipulate them into a garment that fits, hopefully well. As I told you: When it came time for me to figure out how to properly execute an industry first, The Collection of Sartorial Excellence, I realized that I would not be able to answer everyone's questions all at once; that I would need assistance. In that context, I considered only two people. One was my oldest son, Damien, who has been cutting shirts since the age of eleven and is now an importer of fine shirting fabrics. The other was you. You, in response, asked me to explain exactly what you would be doing and I replied thus: From my e-mail dated 12/4/2004: Dear Mathew, It would involve your having an opportunity to learn how professionals in this field work with clients. It would require that you begin to understand that any business - except perhaps a hot-dog stand - has a certain mystique about it. Not everything about how, from where, and why a product comes into existence is revealed to the purchasers of that product on the first day. Some things are never revealed. As an example, someone on Andys asked me, "Is there a trick to fitting someone who has large or prominent pectorals?" My answer was, "Yes, there is. And I'm not going to tell you how." The finest example I can give you is a magician. The rule in the magic field is, "NEVER tell how a trick is done." I am not saying that custom-making should go to that extent. However, it seems to me that your sharing of the vast knowledge you have acquired has absolutely no bounds whatsoever. You need to begin to set certain limits on what you will and what you won't share. I would like to see you address this issue with me as this is the second time in as many months that I have brought it up with you. Alex
I told Alexander S. Kabbaz of the company that to this day manufactures the supposedly antique-and-no-longer-made shirt cutting knives, the R. Murphy Company, and gave him the contact information. I don't expect any thanks for these things.
After years and years of visiting virtually every cutler I could locate, I became convinced that what they were saying was true which was that the brass handled shirt cutting knives were no longer being manufactured. You learned to the contrary after a few years of searching and sent me the information. I responded: E-mail from Kabbaz dated 8/20/2004: Dear Mathew, That is awesome. Thanks for finding them. Alex Mathew, I believe the unpleasant tone of your post is unwarranted for reasons much greater than the examples you cited. You have failed to mention that, since your first contact with me back on November 5, 2002, you have always indicated that the field of men's bespoke clothing is of great interest to you and one that you wanted to consider for your career. As such, due to the dearth of youngsters entering these trades an your ebullient enthusiasm for all things sartorial, I have always encouraged you to the hilt. I suggested a number of firms with which you could apprentice. I invited you to come to my shop and spend time learning how shirts are made. I tried to work out the details so you could spend a Summer here as an intern in my clothing shop and really "get your feet wet" in the trade. I spent an entire day here in my studio with you and your Mom discussing all of these matters and trying to ensure that your parents, both esteemed physicians, would have no problem with you not adhering to your former goal of following in their footsteps. This may not seem like much to you, Mathew, but to me it was a big deal. I have always sought - even in posts on this very board - to find people interested in entering the bespoke trades at a young age. Believe it or not, it is one of the issues for which I have praised Michael Alden to the hilt, for his work in trying to cultivate the art of bespoke making closely parallels mine. Continuing the art of bespoke making can only be the responsibility of those in the trade, for none other are capable of such. Most makers, as you are well aware from your contacts, trials, and tribulations, consider this responsibility nothing but a pain-in-the-butt. That was not the reception you received. Quite the contrary was the case. Although I am unaware of the interactions you had with Chuck, I do know that he and I discussed your situation a number of times. I do know that both of us were racking our brains for many months on your behalf to try to find ways for you to get greater experience in the field while not interefering with your completion of your university studies. And then one day, sans explanation, you just broke contact. If you recall, I tried numerous times to find out from you what had gone wrong. Finally, after a series of e-mails from me, you responded simply that you were busy with school and that nothing else was wrong. Finally, as to your contention that the fora have become commercial, I both agree and not. While it is true that those makers who particpate do earn their livings through the making and selling of clothing, it is that very fact which gives us the knowledge we have. Do we cite our own work in our responses to members? Yes, when necessary. Is that a bad thing? Personally, I don't think so, for it is our own work which has provided the knowledge base from which we share. If we were not to use our own work as examples, what, then, would we use? Be our positions commercial or not, I really don't believe that you, or any other member, would contend that we have been anything less than forthcoming in the sharing of that knowledge when it applies to the questions a member might pose. I have no intention, nor desire, of beginning a debate on this matter. However, although on the face the facts you cite are correct, you have failed to state them in context. I have tried to set the record straight for the benefit of those who might otherwise view your post. Finally, if you have truly decided that bespoke making is other than your chosen career path, it makes me sad to lose such an enthusiastic and capable person as a future member of the trade.