Professional Style Farmer
- Mar 14, 2008
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StyleForum Interviews CEGO's Carl Goldberg, Part II
Words by Ben P.
For Part I visit here. CEGO recently moved their shop, and is now located at 254 Fifth Avenue, 3rd Floor.
Ben P: When someone's going to buy a shirt off the rack, what should they look for?
Carl Goldberg: 90% of shirts are all made in factories using all the same machinery and the same methods. They're all made in automatic factories with computerized equipment and they all look the same. You put the fabric down, you push a button, and a machine sews it instead of a person. There are certain brands that make a really nice shirt. I"m amazed how Kamakura sells a shirt for the price they do, because it's a really nice garment.
B: Is it still machine made?
CG: It's done by sewing machines, but it's not being made by computerized sewing machines.
B: How about the Italian shirt brands? Which ones are good?
CG: Tom Ford's Made in Italy shirts - or maybe Switzerland - is beautiful. It's really a beautiful shirt. The high-end Zegna stuff as well. But you're talking about a $400, $500 shirt. I'm not a big fan of what's called hand stitching. I think it's more for show. It's different from a suit where the hand stitches give the garment a chance to move. A shirt needs to be a little tighter so the stitches don't break. I've seen numerous Borelli shirts that are do some hand stitching at the armhole and the stitches have popped. I've seen hand-button holes that are so awful it's depressing.
B: Do you think the button-hole is a mark of a good shirt?
CG: Oh no. There's one or two sewing machines that make the most beautiful button-hole you've ever seen. I'd much rather see that than a sloppy hand button-hole.
B: One thing I did want to ask about is the epic fabric debate over Simonnot-Goddard chambray. Is there any advice you can offer for people looking to purchase fabric to bring to tailors?
The problem is... I've had people bring me fabric that's just so embarrassingly bad that I just wouldn't even use it. Recently I had this young guy bring me some crazy looking stuff, and we've been making shirts for him that are more streetwear looks - we've used three different fabrics, one had a leather collar, and it actually came out very well. I know people buy from Acorn, and out of the Acorn line I'd say 75% of the line is really not good. I've seen stuff come through and I don't know where they're manufacturing - they don't make their own fabrics, they're contracting it out - and I've seen some stuff that's just terrible.
B: And Simonnot-Goddard chambray?
CG: Let's not go there.
B: You're not a fan?
CG: It's terrible! The very first time someone showed it to me I had not seen it on the internet. I looked at it - and this was a nice guy and a good customer - and I said "where'd you buy this crap?" And he looked at me like I had just stuck him in the arm with a pin. He'd paid $100 or so, and I said this stuff's terrible. I hadn't even looked that closely, I'd just felt it the first time. That was the first time I've across this so-called special fabric which I didn't think that was very special. It's a poly-cotton workshirt. I think that the chambray trend is waning a little bit. People still like them, but they're not nearly as popular as they used to be.
B: What do you think the next big trend will be?
CG: I don't know. What I do is very specific. I have certain fabrics I like.
B: Just in general? You're part of the industry. What do you see on the horizon?
CG: I still see that there's a move to dress up, to wear a dress suit with slacks or a suit with or without a tie. There's still customers who like a big wide collar, but for my customers I try to talk them into a more classic look, maybe with an interesting fabrication. I'm getting some of my customers to pick some interesting things. Some interesting stripes. I'm still selling checks, still selling 60% checks, 40% stripes, if not more.
B: Have you seen what customers are ordering change over the years?
CG: I'm tired of making gingham shirts and hopefully everyone else is tired of wearing them. Really what's come down is that there's an entire generation of young guys whose fathers dressed poorly and they did not have the benefit of their fathers giving them advice. That's where the internet came in, places like StyleForum and originally AskAndy and a few other forums. In my fathers day if he saw someone who was well-dressed, in the right situation, he wouldn't be afraid to ask "that's suit's beautiful, where did you get it made?" It was more of a word-of-mouth business for certain types of tailors and shirtmakers. Well-dressed didn't go to a place because of a good PR firm.
B: Who makes your suits?
CG: I trade with Mr. Ned primarily. I make myself unconstructed shirt jackets that I wear occasionally.
B: Do you have any advice for someone new to men's clothing?
CG: There's nothing like going into a brick and mortar store and trying something on. Hopefully where you're going there's someone you can trust who will steer you into something that's nice and give advice. Hopefully there's someone who's not going to put something on you that's not right and push you out the door. The other thing is, sometime it's better to buy a few expensive things you like rather than a lot of inexpensive things that are crappy.
B: What’s next for you and CEGO?
CG: The next chapter for CEGO is a new shop at 254 Fifth Avenue. A larger, more elegant space where you can see the shirts being made, and maybe if you are nice, ill offer you a scotch while I take your measurements.