And we're off!
I've lived just a few blocks from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) for more than twenty years, but have rarely been inside, aside from the bookstore and the museum. It's a very busy place; even the escalators move very fast!
Our large classroom is full of industrial machines and dress forms, with a large blackboard in the front of the class. There are roughly twenty students. Right off the bat, Professor B states that generally there's a 30% attrition rate; i.e., only 2/3 of us would be remaining by the end of the semester (which ends in May). Shades of "America's Next Top Model"?
The other students seem friendly. I'd say we're 2/3 men, 1/3 women: black, white, Asian, Latino, a German, maybe an Italian and a Russian; we didn't have much time to mingle. I suspect I'm the oldest, but there are a few other men with gray in their hair so I don't feel ancient. An artsy-looking group but not overly so; only one guy in a suit. I wore my black gingham shirt, mustard pants, toggle coat, and Clark's desert boots. I suspect I'm the only one who sewed his whole outfit but who knows.
A quick aside: I haven't been in a classroom like this in decades; I went to college with a manual typewriter (anybody remember Eaton's Corrasable typing paper?) and we took notes by hand (with ballpoint pens) in notebooks. Today, it seems, most students come to class with at least a smartphone that has a camera and movie capabilities; many have an iPad or laptop. If you need a record of what's being displayed (on a blackboard, for example), you just take a photo of it. If you want to remember what's being said, you video it. I guess this won't surprise many of my readers, but it did me!
This is Menswear Sewing, not pattern-making and certainly not fitting. The orientation of this class is professional; we're working toward making a professional shirt sample. Not having experience with an industrial machine (the classroom machines looked to be all Juki industrials) I'm a complete newbie. (And nobody asks about home sewing experience btw.)
Here's what we need to bring for next time (We'll start sewing next week). I already own the following:
Box of pins (plain straight pins, not silk pins)
Small flat head screwdriver (the kind that probably came with your home sewing machine)
Tape (transparent Scotch-type thing)
Thread (not the big serger cones, not home-sewing spools, but rather those chunky spools they sell at a place like Sil Thread; I have a ton of those).
18" plastic ruler with red pigment
Pencil, pencil sharpener, notebook (and maybe another pencil in a second color)
We all need to purchase at the FIT bookstore:
2 standard bobbins and 1 bobbin case (for the Juki machines)
1 standard presser foot
Left and Right zipper foot (with spring mechanism)
Screw (to attach presser foot)
Jar or something similar to keep our presser feet in. He also recommended we mark our feet to identify them as ours with perhaps a spot of nail polish.
We spent some of the class tracing plastic pattern pieces to make a men's dickey: i.e, a half-length shirt with no sleeves, onto white paper. I guess we'll use these down the line; I'm not sure when.
We also learned to thread the Juki industrials and spent about 30 minutes trying to control their speed. These machines go super-fast and, as someone who generally likes to sew slow for total control, I found them a challenge. We can have as much access to the machines between classes as we need, either in the Sewing Lab or in any vacant classroom (provided we sign the room out in advance). Naturally, the bulk of the learning is going to happen between classes, and the more time you put into it, the more you'll get out of it. For next class, we have to take three sheets of narrowly lined paper and,
with just a needle in the machine and no thread, sew perfect lines of
stitching down every line on all three pages. And hand it in!
We discussed different qualities of shirting, and were shown samples at different price points, from plain gingham to a luxury Etro print. For next time, we're to bring in 5 swatches (just swatches) of 100% cotton shirting costing at most $10/yd. (No info on where to purchase; I guess it's expected that students figure this out on their own). Also 4 18" pieces of shirting (cut parallel to the grain) to practice with. Professor B showed us how to do a burn test and how to tell if there's poly in the fabric (the hard bead in the ash). He explained that the length grain is the most stable, the crossgrain is the second most stable, and the bias is the least stable - and we were to refer to them in exactly that way.
Professor B explained how shirts are priced. I learned that CMT (cut, make, trim) is the manufacturing cost of a garment, but does not include the cost of fabric. So if your fabric is $40/yd and takes two yards, and the CMT is $10, your cost without profit is $90. Keystone is your profit and it's generally double that. So if your cost without profit is $90, adding your keystone brings it up to $180. If you have a "name" you might charge $200 (that's the wholesale price to the store). So Bloomingdales might sell the shirt for $400 -- double. Again, this is standard practice. It seems what happens more often is that they'll charge $500, knowing they'll sell a certain % at that price, then reduce it to $400 and sell so many more, and so forth. So they (Bloomingdales) will keep making money on that shirt until it sells for $200. Then, what often happens, is that, based on all the statistics they have tracked from your shirt, they'll manufacture their own private label shirt and sell it for $400 -- with none of the research and design costs you incurred as a manufacturer. This is why department store private label profit margins are huge.
It sounds like everybody in the industry knows what everything costs. So you can't sell your $10/yd. shirt for $800. Nobody's going to carry it. Of course, if you're a Tom Ford or a Giorgio Armani, the rules might be somewhat different.
And that's it, everybody. I found the pace of the class fast and the expectations very high. And that's exciting -- and new -- for me. A very different world from the one I've known for the last four-plus years.
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns, in addition to sewing for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!