Tag Archives: clothing

EHC Spring Break

Hi thanks for visiting our blog! Before you read on, please check out our video series on EHC YouTube channel – to subscribe at: Couture sewing tips and secrets demonstrating couture hand sewing techniques that we use daily at Ecole Holt Couture; sharing with you what you can use on your own sewing projects. Useful tidbits not commonly known about couture and tailoring will continue to be added to the series!




Friday was the final day of classes before Spring/March break [classes resume again in two weeks] and we started this momentous day by celebrating with takeaway coffee and pastries from Phil & Sebastion – a popular local coffee house – a rare treat for all of us during school hours.

While debriefing and reviewing the past 10 weeks revealed all our accomplishments, struggles, hiccups and advancements made since January, we checked where everyone is ‘at’ with their projects and where everyone is ‘at’ in their heads.

The pressure to finish projects and collate time and cost sheets is at its greatest right now, but we remain calm in the knowledge that we’re all friends in the same boat. We discussed what needs to be achieved in the next few days for submissions and then what everyone is planning to do during spring their break: travelling to sunny destinations, sailing on the west coast, sleeping, showing at Western Canada Fashion week in Edmonton , and catching up on paperwork were roughly the responses – guess which one was mine!

This term in review the fourth year students were introduced to several new cutting and construction techniques tried on half scale models, more full scale projects using expensive silks and wools, they created clutch handbags and fur muffs, tested new shirring and smocking methods, and created handmade flowers petal by petal.

First year students are currently mastering matching and joining patterned fabrics creating garments which almost appear to be printed after construction rather than before, much the way a sculptor chips away at stone revealing what is there after the excess is removed. Second year students are working with high performance sportswear fabrics creating Rubik cube type constructions in which sequencing is everything. Not just single points to become frustrated with but a multitude of points that all need to come together perfectly.

In spite of (or because of) the challenges everyone is anticipating next Term not only because of the amazing potential for mid-stream students, but also to clinch the final term for EHC fourth year graduates.  We will also be shooting more ‘tips and secrets’ videos, planning the next fashion event for November and the graduation ceremonies. EHC continues to develop and evolve. Asked what anyone else would add, their comments were:

“I’m in awe of how much we’ve have accomplished in this term…” – Hannelore, 4th year

“Where has the time gone… I can’t wait to continue in April!” – Chelsea, 4th year

“This has been completely unique to my past experience, and I’m really excited about learning more and more new techniques…also, looking forward to some sleep!” – Kelsey, 2nd year

“My greatest challenge is learning how to achieve my optimal state of mind for my best level of productivity.” – Hanny, 1st year

“Each student is so totally unique, it is a such pleasure to see their development and gratifying to see that this art will indeed continue” – Elfriede, EHC Founder

“This job is so rewarding on so many levels, it will be really interesting to being witness to future developments” – yours truly, J



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IMG_0926After asking our students about topics for this blog, they immediately replied ‘what about what we do in class all day long!’ Other than our particular projects (which are pretty exciting in themselves) this is what happens.

At the moment we have 3 separate classes running at different levels, but at some point during the week all the students are together and interact with one another to share struggles, ideas, and insights (including their opinions on what they’ve seen featured on entertainment awards this spring). Here we strive to promote good communication as a key factor in effective mentoring as well as in learning (this is not unique).

On some days the class room and the studio at EHC can be a very quiet and serious place. You can literally hear a pin drop, and when it does, it can turn out to be a bothersome distraction to everyone.  As in professional haute couture or bespoke tailoring, only very rarely do you hear the constant chinking or motors buzzing from sewing machines; more commonly heard is the sound of a steam iron sighing and its thermostat switching on and off, and the tinkle of a pair of scissors coming to rest on a padded table.

On another day, if you were to drop in secretly like a fly on the wall, you may witness trivial chatter,  classical music, silly hilarity and occasionally the smell of coffee gone cold (from a quick well-deserved break) still all signs of productive creativity wrapped up as a combination of stressful cockup and victory, agony and ecstasy.

We usually start the day around the table altogether with a short informal meeting (and usually a hug) before new class material is presented. Classes are intensely concentrated, so this helps everyone to settle and prepare for the 5 hours of tuition ahead. It is courteous to allow everyone to become oriented, shift onto the same track, and make sure that everyone is ‘in’ on the latest updates.  But, it is also extremely productive to the rest of the day, and good management practice as it happens. If someone has experienced problems or unsettling events, sharing it usually soothes frayed emotions and provides support; on the other hand sharing reasons for high spirits makes everyone more cheerful and focused.

One of the 4 or 5 major areas of study in the program (other than design theory and history, pattern drafting, sewing and construction, and couture business essentials), is learning how to Fit a garment.

Fittings for each project module, which are made life size, are demonstrated on the student’s actual garments by the students under supervision. Everyone’s Body is unique and, we’ve found this to be the best way to teach methods and concepts to the art and science of achieving a perfect fit, rather than on mannequins.

Students learn by observing and doing fittings and are encouraged to ‘think out loud’ as they progress through the fittings, to express every little reaction or plan of action. All this can be extremely intimidating for the beginner (student and client alike), and so tactfulness and truthfulness are balanced by being patient and courteous (this helps a great deal), verbalizing the ‘ins and outs’ of the fitting process, and having knowledge of the intended outcome, all contribute to fully understanding what to do.

Open communication is also crucial when performing fittings on paying clients – a couturier or tailor not only needs to take mental note of their client’s reactions and comments, but at the same time should explain to their client ‘what’ and ‘why’ they are making a certain adjustment. This may seem ‘unprofessional’ to some, but most clients really appreciate being involved in the fitting to know that they are being taken seriously.

By the end of the school day, everyone is exhausted. Though it is challenging it is fulfilling at the same time. Some days your head just spins ridiculously with new ideas and plans, and other days seem to be dedicated to just jumping one hurdle and busting that terrifying mind block – but each new day, we really looking forward to doing it all again.


Visit our new webpage called ‘couture sewing tips and secrets’ for a new video series on ‘how to’ sewing basics and some secrets…


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What’s on your wardrobe menu!

What do you have in your wardrobe: ‘haute couture’, ‘ready-made’ and ‘home made’? Using the analogy of dining is a good comparison, because everyone understands it and enjoys food on a basic ‘need’ level all the way to a luxurious ‘connoisseur’ level in some way.

Impulse buy garments made of synthetic or cheap fabric, plus using quick fixes such as safety pins to hold something together is like grabbing a quick cookie, chocolate bar or a bag of crisps – it’s fast but really  only a remedial solution to your sudden pangs of hunger between meals. 0 – $

Inexpensive throw-away clothing items are ones that you wouldn’t be wearing more than a few times is like noshing on frozen microwave dinners or reconstituted pot noodles – it’s fast and easy but doesn’t adequately satiate or nourish you properly. $

At home casuals like T’s, yoga and pajama pants not meant to be worn outside the home, are items that you don’t want a whole wardrobe of either, is like picking up take-away chicken, or burger & fries from a drive through – handy on road trips and cheap dates, but you shouldn’t eat it every day. $

Home sewing for your family using Simplicity patterns, Vogue, Burda or other commercial patterns is practical, provides some instruction, and mostly does the job but is not necessarily inexpensive. However, you do know exactly what goes into it, and is like growing your own vegetables or shopping the farmers market choosing your own ingredients – it does require experience, planning and time to prepare a wholesome, nourishing and tasty meal. $$

Your favourite chain store brands or department store clothiers offer far more variety and much wider range of styles and sizes for jeans to business and day to day garments – is like eating at family style restaurants and buffet style serveries that have varied menus with a little something for everyone. $$

Boutiques and high end designer label shops are like delis, and up-scale cuisine eateries where you can take your time; expect better quality product and better customer service – all of which you will pay quite a bit more for. $$ – $$$$

Flagship stores which sell ‘couture fashion’ of markedly higher quality are akin to Michelin Star and celebrity restaurants where you not only come to dine but you come for the service, unique experience and atmosphere.(if you have to ask you can’t afford it)

But what tops all of that is owning investment pieces in your wardrobe that are uniquely yours in style, yours in fit and yours in purpose – items that are perfectly suited to your lifestyle and your preferences – it’s like having a World Class chef come into your home, discuss your wishes and desires, does the research and gets the best ingredients, prepares everything for you, let’s you taste it, and then serves it to you personally. You would have to be wealthy right? $$$$$

But imagine that this World Class Chef is someone you know, or is your best friend or your mother or father!  They would do everything they could to make it happen for you with the best ingredients, passion for they do, insider knowledge, and loads of experience.  Just like what we do as Couturiers and Tailors, we are those experts at your service. (possibilities are endless)

Getting to know about ‘You’ and providing you with the best investment wardrobe you can afford, working with you to make it all happen with the best part being that what we can do for you is long lasting which makes your investment wardrobe work for you for the long term. $ – $$$$$

How can we be of service to you?


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Ever been mystified by dress codes?

Sponsorship Package EHC ‘Dress Code’

Just wanted to interject this Blog Post between some really interesting blogs in the pipeline.

EHC is hosting its annual Couture Fashion Event Fundraiser this November 18th, on a Sunday afternoon at the Calgary Winter Club  – and praying that we don’t get a freak snow storm!

Demystifying ‘dress codes’ inserted into invitations, or for types of events that most of us will likely never encounter – or will we!  EHC Couture fashion events have been a huge success in attracting attention to the Couture movement and Making Changes Association – we very appreciatively have developed regular attendees to the show as well as attracting new comers. One of our newest students came to us via the show and was blown away “this is what I really want to do!” Check out Dress Code link at the top of the page if you would like to participate as a sponsor….

So, I’ll share with you all the newest about the show as it happens – “happiness is being able to follow your dreams…”

J 🙂


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My Best Friend’s Closet!

Ecole Holt Couture School of Couture Sewing and Design students and staff visited their community partners Making Changes Association of Alberta in Calgary on Wednesday – an organization that works with around 100 agencies in and round the city that refer clients to MCA, who wish to re-enter the workforce and need employment and life skills guidance. MCA provides that guidance and wardrobes to their clients for free and have recently begun a Teen program called My Best Friend’s Closet providing not only school clothing, but professional image consulting services and a gathering place for these young women to share time and friendship in a nurturing creative safe environment.

The artwork at the reception desk

The facility is anything but officiously dull or intimidating, but bright and cheerful and looks like a high end boutique for Teens – is truly inspiring for any young woman that is facing the prospect of looking great and feeling truly comfortable in her school environment – trying to fit in with her peers all the while going through some pretty challenging life pressures. This place and the trained volunteers are totally encouraging providing pro make-up tips, jewelry/accessories, a full school wardrobe – including a gym kit, and a refuge of normalcy to teen clients who have been marginalized – coming from all sectors of society.

Lili Bunce, the Executive Director of MCA and her just groomed little pooch, welcomed us with coffee and muffins, pop and pizza; gave us the grand tour and provided her insights into the successes and challenges of the organization, and the invaluable commitment and contributions of their many volunteers who actually make the place work so well.

Lili on far right and EHC group

Thank you Lili!

Where do we fit in? Ecole Holt Couture‘s annual fashion event fundraiser “Dress Code” is for Making Changes Association and will be staged Sunday November 18th at the Calgary Winter Club – so save the date! This year’s theme is addressing ‘occasions that would require attendees to arrive per a Dress Code’ – so what does it all mean???? Tickets will go on sale – will provide more information soon. Come join us and have an inspirational and fun afternoon!

Were they inspired or what?


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EHC – Couture requires specialized skills

The survey says:

To meet needs of growth trends for custom work and alterations,in businesses surveyed – 56% required expert hand sewing skills, 33% custom pattern making skills, 89% custom fitting skills, 56% customer service skills, 33% required Design and styling skills, and only 22% need machinist skills.

What does that mean? These businesses are in need of professionally skilled workers who are able to produce high standards of hand sewing, can custom design original patterns, a whopping 89% could really use expertise in fitting skills, a good handle on excellent customer service, can design and style garments, and can operate machines.

Only 22% said they saw a increased need for skilled machinists, however, skills in traditional couture sewing are hard to find. Many young people are misinformed about the business of professional couture sewing, and as a result are reluctant to get into a field of fashion design that they think is just monotonous and slavishly laborious – picture sweat shops now closed in Canada, but alive and booming in overseas countries.  In fact, couture sewing and design is very creative and fulfilling, and yes, the hours are sometimes long, but each piece that you work on is different from the last unlike production work.

Appeal and glamor is the face of television and fashion media, however true career satisfaction from comes from within and the recognition of a job well done, along with the financial rewards. And while haute couture appears quite sensational on the surface, it is just like any business that requires education, experience, dedication and investment to be successful.

Oh yes, today was the first day of Fall Term – join us in the journey….

EHC’s fourth year couture class – first day


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EHC – Couture is on the Increase

A labor market survey was conducted in June 2012, by Ecole Holt Couture, for the purpose of collecting current prime source information from the fashion industry regarding dressmaking, tailoring, couture, and fashion design jobs in Alberta.

  • The questions asked were concerning industry growth trends, proof of job market, barriers or problems to employment, time estimations and job/availability of part-time, full-time and contract work, and included other considerations.
  • An indication to whether the market is regional or province wide was reflected by the returns and responses which were mainly from Edmonton and Calgary.
  • Surveys were sent to professional tailors, dressmakers, and fashion designers across Alberta
  • Respondents replied to the first question – do you see a growth trend in your business, and if so, in what area?

44% – Requests for Custom work

78% – Requests for Alterations

11% – Retail Sales

Along with the steady increase in retail sales there is a significant increase in requests for alterations – no surprise there as ready-made clothing requires alterations to fit reasonably well, but the increase in request for custom work is also on the rise. Most of the skilled workforce is nearing retirement or even working beyond retirement to fulfill this need.

Two things become apparent. One that there is a void of up and coming skilled labor for custom Dressmaking, Tailoring and Couture work and secondly, this type of work can be continued by skilled workers way beyond the shelf life of a typical career. We are seeing many more individuals working past the age of 65 for the reason of extended and cumulative skills and creativity.

Couture in particular is highly creative and fulfilling as a career, plus the increase in requests for custom work flies in the face of rampant consumerism for ready-made cheap clothing.

stay tuned…

The studio at EHC engaged in “creativity at work”.


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Cashmere in the summer?

Cashmere in the summer?

If you are anything like me or have a similarly busy schedule during the time between the end and the beginning of each summer break, you probably don’t have time to take the care of your wardrobe during the year that you should be taking.

If picking up your dry cleaning and doing essential laundry is the most you achieve, you are not alone. Having put anything that needs mending or tending aside in a bag for one year, filled the bag up by the beginning of summer and now looks overwhelming! It needn’t be.

What seemed like impossible time to set aside during the year now looks like 10 to 30 minutes tops for each item. That means in one day I can attend to all mending and have done with it ready for ‘back to work’ and wardrobe ready for the coming year, and a good excuse to sit outside in the shade (or sun if you like) and still be productive. Sewing on buttons, sewing up torn hem stitches, and defuzzing sweaters – easy peasy!

Not being one to have merino woolens and cashmere sweaters dry cleaned – because it strips all the cosiness, shape and good looks right out of them, I decided to take one really hot day and stick my hands into lovely cool waters to hand launder all the sweaters which have piled up over the months.

Normally, I don’t have the space in my cramped living quarters or the inclination, to spread out and block the woolens on the floor to let them dry properly.

So, before I thought about it too much to talk myself out of this overwhelming chore, I used up the shampoo brand that I found I don’t like to use on my hair and used it for the woolens. Perfect solution to washing a protein product! Cool water to soak, suds, rinse, rinse, rinse and rinse again, press out the water into some beach towels, and then lay out (block to shape) all the sweaters on the lawn – over dry towels of course, and to my amazement what would normally take overnight to dry, were dry in a couple of hours – and they smell brand new fresh.

All my mending and hand washing done in the space of two days, ready for the coming work year and I can enjoy a guilt free summer break! Another tip about woolens during the year – leave them out in fresh air after you wear them – at least for a day. This prolongs the freshness and wear you get out of them before you need to launder or dry clean again. Wool fabric and woolens have the natural ability to shed odors, where synthetics just absorb them.

Keep in mind and Follow these tips:

  1. Always use cool water, and always use the same temperature water for soaking, sudsing and the several rinsings required – it is the change of temperature in water that causes shrinking.
  2. Never “rub” wet woolen items – this causes felting of wool fibres.
  3. Use an inexpensive square plastic washing up bowl (purchased at Wal-Mart) placed inside your kitchen sink to wash each piece and use for each step – it is plenty large enough for most items and prevents wasting water or using excess amounts of water for each piece.
  4. Use shampoo as the cleanser as it is meant for hair, and technically wool is hair. It matters little what brand of shampoo you use, most brands are fairly gentle on hair these days.
  5. Shampoo won’t easily strip essential oils from wool and leaves the item feeling soft when dry – you could add hair conditioner to the final rinse if you are concerned with static – but, a little experience would be the best advisor as to when and how much to use.
  6. Dilute the shampoo in the cool water first before putting the item into the bowl.
  7. Then lay the item in the water – folded as if you were putting it away into your drawer. Keep the item as close to this folded configuration as possible as you proceed. If the item is more delicate insert it into a mesh ditty bag and then remove it when you are ready to block the item.
  8. Leave the item alone in the water to soak for 20 minutes first, and then pat down with your delicate fingers repeatedly to force the soapy water through the whole item.
  9. Only ever PAT the item down in the water to cause movement of water through the fibres, never swirl, twist, pull or wring any woolens – excess agitation causes felting and mis-shaping of woolens.
  10. Lift the item out of the soapy water, drain the bowl, turn the bowl upside down, place the item on it and gently press excess water away,
  11. Then begin the rinse process by filling the bowl again with clean cool water, and repeating the patting down process in clean cool rinse waters several times.
  12. Repeat until the water is almost clear. It isn’t necessary that the final rinse water is absolutely clear, because what causes some of the cloudiness are small wool fibres suspended in the water.
  13. Press out the final excess water gently, then unfold item gently and press out the rest of the water by laying the item as flat and as to-shape as possible on a large dry bath or beach towel.
  14. Roll the towel up from one end like a bed roll while gently pressing the items as you roll – never twist the roll.
  15. Unroll the item and lay out on another clean dry towel laid out on a flat surface where you intend to leave it to dry, arrange the shape being careful not to pull – just tease the item into shape – this is called blocking.
  16. Leave in place until dry. If you use a fold-away laundry rack on your balcony, or use the grass in your back garden makes no difference to the outcome, but wherever you lay out the items make sure it is not near a manmade or direct heat source. Leaving the item out in the sunshine is fine and will dry, on a hot day, in a couple of hours.
  17. Just remember to handle gently – ‘gentleness’ is the trick. Wash woolens as you would your own hair without any scrubbing.
  18. Success without excessive effort!



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nOw tHaT’s C.L.A.S.S.

Hope that everyone had a great Victoria Day long weekend (here in Canada) for those not familiar with the May holiday – we have chosen to honor Queen Victoria and called it a holiday!

An issue that is very close to EHC’s heart is the sustainability of what we are doing in the fashion world. We believe that creating beauty with longevity and ethical business practices is incredibly sustainable and GREEN if you pay attention to what and how you do it.

According to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit  The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest industries, and one of the most polluting. The impact on our planet has reached it’s maximum. This calls for action.

Copenhagen Fashion Summit is the world’s largest and most important conference on sustainability and CSR in the fashion industry. The biennial Summit gathers more than 1000 key industry stakeholders to identify new opportunities and forward-looking solutions for the global fashion industry to tackle the growing challenges facing the planet. Comparatively, the fashion industry is one of the most polluting and socially challenged industries.

One solution to a more sustainable fashion industry lies within the theme of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2012: Sustainable consumption. Consumers can play a pivotal role in transitioning the fashion industry towards more sustainable business models. The Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2012 addresses how the industry can raise awareness and interest amongst consumers to choose sustainable fashion and sustainable consumption of fashion.

This site is worth visiting with several videos of key speakers addressing sustainability. Another newsletter you may want to sign up for is C.L.A.S.S. – Creative Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy organization which shares information about how to achieve this and more.

Posted by C.L.A.S.S. on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 · Leave a Comment

… forging a stronger bond between creative glamour and sustainable business!

Under the patronage of the Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, the recently concludedCopenhagen Fashion Summit 2012 brought together leading figures from the fashion and textile industry who pursue a common vision of eco-friendly and sustainable business.

Once again a huge success, the event – with an impressive roster of speakers and the presence of designers from 27 different countries – drew an enthusiastic crowd representing more than a thousand companies worldwide.

Prominent economists and politicians joined officers from world-class firms to take an active part in seminars on exploring innovative ways for the global high-end textile and fashion industry to tackle today’s environmental challenges. The summit focused particular attention on how to involve and engage end users in sustainable consumption.

Key speakers were: Holly Dublin (PPR Group), Rossella Ravagli (Gucci), Helena Helmersson (H&M), Giordano Capuano (Vivienne Westwood), Mark Sumner (Marks & Spencer), Anne Prahl (WSGN) and Michael Schragger (Sustainable Fashion Academy).

Organized by the Danish Fashion Institute for Nordic Fashion Association (NFA) – which also includes Helsinki Design Week, Icelandic Fashion Council, Oslo Fashion Week, Swedish Fashion Council – this year’s event benefited equally from valuable cooperation on the part of C.L.A.S.S. (Creativity, Lifestyle And Sustainable Synergy), an international forum set in motion by Giusy Bettoni to promote the development of green products/business plans in the fashion and design sphere.

Read more….



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The tailor makes the Man

The 3rd year students at EHC are studying men’s tailoring in this Term, and have been introduced to the styles and protocols of what and how to dress men appropriately; the importance of which can not be overstated for future tailors. Where did all these rules come from? As the curator at the Lougheed House pointed out in a recent newsletter, Edward VII – King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910, had allot to do with it:

Spring is here! As we transition from winter to spring with thoughts of summer and this year’s theme [at Lougheed House – National Historic Site in Calgary] the Elegant West featuring a fashion show with menswear, recalls an earlier era when Edwardian etiquette manuals reminded “it is a duty one owes one’s friends to dress well and it is absolutely true that the tailor makes the man”. Furthermore, these manuals warn “if a man commits flagrant errors in costume he will not be invited out very much, of that he may be certain”. Edward VII was a stickler in matters of dress, and was not above scolding his friends, such as Prime Ministers and foreign dignitaries, if they appeared in anything less than the correct attire. These expectations kept an Edwardian gentleman such as Senator Sir James Lougheed, as much on his toes as it did his wife, Lady Lougheed. Nevertheless, basic guidelines for full dress were a silk top hat, black dress coat and trousers, white shirt, waistcoat and tie.

Modern Etiquette in Public and Private (1903) ensures us:”Plain and simple as the dress is, it is a sure test of a gentlemanly appearance. The man who dines in evening dress every night of his life looks easy and natural in it, whereas the man who takes to it late in life generally succeeds in looking like a waiter”.

While the manual Good Form for All Occasions (1914) reports: ‘For men the proper costume for late dinner (at six o’clock or after) is regulation evening dress. At stag dinners and small informal occasions the dinner-jacket replaces the swallow-tail coat and is accompanied by a plain black-silk tie”.Ian Rogan – Curator

Edwardian style

So what about today? The rules regarding the well dressed man are much the same as they were, however are interpreted in contemporary fabrics with tweaks to some details.Lets show a comparison of yesteryear and today:

Edwardian style


Anson's Menswear


David Gandy

Photo #4: English male supermodel David Gandy headlines the Fall/Winter 2011 campaign of German menswear retailer Anson’s. Men in black suits are in the League of Fabulously Dressed Gentlemen brought to you by Anson’s.

Alexander McQueen - "McQueensberry Rules"


Photo #5: Alexander McQueen gave this tough guy a chic look that had a posh twist with incredible tailoring, perhaps a skill he learned from his training at Savile Row. The exceptionally tailored suit was made with Harris Tweed and had an Edwardian style touch cut very slim to sculpt the body, and of course Alexander presented his art in a highly entertaining way that no one would actually wear, but you get the idea.

Angelo Galassos - New York


The tailor makes the man, knows what the rules are; the man breaks the rules by not knowing them; the tailor guides the man; the man bends the rules when he knows them; and then they both win…J


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