So the day after posting about our denim shirt patterns, I was on the hunt for a shirt maker who would be capable of making these sturdy, kick ass work shirts inspired by my grandfathers.
The samples we’ve had made, based on which we tweaked the pattern until they were perfect, were done by our dress shirt guy in NJ. Based in Northern NJ, just a few miles from our home base in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, this shirtmaker is one of the best in the world, let alone in the US. Having our OCBD and Dress shirts made along side the likes of Domenico Vacca’s and in the same place Engineered Garments shirts took off from confirms our belief that what is going on in their tiny workshop is luxury at it’s finest. I mean, if it’s good enough for Ari Gold, it’s good enough for us.
We are more than excited to say that this will where we have our Heirloom Button Down Shirts made as well as our Napoli Spread Collar Dress Shirts, and these are already in production hoping for a late May or early June soft release, and a full on hard release come Fall. However, when it came to the heavier weight raw denim, the single needle hand sewing that was being done to craft our shirts just wasn’t cutting it. While we built these shirts together, it was time to look elsewhere for their production. This was a disappointing set back, however, since we had the pattern that we both worked so hard to craft together, all I needed to do was find the right spot.
So I began my search, driving up and down the streets of Greenpoint and Long Island City following leads it was disappointment after disappointment. Until it seemed fate intervened here:
Sitting alongside the Gowanus Expressway, American Flag flying proudly atop, we stumbled upon a very similar shirtmaker. Except instead of crossing two rivers to get to them, all we needed to do was cross about 30 streets. At just over a mile away from where I lay my head down every night, I was thrilled to find another very small operation where all the cutting and sewing is done by hand and most importantly they have the equipment to work with heavy weight denim. More specifically, they have a Juki Double Needle Hand Operated Industrial Sewing Machine.
Without this important device, the thread on the heavy weight shirts simply won’t hold up to the wear and tear (or washes if you prefer) that we expect of denim. They employ local folks who already have the skill needed to operate the Juki by hand, and add all the specific details we demand for our work shirts.
But what struck me as ironic was I seemed to have remembered this building from somewhere in my past. I thought back to my childhood, growing up on Staten Island, and going for a ride with my Grandfather Tony, “Papa”, as I called him. We were thick as thieves, the two of us. He’d grab me from my half day pre-school school program at Wagner College in his big royal blue Chevy Impala Station Wagon just like the one below, and hit up McDonalds.
Once there, he’d order this tiny four year old boy a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, cut it in half, and this would be our daily lunch routine. After that, we’d sometimes hit the local OTB to bet on a race or two as he was so fond of doing where he taught me how to craft paper airplanes out of the race forms. But then, we’d always have to go over that bridge, to get Gramma. And where did we sit and wait for her to come out of? Yup, the very same building where we may have found our denim shirt maker.
It didn’t strike me until after I walked out, and I got a feeling of deja vu. I’d seen this before, felt this before. Something felt comfortable, like home, and not just because it was Brooklyn. So when I got out of the building, I reached into my pocket to get a hold of my uncle. I told him where I was, and what I was doing. That building, the one right alongside the highway, with the flag flying on top (That’s how I remembered it as a child, and what I always tell my kids as we drive pass it on our way to the city) was where we’d go everyday to pick up my grandmother who worked for the US Navy’s Wholesalers. “What floor did she work on?” I asked.
In ten days to two weeks, we’ll find out if this twist of familiar fate was just that, or a coincidence and our search for the right fit will continue. But I know if they have any say in the matter, it’ll be perfect, and was meant to be.
After all, how fitting would it be that the shirt inspired and named for the man would be made in the same exact spot where the love of his life spent her working days, and where he would show his devotion to her, and his love, by teaching a little boy what family was all about? Stay tuned.