Learning from a Master Tailor
By now, some of you may have seen or even met me at Adriano Carbone Master Tailor, so it's time to properly introduce myself. My name is John Cichello, and I am an apprentice tailor with Adriano Carbone. This blog post is going to be a little insight into my experiences so far in tailoring and as an apprentice to a Master Tailor. I will also share my thoughts on tailoring and give you a glimpse into what it is like to work in the industry.
A bit about me
I never grew up with sewing, or in a family of tailors. I don't have a lineage of suits and manufacturing. Instead, I have a passion for this industry that fortunately ignited early enough for me to be able to pursue it wholeheartedly. I am actually an IT professional by academic background, who started learning sewing and pattern-making from the internet, books and an incredible amount of trial and error. In 2017, after a number of pivotal events, I quit my job and started studying pattern-making and tailoring at Istituto Di Moda Burgo, which took me to Jakarta, Indonesia and Milano, Italy for almost two years. During this time I got to see different ends of the spectrum regarding production and manufacturing. In Indonesia I witnessed fast fashion and scaled production in a number of different environments that gave me my first impressions as to what would it be like to work in the fashion industry. I realised, however, amidst all the glam, prestige and luxury that the fashion industry is known for, there was something uneasy about feeding an industry that had values and basic principles that I didn't align with. In addition, I want to bring back local production and support the growth of independent designers and brands, not to work for a large label to churn out endless replicas of garments just for the sake of a passing trend. With this revelation in mind, I decided to tailor (pardon the pun) my focus towards bespoke garments because this style of clothing celebrates unique garments and appreciating products made for a person's individual style. When a client feels comfortable, loves the design and they appear confident, it is a satisfaction like no other. Working personally with a client, getting to know them and what they want the clothing to portray on them, is a relationship that no faceless production order can offer me. At the end of the day, to create something that is worn on the person and is an expression of their identity, acting like a second skin conveying what they want to convey is a satisfaction that is unparalleled.
Walking through the front door
Adriano Carbone Master Tailor was one place that immediately upon walking inside and up into the workshop I knew this is where I wanted to be. I saw the methods of tailoring and the attitude towards innovation. There is an appreciation of authentic and traditional techniques complemented by modern engineering that I hadn’t yet seen. Instead of following something dogmatically, following tradition for the sake of tradition, I walked into a sartoria pushing the boundaries to create something that is of the upmost quality. Adriano is always seeking perfection and constantly looking to improve, similar to the Japanese practice of kaizen and my early tech days of Lean/Agile. So, at the beginning of April 2019, when I had my completed diploma and only 3 days after returning home from Milano, I spent my time shadowing, observing and watching how Adriano worked, how he interacted with clients, how our garments were made. Purely observing, trying to be as much of a sponge as possible (thanks for the constant reminders to be a sponge, Adriano) and I learnt more in 2 weeks than I had in two months of study. This however is not uncommon, nothing is a better teacher than experience and full immersion.
When I first started, I could barely join trousers properly or make a well fitting vest on my own. Now I can make my own trousers, my own vests. I'm assisting with jackets, being involved in our business side as well, analysing the posture of our clients and learning how it can influence the pattern and the adjustments needed. I never would have guessed I’ll be doing this much in such a short time, and hell, even a year ago I would never thought this would be where I am, learning from one of the best tailors. I’m learning countless business skills and lessons that no one ever talked about it in school, and perhaps are rarely talked about in general. A running joke is how Adriano could open up a school, not specifically for tailoring, but a school of life, with all his technical knowledge, wisdom and ramblings.
Also consider this
Not everything is rainbows and roses, however. It's been an incredible journey thus far that has flown past, but it is also challenging in its own way. Any expert in a particular area with a strong passion and high standards, poses a steep learning curve for those wanting to learn from them. I imagine it’s akin to working for a renowned head chef whom expects a standard that has made them acclaimed, and as they expect this quality from themselves, they too expect it from you. When you are learning, you will make mistakes and you will learn from them, and with the right amount of pressure you learn fast from your mistakes so as not to repeat them. This work requires an internal drive, a passion and expectation for oneself to give your best possible effort, regardless of how minute the task is. From a button sewn on, through to the complexities in jackets. If I disappoint Adriano, or fail to do my best work, it takes its toll. You expect the best from yourself, to strive for perfection as much as you can and this means focusing constantly on what could be better, to constantly improve. With this said, I don't want it any other way. Adriano pushes me because he believes in me. I appreciate his honesty, and he pushes me and expects so much of me because he believes in me. I feel motivated knowing that my mentor believes I can do great things, and rightfully so he should be honest with me to get the best work possible from me. I’m a very self-motivated person and I have always demanded a lot from myself, partly due to my many years of individual competitive sports and my personality.
It's a rarity, honestly
I’m one of the first apprentices Adriano has had in a very long time and he doesn’t take on many, if any people. This is because an apprenticeship is such a personal commitment, opening ones business, life, and trust to someone who you are investing in. Even though I don't own the business, I feel that I have a stake in it and everything I do has an impact on it. It is an amazing feeling for someone to really put their trust in you, but of course the pressure is there along with the stress as well. However, when you’re in it together and you’re working side-by-side and learning side-by-side, it’s a level of trust and respect that I've never experienced in the workplace before. I don’t want to pretend to be a great tailor just yet, I’m just doing my best every day to be better than who I am now, slowly working my way towards being a Master Tailor. It all sounds very serious and grande, but the seriousness aside, we are all good friends in the workplace and as much as I see Adriano and Maria as teachers and employers, they are also as my peers and I trust them with my personal life too.
That's enough rambling, John
There’s so much today that I still have to learn, but in the short time I’ve been here since April, I feel like I have been accepted as a part of the family and trusted with a business and craftsmanship that's taken a lifetime to establish. I’ve been taught so much more in the past few months with Adriano, than I had studying overseas in a fancy college. I’m immeasurably grateful for the opportunity that Adriano and Maria have given me to learn and grow. One of the truest tragedies of history, is as a generation passes, so too does the knowledge and skills that made them great. I do feel humbled and truly appreciated that I am trusted with the honour of receiving this knowledge, to receive someone's time and commitment, to be nurtured to (hopefully) be even better than they are in the future.
So, next time you’re around, do come up and say hi because hopefully this post has shown you that there is a lot more behind us than just suits and a sartoria. We've all got our individual stories, and we'd love to get to know yours too!