MEN OF THE CLOTH Screens at San Joaquin International Film Festival

It was wonderful to have my San Francisco friends and my niece Donna and sister-in-law Carol present for the special screening of MEN OF THE CLOTH at the San Joaquin International Film Festival in Stockton, California. This jewel of a festival in the Bay Area is organized by Sophoan Sorn, who’s also the director of San Francisco’s Berlin & Beyond Festival. MEN OF THE CLOTH was part of the Cinema Italia program, which included THE GREAT BEAUTY (Italy’s Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language film) and the Isabella Rossellini movie THE ZIGZAG KID. It was quite an honor to be in such fine company! And to top it off, the audience at the Janet Leigh Theater was incredibly appreciative and gracious. Thanks to the super-talented Leslie Asfour of the San Joaquin Delta College Fashion Program for being a sponsor – and to calligrapher and stationer Billy Ola Hutchinson for conducting the Q & A. The fashion design students from Delta College gave me the most amazing gift by taking the festival flyers for the film and creating “couture” paper dresses!

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(Photo by Tim Ulmer)

San Joaquin Film Festival

Leslie Asfour of Delta College, Director Vicki Vasilopoulos. Billy Ola Hutchinson, SJIFF director Sophoan Sorn (Photo by Tim Ulmer)

 

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Director Vicki Vasilopoulos (Photo by Tim Ulmer)

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A “couture” paper dress from a Delta College fashion student (Photo by Tim Ulmer)

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A student creation from Delta College (Photo by Tim Ulmer)

Japanese Tailors Apprentice in Naples, Italy

Echoing the issues raised in MEN OF THE CLOTH, Tom Downey writes in the Wall Street Journal magazine that:

… most master cutters and tailors in Naples began learning their trade at or before the age of 10—during an era of post-war Italian poverty when child labor was the norm—which means that the top tailors there are, at the youngest, in their sixties. Many more, though, are in their seventies or eighties and long retired. Most wonder openly whether a tailor who starts learning this craft at the age of 18 or 20 can ever attain the technique necessary to become a true master cutter.

And yet I was incredibly inspired by the dedication of Japanese men who’ve apprenticed and trained in Naples, Italy and then return to Japan to craft suits in the signature Neapolitan style.

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Noriyuki Ueki wearing one of his own suits
(Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal magazine)

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Luigi Gallo’s Tailoring School

Here’s a great short video about tailor Luigi Gallo and a tailoring school he started in Rome in 2007 because he wanted to “rescue his craft.” How very admirable.

Maestro Gallo is quite witty and entertaining, but when he says that he abhors the tendency to wear a tuxedo for a morning wedding, I have to say that I agree with him! That’s always been one of my pet peeves.

I love the sound bite from the American student when he acknowledges that “Tailoring is a step above fashion.” Indeed it is.

A Memoir from an English Bespoke Tailor

I’ve been meaning to write a capsule about this book for some time, but the demands of post-production and fundraising for my film have gotten in the way. Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed is a compelling memoir of how a 17-year-old kid from the London suburbs fell into an apprenticeship at Henry Huntsman & Sons, the bespoke tailoring film on London’s famed Savile Row. More importantly, Anderson recounts how this experience 29 years ago transformed his life and gave him a lifelong vocation and a penchant for perfectionism that he never could have dreamed of as a lad.

At the age of 34, Anderson became the youngest head cutter in Huntsman’s 150-year history. Since 2001 he has been at the helm of his own tailoring firm on Savile Row, Richard Anderson Ltd.

Anderson writes that the first three months at Huntsman caused him “relentless mental and emotional chaos.” The environment was like being in the army, “where one must resist being broken down,” and where your superiors never let you forget that you’re at the very bottom of the food chain.

It’s amusing to read that despite all the miles he had run and all the football games he had played as a teenager, this had in no way prepared him for handling the massively heavy cutting shears in the workroom. It’s also fascinating to learn about the firm’s frequent forays abroad to service its vast American clientele.

Bespoke tailor Richard Anderson (photo by Neil Gavin)

Anderson writes movingly about being inducted into the private world of bespoke:

To put a true and properly made bespoke suit on for the first time is a revelation: immediately you take to its positive influence on your posture…you stand up straighter and feel at once more comfortable and confident…that you have it in you to be a better person, a person of unique capacity, sensibility and class. And for me this was like a drug.

Writer Gay Talese on the Tailoring Craft

I wanted to share an article I came across not too long ago written by Italian-American writer Gay Talese for Vanity Fair magazine’s web site a couple of years ago. I met Mr. Talese several years ago when I first started working on MEN OF THE CLOTH and was researching my characters and the world they inhabit. I had read Unto the Sons, his immigrant saga of how his family came to America. In the opening pages of the book, I loved how Talese described his Calabrian father and his tailoring trade as “the reputable but precarious life of an artist with a needle and thread.” It’s a phrase I’ve often borrowed.

I also knew that Gay Talese favored Brioni suits and was interviewed for the book Brioni: Fifty Years of Style. I recently watched an interesting video interview with him online in which he maintained that one of the lessons he took from his father was to approach his work as a writer in a way that is “not done quickly or casually, because it had to withstand time.” Needless to say, I share that view, for I’ve spent a great deal of time getting to know my characters and their craft, and building a trust and rapport with them.

In the article for the Vanity Fair site, “The Scion, the Stitch, and the Wardrobe,” he reminisces about his father, and his father’s cousin, Antonio Cristiani, a successful tailor in Paris. Talese characterizes these craftsmen as “an endangered species” — and indeed they are. He writes, “I’m mainly interested in is the aesthetics of the tailoring profession, and my small part within it as a patron, a preservationist, and an advocate of the perfect fit— and the idea that measurements can alter the mind.”

And here he expresses a sentiment I’m trying awfully hard to get across in my film: “When I’m wearing one of my custom suits, I’m in harmony with my highest ideals, my worship of great workmanship.”


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