Ten Questions with Daniel Lewis, Co-Founder of Brooklyn Tailors
Brooklyn Tailors is a small clothing label founded by Daniel and Brenna Lewis and is currently based in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. They focus on the staple pieces in any mans wardrobe, for example suits and shirts, and these items can either be made to order or come in a ready to wear format on their web store.
Both Daniel and Brenna have an appreciation for handmade quality, authentic materials, and a pride in small artisanal production. Each item they design is produced one at a time, giving them an amazing amount of control over the quality of each product.
We got a chance to quiz Daniel Lewis on how the label came about and also get first hand news on a brand new venture opening in Brooklyn very soon! Read on below.
1) Why did you start Brooklyn Tailors?
I first entered into the clothing design world as a frustrated consumer…my background was in art/photography originally and I got to a point where I wanted to find tailored clothing that I enjoyed wearing…and long story short…I never found it. I had a clear sense of what I was looking for – simply something that was well made, with a clean, discreet design, and of course in the right fit. It didn’t sound like too tall of an order, but I quickly realized just how frustrating it could be.
2) What’s your background in making clothes? How did you learn?
When I was still in school studying fine art, I began teaching myself how to sew, first altering clothes that I bought, and then I started learning how to make things.
But, I quickly realized that I was more interested in the design process, as well as the bigger picture of creating a business, and I soon teamed up with an experienced master tailor to work with me on the actual construction of the garments. I’m still working with that same tailor and a few assistants.
3) We know that you produce each product by hand, what are the positives and negatives of this? Why do you like having full control?
Producing garments by hand, one item at a time, is a lot of work! But, the level of control it allows us is essential when creating bespoke clothing – a very nuanced process that involves responding to the infinite number of variances in a customer’s body type, posture, and stylistic preferences.
Furthermore, a small-scale production environment really goes hand-in-hand with the type of traditional tailoring we are doing. Whether it’s a custom or off-the-rack garment, a well-made suit involves a lot of hand work and requires a lot of specialized skill every step of the way. These two things are difficult to replicate or achieve in a mass-production environment.
4) What’s been the biggest challenge since you started in 2007?
Deciding where your time and energy should go on a daily basis is a challenge – I think that anybody who has started a small business would agree that there is always too much to do, and never enough time, manpower, or money to get it all done.
5) Could you give us an insight into your working day?
We typically have a handful of private appointments with customers each day. The rest of the time is spent working on custom orders, sourcing the materials, and working to develop new items for our ready-to-wear collection. We also do all of the photography, web design, shipping, and everything else ourselves!
6) How long does it take on average to make a custom shirt?
Depends…we usually quote a 6 week turnaround.
7)Recently I’ve seen a few women’s styles creep into play, is this a direction that you’ve thought about?
While I think men’s will always be the main focus for us, we are looking forward to offering more women’s items – shirts, trousers, tailoring. We already have a number of female bespoke customers … but would like to expand our off the rack offering as well.
8) Why are you inspired by tailoring? Also, what other things inspire you? Any specific designers or creatives?
It was tailored clothing that initially sparked my interest in the idea of designing/creating garments. Part of that was my inability to find tailored clothing that suited me. I also think that I’m attracted to the complexity, and machine-like quality of a tailored garment. It is not just a layer or two of fabric draped over the body – a tailored jacket is a complex structure, composed of layer upon layer of inner workings to give it the right drape and body. And, for it to fit properly, it must truly be in sync with the wearer’s body and form. When it does fit properly, the result is that it seems easy and effortless – it works with the wearer rather than against them.
As far as inspiration, I would say I’m more influenced by people outside of the fashion/clothing world than I am by designers or brands. We don’t look at Brooklyn Tailors as a fashion collection, in the sense that its not completely new every six months — we’re working to create timeless, functional, quality garments for people to wear daily. So, we’re looking at the people around us, and are influenced by their personal style, and we’re thinking about how we can complement that.
9) What would you say to other individuals who want to start making their own clothing? Specifically men because you don’t see it around as much.
Do it if you truly enjoy it, and if you really believe in what you are doing and what you will contribute to your field.
10) What’s next for Brooklyn Tailors?
Opening our first store! Since we started, we’ve operated out of our home office in Clinton Hill. We’ll soon be opening up a small storefront in Brooklyn, where customers will be able to come for custom fittings by appointment, and also will be able to walk in and shop for our ready to wear items. It will be an exciting next step for us.