I actually started out as a designer. I had my own store–I even had a hat line that was sold at Barney’s. So the first time I worked New York Fashion Week was as a dresser for an Anne Klein show when Donna Karan first designed for them.
I like to say that I became a tailor by accident. I didn’t even know this type of work existed for red carpets and fashion shows. In the beginning, I felt like a glorified alterationist. My first fashion show was Jennifer Lopez’s JustSweet line, which was backed by the Hilfiger family. The whole thing came about by chance. I had run into another ex-designer who was putting together a team of tailors for the show, so I agreed to help. When Fashion Week happens, they’re so desperate for tailors that, on another job, they hired me without even meeting me. Now, I’ve been doing it for nearly eight years.
One year I worked for Tommy Hilfiger to dress celebrities sitting in the front row. This happens one of two ways: You either go to their house to fit them and then take the garments home and work on them. Sometimes you go to hotel rooms and work right there. Some celebrities are friendly, some make you feel like you’re the star, some make you feel like you’re just a worker bee.
I’m lucky that I wasn’t a designer who could only draw or look at things and say, “Yes that looks good, that doesn’t.” I can actually make something from scratch–I can do a drawing, make a pattern, drape something, cut and sew it from beginning to end. I can look at a garment and totally take it apart and reinvent it or just adjust it slightly, which helps because designers always change their minds. They change the shape, the size, the length. A garment can be like a puzzle. You change one piece, then you have to change all the other puzzle pieces for it to look and fit well. It’s fun to see a garment from a show that I know I had something to do with–that I made it fit and look better than it originally did. That’s rewarding.