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The suiting thread


kotmj
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This is not to say he displays adequate intelligence to operate successfully in a tailoring workshop. A tailoring workshop is a complex environment. 

I still can't trust him with much, and still have to regularly check on what he is doing. 

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I'm in the process of buying this parang. 

He only just made two. I contacted him about a month ago to buy one, but he was sold out. He sells out very quickly. 

The way parang makers do things is, they'd buy the blade from a factory. There are several such bladesmithing factories. A pretty well known one is Chop Kwong Yuan Loong in Bidor. This parang has a blade from this factory. 

However, the blade as it comes from the factory is very crudely finished. This guy would grind the blade to a higher level of finish. He attaches it to a wooden handle and a copper ferrule. He provides a kydex sheath with it. 

Parangs of this refinement are unavailable to farmers here. They use the plastic handled, crudely finished ones they buy for RM50 at the hardware shop. 

This parang is RM190. 

 

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screenshot_20210918_215228_com.whatsapp.

Looking good I think. 

screenshot_20210918_230835.jpg?raw=1

Customer somewhat effusive. 

The tux was paid for by the bride as a "hantaran". He only put it on at the end of the ceremony to model it. For most of the ceremony he would have been in traditional ceremonial Malay garb. I think. I've never been to a nikah ceremony. 

For his event later in the year where families are invited, I think I'm supposed to make him a red suit. And make his father a new suit. That was the pre-lockdown plan. 

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I was sent a couple of nikah ceremony pics by this customer of mine. During the fittings, he would be wearing a vintage Datejust of similar vintage to mine. He tells me he got it from his dad (or was it his grandfather, I forgot). 

But for this ceremony at the Mandarin Oriental, he brought out the big guns. 

img-20210921-wa0006.jpg?raw=1

A Lange. I think Langes go well with JTs.

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When I look at pictures of my customers in suits, I am struck by how varied the poses are. Tailors in general optimise the fit so strongly for the static upright standing pose. But in real life, 99% of the time the customer is not in the pose the suit was optimised for. 

Having said that, through its long evolution the suit does very well in poses other than the standing one. 

But some customers do not stand normally. Some adopt an overly upright pose. When the suit is optimised for this pose, it becomes IMO too deoptimised for the other 99% of the time. 

I watched a CNA documentary of this youngish Japanese tailor. He said he leaves a longer back balance than the customer's upright pose would require, because 99% of the time you are forwards of this pose, i.e. bent forward to some degree. (People rarely bend backwards.) A jacket with a longer back balance is more comfortable to bend forwards in. 

So when a customer came pre-lockdown for 2 suits and I saw he is very overerrect (I mean the posture obviously), I did the Japanese tailor philosophy on him. He was severely over-upright. I left 0.75" of excess back balance length. This way the jacket behaves more normally when he is not standing for a picture. 

It was a mistake. He complained of the corrugation at the back of his jacket.

I was trying to figure out how to explain to him that it was a conscious decision. I murmured something about back balances etc. He gave me the benefit of the doubt. 

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Ah, I remember now. Old Chinese tailors in KL have a name for this sort of standing posture. They call it the "chicken butt" posture. A chicken's rear is "prominent" ---as in stuck outwards. 

For this sort of posture you need trousers with a long back balance (because the butt is out and up) and jackets with a short back balance (because the spine is concave/arched). 

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Two jacket bastes in muslin by the Mayang boy. Since we reopened on the 1st, we've been selling on average a suit for each day we are open. The jacket, trouser and vest bastes have all been cut and sewn by him. Me, I made all the paper patterns.

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I left the shop at 10:20pm. I drafted many patterns. There is a specific reason for this urgency: the Tenby girl started work today, and I needed to make sure she has enough work to keep herself occupied. This means patterns must be available for her and the Mayang boy to turn into bastes. 

She is probably the healthiest-looking female to have worked at JT. Most people don't look that healthy to me. All kinds of either gross or subtle toxicities and deficiencies impair their appearance. Even very young people suffer from this. 

Both the Mayang boy and the Tenby girl look very healthy. A lot of it is down to not eating the absolute and disgusting crap that passes for food that businesses sell. The Mayang boy packs lunch from home to eat at work. I was surprised to learn the Tenby girl did that too for her first day. Food that is sold for money is not good for you. It's laden with nonsense. 

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I've long noticed that ants and flies avoid ikan bilis. They even avoid it after boiling (as scrap in the production of broth). 

I also notice that ants and flies avoided the entrails of an ikan kembong I had cleaned. 

Clearly, these seafood contain antimicrobial preservatives. Humans can tolerate these preservatives but insects don't simply because of our mass. Humans are much larger than bacteria and insects. It would take a great deal of preservatives to have a negative effect on humans. 

But humans have gut flora. In recent years, our understanding of the role of gut flora has advanced. They are now seen to play a major role in every aspect of human health. 

I was having a teaspoon of chyawanprash a few days ago while absentmindedly looking at the (very long) ingredients list. I noticed sodium benzoate in it. Damn. Even in health foods you have preservatives. 

This prompted me to make a Google search. 

Human gut microbes are susceptible to antimicrobial food additives in vitro

Abstract

The aim of this work was to test the hypothesis that antimicrobial food additives may alter the composition of human gut microbiota by selectively suppressing the growth of susceptible gut microbes. To explore the influence of antimicrobial food additives on the composition of the human gut microbiota, we examined the susceptibility of both aerobic and anaerobic gut bacteria to sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, and potassium sorbate, and their combinations, using a broth microdilution method. The tested bacteria exhibited a wide range of susceptibilities to food additives. For example, the most susceptible strain, Bacteroides coprocola, was almost 580 times more susceptible to sodium nitrite than the most resistant strain, Enterococcus faecalis. However, most importantly, we found that gut microbes with known anti-inflammatory properties, such as Clostridium tyrobutyricum or Lactobacillus paracasei, were significantly more susceptible to additives than microbes with known proinflammatory or colitogenic properties, such as Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron or Enterococcus faecalis. Our data show that some human gut microbes are highly susceptible to antimicrobial food additives. We speculate that permanent exposure of human gut microbiota to even low levels of additives may modify the composition and function of gut microbiota and thus influence the host's immune system. Whether the effect of additive-modified gut microbiota on the human immune system could explain, at least in part, the increasing incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases remains to be shown.

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So, food preservatives kill off some of your gut flora. In particular, they seem to kill off more of the beneficial gut bacteria. 

Preservatives are every-fucking-where in food. They are often not listed. They are even in fresh and frozen food. 

They are sold unregulated on shopee. 

https://shopee.com.my/product/367896690/6993327525?smtt=0.188758506-1632496097.9

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Any foodstuff you can put in room temperature without spoiling within a few hours contains preservatives. 

Soya sauce, chilli sauce, kuihs, ikan bilis, cake, etc. 

If ants and flies avoid them, that's also an indicator. 

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On 6/25/2021 at 2:13 AM, kotmj said:

Oh, ja, BTW, there is actually a syllabus. A textbook. 

IMG_20210625_020724.jpg?raw=1

It's by a Taiwanese tailor. The entire book is in Chinese. Which neither the Mayang boy nor I can read. But there is the Google Translate app which works well enough. 

How are the drafts from the book? Or compared to the newer MS I sent 

Nice that the forum is back up smoothly

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So the Tenby girl decided this is not an internship for her after 2 days. Many possible reasons why this could be the case. But all the possible reasons boil down to one common factor: It's too real. This is the real world. 

Now to the possible reasons. 

a) Jeremy is so dismissive of Esmod and those who work in it. 

I personally think of Esmod as a joke. It's RM100K in tuition fees and 3 years. At the end, none can actually sew garments for a living. To sew a single seam, they need 20 pins. You think I'm exaggerating. Here's proof, albeit from a Raffles intern at a competitor. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/CK9Nm-4hyKo/?utm_medium=copy_link

Anyone with even mild experience knows only idiots sew with 20 pins. I require 0 pins and do a better job. 

They need 20 pins to sew a seam without inlays. When a seam has inlays, they are lost. They have no idea how to sew it. Even 40 pins can't save them. Garments without inlays are those you buy off shopee. In tailored garments, nearly every seam has inlays to allow for alterations. 

To sew one simple garment takes them weeks. I've employed 2 Esmod grads. One was unemployed for 2 years before getting a job at JT. The other was unemployed for 2.5 years. They have almost no commercial relevance. 

Esmod doesnt do fashion design, nor does it make garments. It is in the business of collecting tuition fees. The lecturers are in the business of not getting fired so they can continue collecting a salary. 

It tells a fairy tale to its customers (the students). That they will go on to glorious and highly compensated careers. It does so in a Disneyland setting. 

I told the Tenby girl I hired her for her interest in clothes, not for anything she learnt at Esmod. 

JT is in the business of making clothes which perform in the real world worn by real customers. We get paid doing that. We don't get paid doing anything else. 

They have a couple of fashion designers who lecture there. I told her I interviewed an employee from one of them. From his garment output relative to rent, salaries and marketing, I conclude he has never turned a profit. His revenues are a fraction of JT's. 

b) The piecework compensation at JT is very low

It is actually higher than market. On top of that, full time employees get EPF. It is real world compensation. It was set by the marketplace. That compensation is just a start anyway. You're supposed to transcend it over time as you gain insights and act on them. 

JT has to in turn respect market prices. Every real business has to conform to market prices for its specific offering. 

This is not Disneyland. 

c) The police like to patrol Empire City, searching people and cars for drugs and weapons. 

I told her to be prepared for police questioning in the carpark area. Do not panic or be afraid. These are just petulant people trying to get you to panic. They are trying to figure out if it's worth searching you and your car for drugs.

The way to deal with this is to engage with it. Not avoid it. You cannot run away from the real world. Daddy's money can buy you a Disneyland for only so long. Eventually, you have to engage with the real world. 

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Apart from the list of the five functional areas of the shop (previously posted), I just made a No-List. At least, that's what I call it. When Pixar was planning Toy Story, they had a long list of things they never want to see. A no-list. It was so they could avoid clichés. A no-list is a great way to coax yourself into originality.

No-list

⦁    Overt theatricality
We are in X in 2021, not 19th century London. The space should not look like a recreation of any particular time or epoch. It should look entirely of its time and purpose and geography.

⦁    Lots of installations
Installations cost money and can often not be re-used if we relocate. It is best to use economical means. Create the necessary effect through insight and resourcefulness, not money.

⦁    Trying to impress
The space should be genuinely likable. It respects the way humans evolved to regard and to use spaces. It should not try to impress; rather, people should be fond of it.

⦁    Sterility and artificiality
Spaces where everything is white, or full of gleaming metal and glass, or have large swathes of bold colours are foreign to humans.
 

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One of the problems of being a tailor is that you deal a lot with very smart customers. They often have a bottomless appetite for information about things they are interested in. Especially so when they think the person explaining it to them knows the topic well. Dumb people generally do not attain the professional success that generates the need for suits or the means to afford them.

The problem is made worse by my personal tendency of not wanting to give half assed answers. In the past, this has exasperated many of my bosses. "There goes Jeremy again," they think to themselves. "Always telling his stories. Always pontificating in his autistic way."

I realise that neurotypicals like simplistic/superficial answers. But I cannot give those answers. Because I am not a neurotypical. When I explain something, I am not telling you something I have heard or read. I am trying to deliver into your brain my personal understanding. And I cannot understand things without placing them within the context of how they came to be, and the mechanics of how they work.

So I start off by explaining the context. The context can mean the history of the thing. Then I move into the detailed mechanics.

By now the neurotypicals will have learnt to not ask such questions anymore. But the cognitively gifted are TURNED ON by this. They want MORE. Because they are like me.

So I end up talking a lot. I don't talk about things I was not asked about. Even so, I talk a lot. This tires me. Even gives me a mild headache from the exertion. I need to be super calm and deliberate next time. Don't get lost in the conversation. Always remain aware of your own mind and body in the midst of action.

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There are so many things I need to do. Apart from operations (answering enquiries, seeing every customer, drafting every pattern, editing every pattern, invoicing, recruitment, etc.), I'm supposed to be designing the interior of a JT outlet (the Inti students can only work on it in January and finish in March next year). I'm planning a video explaining the differences between a fully canvassed jacket and the half canvassed jacket in both a global and a uniquely Malaysian context. Wait, you say: I know the differences! No you don't. You don't know the first thing about it. Wait for my video and you might know a bit more.

The other thing is something that has been a thorn in my side (I have lots of thorns stuck everywhere): producing a suit cover that doesn't suck.

As you can imagine, I have over the last 10 years been scrutinising every suit cover (or suit bag) that has crossed my path. The suit cover problem is a particularly difficult one to solve. Even high end Singaporean tailors get theirs made in KL, and they suck. (As does mine currently and historically.)

I now think the best way to solve the suit cover problem is to regard it as another JT product. Like jackets, trousers, shirts, vests, jeans, etc. A JT suit cover. This is the only way to produce one which doesn't suck. It will be sold like any other JT product. You actually have to pay for the suit cover, like you pay for plastic bags at the supermarket.

The no. 1 thing that sucks about suit covers is the material. Everybody uses non-woven fabric. It is terrible. I currently have 10 meters of a royal purple fabric coming my way which I believe will be much superior to non-woven fabric. I don't want to reveal too much here because obviously several competitors read this forum.

Then I need to find someone to help sew prototypes. It's pointless looking for some "aunty" somewhere to do this. The aunties around are so dumb that they're practically retarded. I need something like a semi-bright intern in the shop directly under my supervision. I cannot ask the Mayang boy to do this because he is too busy with baste-making and alterations. I practically have to hire someone to sharpen his shears. Because he is cutting through cloth non-stop. That's how busy we are. 

Templates need to be made, sources of the materials (fabric, zippers, handles, piping, etc.) and methods of ornamentation need to be established. Also various new tools and hardware need to be purchased to enable manufacturing them in-house. One sewing machine may have to be equipped specifically to sew suit covers, the way I have one lockstitch sewing machine equipped specifically to sew jeans.

It's all a lot of work. Not sure if I'll get to it anytime soon.

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workshop.jpg?raw=1

^A picture I took of the sifu's workshop in 2011

 

I bumped into the sifu just now. 

"Long time no see!" he said.

"Since Ipoh," I told him. We saw each other shortly before the pandemic in Ipoh during a tailoring convention. "I see you survived the pandemic!"

This is not gratuitious. The sifu must be about 80yo now.

"I want to transfer WK to you," he said to me.

I was surprised he disposed of the niceties and got straight to business. WK is the young guy you see in the picture above. He was apprenticing with the sifu the same time as me. Today, he still works under the sifu, making primarily fully canvassed jackets along the sifu's method and sensibilities.

The sifu, back when I was apprenticing with him, ran his own little workshop. Comprising, himself, his wife and two apprentices/slaves. I left when he sold his workshop and himself to a consortium of buyers. The Consortium, let's call it this way, was composed of three partners: one was a tailor in downtown KL, another a cloth distributor, and another one unknown to me. The Consortium bought two little workshops (the sifu's was one of them) and merged them into one. They hired the sifu as a cutter in the workshop. They later hired two more cutters, mostly from the sifu's social circle. It also hired lots of Banglas.

This workshop will make for any tailor. It doesn't have a big market share in KL.

"Why?" I wanted to know. "What is the story? The context behind this."

"WK is not getting enough work," he replied. "He's not fast, but that's OK with fully canvassed."

I told him I am actively recruiting, and would love to have WK work for me. The sifu gave me his number.

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There is always the given reason, and the REAL reason. They only sometimes coincide.

Someone like WK is a real asset in The Consortium's workshop. You don't give up a performing coatmaker easily. There are too few of them around, and it takes a long time and a lot of attention to train one.

My guess at the real reason he wants to "transfer" WK to me? I think it's because the sifu is retiring. Maybe he has been "protecting" WK all these years, making sure he gets a constant flow of work. Further, protecting his compensation against the deflationary forces of the consortium, because the market for fully canvassed coatmakers is very inefficient. Sewing tailors do not draw a salary. They are paid piecework. If there is no work, they don't get paid.

When he retires, he will no longer need WK. But the workshop still needs WK. The sifu probably thinks WK will be better off with JT than with The Consortium in the absence of the sifu.

Maybe he has always wanted to transfer WK to JT. Now that he is retiring, it becomes more urgent.

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