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The suiting thread


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Some of you may know that a bunch of interior design students at INTI are working to design me a tailor shop. The lecturer handling it---an acquaintance of mine---resigned from his teaching job to go work at a big accounting firm. He transferred my project to his successor.

This successor, who has been admirably communicative, tells me that he is aware that Plaza Kelana Jaya is only a temporary solution for JT. He is aware of the longer term plan for JT, which is in a different township. He was wondering if they should instead "propose a brand new design concept for the long term permanent place."

I have all kinds of problems with his thinking. I have a problem with "brand new design concept" and I have a problem with "long term permanent place."

I don't really understand design concepts. You see, I spent 6.5 years training to be a design engineer. We have a design pattern, or a design grammar, or a design language. So, for instance, how are all the ways you can design mechanical guides. How are all the ways you design in bearings. There is a "language" to using bearings in a design. When you respect these set ways of using bearings---they have been used in the field for decades all around the world in all kinds of machines---the likelihood your bearings will work unproblematically is high.

A machine design comprises all these design patterns around a "technical principle". Meaning, how it works.

I view the interior design for JT the same way. There is no design for design's sake. There is merely a language, or grammar, or pattern.

What are these patterns?

1. At the consultation table, daylight should come from the sides of the table. This is so the sun is never shining into any party's eyes, and no party is in dark silhouette.

2. The consultation table shall be no wider than 80cm, to facilitate the tailor flipping through the cloth books for the customer's viewing.

3. The strongest source of light at a worktable shall come from the sides, never head on, or from the back. This is to prevent headache-inducing eyestrain and shadows respectively.

4. No worktable shall be lower than 90cm.

5. No source of light shall flicker at any frequency, especially not at 50 Hz.

6. There shall be a waiting area. 

7. The consultation area and the worktables should be fully usable without artificial lighting unless the sun is either obscured or have set. 

And so on so forth. I don't really care about colours unless they are offensive. I don't care for the ceiling. I don't care about MDF mouldings, particleboard furniture, wood paint, tiles etc.

I care about how the interior works. Not necessarily how it looks. Or how it conforms to the preferences of the day.

Once it works, then we can talk about Pantone colours, tile textures, types of wood, etc.

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Now to the expression "long term permanent place".

I don't see anything as permanent. There is only change. The best form of organisation is whatever makes the most sense given current circumstances. As conditions change, the organisation must change.

A long term permanent place is such a bad idea.

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Tell him to start from first principles and go read up on human centered design before proposing any changes to the scope of work. Aesthetics should come second after useability and seems like many people forget about this.

If the design is done right (or core principles addressed) the mid term DNA will be very similar to the “short term” solution. In the long term we are all dead :P

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I receive calls relatively often from people who would like to have RTW clothes altered. With very few exceptions (Jeremy, would you alter a Kilgour tux I have here?), I decline the requests.

A few months ago, it occurred to me I could channel these requests to the Mayang boy. Alterations to JT garments is a big part of his work scope; why not let him do alterations in his free time, from his own house? I would have no part in the transaction save to connect buyer with seller. The work does not happen within the JT premises.

The first such customer was so delighted with his initial experience, that he went back with more work. A few months later, he referred a friend of his.

In two cases, the customers showed up at JT during off hours to meet with the Mayang boy.

Last week, someone called me asking if I would shorten the sleeves of his jacket. I told him I do no such thing. But an employee of mine does alterations in his private capacity from his own home. Why don't I give you his number.

The Mayang boy told me it became a whole-suit alteration.

Today, the Mayang boy told me this customer came back with even more work. Altogether above 300 ringgit, he tells me.

I'm thinking if I fail as a tailor, I can become an alterationist.

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Now that I have mentioned Kilgour, I realize I have not heard about them for a very long time.

I checked them out. It turns out they have effectively left Savile Row, though they still use 5 Savile Row on social media. Their IG is terrible. Their last tweet was in 2016. They sell GBP 200 suits on their website. They are essentially dead.


They used to occupy the space above. I don't know what is wrong with them. You cannot have so little merchandise in ultra expensive retail space. It's obvious they are clueless. Retail space is for showing merchandise.

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What a strange cutting table. It is at desk height, not bench height. So the poor dude is bent over so badly doing something as trivial as thread marking. It is very fatiguing to be bent over like that and will make you into a hunchback after a couple decades.

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My staff had unpacked a lot of stuff yesterday. A few customers whose fittings cannot be postponed came yesterday.

I need to set up one more worktable to accommodate an intern or another staff. Interestingly for me, it is likely all four worktables will be solid oak---three already are.

There will likely be a 16 feet long table exclusively for optimising the lay. This may be out of pine.

I am still considering options for the flooring.

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Because these red oak boards are a raw material and not a piece of finished furniture, they have a variety of flaws and are bare wood. Above, I had brushed out worm holes. The two bottles of epoxy will be used to fill the void.


I filled the worm holes with epoxy.


All the voids filled up. After 20 hours, the epoxy will have hardened. I will then sand the surface with a random orbital sander. Thereafter, the edges need to be chamfered. After that, finishing. I bought a very interesting hard wax finish, which I shall introduce in due time.

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After water popping and sanding, I applied the first coat of the hard wax.

This oak board is RM280/piece. The reason it's so cheap is manyfold. First, it's made from short lengths of wood. So, basically, from the scraps. Second, lots of it is sapwood. Third, it's quite thin at only 15mm.

A board like this can also cost RM4k. In that situation, it would have been custom made to your specifications by a cabinetmaker. He would select continuous, wide planks of oak heartwood. He would make sure the planks are beautifully grained and relatively homogeneous. After gluing and planing, he would finish them by hand in a high quality hard wax. The entire process requires care, a level of IQ not much lower than 100 if not higher, and time. Even at RM4k, he barely makes any money.

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These dudes are stupid. No professional works like that.

First of all, real professionals work long hours. 10 hours per day at least, 6 days a week if not more.

Because of the long hours, the intensity has to be low. You won't see anyone bent over like that with such a grim expression and training their gaze with such extraordinary intensity at, what, the shears going through cloth? Dude, pros can cut blindfolded, they don't need their eyes to be a few inches away from the cloth.

Monkeys in a circus, these dudes.

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