In this interview with Alession Berto, discover the inspirations, objectives and desires that have allowed him to create his new collection “shape of things to come”.
“After the first capsule collection I presented at Denim Première Vision two years ago, which was a collaboration with the M&J Group, I thought about creating a project that would explain the importance of the pattern maker in fashion, with a particular eye to the denim industry. I knew that doing such a project at Denim PV would provide an incredible opportunity to address the whole value chain – weavers, garment makers, brands, design students – and explain the entire process of my job.
As I’ve always worked in my own way, demonstrating the genesis of the most famous 5-pocket fit in the world or making “sample” garments to show abstract shapes, explaining theories of any kind, was not exactly on my mind or part of my thinking. Fabio Adami Dalla Val (Denim Première Vision show director) and I therefore decided to do the most logical thing: illustrate the work of the pattern maker by showing and recounting the genesis of a collection. With “The shape of things to come” I wanted to create pieces that were not up-to-date, not trendy, not purely about denim. I imagined an outerwear style with an “Haute Couture“ attitude inspired by Cristobal Balenciaga from the 50s or Chanel for women or Tommy Nutter for men, among others, including a technical garment to highlight the versatility a pattern maker needs to go from couture to denim to sport.
At least, that’s true for me!
Drawing inspiration from iconic, vintage garments in my archive, I wanted to re-think and overturn the concepts behind creating garments that, in the end, retain only a few details from the originals, yet retain their essence. That was the start of the idea but I needed the right materials! Researching exclusive, high-quality fabrics, accessories and labels was the first step, and thanks to a collaboration with a few exhibitors at Denim Premiere Vision, we attained the desired results.”
The collection is composed of 6 original garments and 6 new creations:
THE NUTTER PEA COAT
The classic U.S. Navy PEACOAT, a 6-button version from the 1950s.
One of fashion’s most iconic pieces, found in numerous collections.
THE SNOW HAORI
Inspired by a 1950s Snow SUIT of the Italian army, designed to be worn over war uniforms, and by the traditional Japanese Haori jacket, which can be worn over the kimono.
THE SEA RUNNER
Inspired by a 60s German Navy jacket, the fit has been completely updated, to become a tech piece designed for running.
THE RIDING TRENCH COAT
This item is a tribute to the classic Burghley from Barbour, a brand celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.
This Italian “Fatica” women’s military jacket from 1959 could be a typical jacket updated in denim if not for the fact that it has been fashioned backwards.
THE COUTURED WORK CAPE
The typical and iconic French work jacket: Mont St Michel jacket from the 1950s has an incredible line that I have already presented to a few design schools.
“Here it is: “The Shape of things to come”, a name inspired by one of my favourite pieces of music by George Benson. It reflects the work of the pattern maker who really gives “the shape of things to come”. During the two-day show, visitors are also given the chance to create, together with me, a “non-standard” tailored denim trouser, starting from a 1940s U.S. Navy trouser.”
THE PATTERN MAKER – ALESSIO BERTO
“When people ask me what’s a pattern maker and what are their skills today, in an era of globalization and generalised fits, I tell them about when I was a student and I looked at shop windows. Whether it was an Haute Couture, prêt a porter or a jeans shop, I always saw impeccable garments. So, I started thinking about the geometry in each design, and how to make it “three-dimensional”.
3-dimensionality is key when we talk about the role of the pattern maker, whose main job is to add a third dimension to a two-dimensional drawing. Whenever a product aspires to become iconic, concepts like fabric quality, manufacturing quality and the “right fit ” come together to create unique objects.”
There where the transformation happens. The office where the pattern makers transform the drawings is considered the most important department after the design office, making the pattern makers co-protagonists in a brand’s successes.
Today, this happens only in some cases, such as a Haute Couture collection or a tailor-made collection, together with companies who still care about the right concepts and base their success on tailors and tailoring masters as well as on pattern makers. The pattern maker receives a drawing or an idea and transforms it into a 3-dimensional garment. To make sure that a garment fits well and endures over the years, like those that have marked the history of many brands, a pattern maker needs a certain sensibility and knowledge to understand the information from the designer, along with sewing skills, as well as a knowledge of cutting, fabric shrinkage, etc.
CREATING THE PATTERN
“As we said, the task of the pattern-maker is to add the third dimension to garments. In trousers, it is the curve and the inclination of the front and back rise in balance with the hip curve that gives the fit and the line. In jackets, it’s the curved line of the armhole and sleeves compared with the slope of the shoulder that provides a good fit, and therefore the movement. Each fabric has a different yield, that’s why the first evaluation to make is the combination of design / fabric / washing that will give the pattern-maker the right information to reach the goal, and choose the right block with safe fit. With different fabrics, all the aspects change: volumes, seams, washes, ironing and obviously the final aspect of the product. The pattern-maker has a major responsibility in terms of the final result.
Today, pattern-makers work in CAD, which is important when you have to work for several companies. In a globalised world, the interchange of data is of vital importance, the speed and quality of the files that are sent is very important too. But even here sensibility and experience are fundamental, because you have to keep in mind that the person who will process your pattern is not you.
A pattern-maker must always be able to think of those adopting his work after him, aware of the distance and the fact that, in addition to his or her pattern, the supplier will have other patterns to process. That’s why I work with a tight and clear process, which works very well.”
“A very important phase in obtaining a high-quality result, and one that can seriously compromise the whole project, is the prototype. Prototyping is the phase that comes immediately after the pattern. A correct dialogue between pattern maker and prototype maker ensures that once the pattern and prototype are well executed there will be fewer problems in the sample and in production.
Prototyping is a vital phase if we want to talk about quality, and it must always be done with skill and an awareness of industrialization. The role of the pattern maker is fundamental in this phase as well, and the collaboration between pattern maker and the maker of the prototype is vital.”
YESTERDAY AND TODAY
“I remember that 15 years ago, even after changing a stitch, we made 2-3 prototypes of the same garment just to see how it looked. Today it seems that a prototype is seen only as a cost, the fabric is a cost, the whole process is a cost… Therefore, the pattern maker must be able to reach the desired goal with the least possible development, thus limiting the set of prototypes. The secret here is having a good block archive. The designer also needs to be able imagine some slight change without making a new prototype. This is a matter of sustainability as well.
Tight timings and few organisation does not help a quality process.”
“The research and creation of an archive of blocks and garments is also one of the essential tools in the work of a pattern maker. This is purely about culture, and helps to reach a goal while maintaining innovation and quality. It is a process that requires time, investment and knowledge.”
“In the end, when I think about the past – which I believe is the fundamental starting point for designing the future – I would like to say that the quality of materials, the knowledge of pattern makers and the manufacturing gives the design its third dimension, and therefore can transform the entire project, to achieve the best final result. Everything is one, as in the best sartorial tradition, the only difference being that today we tend to neglect important elements, abdicating time and cost, forgetting experimentation.
Today more than ever it is imperative that all skills are high-level, and that the new generation is ready and willing to learn the “good process”.“