Designer Yeohlee Teng is a leader in the fight to save the Garment Center. Not only does she work closely with Made in Midtown to get the word out to the masses, she also practices what she preaches, producing nearly every single garment she sells right in New York.
"The Garment Center is a hub for research and development," she told me yesterday as we walked through Regal Originals, a 50-plus-year-old firm that does trimmings and pleating for big name designers. Teng compares the Center to a delicate ecosystem--it produces beautiful, rare things and needs to be nurtured.
The designer began working with Regal about a year ago. Rodger Cohen, the owner of the firm, is also heavily involved in efforts to preserve the area. They were introduced through acquaintances, and came up with some cool pleating ideas. Teng is always looking to innovate, so they did some work with cross pleats, which kind of looks like a fancy waffle pattern. (You can check it out in our tour of the factory.) Cohen even initially sent Teng vignettes of different styles to show her what they might look like. Because of proximity--they're only two blocks away from each other--the project was able to go from project to reality in less than a year.
Like the other companies we've profiled for this series, Regal understands that in this age, mass production happens overseas. And that's that. But Cohen and his family (the company was established by his father-in-law) also believe that there's a space for special clothes. He wants young designers to know that they can produce high-quality garments just blocks away from their studios, and at a price comparable with high-end pieces made abroad.
Click through to take a tour of Regal Originals, courtesy of Rodger Cohen, Yeohlee Teng, and the rest of Cohen's fantastic staff.
Welcome to Regal Originals!
This board is filled with different swatches of fabric, pleated in all different ways.
An overview of the incredible workroom.
Here, one of Regal's expertly-trained employees is shirring fabric--this will be made into a sundress.
This dress has tons of specific stitching details.
Ruffles are being created!
The mechanics behind one of Regal's crazy-amazing pleating machines.
Some samples of pleating work, what the firm may be best known for.
This gentleman is hand-pleating a skirt--awesome.
The cardboard mechanism used to hand-pleat something.
The process begins.
And he's finishing up.
The skirt then goes into one of these steam boxes.
Here's what it looks like inside.
And this is what it looks like when it comes out of the steamer, which sets the pleats.
This lady is adding powder to guide the seamstresses on where to add the stitching.
This is one of the automatic pleating machines. (Although it's not really automatic--you do need someone to operate it.)
Another machine view.
Tons of machines used for different types of stitches.
Rodger's daughter, who didn't want to be photographed! But we thought it was important--she's the next generation!
Nathan, an expert pleater, has been with Regal for 26 years, but in the business for over 40. (And yes, he realizes how young he looks.)
More cool machines.
One of Yeohlee's shirt coming out of the pleating paper--it looks tiny!
Here's what it looks like up against a real person. Check out the cross-pleating.
Yeohlee Teng, Rodger Cohen, and Josephine Gomez, who has been with the company for over 50 years.