The Master Craftsmen of Zady: Jessie and Tu Tu
We hope you are enjoying time with friends and family on this Thanksgiving. Today, in honor of the holidays, we give thanks to the talented men and women behind the Zady collection. They are our partners in making beautiful clothes beautifully.
We don’t have marketing gimmicks of doorbuster deals or even a giveback program, because we believe in doing things the right way every day. The farmers, the washers, the spinners, the sewers are all our partners. We don’t believe in giving money just today to build a school or pay for their healthcare, we’re creating a partnership, a partnership that you are an integral part of, of everyday decency. So that their daily salary can pay for these basic needs.
Everyday decency may lack the pizzazz of a big marketing announcement, but for us it’s our foundational principle, it’s the golden rule. We thank you for being the pioneers in making the Golden Rule the new normal.
May you have a very Happy Thanksgiving,
At their core, the holidays are about a sense of community, but in the modern chaos of flash sales and bargain hunting, we tend to lose touch with the people and processes behind the items we hope to give and receive. In light of this, we’d like to shine the spotlight on one of our production partners—C&J, a second-generation atelier that counts multiple young American designers of note among its clients. Several of the pieces from The Essentials Collection (including .08 The Wool Coat and .05 The Boyfriend Button Up ) were cut and sewn by C&J not far from our headquarters, in New York’s Garment District.
When we first reached out to C&J to learn more about their operations, we received a friendly reply from its office manager Mei, who mentioned that our focus on sustainable production resonated with her. Soon after, we toured C&J’s factory floor, and were impressed by the work environment we encountered, as well as the high quality services C&J’s employees delivered. The staff’s attention to detail is evident in the finishing of each piece, which is perfectly sewn and pressed prior to delivery.
We’ve built a strong relationship with C&J, and the company’s close proximity to our headquarters allows for a collaborative approach to production. We’re able to pop into the factory at a moment’s notice, and any last minute requests are quickly accommodated. C&J’s owner, James, has introduced us to the businesses in the Garment District that his company partners with, revealing a network that feels as close as a village despite being located in the expanse of New York City. Perhaps the greatest privilege has been to witness the skilled makers at C&J apply their talents to making the The Essentials Collection a reality. We recently sat down with Jessie Li and Ren Hur Du (“Tu Tu”) of C&J to learn more about their roles at the company, and their observations on the industry they’ve each been a part of for many years.
What is your role at the company?
Ren Hur Du (“Tu Tu”): I sew all the samples.
Jessie Li: I manage the sample room—I explain to others how to construct the garments, the samples, according to the client’s requests. And then, I handle some basic correction for patterns—I fix them. Not all of them, because we have patternmakers outside of the office.
How long have you participated in this craft, and how did you learn it?
Tu Tu: I started 30 to 40 years ago, working at a factory in Shanghai when I was 20. I studied technical design, and after that I continued to work in a factory sewing samples. I came to the US about ten years ago. I’ve been at C&J since it opened four years ago.
Jessie: I started 15 or 17 years ago. I graduated from FIT [the Fashion Institute of Technology], and this is my third job in the United States. The first job I resigned from, and then I got laid off from the second one when the economy was bad. Now this is my third job. I studied patternmaking at FIT, but after I graduated I didn’t do patternmaking. At both companies I worked for before C&J, I was a technical designer. Here, I take care of everything. Even sewing, if someone has a question about it. I do some pattern making, go to fittings, and order things when needed.
How do you feel when you see the finished product you’ve worked on being worn by people who’ve purchased these items?
Jessie: I get very excited. On the website, when we have an order for certain styles, I feel excited, like “Ahhhhh!” I always look at the website and see which styles are the best sellers.
What parts of your work give you the most satisfaction?
Tu Tu: I love knowing that the customer is satisfied with the product, and feels good in the garment. Then, I know my job is done.
Jessie: Same feeling! I’m so excited when the client really loves what we made, and he or she likes the detail of the finished construction.
What are your favorite things to do when not at work?
Tu Tu: I love Mah Jong.
Jessie: Me too! I also like to watch dramas online, and shop online.
How long have you worked in the Garment District here in New York, and how has the Garment District changed since then?
Tu Tu: When I came to the US ten years ago, I started in this building. I was on the third floor here for about seven or eight years. Then I went to another company for about two and a half years, and came back here.
In the last ten years, work has gotten busier, and the work we do is more complicated than it was before.
Jessie: Ever since I graduated, 17 or 18 years ago, I’ve worked in the Garment District. I see a big difference since I started. Before, there were so many people, and so many factories in this area, and even in Chinatown. But now, most of them are closed. A small sample room or sample studio will now operate inside a factory, instead of on its own. The pieces that are being made here are more complicated, not simple like before. A lot of the other work is going overseas.
What do you think the fashion industry will look like in 20 years, given the growing awareness of the negative effects of fashion on the environment and many of the people who make clothing throughout the world?
Tu Tu: In the future, more and more people are going to ask questions about their fabrics and are going to ask for transparency in that. More and more people are going to care about the environmental effect of the process of making clothes, as well as the effect it has on their health.
I think that there is going to be a movement away from the traditional way of making things, and a move toward using new technologies in the industry. It’s going to be about using traditional materials in an unconventional and new way that hasn’t been done before. For example, fusible is used to give structure to a garment, but if you want something really structured, you can use organza instead.
How has the outsourcing of jobs like yours overseas impacted you?
Tu Tu: I feel that obviously, manufacturing more and more clothing overseas is taking business away from here. This results in a quality discrepancy—the quality of clothing made here is going to be better than that made overseas. More and more, people will be attracted to the quality of clothing made here.
Translated by Sarah Chi.