Glad to have you with us for another insightful instalment of ‘The Brands…’ edition of the 10@10.
Tonight’s post is a little different as we delve into the world of the start-up and have a natter with Aaron of @schilling_garments. I get as excited featuring guys like Aaron as I do featuring guys like Tellason, Rogue Territory (Hi Karl!) etc because the main thing that translates, no matter what stage you’re at, is the passion these people have for what they do!
Starting up + learning on the job is all part of the process and I imagine it can be draining but you can hear from how the guys starting out to the guys 20+ years down the line talk about it all…it gives back in droves. I have massive respect for the start-ups of this world and I love the fact we @clobbercalm can give them a platform on our humble blog.
Seeing as how this is a ‘Start-Up Edition’ of ‘The Brands…’ we thought we’d give you a quick insight into @schilling_garments by having Aaron answer three quick fire questions. Three starter-for-10s if you will…
A. Where did you learn to pattern cut and sew, you know, the basics?
I learned pattern making at the cutter and tailoring school in Metzingen/Germany from a very experienced theatrical pattern maker. I went to the school for a year fulltime. They did not only teach pattern making, but also tailoring and a bit of the business side. It’s quite common to visit this kind of school after 3 years of apprenticeship and a few years into the trade, to make your artisan master’s degree.
I also have a very large library of pattern making books from the 1900s up until today. They serve me as a great source of inspiration and knowledge. The older books hold great patterns for workwear, as for example the manchester trousers with a traight side seam – today generally known as jeans.
B. What is the main obstacle when it comes to setting up a denim brand? What things are really taking effort and concentration to overcome at this early stage of brand life?
One of the main obstacles in setting up a brand, at least in Germany, are the very complex laws (especially tax laws). As I run my denim business on the side, one other great obstacle is time. Or rather the lack thereof. There are a lot of things to do besides making the garments – answering e-mails, sourcing materials, thinking of new designs etc. – which take a lot of time and effort, as well. All this can be overbearing at times, but I hold it with Samuel Beckett: “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
C. What denim do you use and how do you source it?
I mainly use Japanese selvage denim. Which I source either directly from mills or for smaller amounts via different sellers, who allow for smaller minimums. Most of it happens online. Also, I enjoy going to the Munich Fabric Start/Blue Zone, which is also a great place to meet deinm-minded people and have a look at what’s new.
I also started to use American denim, which of course I source from White Oak directly.
That’s certainly whet my appetite and yours I would imagine, so let’s learn more by sitting back, relaxing, cracking open a beer and enjoying the thoughts of Aaron as @schilling_garments answers the @clobbercalm 10@10.
MEET THE BRAND BEHIND THE MENSWEAR
NAME: Aaron Schilling
POSITION: Designer, Patternmaker, Cutter, Tailor aka The Big Wig Know and Do It All
BRAND: Schilling Garments
ESTABLISHED: September 2016
LOCATION: Munich, Germany
SIZE OF TEAM: 1
SPECIALITY/COMPANY FOCUS: Bespoke & Custom Made Denim Clothing
1. Straight forward, please tell us, how did your company Schilling Garments start out? What’s the story? How and why does this sort of journey begin?
The whole process started a few years back. One day I just became dissatisfied with the fit and fabric of the jeans I wore. Some had a good overall fit, but the rise was too low. Some had the right weight in denim but the fit was off. I guess it was the years of training as bespoke tailor that kicked in. The demand of perfection regarding fabric, fit and craftsmanship found its way from the theatrical costumes I made at work to my personal wardrobe.
So, one day I decided to make my own pair of jeans. I just took all the features I liked and combined them into one pair of jeans. Some backwards construction was necessary to figure out how to make the right pattern. And of course, it helped being a trained pattern maker. Ever since my youth as a mod, I was passionately interested in how style develops and in the history of clothing. Hence, the affinity for and knowledge of the history of denim was given already and I just dived deeper into this indigo coloured sea.
Needless to say, the first pair of jeans was not yet perfect. However, I made another one, and then one more and so on. After I had made a few pairs for myself and the results started to look satisfyingly, I got the first requests from family and friends. Since there are not too many independent custom jeans makers around, I decided to start my own brand and offer custom made jeans, jackets and shirts, made out of high quality selvage denim with a matching high quality way of production combining the best of industrial and traditional tailoring techniques.
2. Tell us. What does a day in the life of yourself look like? What’s your daily work routine?
I usually start my day with a hot cup of Earl Grey and the newspaper. As I’m not really a morning person, this is a nice way to smoothly transition into full daylight. Then it’s either off to my main job (so far) at the theatre where I work as a cutter/pattern maker in the costume department or off to my shady, shady basement workshop. In both cases I try to keep the same routine:
The mornings are usually reserved for pattern making and cutting. Around lunch and in the evening I do everything organizational such as e-mails and social media. After lunch, it’s sewing time. At the end of the day I clean the machines, broom the floor and head out for dinner. Luckily, theater deadlines, dress rehearsals or fittings for my customers mess up my work routine on regular basis, however. In the end everything boils down to one golden rule: No pattern making or cutting after 5.30 pm, no gin & tonic before sundown.
3. What do you see as being your signature item? The garment to take you forward?
As I make everything by hand – with the help of my sewing machine and my trusty Reece 101 buttonholer – I leave my signature on every item.
Aside from that, if I really have to choose, it would be a pair of bespoke jeans made of 14 oz kurabo raw selvage denim. The denim has a great hairy texture, dark indigo colour, and feels great – soft but heavy. The jeans is being finished off with tone in tone top stitching, all copper hardware and, of course, hidden rivets on the back pocket. It’s a very subtle, straight forward look I really love.
For me my work always feels like a combination of the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi – including the delicate signs of handwork and calculated imperfections – and the functionality and cleanness in design associated with Bauhaus. Imagine Sen no Rikyu and Marcel Breuer joined forces to design a pair of jeans. I think that this description pretty much sums up the idea behind what I do and want to achieve with my clothing.
I am definitely more interested in contemporary design than in everything considered “vintage” or “retro”. Summed up: Functionality is key, I put a strong emphasis on construction and there can never be any compromise in quality. That’s what drives me forward. As much as I keep an eye on the history of denim, my concerns whilst developing patterns are always grounded in the questions: What does this piece tell about the present and what about tomorrow?
4. What’s your personal favourite garment when it comes to the items you manufacture?
That’s a tough one. As I make everything with all my heart it’s difficult to single out one item. However, due to its special place in the short history of Schilling Garments one item does indeed stand out for me: About a year and half ago I bought wonderful 16 oz kurabo sanforized selvage denim and made my very first trial jeans from it. It’s done in straight fit, features all copper hardware and the indigo stitching hides itself nicely and is only getting exposed during the fading process. The 16 oz are a perfect weight. It’s neither too heavy nor too light. Not only is it the “cornerstone” for my subsequent work, it is also one of my favourite pieces. I can wear the jeans all year round and, last but not least, the denim has a great fade.
5. What are your thoughts on the rise of Instagram fashion and the chaps that post their clothing on there to help spread the word of their fave brands?
I have sort of mixed feelings about the whole Instafashion thing. On the one side, it’s great, as just everybody can have a voice and post about the things one likes. There is this democratic element there that has always been part of the digital age. At the same time, however, it’s not only about showing what you like or sharing and spreading the word, it’s also about getting likes. The more the better. So, most people tend to post the same brands, the same kind of pictures and styles. In this sense, Instagram fashion creates some kind of feedback loop. There’s a lack of deviancy from the common tropes, pictures and styles are streamlined into perfection. Denim heads (myself certainly included) sure are guilty of posting the same old over and over again, as well. I guess leaving the down trodden paths once in a while would be a good idea.
6. Has it made an impact on your business at all, do you think?
Instagram certainly had an impact on my business and still has. It’s an easy way to show off your work, to get into contact with people worldwide, to meet new customers and of course to also get feedback.
7. Is there any feeds on IG that you particularly like to check-in on regular. What brands are you fond of on there? What menswear feeds to you like to peruse?
It’s hard to single out a few specials feeds, since there are too many to name and highlighting a few chosen ones feels a bit random. Of course, I follow fellow one-man brands and bespoke denim labels like @ben_viapiana or @paulkruizejeans, there’s also a fair share of denim fanatics I follow – such as @duewelsblog, @theindigopanda or @tuttofattoshibui to name a few – just to get my eyes on as many different styles and fades as possible.
8. A quick one about you. Other than the business, what passions do you have in life? What flicks your switch and helps you relax?
The world is filled with wonders…where to start? I love cinema – everything from Akira Kurosawa to Vincent Price; books (such as Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin or Albert Camus); comics (Daniel Clowes and Alan Moore to name two of the giants); magazines and – the joy of spinning some northern soul 45s and a cup of green tea always do the trick. Practicing Kendo helps me to unwind, as well as long strolls through city streets.
9. What do you consider to be the best thing about your business and why?
Being independent and to turn an idea into something real.
I love to be involved in the whole process of my work – meeting the customer, talking preferences and ideas, choosing the fabric, designing the pattern, sewing all the pieces together and in the end – voilà – there is a new and individually fabricated piece of clothing. Also, I love the freedom of independent work – I can start early or late, listen to music if I like, do the things the way I want to.
10. And Lucky Last, You’re going to be stranded on a desert island and you can take 1 outfit (4 items) only with you. And 1 choice of drink.
What would they be? And Why?
As I’m stranded on an island, where the sun always shines, I’d take the following with me: One of my workwear inspired shorts made out of 12.5 oz lefthand twill, a black T-Shirt in a slim fit (doesn’t have to be something fancy and white ones get dirty so easily) and for the chilly nights one of my short sleeved heavy shirts (12 oz double width denim). The Shorts have just the pefect weight not too heavy, but durable. Also, their fit is pretty comfy which might help to relax, while waiting to be rescued. The heavy shirt will last a while, too, and might be helpful to serve as a sunscreen during the day. For footwear, it will have to be a pair of Adidas Samba. I’ve always worn them since my teenage days, they are just the staple of my wardrobe.
Drinkwise, a steady supply of Gin & Tonic would do. I guess there’s no need to stay sober on a desert island. If the Gin could be Monkey 47, that would be nice.
Great stuff Aaron! The quality of your garments speak for themselves but everything you HAVE said in your feature is true testament to your work and the enthusiasm you obviously have. I think your concepts are absolutely stellar buddy and look forward to see what you do in the future! Also, looks like some top quality reading you’ve got yourself there, which leads us seamlessly onto Thursday…
This week’s ‘The Men…’ feature we have everyone’s favourite ‘jeans freak’ Ruedi Karrer aka @swissjeansfreak in the 10@10 chair. I’m pretty sure you’ll all know Ruedi but if you don’t I’ll just give you this tidbit…Ruedi is the Founder of Jeans Museum in Zurich, Switzerland which houses over 14,000 jeans & jackets. So I’m guessing you’ll want to tune in usual time next Thursday?!
Have a tip top week folks and stay close, below is a few things listed FYI…
1). We’ve set up a new SHOP link in our header with links to brands and products alike, as well as a few special treats for you…click away! More will be added in the coming days.