Take a closer look at the art of pleating by way of NY Binding Co.
I first met Natasha at her amazing Red Hook home/studio. Our dedicated NY capsule designer, she’s been breathing life into our collection season after season; this time, speaking to a life of luxury through detailed pleating. I never really considered such a process until Natasha invited me back to take a tour of NY Binding Co. There, she introduced me to Nathan, and Nathan introduced me to his art: pleating. He’s been doing it for 45 years, certainly a master by now, even though he claims he’s still got a thing or two to learn. Stepping into his world opened my eyes to all of the hard work, design detail, and hand-touched crafting that goes on behind the scenes. It is indeed the intricacy of this process that produces…well, basically a work of art. Take a closer look below!
Q+A with Natasha, our NY Capsule Designer.
Last time we met, you gave us a tour of your gorgeous home in Red Hook. What have you been up to since?
I have been working on developing some custom hardware for the NY capsule with my boyfriend, Jason Ross
Why were you so drawn to pleating and incorporating it into your designs?
Process is such an important part of design for me. How you get from A-B. What the steps are — even if the end result is something simple — how it got to be that way may be quite complicated or abstract. It always starts by being inspired by one single thing. Then I build on top of that thought. In this case, I was thinking about fabric treatments. I went to visit Nathan at NY Binding, and I was blown away by the process in which he worked. He showed me how he creates pleats by hand, using handmade patterns (each one can take up to a week to make) to create what’s called a sunburst pleat. The more he talked, the more fascinated I became. Listening as he explained each step, noticing the hundreds of rolled up pleat patterns stacked high above his work station behind him in a beautiful Queens factory. The quiet murmur of machines running in the background. How long have you been doing this? I asked. 45 years was his answer. At that point I realized I was watching a true master at work. Doesn’t get more inspiring than that for me !
Do you think pleats evoke a certain kind of emotion?
There is definitely a sense of luxury. A pleated garment uses two to three times as much fabric as a non-pleated garment, so just feeling the weight alone as you wear it is something I find very rich. There is a very graceful movement to a pleated dress; also, because of the elastic quality pleating gives to fabric, it sort of clings to the body in a very sensual way.
What kind of girl do you envision wearing your designs?
Pleats are timeless — they have been around for thousands of years (in ancient Egypt, they used to pleat their garments by pouring eggs over linen and drying them in the light of the sun — pleats were seen as a symbol of power and luxury). And haven’t changed much since then. Because of that, they are so versatile. Any girl can wear them. Dress them up or dress them down.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Lots of looking back, and turning things inside out.
Q + A with Nathan, a pleating master.
How long have you been pleating?
Have been pleating for 45 years.
What/ who introduced you to the art?
At 16 years of age, I needed a job. I went into Linda Pleating, and the boss hired me for the summer. When summer drew to a close, I was asked to return after I received my high school diploma. I continued to work for this company until I graduated. At the age of 18, I became a Foreman for this company.
At what moment did you realize this was your art/a thing that would become a huge part of your life?
I realized that this art would become a huge part of my life when I was able to memorize all the various styles of pleating, after only seeing them once or twice.
Can you tell us a little bit about your process?
For me, pleating is like a jello mold — you lay the fabric between two shaped patterns, and the fabric comes out just like the pattern, very similar to a mold. This is the best explanation I can give, because I somehow can just look at the shape of the fabric and know what type of pleating it requires.
Are there different types of pleating? How do they differentiate?
There are numerous types of pleating. There are too many for me to name; however, I remember each one according to the pattern of the material.
How has pleating evolved from earlier times to now?
When I initially went into the pleating business, machine pleating was more of a novelty. However, machine pleating has become more primitive, while table pleating has become more and more trendy.
Do you have any special memories or moments that took place while crafting that you’d like to share?
My most special memory will always be the time when I crafted the criss-cross-baby-box pleating, and the hand crush pleating technique. Both techniques have brought me recognition in the pleating sector.
You and Natasha seem to have a great working relationship. How long have you worked with her?
Natasha and I have worked together for six months. I find her to be a very smart and swift learner and easy to work with.
You certainly seem to be a master at your craft. Could you imagine yourself doing anything else?
I cannot imagine doing anything else, because I am still learning.
Where do you see yourself going with pleating in the future?
I see myself going as far as my knowledge will take me in this domain.
A big thank you to Natasha, Nathan, and NY Binding Co.!
See more fashion related posts on the BLDG 25 blog.