I meant to follow up with the first post over a week ago, but I’m still fighting off this cold I brought back from Mexico. Not exactly productive around here and still cranky too. Complain complain. Anyway, I appreciate the leads and tips that came in from visitors about East West Musical Company (and I got a few more photos too). The first email I got was from Carrie, one of their cutters. This is what she said, imparting a bit of flavor and the process used by her previous employer:
I was the only woman cutter ever at East West and one of the first, getting shown the ropes by Steve Ball who helped Norman Stubbs get into the business. There were both men and women sewers. In the early days we laid out the actual stiff paper patterns on the hides and traced around them with marker pens before cutting out with scissors. Later, at the beginning of a season, several of us would trace the pieces for each design and all sizes thereof onto masonite, cut them out on a band saw and lightly sand the edges. These masonite patterns enabled us to cut directly around the templates with our super-sharp knives on woodblock table tops. As you noted with the Parrot, many coats had numerous pieces in different colors and even combinations of suede and smooth sides up, so the time to cut them really varied by this complexity.
Every morning we cutters took turns drawing from the stack of the day’s orders, so that we could each get our fair share of the simpler designs along with the more complex ones. We were paid piece work by the jacket or pair of pants. This was great work for young people and took lots of energy. We had to haul huge sacks of leather from the storeroom, lift and sort hides and be on our feet all day. But we all really had a good time knew that we were doing something quite unique and creative.
As far as I can tell, all of their past employees still rave about their experiences working for the company. I think that kind of reputation and longevity is something every manufacturer should strive for. The process of cutting Carrie outlines is something I’ve seen a lot of smaller scale leather companies do. Nadine (who teaches accessory design) does something similar. Masonite is an option if you can’t afford dies or die cutting equipment. I have some masonite patterns I bought from a company that went under. Their patterns were awful (click through, it’s funny) so I haven’t been motivated to even test walk them. Obviously, East West’s were better as you’ll see a little later on.
Other Kathleen found some links to more East West styles. Here’s the “Wren”, style # 3777. It’s for sale at $2,745.00. The piecing on this is exquisite, check out those sleeves and don’t miss the center back panel; it’s one curved piece.
Kathleen also includes a link to an exhibition page with more pictures of East West jackets in one place than I’ve seen elsewhere on the web. There’s yet another version of the parrot jacket there too. Apparently they re-ran this style over and over in different colorways. That’s a hint for you. As if I’d never suggested it before.
Here’s photos of another style I like, the “Smoke” (boy I hate the naming thing but whatever). Here’s the back:
Here’s a view of the inside back so you can see the seams and stitching. Check out those allowances, this most definitely wasn’t haphazardly engineered. There’s no way these pieces would line up so neatly otherwise.
It’s just kind of funny in a weird sort of way. East West had a reputation for being a stoner’s hang out but stoned or not, these results took some dedication and discipline. Below is the front of “Smoke”.
Anyway, hope you like! Maybe it’ll inspire someone to step up to the plate. The value of these isn’t so much that they’re vintage but that the design details are so unique. Like I say, there’s plenty of room in the market for people making nice stuff…I wonder what a pattern for one of these things would go for? I should make one instead of talking about it. I really like the “Wren”.