Beyond the public health impact, the current pandemic has also disrupted the global economy at all levels from ordinary citizens to the world’s largest companies. But it has become clear that some of the hardest hit economically are small businesses, especially craft-related ones. For me, a key question is how to support craft in this coronavirus economic downturn.

The numbers look quite bad. For example, New York City is home to nearly 250,000 small businesses. At least 2,800 small businesses have already closed and up to one-third of them may end up closing permanently as a result of the coronavirus related economic shutdown. That would be a staggering figure.  

This potential loss includes craftspeople such as tailors and cobblers who own their own shops or work for other businesses. If you have the resources and wish to support craft during this difficult time, now is the right time lend your support. 

You can start by reconnecting with local businesses.

One of the first things I did when NYC lifted restrictions on retail businesses was bringing a bunch of clothes for alterations at Charlies Custom Tailors in midtown Manhattan. I had reached out in the middle of the pandemic to the owner Marcos and asked him to let me know when he reopens. 

My reason is simple. For complex alterations that involve pattern adjustments, you really need to go to a bespoke tailor. However, that is a rare thing to find as most alteration tailors are not trained bespoke tailors. Conversely, many bespoke tailors do not do alterations.

Based on experience, I find that bespoke tailors who do alterations are rarer than Silicon Valley unicorns. Perhaps they are as rare as Sicilian unicorns, which happily do exist as I describe in my book SGST. But that poses a bit of a conundrum since the best qualified person for alterations is usually not the person doing your alterations.

This is why Marcos is a rare find as far as alteration tailors go. He was actually trained as a bespoke tailor by his father as well as by some of the finest Italian tailors in NYC. He is my go-to tailor for alterations of my own wardrobe as well as for local Sicilian Reserve customers. 

Beyond alterations, Marcos is also an ideal source for MTM clothing. If you’re in the market for MTM clothing, one of the very best things you can do is work with a skilled fitter. In fact, there is no one better to fit you properly than a trained bespoke tailor.

Because Marcos knows bespoke, he is uniquely qualified to work with the factory and ensure that your MTM jacket or suit fits properly. In contrast, you will almost certainly never have a bespoke tailor fitting you at any of the MTM tailoring brands currently in vogue. 

Although supporting local craft is an excellent start, I also plan to support craft further afield.

My friend Tim Mureau contacted me recently about the German hatmaker Wegener & Co, which is trying to create a direct-to-consumer website for the first time. For much of its 200+ year history, Wegener has been a supplier to retail shops and brands but in order to survive it needs a DTC channel. To help with this, they have launched a GoFundMe page, which I urge you to check out. 

Io compro siciliano group on Facebook. Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/508321046514811/

Finally, I would also like to share a link to “Io compro siciliano” (or “I buy Sicilian”), a Facebook group. Many thanks to Claudio Italiano, a very talented Sicilian tailor/unicorn I have the pleasure of working with, for this tip.

Sicilian ceramic vase lamp by Ceramiche Artistiche Safina. Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/ceramicheSafina/

If you want to find truly authentic Sicilian products made by local artisans recommended by Sicilians, “Io compro siciliano” is one of the best resources I’ve come across. Products include food, housewares, fashion, jewelry, ceramics, hand embroidery and more. Think of it as a rawer, less commercial “Etsy for Sicily” since quite a few of the posters have no VAT number, store or website.

Hand embroidered accessory by Carmela Maltese. Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/Ricamidelcuore150576/

One other item. Since this FB group caters mostly to Sicilians and Italian speakers, most posts are in Italian, but FB offers in-line translation of posts into your language.

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