Women Behind the Brands: The Custom Connaisseuse - Shao Yang
Name: Shao Yang
Occupation: Founder of The Tailory New York
Education: Parsons The New School of Design
Within the world of custom tailoring (a man's world), Shao Yang is redefining the game for women in suits. Having accumulated a vast knowledge in the art and heritage of tailoring along with a background in womenswear, she combined these two skill sets when she founded The Tailory New York. The first of its kind, The Tailory, as we refer to it, is a custom clothing company, which caters to both men and women.
I've had the honor of collaborating with Shao on two occasions. Without a doubt, I can honestly sat that she along with Garrett Wexler, the Sales Director, have changed my life. They've made me a believer. With her motto, Own Your Style, Shao encourages women to do just that.
Shao is a master tailor with a positive character and a contagious laughter. Read as she takes us behind the scenes and enlightens us with her knowledge and history in tailoring.
“I started The Tailory New York because I wanted to create a space that caters to the inclusion of women, a space where tailoring exists but fashion as well. ”
What's The Tailory NYC?
The Tailory New York is a custom clothing company for men and women. We combine the best of fashion design with custom tailoring to create the ultimate wardrobe for you.
How did it come to be?
Well, I actually went to Parsons for women’s wear, and I've always known that I wanted to do something that was more tailored. My first job out of school was at an evening's wear company, but my position was In their suiting department where I did mother of the bride suits. I learned a lot about fit for women, the difference between tailoring for men versus women, the construction of a natural jacket, etc. That's where I fell in love with tailoring.
After that, I became more focused on that aspect than on that of design. I learned about the heritage and construction of tailoring men's clothing, and that's when I realized there weren't any other companies doing it for women. I started manipulating existing male patterns and altering them to fit a woman's body. If you ever see my designs for women, they have a lot of masculine details.
Suiting is a bit more modern now, specially for women, whereas most people still think about custom tailoring as an old man in the back room with a ruler drawing patterns. I started The Tailory NY because I wanted to create a space that caters to the inclusion of women, a space where tailoring exists but fashion as well.
“The first thing people think when they see me is, “you don’t wear suits, you’re a woman, what do you know about what it’s like to wear a custom suit?”... I have to work twice as hard as a male tailor because the assumption is that he’s a guy, so he automatically knows exactly what he’s doing."
Walk us through the experience of custom.
The process starts before a client walks into our space. Once a client makes an appointment to meet with us, we ask them a series of questions about their lifestyle and preferences to determine what they're looking for, and how we can best service them. From there, we create a digital mood board on Pinterest that we feel represent them, which include examples of garments. Then, they come in and we discuss the mood board, start the design process, and take full measurements.
Once the order has been placed, the factory begins construction within 4 minutes. We receive the garment in two and a half weeks. The client returns to try it on, and if there are any minor alterations to be made; we'll do it here.
We become part of your life. We retain all of your measurements and preferences on file, and we periodically send mood boards with possible options to add to your wardrobe. By the time the cold weather rolls around and you're realizing you need to get a coat, in anticipation of your needs, we would have already sent you some ideas.
Why do you think it's overwhelming for first-timers?
I think it's overwhelming because these clients don't actually get to see the finished garment until it's made. People are used to shopping off the rack, they go into a store, and they're able to see and try on several different pieces. They get a visual idea of what they're looking for.
When you're doing custom, there is no actual physical piece to see. You see fabrics, designs and sketches, so you really have to use your imagination to visualize what it will look like in real life. That's where we come in to help, but for a first-timer, that's the most overwhelming part.
Also, they have unlimited options, they can do anything they want, and when you give someone too many choices, they don't usually know what to pick. We need to assist them and narrow it down. However, once you do it that first time, it becomes easy.
Who are some of your favorite menswear designers right now?
That's a good question! Right now, I have to say Tom Ford - he is the icon! If I could live in TF every day, I would. Because I do custom clothing, people tend to assume my personal style is really dapper, but it's actually more street. Whereas I really like the tailoring of TF, I also like guys like Public School. That's where I draw a lot of inspiration. The combination of those two styles speaks to who I am.
Tell us a little bit about Shao. What entertains you? What kind of food are you into? What songs are on your most recent playlist?
I work so much that it's funny to talk about what I'm doing when I'm not working. I have terrible taste in music (laughs), I don't listen to anything on the radio unless it's really bad Pop. When I'm not working, I'm about town walking my dog to the park, going to museums, relaxing, and spending time with my family. Cooking is a really big thing for me, as I love to eat. Work is so hectic that I like to do nothing when I have some free time.
“I have to work twice as hard as a male tailor because the assumption is that he’s a guy, so he automatically knows exactly what he’s doing.”
As a custom clothier, how challenging is it being a woman?
I've been dealing with this for a very long time. Tailoring is mostly men, and being a woman that's already a challenge because the first thing people think when they see me is, "you don't wear suits, you're a woman, what do you know about what it's like to wear a custom suit?" That's a huge challenge!
I have to work twice as hard as a male tailor because the assumption is that he's a guy so he knows exactly what he's doing. I have to prove myself first, prove that I understand how they fit in a suit before I can even get to ground level. I've been dealing with this ever since I stepped into this industry, and I've been in it for a long time.
What made you realize you wanted to be in this field?
I was a designer for a really long time for different genders and genres, and I realized that sitting behind a desk and sketching when I don’t know who I’m doing it for wasn’t exciting for me.
There’s something great about being able to meet someone in person and kind of change their lives a bit by creating something that’s being made specifically for them. The best feeling is when someone walks in and says, “this is the best thing I’ve ever owned, I feel like I can do anything and it feels great.” Now, that is the greatest gift!
What's next for The Tailory?
We have a lot in the works right now. We are in our expanding phase, as we want to bring our service to other major cities like D.C., Chicago and LA, and not just to NY locals
Any regrets? Is there anything you wish you'd done differently in your journey?
I wish I started this much sooner. I see the difference that we’re making in the women’s market, and the strides we’re making. There hasn’t been anything like this in existence before. Yes, it is tough work, but I love it and I really wish I’d started the company much earlier.
One word that best describes you.
I give more than 100% of myself to things I really believe in. Anyone that knows me know that I will fight for something I have faith in until the end. I give it my all 24/7, and even if it fails, I know that I did my best and gave it my entirety.
“Women need to understand that fit is very important, it’s perhaps the most important part of the way we dress.”
How do you hope to change the way women view custom?
I think women need to understand that fit is very important, it’s perhaps the most important part of the way we dress. Right now, custom does not exist for women, so they’re a bit confused about the process and how it can change their lives.
I want women to view custom as part of their lifestyle, and they should incorporate it into their wardrobe building. They should get pieces that are completely tailored to their body so that they’ll feel great, beautiful and sexy in their clothes, instead of trying to fit into a designer. The clothes shouldn’t be wearing you; you should be wearing the clothes.
Men understand that a well-tailored garment like a suit can change their lives. It will make you look sharper, you’ll walk a little bit differently, and you’ll have the confidence you otherwise may not have had. That’s missing in the women’s market now; they don’t understand that power yet.
What was your favorite piece to design for the recently launched Fall Collection?
I have to say the pinstripe suit – I’m wearing the pants now; they’re dropped-crotched. It’s a traditional jacket made from an equally traditional fabric. I literally live in the suit, and I think I love it the most because it best represents who I am as a designer.
I’ve been wearing them with sneakers and oversized shirts. The silhouette really speaks to my design aesthetic, and I will always have some in my collection that embodies that.
This was originally published in November 2015