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At Denim PV, Vintage Jeans Are a Roadmap to Enduring Design

In denim, the importance of the pattern is not lost on Alessio Berto, owner of The Tailor Pattern Support. Nor are the lessons that can be gleaned from retracing the pattern of archival garments.

At Denim Première Vision in London this week, Berto hosted Re-Trace, a workshop where attendees had the opportunity to create the pattern of three archival jeans from M.O.D.E., Elleti Group’s new denim museum in Verona, Italy. During the workshops, Berto took participants through a historical and technical analysis of the garments, their measurements and details. At the end of each course, participants took home a package of materials to reproduce the original jeans.

“The ability to observe a garment, to fully understand its making, and to discover its history is what distinguishes a patternmaker from a pattern designer, one who can give a soul to iconic garments,” he told Rivet.

This is the third time Berto has programmed denim workshops for Denim Première Vision. For Berto, the courses provide a platform to leave breadcrumbs of a skillset that is slowly disappearing as fashion design digitizes.

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At Denim Premiere Vision, Alessio Berto, owner of The Tailor Pattern Support, and attendees retrace three archival jeans.
Alessio Berto on the show floor. Angela Velasquez

With each workshop, he aims to “leave something concrete and useful to the participants” who want to become a patternmaker or improve upon what they already know about denim design. “In short, a workshop that is practical, direct and honest, like me,” he said.

From M.O.D.E.’s archive of 106 jeans, Berto selected just three vintages piece from Lee, Levi’s and Wrangler. “When I entered the museum I realized for the umpteenth time that these garments are born to be used and to last and leave something—that’s why they are iconic,” he said.

At Denim Premiere Vision, Alessio Berto, owner of The Tailor Pattern Support, and attendees retrace three archival jeans.
The three archival jeans. Angela Velasquez

Eletti Group, an Italian laundry and garment manufacturer, opened M.O.D.E. in June as a resource to designers in their research and development processes. The museum also serves as a reminder of what jeans were originally built for: utility.

While utility nowadays has a new meaning, thanks to the crop of trendy cargo pockets and carpenter pants seen on high streets across the world, Berto said the archival jeans are examples of how jeans were originally built to weather the rough-and-tumble lifestyles of ranchers and laborers.

Levi’s 501, he said, is the evolution of the work trouser. Though Lee became a symbol of youth rebellion, made famous by icons like James Dean, Berto noted that the jeans were created to meet the needs of cowboys.

“The Wrangler jean was born from the hand of a tailor and it shows,” he said. “The study of this pant is the result of the collaboration between the tailor and the cowboys. The fit becomes so clean in the front rise and even in the back fit.”

At Denim Premiere Vision, Alessio Berto, owner of The Tailor Pattern Support, and attendees retrace three archival jeans.
Attendees recreate vintage jeans. Angela Velasquez

It’s this level of craftsmanship that Berto sees fading in contemporary mainstream fashion. The indigo shade, the shapes, proportions and construction of the archival pieces, he added, do not align with companies’ standards today.

But the patternmaker stops short of stating which way is best. “The perfect denim pattern is subjective, it depends on the company, the culture of the commissioner, the fabric, the patternmaker, the manufacturing and the washing,” he said. “For me a perfect denim pattern must convey emotion, character, and above all it must be wearable.”

“When you put them on, you don’t take them off anymore.”