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Thoughtful Denim Design Begins With Pattern Making

Fashion moves quickly, and no one knows this better than a pattern maker.

“A pattern maker today must know how to move to achieve the best result fast,” said Alessio Berto, founder of The Tailor Pattern Support. “To do this he must have instinct, mental elasticity, courage and a good archive of building blocks that will adapt and improve from time to time depending on the client, the mood of the collection, the fabrics and manufacturing.”

If it isn’t evident already, Berto is passionate about pattern making. During his 25-year career, he has created blueprints for Jean Paul Gaultier Jeans, Katharine Hamnett Jeans, Andrew Mackenzie, Replay, Kenzo KI, Boy London and Sport Chanel. In 2012, he decided to share his experience with the industry     by opening The Tailor Pattern Support, a pattern making, consulting and training studio in Northern Italy.

Berto brought his expertise to Denim Première Vision in Milan this week, where he led workshops in denim pattern making. “Denim Première Vision gathers excellence in production, manufacturing, fabrics and design,” he told Rivet. “Pattern making is an integral part of these processes. It is important to talk about the importance of this discipline, [because] without which there would be no final quality of a product.”

Here, Berto shares why pattern making is a valuable asset in the production of denim, and an art form in Italian fashion.

Rivet: What does pattern making mean to Italian fashion?

Alessio Berto: Pattern making has been an integral part of Italian fashion since the ’60s, before there was tailoring and tailors. Each company had in its structure a design office and a pattern making department that created the collections and collaborated closely, creating wearable constructions that today serve us as a source of inspiration. And it is very important to raise awareness and talk about this art because this will be the future. In Italy, many companies that were thinking only about the price are now rethinking the quality. And on the other hand, many others make the pattern their strong point.

Rivet: What do pattern makers for jeans struggle with the most today?

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AB: Pattern makers have a big responsibility. The pattern maker is the person who gives design projects a third dimension. He or she must create a garment that can be manufactured and industrialized. It must fit and it must be sustainable. Many companies today rely on suppliers that use standard paper patterns with small ad hoc corrections. This is not pattern making.

Berto leads a workshop at Denim PV Angela Velasquez

Rivet: How can pattern makers be more sustainable?

AB: In my everyday work I think how I can use less paper and less fabric to be more sustainable. I’m not a producer; I’m just a designer at the end, but I do the best I can to be a part of this mentality.

Rivet: Is stretch denim a challenge for pattern makers?

AB: Of course, you have to feel the fabric in your hands and understand the elasticity and the yield after washing to prevent gathering. All of this is important, especially in women’s denim to get a perfect fit in the front and back rise, which are the most delicate points on the pants. Unfortunately, today even the non-stretch denim that once was a guarantee sometimes does not have all the finishing that it should due to the low price. This creates problems in manufacturing and the cutting phase. We must be aware that today not all companies look for the [quality] in denim, so we find ourselves working with problematic fabrics and having to compensate with the pattern. To manage this, it takes experience.

Rivet: How do you know when you have a perfect fit?

AB: The perfect fit is when the customer says “move pockets slightly” and does not mention the fit. Then you know you did a good job.

Rivet: What is the best piece advice you’ve received during your pattern making career?

AB: I’ve had the privilege of working alongside professionals such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Andrew Mackenzie, Katharine Hamnett, Jeff Griffin, Claudio Buziol, Madame Morel among others. Thanks to their advice I could only grow and now I put my experience at the disposal of others, like my clients or my students. To do this we need humility and seriousness and of course a bit of courage and recklessness.