October 30, 2017 Meet the Maker — The Williamsburg Seamster
Named the “Fairy Godmother of Hipster Weddings”, we first found the Williamsburg Seamster on Instagram. It was clear that Nayantara created genuine relationships with those she worked with and aimed to educate as well as fix. We reached out to hear more about her story and share a bit of advice on how to prepare for bridal alterations :
How did you start working in this particular craft?:
My mom taught me how to sew, and I was encouraged to pursue it further through classes offered at my high school. I got my degree in Fashion Design, where I was able to hone my garment construction and pattern making skills, and moved to Brooklyn, NY after graduating. My first official job was for a women’s bespoke suit company, where I learned a lot about the custom fitting process, which in combination with my previous internship at a high-end women’s evening wear company, would help me a lot as I ventured into the world of bridal.
How did The Williamsburg Seamster come to be?
I always thought I wanted to work in fashion and had an entrepreneurial spirit, but my first experiences in the fashion world quickly changed that. I started The Williamsburg Seamster as a side hustle to my full-time job because it allowed me to do something I’m good at, without having to compromise my ethics. I set out as a traveling tailor service for all kinds of garments, serving my neighbourhood, Williamsburg. Eventually, I took on TWS full time, started doing more bridesmaid’s and wedding dresses, and found a lot more joy in the process of tailoring for special occasions than I did in the piles of jeans that took up half my workspace. I decided to switch to bridal only, realizing this specialization would make my labor feel more meaningful, but also would be valuable to the brides I was working with. Now, The Williamsburg Seamster is based in a bright, beautiful studio in downtown, Los Angeles — I relocated but kept the name because it’s recognizable and linked to all of my reviews and press, though honestly had no clue when I originally named my business that ‘Williamsburg’ would become as much of a thing as it did. In addition to growing my business as a resource for brides, I’m working on bridging my graduate studies in sustainable fashion/labor rights in the garment industry with my work in bridal by developing a skills & capacity building workshop for garment workers currently underemployed or exploited in the industry, hoping to share the meaningful power of this kind of work with more people, both garment workers and brides.
Your typical work day?
I usually get to my studio by 8 or 8:30am, and dig into emails first thing or prep for the mornings fittings (Wednesdays through Saturdays, since I try to keep Mondays and Tuesdays clear to focus on sewing). Emails are actually a big part of my workload, because I try to be as thorough as possible so brides feel well-informed about the process, and usually have about 5 to 6 emails back and forth with brides before we move forward with a consultation. In order to be accommodating of clients’ work schedules, I usually have a few morning fittings, try to break for lunch around 1pm, have a few hours to sew in the afternoon, and then see clients again between 5pm and 7pm. I try to leave the studio by 8pm, but in the busiest parts of the season, I often have to stay later to complete the sewing for the next fittings. Luckily, my studio is in such a vibrant part of downtown LA, that I can sneak out for a lovely lunch or meet up with my boyfriend for dinner within a few blocks for a break or nice end to a long day. I listen to a lot of podcasts, local public radio, and audiobooks while I sew, which I must admit, is a pretty great perk of this kind of work.
What music is playing in your studio when you’re working?
I like music that has a soulfulness to it, and I love a good beat, especially to keep fittings feeling lively, regardless of the genre. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of St. Vincent, D.R.A.M., Sylvan Esso, Childish Gambino, Kelela, Future Islands, Arthur Russel, Irma Thomas, Nina Simone, always Beyonce.
What advice do you have for brides preparing for their 1st alterations appointment?
I’d recommend brides think about the way they feel in their everyday wear and what makes them feel most comfortable, confident, and beautiful. It’s not always possible for a wedding dress to be worn in quite the same way as everyday wear, but a few aspects can be important to express so your alterations specialist can suggest the right fixes or alterations. Think about your priorities for the big day — there are a lot of people to hug, not to mention your special boo, so you’ll want to be able to move your arms. If standing for a long time in heels isn’t your thing, consider flats or wedges, and know that once hemmed, a gown on a woman of any height will look much more elongating than it does when it’s too long and weighed down. So bring a few heel heights to a fitting if you're still unsure, but be sure to bring something! If you need a lot of support in your bust to feel comfortable, bring a few of your tried and true bras with you to a fitting, before buying anything new, and talk your seamstress about what would be the best solution, since things like boning and cups and low necklines and straps need figuring out. If your skin is sensitive to digging, consider scooping armholes and necklines to avoid red marks. And if you’re going to have friends or family along throughout the process, be sure to communicate clearly about the kind of advice and level of involvement you want from them, limit the number of cooks in the kitchen, and ask them to be imaginative and supportive and critical only in constructive ways.
Something that people may not know about your job?
I’m basically a therapist during fittings. which I really don’t mind, but because of how much I care about this work and my clients, I have had to learn how to remain empathetic and caring without lowering some necessary boundaries. I actually spent a session with my own real therapist talking about how I can better serve my clients, by listening and processing their thoughts and concerns, without taking their stresses on as my own. While we of course talk about the dress during the fittings, we also talk about the logistics of wedding planning, managing family expectations, balancing work and life, and more. Sometimes these things stress or trigger unforeseen insecurities or concerns that may impact my work or ability to manage expectations and thus need addressing. Ultimately, this kind of work requires a very intimate, close relationship, even if it ends just a few months after it begins, and like most relationships, I’ve learned that openly communicating is the key to it’s success. I try to treat each bride like a friend of mine — I’m excited for them and want the very best for them on their wedding day — and in the end often have brides sad to leave their last fitting because it’s the end of this relationship in a way. Thankfully Instagram has provided a nice way of staying in touch with brides after the wedding!