Financial History 139 (Fall 2021) - Page 34

The CIC describes itself as :
… more than 50 small , unique , independent businesses and artisans , in and around New York City , who create and supply costumes for the entertainment industry . Standing alongside us are costuming colleagues from major NYC arts institutions . We transform the designer ’ s two-dimensional sketches into custom , one-ofa-kind costumes for theatre , dance , opera , concerts , theme parks , cruise ships , ice shows , live entertainment and on television and film worldwide .
We employ hundreds of specialty artisans : pattern makers , cutters , stitchers , hand finishers , tailors , painters , sculptors , crafters and more . We infuse millions of dollars into the New York City economy through rent , payroll , taxes and other expenses . We support the historic Garment District by buying materials — fabrics , trims , notions , equipment — from local vendors .
John Kristiansen , owner of his eponymous shop , and his partner Brian Blythe are the main organizers of CIC , and also successful entrepreneurs in their own right . “ When I started , it was me and two stitchers working out of my apartment in Astoria , Queens ,” said Kristiansen . “ When we moved to our current space , I had nine employees , all dressmakers . It ’ s been a natural progression over many years . We have 52 employees — and I ’ m extremely grateful for all the women and men who come to work with me every day .”
Kristiansen also takes pride in the diversity of his team . The artisans he employs come from around the world — Azerbaijan , China , Columbia , Ecuador , Germany , India , Kyrgyzstan , Moldova , Poland , Russia , Ukraine and the United States .
Indeed , immigrants have always been a major force in the costume business , from England as noted , but also especially from Eastern Europe . For example , the shop owned by an Armenian makes the iconic “ money coats ” for the blockbuster musical Hamilton , designed by Paul Tazewell .
Artur Allakhverkyan , founder and owner of Artur & Tailors , is known professionally by his first name . He grew up and started his trade in Baku , but he had to leave in 1988 when fighting in the region meant it was not safe for an Armenian in the capital of Azerbaijan . He
Sally Ann Parsons speaking to a group in her shop in Long Island City . Her shop built the costumes for the blockbuster Cats , among many other shows . The building , owned by Danny Geoly , was home to the last of the big rental shops , Eaves-Brooks . It is still home to the costume shop for Radio City Music Hall , and to one of the last big embroidery shops , Penn & Fletcher .
came to New York by way of Ukraine and started in leatherwork before becoming a tailor at Barbara Matera ’ s .
Artur went out on his own in 2009 . “ In 2014 we were working overtime on Sleeping Beauty when Paul Tazewell ’ s design associate came to us asking for two jackets for his new show at the Public Theater ,” said Tova Moreno , the shop manager at Artur ’ s . “ We did not know anything about the show , and we were very busy , but the coats were green and that is my favorite color so I managed to convince Artur to take the work .”
Readers of this magazine will know that money was not green in Alexander
Artur Allakhverdyan in his shop , 2019 .
Hamilton ’ s time , but the show is as much art as history , and the original “ money coats ” are now on display at the Smithsonian Institution .
As with many large productions for Broadway , traveling shows and major regional theaters , Hamilton is so big that the costumes are made at several different shops . One is owned by Jennifer Love .
“ Three to four years ago it was impossible to find tailors ,” said Love . “ The established people were not training younger ones . There are plenty of street tailors , but that is very different from theatrical tailoring . For example , the jackets on stage have to move and fit differently .”
Courtesy of Sally Ann Parsons Photo by TovoMoreno / Courtesy of Artur Allakhverdyan
32 FINANCIAL HISTORY | Fall 2021 | www . MoAF . org