Custom shirts made in America
Carl Goldberg says that sewing is an immigrant story—and that certainly holds true for him. His grandfather immigrated to Pennsylvania from Prussia, and established an army navy surplus store in
Philadelphia. Carl grew up working in that very store, studied business in college, then moved to NYC, where he eventually established his own custom shirtmaking business called CEGO. He’s been commissioned for various exciting projects like producing shirts for the Metropolitan Opera as well as many
Broadway shows, movies, and TV shows, such as Fiddler on the Roof, The Producers, Wicked, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Elementary, Homeland and The Wolf of Wall Street.
There is a perception that custom-made shirts are a luxury item.
A custom-made shirt isn’t a luxury. It might be a little indulgent. However, it’s also very good value. A customer will get many years of use and enjoyment from a CEGO shirt. Prices are of course higher than most ready-to-wear shirts, and that’s because of our fine workmanship and top-notch materials. We use the finest quality thread, interlining, pearl buttons and fabrics.
What’s the difference between an off-the≠rack shirt and a custom-made shirt?
Most off-the-rack shirts are made in large factories, corners might be cut and costs are kept as low as possible. Often the shirts are made with automated, computerized sewing machines. An operator just feeds
pieces into the sewing machine and no one actually does any real sewing.
A custom-made shirt is tailored individually to the customer’s measurements. It should be an exact fit. The client chooses the fabrics and the design details. A custom-made shirt can be made in a factory
that’s set up to make individual orders using some computer-aided cutting machines—which cuts costs—or by hand. CEGO makes most of our shirts in our own small workroom of eight people, including a cutter, maker and a number of tailors who sew and press the shirts.
The most important detail is the fit. High-quality shirts will have that clean, well-made finish.
What is the process of creating a custom-made shirt?
At the first appointment, I take the customer’s measurements and usually have them try on a sample garment. This is a great exercise for the customer as it gives him a starting point to describe what he likes and doesn’t like about the fit.
Then we discuss the design details: collar and cuff style, pockets or not, stitching, etc. We then choose one fabric to start with from our display wall or swatch books.
Next, we make a paper pattern and cut the fabric for the shirt. The pieces are then sewn together and pressed. We generally have a sample ready in a week or two, but can complete the entire process in as little as a day if necessary. Normally we have a sample ready in a week or two.
When the shirt is ready, the customer comes in for a fitting, and we make adjustments as necessary. If we are pleased with the fit, the customer takes the shirt home to wash and wear several times, and then comes back to discuss how it feels and how well it laundered. If necessary, we make a second sample. Once the customer is pleased, we proceed with the balance of the order.
What styles of shirts do you offer?
If it’s a shirt, we can make it. We’ve d≠signed many costume shirts for movies, TV shows and Broadway shows. We specialize in dress and business casual, and make beautiful tuxedo shirts. We can even work with knits.
What do you think of trimmings and other customizing options available?
I find weird-colored buttonholes and crazy prints on the underside of cuffs tiresome. I’m a bit of a purist. An interesting but discreet button adds a lot more, in my opinion. Also, shirts with more subtle, classic designs will not go out of style when other people grow tired of that garish look.
How long does a custom-made shirt last on average?
White shirts will wear out sooner than colors or stripes. That’s to be expected as they will lose their “whiteness” faster than darker fabrics. A white shirt can be soaked in OxiClean for some new life. A shirt will last three years if only a few shirts are being rotated; if the gentleman has 20+ shirts, a shirt can last from 5-10 years.
Have you met any interesting personalities?
I have met all sorts of celebrities and actors. Tom Hanks was in my fitting room recently in full wardrobe, and I had the thrill of watching him slip into character for his movie, The Post, when someone handed him a cigarette and newspaper.
Any plans for the future?
I may never retire—to my wife’s chagrin! I hope to pass the business to a younger man who wants to make shirts properly. My children’s interests lie elsewhere, so they won’t be taking it on.
What is the most important principle you have learned through your business?
Deliver an honest product at a fair price. When my customer is happy, I am happy.
Carl Goldberg has strong stitches keeping his DNA together. A classic shirtmaker serving the discerning man-in-the-street and stars on Broadway and the silver screen. A purist, he will continue making people look their best as long as there’s another exciting day ahead of him.
Contact Carl on: (212) 620-4512 firstname.lastname@example.org, www.cego.com