Focus On Pleats

By Anna Wyckoff, December 7, 2009

Many tools lurk in a Costume Designer’s arsenal as he or she manipulates fabrics and materials in order to achieve a design. The art of pleating is one such weapon, and it dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

A pleat describes when fabric, which is secured at one edge and released at the other. Pleats are sewn and can be set using heat, steam, and pressure.

We interviewed the two most renowned local resources, A-1 Pleating and Park Pleating, to hear their perspective on the current commercial climate as it relates to this specialized craft. Pictured right: Warren Caton of A1 Pleating, photo by Anna Wyckoff.

A-1 Pleating

A-1 Pleating

8318 1/4 W. Third St. (In the Alley)
LA, CA 90048

(323)653-5557

Warren Caton was looking for a new business when longtime friends and designers Robert Turturice and Jim Pfanner suggested he buy A-1 Pleating. “Oh, it sounds boring,” Caton worried. But they persisted, suggesting to, “…Come work for us, and watch and learn. We think you’ll find it’s very exciting.” And so he did. Caton’s background as the head of the Pasadena Playhouse Costume Department and the American Conservancy Costume Department in San Francisco predisposed him to love working with designers, and he found the work of pleating to be exacting, fun, and unpredictable.

Occasionally, someone new to the shop would ask where his machines were located, and Caton would simply show them his hands. His business expanded into intricate custom belts and delicately covered buttons. Along the way, Caton found great satisfaction in pleasing the discriminating designer. When he worked with Bill Whitton for Michael Jackson or Bob Mackie for Cher, he was inspired by the demands of their creativity.

Caton expresses a fondness for the days when designers personally came into A-1 Pleating with designs that, at first glance, seemed impossible. However he is more likely to be contacted by an assistant or a designer with a tear sheet in hand. Caton contemplates this situation and says, “I like the challenge of working with people that have attitude and imaginations. I love their creativity, I feed off that. I always considered myself their assistant, and when I read articles or hear applause for them, I sort of puff up.”

“I feel like I share in that because I’ve offered myself to them,” he adds. “In the old days they were appreciative, and nowadays there’s not much time for appreciation.”

Park Pleating

Park Pleating

2812 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90007

(213) 746-1777

With a twinkle in his eye, Eddie Moya Jr. quotes his father saying, “We’ve only been in the business for forty-five years.” Eddie began assisting his father in junior high school, but at that point Eddie Sr. had already logged in long years at another pleating company before striking off on his own, forming Park Pleating in 1963.

Initially, the business focused solely on pleating. But thanks to the insight of Eddie Sr., the gradual acquisition of specialty machines, some a hundred years old, expanded the scope of the business. Ancient hemming machines, a huge pleater, and the grand steamer are still buzzing with activity in this building that has served the company for almost its entire existence. The back wall is packed with thousands of pleating patterns, the possibility that all of these tools can be unleashed into an unlimited number of designs, given the right vision.

Eddie Jr. often speaks in ratios because ratios are the key to pleating. But he lives for the occasion when a designer asks for the unlikely. It is at those moments, armed with the history of pleating, that Eddie Jr. can answer free hand in fabric.

 

Park Pleating serves both costume and fashion design communities. Eddie Jr.’s handiwork has been featured in films like “Alien” and “Star Trek” as well as on the runway for Rodarte; his father counted Galanos, Nolan Miller, and Jean Louis among his clients.

When asked about the animated bustle in the shop, Eddie Jr. shakes his head, “We used to have sixty to seventy people working for us,” he explains, “Two buildings, as many as eight thousand garments on the floor to be pleated…but since 1995, the year NAFTA was passed, I have seen the most outrageous dissipation of an industry that you could probably see in a lifetime.”

Currently he has only a handful of artisans left. But even facing the adversity of the present economic situation, he refuses to sacrifice quality or innovation, noting that those elements are the cornerstone to the legacy he and his father have built together. Pictured right: Eddie Moya Jr. at Park Pleating, photo by Anna Wyckoff.


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