Company Cribs: Siam Costumes Part 2

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Your back already!? This time we shall venture into the second building and have a look at the workshop , a collection of rare authentic fabrics along with other hidden gems.

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As you can see our workshop is split into two sides, as most of the time we will be working on several productions at once. This way it makes it a lot easier to oversee our work.

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If you look closely you may notice the black and white striped fabric. Any ideas ,apart from prisoners and robbers who can be seen in a black and white striped clothes? No luck, how about that quirky fella Beetlejuice.

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So that’s the ground floor where all the magic happens, let’s make our way upstairs and see what we can find.

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I can see Michael in our second pattern cutting room , let’s go and have a look and see what he’s up to.

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We finally found Sebastian, call off the search and rescue team and Michael Sloan who I mentioned in a previous blog, I won’t hesitate to describe him as one of the best pattern cutters in America. Young grasshopper Sebastian is lucky to be able to have michael teach him few tips about pattern cutting. I best leave them to it.

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This room is very popular among costume designers, in fact any one who works within the costume industry. It would be rude not to step inside.

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We call this, the room of natural beauty, I’m joking its referred to as the northern room. This authentic library of fabric has been stocking up for over the past 10-15 years from northern Thailand, Laos, Burma and Cambodia.

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I once had the pleasure of going up to a small town in northern Thailand as Darryl was visiting some factories to buy some cotton, whilst he was looking through the mountains of fabric he told me when he goes to these factories he feels like a little kid in a sweet store, he also said that his wife hates him going up here as he can’t help but buy “too much” fabric although when he sees an unusual fabric he is already thinking of which type of film or stage production it could be used on.

Thats enough of that, up to the last floor of this building.

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At the top of the stairs, you are greeted by draws and draws of files, here is an example of some. We don’t just store everything on the computers as its not practical at times when we need to refer back to styles, patterns etc. See if you can notice any previous productions.

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Not one of the most popular rooms of the building, but never the less one of the most important. Here is another library this time of previous patterns from many different productions, this is useful as sometimes costumes will repeat itself especially suits, shirts, etc so it saves a lot of time rather than having to construct a new pattern each time.

And once again we have come to an end, for now. Next time we will be showing you around the 3rd and final building, where you will get to see our notorious stock room, our fabric sample room and others you will just have to wait and see, until next time.

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The Long way round

Yesterday morning I caught up with the founder and owner of Siam Costumes: Darryl Kent-Morris, I wanted to find out where it all began, Why he chose this sector of the industry and how he got to where he is now.

1. Who would you say are your main customers?

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“Well you see our client base, it falls into two main areas that being corporate, and entertainment. However more often than not, they crossover to one another, but we try to differentiate between the two. On the corporate side it is The Cameron Macintosh Theatre Group and  Merlin Entertainment. Most people wouldnt know who they both are but Cameron Macintosh is most probably one of the world’s biggest musical producers , owning the rights for hit musicals such as Cats, Les Miserables, and Phantom of the Opera, which just happens to be 3 of the longest running musical stage productions ever. Merlin owns Seaworld, Legoland and Madam Tussaud’s plus a whole  host of other theme park type venues, and it is recognised as the second largest entertainment company after Disney . On the entertainment side Andrew Llyod Webber’s Really Useful Group has to be up there along with HBO and BBC“.

2. When did you first realise that you had a passion for clothes?

“Ever since I was young child I’ve always had a love for history, most people don’t realise that one of the key element of our pasts was what people wore, and unlike now it was usually for practical reasons such as riding a horse and what fabric and dyes were available. Therefore getting involved in costumes was a natural progression”.

3. What inspired you to start your own business in the manufacturing sector rather than work your way up in an established company?

“I never really wanted to work for someone and I have done everything possible to avoid it. One of my first businesses I ever had was a landscape gardening company, which I still love above all else. I do enjoy the freedom and flexibility I have working for myself, and resting something from nothing but like everything it also has its disadvantages”.

4. Have you always shown an interest to costumes within the entertainment industry?

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“Yes one of the first films I saw and took as much interest in the costumes as the plot, was Sergio Leone‘s “Once upon a time in America”  and the costume designer was Gabriella Pescucci and who is still one of my favourite costume designers”.

5. What was the greatest moment so far for Siam Costumes?

“When I took the big step of manufacturing internally rather than externally. So being able to produce all of our work in-house, and for the first time we were able to oversee our work entirely from start to finish, plus gives the added bonus  of continuously improving our employees skills”.

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6. What made you take the leap from tailoring for members of the public to manufacturing for the entertainment industry?

“The Commercial reason is that the rewards are greater, primarily as I said being based in Bangkok I am unable to visit clients personally. The general public also don’t know what they require, so therefore need our involvement a lot of the time. Unlike designers, but being based where we are it is impossible for us to visit every client each and every time they want a new garment. Not to mention that the public obviously don’t require historical garment’s to be made, which for me is one of the most important factors of why I’ve chosen to do what I am doing”.

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7. Where would you like to see Siam Costumes within the next 10 years?

“I would like to see my two sons taking over the day to day running of the business, plus at least one more workshop opening in South-East Asia, which could happen soon so watch this space”.

8. Having worked within the Industry for as long as you have, Is there anything that still surprises you?

“Thats a good question, I could say the time someone who I won’t name threatened to have me “whacked” by a combination of the Russian Mafia, half a dozen of his East-European henchmen and an ex C.I.A agent for good measure,but we don’t need to go into that. I would say the ability of individuals that have worked for us to exceed my expectations. When ever I look back of what we have produced in the past 30 years I am always surprised and elated on how far we have progressed and achieved”.

9. What are the advantages of working in Thailand?

“Because of the history of the tourist trade there is a ready pool of skilled labour, who if given time and careful instruction can learn  to meet the perfection that Broadway and Hollywood demand. Lest we forget the climate, that beats hands down the English weather, the fantastic cuisine, the general ambiance of the place Thailand for all intents and purposes is safe. Last but not least South-East Asia is part of the world’s eppi centre for fabric and ancillary items which enables us make our clientele’s  work far more interesting”.

10.  Which production that you have worked on, have you found the most interesting from a costume perspective and why?

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“Most probably Winters Tale last year, because it took the required competence of our staff to a whole new level and from a personal interest the beginning of the 20th century is still my favourite period of men’s clothing”.

11. If you had to do it all over again is there anything that you would do differently from a business persecutive?

“Yes I would like to have completed a men’s tailoring course. I truly believe my weakest point is that I am not a tailor and like anything in life its important to lead by example, although there again the last 30 years have been extremely interesting, and lets be honest does the Chairman of General Motors know how to ensemble an engine? most probably not but does he really need to”