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There are two maintenance issues that can negatively impact the look and life of a bespoke garment: poor cleaning and poor pressing.
It’s a service available at over 26,000 cleaners in the USA.
Will Boehlke (www.asuitablewardrobe.com) commented as follows:
“My own inadequate attempts at tailored clothing maintenance have over time reduced themselves to the trouser press and my Jiffy steamer. That is because I have received too many dry cleaned suits that went away as a three roll top and returned as a three roll two, or, just as often, the reverse.”
Simon Crompton (www.permanentstyle.com) was even more blunt:
“A high-street dry cleaner will stick your suit in a large drum, soak it with chemicals that spread the dirt around more than they get rid of it, and then put it on a big industrial press which will stamp it flat, ruining any curve in the shoulders, chest canvas or lapels. The chemicals wear away the cloth, shortening its life. The press forces a three-dimensional object to become 2D.”
The negative press keeps growing in number and intensity.
At RAVE FabriCARE, we understand why many owners of bespoke garments are conflicted when it comes to turning over their bespoke garments to an ordinary, “bang and hang” cleaner.
The owners of bespoke garments are familiar with the quality of the materials that went into their garments:
The owners of bespoke garments also understand the collaborative process that went into the construction of their bespoke garments:
The entire process could involve 6 to 10 weeks of time, 60 to 80 hours of skilled labor, 40,000 to 60,000 hand stitches, and 5 to 10 visits to your tailor.
It’s time and labor intensive. So it’s expensive.
On the other hand, the owners of bespoke garments have personal knowledge of the damage that can be inflicted on their garments by ordinary, “bang and hang” cleaners.
They know that these cleaners often say one thing and then do something completely different….
Given these facts, why would anyone entrust their bespoke garments to a cleaner?
Even if it’s only for a sponge and press during the season?
Or for a clean and press at the end of the season or as needed?
The answer is that most don’t. They’re petrified. And when they do, they approach the entire experience with extreme trepidation.
Unfortunately, not everyone is fortunate to live near their tailor, particularly one who offers a lifetime sponge and press service (a rare offering today).
And there’s only so much that can be achieved at home with a hand-held steamer, an open-faced iron, or a steam filled bathroom (all reckless options, in our opinion).
There has to be a better alternative.
And there is…
A true quality cleaner will offer 2 services for bespoke garments:
During the course of a season, your bespoke garments may need nothing more than an occasional sponge and press.
A clean and hand press service at the end of the season or as needed.
At the end of a season (or in the event of a major mishap), your bespoke garments should be cleaned and hand pressed.
To fully understand the difference between these two offerings, let’s consider the process we follow at RAVE FabriCARE as a yardstick….
Which means that…
Which means that…
At RAVE FabriCARE, we only clean in siloxane dry cleaning fluid. It’s dermatologically-friendly and fabric gentle. It leaves your garments odorless and soft as butter. And because it’s unregulated at federal, state and local level, we can hang dry your bespoke garments without putting those garments through the tumbling action of a 30 to 40 minute dry cycle.
By contrast, cleaners who clean in perchlorethylene, synthetic petroleum or formaldehyde dibutyl acetal are prohibited by regulation from drying garments outside of their dry cleaning machines (in other words, the entire cleaning, extract and drying cycle must take place inside a sealed dry cleaning machine, typically a 40 to 50 minute tumbling process).
Here’s a summary of the steps associated with each of these two processes:
Every bespoke garment is carefully examined and photographed, paying particular attention to the
All bespoke garments accumulate some dust and soil merely by virtue of the fact that they’ve been worn. This accumulation takes place even if they’ve been gently brushed after each wearing. This step is designed to remove that dust and soil.
For a sponge and hand press during the season, we lightly vacuum each bespoke garment with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter vacuum equipped with a variable speed adaptor set on the lowest setting.
This vacuum is the very same model favored by museum textile curators to remove dust and soil from garments and textiles in their collection that cannot be dry cleaned or wet cleaned due to their construction, age, condition or fragility.
For a clean and hand press at the end of the season or as needed, the soils and dust will be removed during the dry cleaning process (see “Removing the oil-based stains” below).
About 90% of all visible stains a dry cleaner encounters are water-based stains: perspiration, soda, juice, wine, beer, etc.
To remove water-based stains, we gently “flush” the affected area with a light jet of steam and immediately dry the area with a light jet of compressed air.
Even if you were to take your regular “dry clean only” garments to an ordinary cleaner, all water-based stains need to be removed in this manner. Before they ever see the inside of that cleaner’s dry cleaning machine.
Because dry cleaning solvents and fluids only emulsify oil-based stains. They don’t – and can’t – remove all water-based stains.
Fact is, you can dry clean a garment with water-based stains as many times as you wish. More often than not, the stains won’t “move” with dry cleaning alone.
Unless, of course, the dry cleaner adds or injects moisture into their dry cleaning solvent, a common practice amongst ordinary cleaners. And, in our opinion, an absolutely reckless undertaking, approaching dry cleaning malpractice.
Because excessive moisture shrinks wools and bleeds water soluble dyes.
About 10% of all visible stains a dry cleaner encounters are oil-based stains: butter, salad dressing, steak sauce, body oils, creams and lotions.
Oil-based stains need to be emulsified by a dry cleaning solvent or fluid in order to be removed. One of the most important functions of dry cleaning fluid is to emulsify oils and fats.
An ordinary cleaner will typically load your garments into a dry cleaning machine, add a dry cleaning solvent or fluid (such as perchloroethylene aka perc, synthetic petroleum, formaldehyde dibutyl acetal or siloxane), add moisture (if they clean in perc), sizing and fragrance, tumble the garments for 10 minutes, extract and then dry for 30 to 45 minutes.
That’s “dry cleaning” at it’s most basic.
For a sponge and hand press during the season, your bespoke garments never see the inside of our dry cleaning machines. We hand clean all oil based stains using siloxane, our fabric gentle, non-dye stripping dry cleaning fluid.
Because siloxane is extremely gentle on your fine garments. So gentle it’s been used for decades as a base product in shampoos, antiperspirants, deodorants and moisturizing creams. This means you probably drip siloxane into your eyes every time you shampoo your hair and you spray or roll it onto the most sensitive parts of your skin every time you apply an antiperspirant or deodorant. You even digest siloxane when you eat McDonald’s french fries (but that’s a story for another day).
For a clean and hand press at the end of the season or as needed, we soak your bespoke garments in siloxane dry cleaning fluid for about 5 to 7 minutes. Soaking means no tumbling for 30 to 45 minutes in a dry cleaning machine. Siloxane means a crystal clear, odorless, dermatologically friendly, chemically inert (non-dye stripping) dry cleaning fluid that’s so gentle you can (legally) wash your hands and face in it.
Then we extract the dry cleaning fluid for about a minute and dry for about two minutes (this step does involve tumbling but your bespoke garments are individually contained within special net bags and the tumbling action, measured in RPMs, is reduced to the minimum).
Finally, we remove and hang dry.
At RAVE FabriCARE, we can hang dry your bespoke garments without putting those garments through the tumbling action of a 30 minute dry cycle because our siloxane dry cleaning fluid is unregulated at federal, state and local level.
By contrast, cleaners who clean in perchloroethylene, synthetic petroleum or formaldehyde dibutyl acetal are prohibited by regulation from drying garments outside of their dry cleaning machines. In other words, the entire cleaning, extract and drying cycle must take place inside a sealed dry cleaning machine, typically a 40 to 50 minute tumbling process.
By the way, you should always clean your fine wool garments, bespoke or otherwise, prior to storing for the summer.
That’s because a proper professional cleaning is the only way to protect your wools from potential damage by moth larvae (time to say goodbye to those moth balls, herbal sachets, Tupperware-style boxes and cedar rings, blocks, chests and closets).
Ordinary cleaners love their presses.
Because pressing is where cleaners can achieve the greatest productivity. At ordinary cleaners, your garments are banged out on a press at a furious rate. Typically, 30 to 40 pants per hour per presser; 20 to 30 non-pant garments per hour per presser.
Here’s the problem: poor pressing can damage a garment – on it’s first pressing – by subjecting that garment to way too much pressure, with way too much steam, for way too long, at way too high a temperature. Especially when it comes to fine wools, silks and other non-cotton and non-linen fabrics.
And the results?
Shine; seam, flap and button impressions; moire-like press pad impressions; double creases; puckered seams (often called burst or blown seams); wrinkled linings; and other “crimes of fashion”.
At RAVE FabriCARE, we delicately finish all your garments. The old fashioned way. By hand. Using a hand iron. Both inside and out. No matter how long it might take. Paying particular attention to the curvature of the shoulders, chest, sleeves and collar, and to the roll of the lapels.
Of course, a skilled finisher must know how to apply pressure to achieve a smooth finish on a linen or cotton. But a smooth, soft, hand finish, that minimizes the possibility of shine, seam, flap or button impressions, and puckered seams, best defines the finest professional finishing.
If you’re looking for validation of this point of view, just broach the subject of “pressing or steaming by a dry cleaner” with any bespoke tailor and watch their blood pressure rise.
And make sure you bring along a portable defibrillator.
Your tailor may need it.
Ever get the feeling that your cleaner doesn’t inspect your garments carefully?
We’ve got news for you. You’re probably right. Very few cleaners thoroughly inspect every garment. From top to bottom. From inside to outside.
You see, careful, thorough inspection takes a full-time commitment. And, if the cleaner has any quality standards, an uncompromising position on every aspect of the process. Including stain removal, cleaning, finishing and repairs (buttons, clasps, seams, hems, zippers, etc.).
The problem is that many ordinary cleaners claim that they inspect each and every garment. They even use the term “hand inspect”, implying that their inspections are careful and thorough.
Yet, these same cleaners typically assign the inspection task to the first available customer service representative with some free time on their hands.
A bigger problem is that the “inspector” is very often also the “garment bagger” who is also a customer service representative with a little time on her hands.
The bagger’s primary focus is getting your garments into a bag and onto the conveyor or onto the delivery rack, and simply doesn’t have the time to carefully and thoroughly inspect each and every garment. From top to bottom. From inside to outside.
And even if they did find something obvious on a garment – a stain or wrinkle on a garment; rippled collar on a blazer or sport coat; a missing or loose button; a hanging or loose hem; a broken zipper; etc. – what would they do?
Return it for re-cleaning, refinishing, replacement or repair?
After all, why bother with a careful, thorough inspection when the entire modus operandi of the ordinary cleaner is geared to getting your garments into a machine, onto a press, and into a bag. ASAP. They’re in by 11:00 and out by 5:00; or picked up on day 1 and delivered on day 3.
At ordinary cleaners, careful, thorough inspections just get in the way of their “production system”.
Quality craftsmanship can be quickly destroyed by poor packaging.
You can take it as a given that if your cleaner isn’t focusing on quality packaging, they’re not focusing on quality cleaning, quality finishing and quality inspecting either.
After all, why would they invest in extraordinary cleaning, finishing and inspecting if they knew that all that investment will be quickly destroyed by poor packaging?
And what should you look for?
Packaging materials that’s technically aligned with and supportive of your fine garments:
Hangers that are molded plastic, contoured (supports the overall drape of the coat, sport coat, jacket or blazer and the contour of the neck), and broad in the shoulders (supports the drape of the shoulder and the sleeve).
Hangers that are molded plastic, straight, with one inch wide rubber backed plastic clips (half inch metal clips leave lasting impressions).
Tissue that is white, soft (provides gentler cushioning), acid free (won’t off-gas acids over time that might yellow your white and cream garments), and non-printed (no possibility of the ink rubbing off or bleeding onto your garment).
Poly that is crystal clear, at least 0.85 mil thick (improved protection for the garment) and extra wide (no possibility of crushing the sides of your garment).
Storage bags that are made from non-woven polypropylene fibers (allows the garment to breathe) and chemically inert plastic (your garment won’t yellow from off-gassing acids in the plastic).
In recent years, many ordinary cleaners have “upgraded” their packaging – everything from logo-printed tissue paper and tinted poly to wishbone-shaped wood and chrome hangers – in an attempt to convince their customers that the quality of their cleaning has been similarly upgraded.
At RAVE FabriCARE, we believe that excellent packaging can and does enhance and protect garments that have been cleaned and finished to perfection.
We also believe that upgraded packaging on ordinary cleaning will be quickly seen for what it is – an attempt to pass off bang and hang cleaning or ordinary cleaning as true quality cleaning.
There’s an old saying in the dry cleaning business that, no matter how you cut it, cafeteria food served on fine china is still just that – cafeteria food.
Or as we like to say: fish and chips in a caviar wrapping.
“I send all my custom bespoke suits once a year to freshen them up. One 100% wool suit had accidentally been put into a washing machine (blasphemy!) and they managed to restore it to the point that my tailor could not tell it had been wet-washed until she inspected the inner lining. They make magic at this place. Pricey, but worth it.”
“I appreciate your attention to detail. My shirts are superb - the best I have ever had. I only wish I had used your services from day one. And thanks for taking care of Robert at Turnbull & Asser. He was thrilled.”
“Wow! Got the suit back today and I'm almost at a loss for words to describe what a great job you guys did. Just fantastic! The lapels were ironed to perfection, better than when I received the suit new from Polo. I will definitely be sending more of my things your way in the very near future.”
“I received my blue, double-breasted suit in the mail and I'm overjoyed. This suit is truly irreplaceable and, after it had been stained with vomit, I did not think that I'd ever wear it again. I even contacted the maker for a possible do-over and learned that the mill has sold out of that fabric. To see it come back in absolutely perfect condition feels like magic. You are a true miracle worker.”
email and card
“Steamers are the work of the devil. You need a good professional pressing. Forget the local dry cleaners. If you don't have a REALLY good tailor (and I don't mean a local alterations guy but a proper bespoke tailor) locally, I suggest you contact Stu Bloom at RAVE FabriCARE. He can take care of that.”
email (correspondence with a blog reader who destroyed an expensive suit jacket with a hand-held steamer)
“I received my clothing on Monday and I want you to know that I think you do amazing work. My tan suit has been effectively “reborn” and has earned a spot back in my rotation of summer suits. The navy suit is as crisp as I have ever seen it. There remains one spot on the front of the left shoulder (I thought it was my wife's makeup) that I assume was not amenable to you magic but the overall appearance of the suit is still greatly improved. I will readily admit that I thought your prices were just as breathtaking as the quality of our work, but, even still, I feel that you deliver solid value for the money. Thanks again for working your magic on my beloved clothing! I now know first hand why you are so highly regarded on the A Suitable Wardrobe blog!!”
“I will be sending you a Maurice Sedwell suit that is 4 years old and has never been cleaned. After you review the garment, let me know your recommendations . Since you are the artist, I give you license to perform the necessary cleaning. I am interested in your choice of cleaning methods from an educational standpoint. Thanks.”
“I received my gray suit on Friday and I want to thank you for removing the wine stains. The suit looks great. I also want to say I really appreciate the attention to packaging. I expected some steam pressing would be necessary after traveling 3000+ miles, but the suit arrived with basically no wrinkles. Should the need arise I will definitely be using your services again. I have also passed along your firm information to my Neapolitan tailor. They visit NYC five times a year and, until now, didn't have anyone to recommend.”
“Just got my jacket and suit back. And they look fabulous.”
“Thank you for another great job on my recent WW Chan suit. It was nicely pressed.”
“Thank you for the unparalleled cleaning of my white Alexander Kabbaz, Jon Green and Renee Bassetti bespoke shirts.”
“…most dry cleaners are really harsh on suits. If you don't mind paying the extra money, I recommend using RAVE FabriCARE instead. They'll be a bit more expensive – especially with the shipping back and forth – but they're one of the few dry cleaners in the country who really know how to take care of tailored clothing (and most everything else). Possibly worth it if you have something exceptionally well-made and is special to you.”
“For the RAVE Bespoke Service, the jackets come back on wide hangers hung within individual tombstone boxes, stuffed carefully with acid-free tissue that their excellent ironwork is completely undisturbed. They will photograph items on arrival so that there is a reference for the pressing staff. The quality of the ironwork is no less than from a tailor. It's entirely above the standard of a dry cleaner. I can't imagine settling for anything less than this for bespoke clothes, and cross country is still easier than cross Atlantic, which is what I used to do. The last delivery that I got was about an eight foot high stack of such boxes.”
“I send all my stuff to RAVE FabriCARE in Arizona. They do a great job.”
“Stu Bloom is with RAVE FabriCARE and I had the pleasure of meeting him at the NYC Collection Of Sartorial Excellence. He is a great gentleman with an incredible knowledge of proper clothing care....”
“RAVE FabriCARE is the only place in the world I would send a suit jacket. Stu Bloom is a master dry cleaner!!”
“This is simply the best cleaner in the nation. Those looking for an inexpensive cleaner, be warned. RAVE is pricy, but worth every dollar spent. I wear suits and sport coats on a daily basis and have had horrible experiences with different cleaners. Issues from cracked buttons, to them not pressing the jacket correctly, I was fed up. I met Stu at my place of employment (they offer free pick up and delivery at my place of employment) and told me about his establishment. I decided to give him a try. Well, a week later I spilled expresso on my trousers. I tried my local cleaners but they were unable to get a simple coffee stain out. I finally tried RAVE and sent my whole suit to be cleaned, and it came back a week later looking like new. The lapels are hand pressed giving it that rolled factor (there is nothing worse than a suit with lapels that have no life). For those that have had a suit made, bespoke or MTM, you understand the importance of a lapel brimmed with life. I've also had a wonderful 3 button roll sport coat (3 button coat that looks like a 2 button) cleaned and was pleased when it came back pressed to accommodate the roll. I love the fact that RAVE will take the buttons off and have your coat cleaned and then sew them back on. No more cracked horn buttons!! Yes!! Lastly RAVE is a miracle worker when it comes to white shirts. The shirt RAVE cleaned was my first custom shirt ever by Zegna. It had obvious signs of wear, many launderings, and god awful yellow armpit stains. RAVE was able to make the shirt look brand new! In conclusion, if you're looking for a "cheap" cleaner, RAVE is not the cleaner for you. But remember, you get what you pay for. RAVE FabriCARE is worth every penny. And on a final note, RAVE is used by Saville Row tailors. If the best suit makers in the world use RAVE, then you know RAVE is simply the best.”
“I'm sorry to say that I listened to the sales staff at Turnbull & Asser who recommended a cleaner here in New York. I should have just ignored their advise and followed what I know to be the best. Please forgive me.”
“I send my Bugelli shirts to Scottsdale, Arizona.”