Clothes used to make the man. These days, it’s a mask.
Brooklyn-based New Yorker Yosel Tiefenbrun is accustomed to whipping up US$8,000 bespoke men’s suits that can require some 80 hours of work to fashion. But these days, the Crown Heights-based tailor is switching gears: cranking out bespoke masks that sell for up to US$300 (AU$459) apiece.
“We have to keep safe, but if you’re going to wear [a mask], you might as well wear it in style,” Tiefenbrun, 30, tells The New York Post. “You want to look good in it.”
Tiefenbrun, a bespectacled Orthodox Jew with a haute hipster edge, is joining the ranks of upscale designers cashing in on the new need for protective gear as their most glitzy endeavours take a back seat due to the coronavirus.
While a majority of Tiefenbrun’s orders are for the AU$76 versions of the face covering, Tiefenbrun also offers up a deluxe AU$459 option, hand-stitched and custom-designed using exclusive patterns that require a Skype session to design.
Tiefenbrun, a New York native who was raised in London, became a rabbi in Singapore — but a second calling came after he studied at the Savile Row Academy. He went on to become a celebrated tailor back in New York City, and was the subject of a gushing GQ profile this past September. Three and a half years after launching his namesake business, he went from being at the top of his game with a team of six staffers at his East Williamsburg atelier to being forced to halt all production when the pandemic struck.
“We were having our peak as we were going into this time,” he says. “We went two months pretty much without suit sales … We said, ‘OK, we can wait, and keep it shut.’ ”
As the lockdown stretched on, he and his staff pivoted to function — made fashionable.
“Now we have full long days, starting early, finishing late. I feel like I’m starting a new business. It’s a different ballgame.”
The father of two who lives in Crown Heights is especially grateful for the new opportunity, having survived a case of COVID-19 in March that left him “out of commission for a week.”
“Once I got my antibody test, that’s when I decided to try to keep my business alive,” he says, referring to the tests which could indicate a person has fought the virus, but aren’t yet a proven immunity passport.
Now, his company’s motto, “Cloth for every occasion,” never rang so true. In the past ten or so days since taking orders for masks, he’s been buried in requests.
“They were raining in — messages left, right and centre on social media,” says Tiefenbrun.
Last week, one order came in for 30 masks — half male, half female, all seersucker.
Another priceless feature of his new specialty? It’s a perfect fit for the bearded and bespectacled. The masks are specifically designed so they alleviate pressure on the beard. They also contour on the nose to minimise fogging up glasses.
And while his shirts can go for up to about AU$918, the relatively affordable masks are finally giving his admirers the chance to own an accessible piece of clothing from his East Williamsburg atelier.
“Yosel’s work is so artistic, but it’s too fancy for me,” says Moshe Frank, an entrepreneur in Crown Heights, who’s loving his green hand-stitched mask. “This is the first affordable piece I could own.”
Even though he hasn’t saved up for a Tiefenbrun suit yet, Bentzy Plotkin, a 32-year-old film producer from Crown Heights loves his AU$76 green and blue seersucker mask, which doesn’t fog up his glasses.
“I want to make sure he stays in business so when I do well I can buy a suit,” he says.
His customers say they also don’t mind the hefty price tag on the mask since they’re not exactly going out on the town these days.
“People used to say shoes are the most important thing,” Frank says. “Now a mask is what you spend your money on.”
This article originally appeared on the NY Post and was reproduced with permission