There’s a new tailor in town, and while he’s learned the trade in Brooklyn, the pieces he makes are often inspired by the Maine outdoors.
Since 2014, Tony Parrotti has owned and operated Tony Shirtmakers, a bespoke shirt and jacket company that he and his wife, Laura Fraser, brought to Damariscotta in July 2021.
Something like a tattoo artist, each shirt or jacket designed by Parrotti is made to measure in collaboration with the individual client, making each garment a unique piece that reflects their tastes and Parrotti’s artistic style.
Just like a high-quality tattoo, the prices for custom-made clothing are high and the waiting time for a garment can last for months, but for many it’s worth the wait.
“It’s just … (a) a very insightful and thoughtful way to add pieces to your closet and not have a closet full of things. It’s just the things you love and love them because you were able to build them from the start, ”Parrotti said on March 29.
Before moving to Maine, Parrotti and Fraser both worked for years in the New York fashion industry. Fraser worked for a branded fashion company, while Parrotti managed Tony Shirtmakers in Brooklyn.
About six or seven years ago, the two began making road trips in Maine and soon decided they wanted to relocate to the state.
“Our plan was to go to all these different places, but we kept coming back to Maine and exploring Maine because it’s so big and beautiful,” Parrotti said.
They originally thought they would only own a summer home on the central coast of Maine and work in New York for the rest of the year. However, when the pandemic started in March 2020, the two realized they no longer had to live in New York to do their remote work. They began looking for a home in Pine Tree State and were lucky enough to find one near the center.
“We’re like … pinching ourselves that we live here every day because … we’re so used to a very different daily lifestyle,” Parrotti said.
When the couple moved to Maine, Fraser had reached the age of 16 in fashion retail, merchandising and creative direction with a women’s design house, and decided he wanted to move away from the world of trend-based fashion to partner with Parrotti at full title. time.
“I was ready to do something new, which was very scary for me,” Fraser said. “There’s something really attractive about a small business and getting to know everyone.”
In New York, Parrotti had employees who focused on manufacturing work for private labels to get additional revenue, but during the Spring 2020 quarantine he realized he really wanted to focus on making each garment himself and engaging with. every client he was making a shirt for.
“I realized how important it is to physically make t-shirts for my happiness as an entrepreneur,” he said. “Obviously there is a limit because I can only make so many shirts a year, but I also think that’s what makes it special.”
Well before even thinking about making clothes, Parrotti was interested in making a living from his art.
“I always wanted my business to do something creatively, and it didn’t come out that it was going to be fashion until later in college,” she said.
He started making shirts with his mother’s sewing machine when he was attending New York’s Parsons School of Design because he couldn’t find clothes he wanted to wear elsewhere.
However, Parrotti didn’t just learn how to make shirts from someone else, he learned by systematically deconstructing a shirt with a tear in the seams, taking photos and notes at every step. He would then put together a shirt based on that process, over and over, until he noticed an improvement.
After Parrotti earned a degree in business and design management, he worked in the business side of fashion before taking a position at a tailor who helped him learn the fine finishes and skills associated with being a formal shirtmaker.
“For four years, I essentially sewed three or four shirts a day. That’s how you get really… good, ”he said.
After four years as a shirtmaker, Parrotti founded Tony Shirtmakers in 2014.
Parrotti’s overall style very much represents a blend of New York fashion and Maine-inspired outdoor-oriented utility. Her clothes are designed to be loved and worn, rather than shown or loved.
“My shirts are heavy, heavy, they can take a beating,” he said. “When people buy it, we’re always like, ‘Don’t be precious with it. You have this, always wear it. That’s what it’s for. “
While Parrotti’s clothes are made to be beaten, he still uses all the techniques that are typically used to make a formal shirt and applies them to lifestyle pieces like cages, barn jackets, field shirts, fly fishing jackets. and anything else a client could commission.
“It can be worn anywhere you want to look shiny but not too elegant, and it can also be worn … on a hike,” she said.
Fraser said Tony Shirtmakers source the highest quality fabrics from around the world, often focusing on what a country is famous for. For example, they buy moleskin and corduroy from London, wool from Italy, and denim and flannel from Japan.
“We’re choosing the best of the best for each specific type of fabric, and that’s what I think elevates everything,” said Parrotti.
Parrotti also uses deadstock fabric, or fabric no longer produced, for many of its garments. Deadstock fabric is very unique, old and very limited in its availability, which makes it especially useful for those who want a jacket or shirt that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else.
Parrotti and Fraser said they have clients coming to them from up and down the East Coast that they connected with in New York, but they were also delighted to find a market for their services in Maine as well.
“We were super surprised, very grateful and thrilled that so many people in Maine were interested in coming and making t-shirts,” Fraser said. “Basically we have someone who comes from Maine at least every week.”
With the arrival of the summer months, the couple are thrilled to welcome back the seasonal residents of Lincoln County and introduce them to a new way to find clothes. Fraser said some have already scheduled appointments months in advance.
“We feel really grateful right now that we are living of making t-shirts and that we live in beautiful Maine and [that] people keep asking us to do things, “he said.
For more information on Tony Shirtmakers, go to tonyshirtmakers.com or follow tonyshirtmakers on Instagram.