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Behind-The-Scenesters: Nicolas Caito

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Designers design. Photographers photograph. Models model. That much—in broad strokes, at least—is clear. But what about the artists, technicians, and industry insiders, often unpublicized and underappreciated, who help to get clothes and accessories made and shown? Call them Behind-the-Scenesters: people who shape our experience of fashion but never take a bow on the catwalk or strike a pose for the camera. Without them—from patternmakers to production designers—the show wouldn’t go on. And in our recurring series, sits down with a few of these pros to find out, basically, what they do.

Maybe the best way to understand the role Nicolas Caito plays in the design process is to think about him as a secret weapon. A coterie of designers come to Caito (left) each season, bearing sketches of their most complex designs, and Caito turns their visions into runway reality. He’s a patternmaker—modeliste, in the jargon. That may sound technical, and it is, but one has only to see the way Caito makes, say, the ruffles on a gown seem as light as a soufflé to comprehend that there’s an art to what he does, as well. Designers such as Prabal Gurung seek him out for a reason. Here, Caito talks to about the art of the cut, his part in the creative process, and the designer he’s dying to work with.

So, Nicolas: In one sentence, what do you do?
I am basically the hands of the designer. The designer creates the sketch, and I help translate that sketch into reality, into volume. I deal with all the technical problems and create the prototype of a garment. The designer is the architect. I’m his engineer.

How did you get into doing what you do?
In France, where I’m from, this is the kind of job you start when you’re young. I didn’t. I was studying international trade, and then, I really don’t know how else to say it, one day this work became a calling to me. Maybe it’s in the blood—I’m from a family of tailors and cutters. But I hadn’t been into fashion at all, until then. I went to my uncle, who has a shop in Marseilles that sells luxury men’s goods, and he took me into the back, to train me. He showed me how to sew, how to alter a jacket. Then he sent me to Paris to work with Lanvin. I was to train for three months, and at the end Lanvin offered me an apprenticeship. I was there for eight years. Then I went to Hermès, when it was designed by [Martin] Margiela; I came to New York, to work at Bill Blass, and then returned to Paris to manage the sample room at Rochas, under Olivier Theyskens. Then, about five years ago now, I came back to New York to establish my own studio. Read the rest of this entry >

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