Published June 20, 2000
Volume 8, Number 6

Former Musician Essy Pournoor Still Makes Music, Only Now it's with Wool, Needle, and Thread

By Jay Hipps
Network Editor 

From casual observation, one would think that the current era might be a rough one for tailors. With the advent of "Casual Fridays" and the increased mass-merchandising of clothing of all types, it would seem that custom-tailored clothing might be seeing a bit of a decline. 

That's not the case for Essy Pournoor, owner of Essy's Tailoring and Clothier. 

"Our business has grown every year," he explains. "Now, it's so busy we can't take vacations. My wife Patty and I have hired two helpers." 

Essy PournoorThe Hacienda location has been so popular, in fact, that Essy sold his first shop three or four years ago. That store, located in Fremont, opened 17 years ago. 

"Here is much better," he notes. "We opened this shop in Pleasanton 10 years ago." 

The Fremont location was opened upon his arrival in the United States from his native Iran. It marked his first professional experience as a tailor as well. While he had plenty of experience and knowledge as a tailor, it had always been as an amateur. 

"One of my family was tailoring for a long time," says Essy. "I learned it over there but it wasn't my business in Iran."

So, what made him want to take it up professionally, and forego any chances at the tailoring Olympics? Several things, chief among them language. Essy, who still speaks English haltingly at times, knew that it would be easy to communicate as a tailor, which is in many ways a solitary pursuit. 

While it was a practical decision, it also meant that he would have to give up what had been a successful career as a musician in Teheran. 

"I was a musician on television and the radio," he says. "I played six or seven instruments: piano, guitar, flute, accordion My favorite is the flute. I also played at hotels like the Sheraton and Hilton for special parties."

He still plays for fun and even has a recording studio at home just for his own pleasure. 

"I don't make any money from music. Sometimes at parties I will take my instrument and play for my very best friends." 

While being a musician is clearly different from tailoring, there are some similarities. Both are creative pursuits which involve both talent and a craftsman's skill and knowledge. A tailor's instruments are his scissors, his needle, his thread, and his cloth. When a tailor's tasks are performed well, they bring joy to others -- just like a musician. 

"I enjoy my work because we do very professional tailoring here," explains Essy. "When we make our customers happy, it makes me happy too."

Like any craftsman, Essy has strong opinions about the materials he works with as well. 

"Nowadays, the best fabric is called Super 100 or Super 120 wool, which is the kind of fabric in all the suits we offer," he explains. "Super 120 is the best quality of fabric -- you feel good, they never wrinkle, and they're lightweight.

"If you're working with pure wool fabric, you enjoy it more because your stitching is always good and straight, smooth. If you're working with cheap fabric, you're not going to be happy after finishing because the fabric doesn't perform as well -- you have to iron it more and more to get the seams straight.

"I prefer to work with the good quality fabric because your work shows better and the customer is happier."

To make his customers happy, he also provides advice to them on what types of suits and ties to buy. 

"It depends on what they like. Some people like a three-button suit, some like four- or five-button. Some people like double-breasted suits, which are still very popular. In fact, last week we had two or three customers who ordered double-breasted suits who said they just didn't like single-breasted suits. Double-breasted is going to be in style for a long time." 

He stresses, though, that each customer's taste finally dictate what they purchase. While fashion can seem a mystical science to men, Essy proves a capable guide through the clothing wilderness.

"Today we had a customer who came in and asked me to give him two different color suits, saying 'You choose for me,'" Essy explains. "I told him that I was going to show him four or five suits, different colors, and just to try on the jackets and whichever ones you like are the ones to get."

Of course, there's one step involved that makes all the difference, and that's where the tailor's art comes in. 

"The customers here are happier because they're going to get the right fit, through tailoring," he says. "If somebody's not wearing a suit because they're a little heavy, for instance, here we can pick out a bigger size, alter it, and it looks like a custom-made suit." 

While many aspects of a suit's fit are common knowledge -- the length of the jacket and sleeves, for instance -- Essy explains that one key is often overlooked. 

"The important thing is that the shoulders fit OK and we can shorten the shoulders when necessary so it looks like a custom suit." 

Ladies, too, can take advantage of Essy's talented alterations. 

"Bridesmaids, wedding gown, evening gowns -- suits and skirts, too. Everything for men and women."

He hesitates to talk about trends in women's fashions, however, simply because he doesn't follow the field closely. "I go to clothing shows in Las Vegas and New York and there are over 2,000 manufacturers, but I never go to see the ladies' fashions, just the men's."

That's the style of a craftsman and a specialist.

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