[WELL-MADE] Brandon Portelli - Randy's Garments
Let's start with an introduction. Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from? How did you come to New York?
I’m from Broward County Florida. Both of my parents are from Malta and moved to Astoria in the early 80’s, so naturally that’s where I ended up when I was 22. I moved here basically overnight for a production internship with a company that was working entirely out of the Garment District.
What inspired you to create your own rendition of classic American industrial garments?
Honestly I didn't set out to make workwear, but at some point I realized I was upset by the marketplace.. I couldn't find what I wanted. There's two ends of the "workwear" spectrum. We see the remaining classic American companies have long ago begun to produce everything with low quality fabric and construction, creating a garment that will inevitably add to the ever growing pile of fashion waste. On the other end you have all the licensed brands that produce carbon copies of old brands, these garments have no soul. So this led to the decision to create high quality, authentic workwear garments at the best price possible. I want to shine a light on and honor the rich history of workwear in a straightforward way. I want the garments to speak for themselves.
Where do you produce your products?
Fabric and construction come first. That being said, everything is made here in New York City. Mainly in the garment district and I work with my guy Luis who runs a small family shop in Brooklyn, he’s amazing. Basically I'm limited to a handful of factories that have a flat felling machine. Besides the 2 main cotton twills I use, most of the fabric is all found from various NYC jobbers. The only products that aren’t coming out of New York are the tees, sweats, and acrylic beanies which are made in other states in factories that produce them vertically.
What is your role at Randy’s Garments? Can you take us through your process step-by-step, from design to QC?
It's just me so it's A-Z. I design and source everything, do the shoots, work on the website, ship the orders, make graphics, take out the trash, etc. It's honestly really tough when you don't have to answer to anyone. At least it is for me. Nothing happens in a specific order and I'm constantly doing everything. Sometimes a fabric leads to an idea, and other times a sketch leads to a fabric.
I’m involved in every aspect of the process. My patternmaker, Susan and I did three revisions of the new chore coat before we got the fit just right. Then I bring the pattern to Alex who grades all of them. From there I send my production to the cutting room. From the cutting room it's moved to the sewing factories where I QC each piece once it's finished. When I work with Luis I actually lay out the fabric with him to be cut. I’m really there for every step of the way.
What does Made in USA mean to you?
Well I'm producing an American product right? So if it isn't made here how can it be authentic? To me, It's really important to produce things where you're based. There are so many more pros than cons. By working locally I’m able to make sure I create a product that is sustainable and has low environmental impact. Additionally, I can ensure that the people involved are being paid fair wages and are working under safe conditions. These are problems that the fashion world faces that we can’t ignore.
I was lucky to come of age, so to speak, in the garment district. I learned to love the insanity of it, and it has shown me the amount of effort involved in making something. Not only is Randys an American product and a NYC product, it’s a product of the garment district. This is mirrored in the garments. If you look closely at one of my pieces you may notice a pocket flap isn’t matched perfectly or a bar-track is slightly off. You can see the hand that made them, a human made this, a New Yorker!
How did your relationship with Nepenthes NY begin?
I started interning under Brendan in 2015 who was in charge of getting all the samples made for Engineered Garments, FWK, and RANDT. I stuck around coming by 1-2 days a week for a while ( well past the internship time) and I ended up working full time for about a year. I learned everything I could ever imagine and more. Nepenthes is such a special operation to me. Daiki, Todd, and Angelo always had the best answer to any question whether it was garment history, construction, production, wholesale, vintage, honestly just anything.
What product are you most excited about? Please share a little about what makes it special with us.
I'm honestly excited about all of it! This is the 5th season and the 1st season I've used anything outside of a solid twill or denim. My vision for the brand keeps evolving and has become more and more clear to me as time goes on. Maybe I'm more excited about the fabrics, I got licensed to use Realtree® patterns, found a crazy upcycled wool plaid, a pretty bizarre all cotton twill work stripe, and a heavy black denim with white weft yarns that really came out after the fabric is washed.
I'm also really excited about the new Lineman Pants. It's been in my head for a few years and I decided to do it last minute during production. To touch back on how amazing making things locally can be, this is a great example. I came in with a sketch and I sat with Luis for a few minutes, and then we banged out a sample the same day. It's almost done being made just in time for the pop-up.
Will something be made specially for the store?
Yes! I found this really amazing orange buffalo check in a heavy melton, about 30yds. I bought it without hesitation even though I didn't think it would work for Randy's. I actually just left it at the jobber. When Daiki asked me to do the pop-up shop I knew it would be perfect. I showed a swatch to Takuya & he gave me the go ahead. So I decided to split it into two new styles: the Double-Snap Chore Coat & the Station Jacket. I'm really excited about how they came out.The check is unmatched on both which I've never seen done before. A little itchy but no problem!