JOHN KRISTIANSEN / JOHN KRISTIANSEN NEW YORK, INC.
How did you become a costume creator/tailor?
I was studying as an actor, and started taking some costume classes. I found my interests were better suited for costuming. I came to New York to become a designer, a friend referred me to Parsons. It was the first time I realized costume shops like that existed. I was there for a year and a half, then spent a summer at Williamstown as a draper. There was a staffing shake up there, so they asked me to manage the shop that summer. After meeting and working with top notch designers, I was able to build a clientele and start my own shop in New York City.
How did you become interested in the costume/entertainment industry?
I grew up with the Sonny and Cher Show, Carol Burnett, Charo, Merv Griffen Show, the Ice Capades. I remember watching the Olympics as a five year old, mesmerized by the ice skating costumes.
How long have you been in the Industry?
Do you have a back story about your business? Family Owned? How many years?
I was very fortunate to work for Allan Albert Productions—a production company that created live entertainment shows for Hershey Park. Allan asked me to be the shop manager for their costume shop, based in New York City. Eventually I began designing for them, and Allan offered me the opportunity to build costumes for other clients in his shop when it wasn’t in use. Because of the nature of their schedule, about 8 months out of the year, I was able to work on other projects. This continued for many years, until Allan Alberts stopped operations. I then moved my shop to midtown Manhattan, starting fresh as my own company.
Do you have a funny tailoring story?
None that are appropriate for publication.
What makes your business different than others? How do you stand out?
Since moving to midtown in 2006, we’ve expanded our services from just dressmaking to dressmaking, tailoring and crafts/millinery. We’ve tried to position ourselves as a one-stop-shop for designers, offering head-to-toe looks for any of their needs, with the exception of shoes. We pride ourselves on willing to try new things, take risks and finding innovative approaches to building costumes. We aren’t sure that makes us different, necessarily, from others—it’s just how we’ve approached what we do.
What’s was one of the most challenging jobs you have ever done?
One of my first big Broadway shows—the learning curve for me was pretty steep. But I made a life-long connection with the designer, with whom I continue to work.
What do you do to keep up with the industry?
For us, it really is about keeping up with our designers. Because this is a cottage industry, we hear about their new shows and projects as they happen.
What is new and exciting for 2019/2020?
One of the latest trends we continue to explore is light up costumes. The technology is constantly changing, and we enjoy the challenge.
What do you like best about WAWAK?
Consistency. Quality of customer service. High quality products. Fast shipping. We always turn to WAWAK to get us the structural elements we need to be successful.
When it comes to your company, what are you most proud of?
When I moved my shop to midtown, I had 7 employees. I now average between 50-55 employees every week. Being able to provide them a dynamic place to work is something of which I am very proud.
What advice do you give to the next generation of Designers?
Be calm and be kind. It’s a small community. Being kind is easy.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop?
The industry is constantly evolving. As I continue to work with designers, I’m always excited to see what new and inventive ideas they bring.