July 2, 2013 by Ville Raivio
“I am the owner of Winston Tailors and Chipp2. I am 74-years-old. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Union College, Schenectady, NY. Some have suggested that my BS does not stand for Bachelor of Science. Janet, my wife of 47 years, was the prettiest girl in New Haven, Connecticut, which is where I was born and spent the first 20 years of my life. We have three children and 6 ½ grandchildren. Because of my wife’s genetic contribution, my children are extremely intelligent and very successful in their chosen endeavors.
My father founded Chipp of NY when I was 7-years-old. So from a very young age I was exposed to the clothing business. Many a spring night was spent stuffing Haspel suit swatches into glassine envelopes, which were mailed to Chipp’s customers. A Haspel suit sold for $27 in those days — and they were made in New Orleans in the factory which the Haspel family owned. My childhood was filled with stories about the customers Chipp was privileged to serve. It seemed natural to me that I would join my father when I joined the working world.
I attended a ‘Country Day School.’ Jackets and ties were required. I wore pink oxford button-down shirts and my jackets had fancy linings. Wearing pink shirts was considered very bold. It was an early indication of what my attitude about clothing would be. I started working summers in 1959 and joined Chipp full time in 1961. There were two important things my father planted in the very beginning of my business education: 1. We were in the ‘want’ business, not the ‘need’ business. 2. It is better to be lucky than smart. These two pearls have stood me well in my 52 years in the business.
In 1969, inspired by the request by one of our customers to make a corporate tie, I started a tie company. I sold corporate ties to many of the ‘captains of industry’ for whom we were making clothing. I also started creating theme ties that I called ‘Conversation Pieces‘. As well as selling them at Chipp, I sold them to other stores. In an example of misplaced ego, I would copyright the designs. In the years I have been making ties, I don’t know of anyone trying to ‘steal’ one of my designs. I named the company Chipp2. It was a separate company from Chipp, and is still rolling today. In addition to the sophisticated humor ties, Chipp2 has a growing following for the Italian Silk Grenadine ties which I offer in 16 colors and make by hand in New York City. I sell the Grenadine ties for $49.50 and ship them all over the world. A new website for the ties is being built.
My primary pleasure in the business has always been the people. I enjoy talking to people. Some of my customers stop in to sit and exchange stories, talk about the world, sports, etc. I have spent time with President Kennedy, with Robert Kennedy, Cyrus Vance, Tom and Arthur Watson — to name a few.
Winston Tailors was ‘born’ because my father did not set up his estate properly. After I sold our building at 14 East 44th St, we were advised to no longer use the name ‘Chipp’. Because Chipp2 was a separate company that I owned, I can continue to use that name. With the sale of the building, I went out of the ‘retail’ business and came full circle to what Chipp was before I joined my father — a shop that makes bespoke and made-to-measure clothing. I can make anything that an individual wants. Some of our customers want the 60s natural shoulder garment that was the Chipp trademark. Others want square or roped shoulders. Our niche is being able to make the things no ready-to-wear store can afford to stock (by that I mean an individual may want a particular detail or model, for example a three button non darted ‘sack’ jacket/suit, for which there is not enough call for a store to put in a complete size range and offer pattern selectivity).
I encourage my customers to do what they want and not worry about what others are doing. Life is too short to not have fun on the journey. I invite anyone who is in New York City to visit — see what we are doing and chat. Winston Tailors is located at 28 West 44th St – between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue – in the Lobby.”
Picture: © Winston Tailors