Pleat for the stars: fabric for the rich and royal

Thursday 11th June, 2015

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Meet the textile makers who have dressed the Queen and Lady Gaga, provided fabric for Hollywood sets and collaborated with the late Alexander McQueen.

Edyta Kryznowek prepares to pleat fabric in the studio by hand. Photo: Marianna Giusti

We all remember Marilyn Monroe’s white gown flying up as she stands above a New York City subway grate. In the scene from Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch, her pleated skirt whirls over her legs as she says naively: “Isn’t it delicious?”

Marilyn was right. Pleated fabric truly looks delicious, and Ciment Pleating is the proof.

Deservedly considered the UK’s leading firm for mechanical and manual pleating, it crafted the Queen’s dress for the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, allowing her stunt double to parachute from a helicopter, the tents for Peter’s gang in the latest Warner Bros film Pan, and Lady Gaga’s most irreverent concert outfit.

“Ciment Pleating has always been known as the high-end couture side of fashion,” CEO Matthew Weinert explains. The tradition behind the pleating firm, which was established in 1925 and has served iconic clients such as Mary Quant and Princess Diana, is engraved in the history of British fashion.

But fashion isn’t the only sector Ciment Pleating masters. The firm has collaborated with sports costumes, film productions, and interior design at the highest level. British Olympic champions at Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, wore costumes crafted by Ciment, which is recalled by Weinert as one of its proudest achievements.

Alexander McQueen who started collaborating with the pleating firm when he was only a student

“We largely have helped many designers become who they’ve become,” explains Weinert, with particular reference to Alexander McQueen who started collaborating with the pleating firm when he was only a student.

Also international blockbusters such as Harry Potter and Game of Thrones have showcased costumes crafted by Ciment Pleating.

“We have very high standards with what goes out. We definitely work with perfectionism. People expect a good service from us, and we give it to them,” says Weinert. Clients feature high-end designers such as Victoria Beckham, Alexander McQueen and Karen Millen.

The ancient technique of pleating is based on origami. The shape is forced into the fabric, by slotting it between two folded pieces of paper. Then the fabric is wrapped up in paper and put in the steaming room for half an hour. Afterwards, it is left outside to cool down before the process is reversed.

The delicate detail that can be achieved with the pleating machines. Photo: Marianna Giusti

The factory is stuffed with colourful fabrics looking like flowery meadows, mermaid fins, peacock’s tails, woven leaves and even tiny accordions. All carefully crafted metre by metre and piece by piece, by the expertise and knowledge of the pleaters.

“At Ciment Pleating we don’t sell a product,” Weinert says. “We don’t sell anything apart from our time and knowledge.”