In a tranquil studio, tucked away from the bustling high-street of Leicester, is where the magic of a Rubens T-Shirt comes to life. Our artisan makes his way to the studio at 9.00am where he begins with pressing the iron in preparation for the work ahead. Throughout the day, our craftspeople make sure to routinely iron the fabric to loosen the cotton fibres and thus prevent shrinkage.
When all is ready to go, he rolls out the cotton jersey, weighting down with books to hold in place, lays down the pattern blocks (our custom designed templates for the T-Shirts) and commences the 40 minute process of tracing the block and cutting out what will become the iconic slim-fit body and sleeves of a Rubens. We make our blocks out of card as it is a more durable material than paper, yet soft enough to not damage the fabric. Whilst the body shape pattern block remains consistent, the number of pattern blocks per T-Shirt varies depending on the style and often evolves after multiple revisions. In every stage of our creative process we uphold our attitudes towards sustainability, reusing the pattern blocks each time and making sure that all of our trimmings are kept to be either recycled or up-cycled into future projects.
We took an innovative approach to working with a single fabric on the necklines; experimenting with creating different textures to make sure the final design is unique and memorable. As a result of this, we developed the shadow panels to move away from a typical seam. A lot of time and patience went into achieving the perfect finish, with some shirts going through up to 5 revisions due to the design details and technicalities in fitting/draping. This was also the case for the interfacing, as the ones we were using were a little heavy or stiff, and we needed something that was part of the overall look rather than a standout 3-D feature, so it needed to be subtle and functional.
Another method to adding dimension comes in the fusing of the cotton. It may be a shorter step of only 15 minutes, however it is one of the most quintessential parts of the craft as these fused edges are what are used to create the complex illusional detail in the necklines of our T-Shirts. Likewise to ironing, fusing is a continuing process throughout the day to develop the design with fabrics of varying thickness.
Once all the pieces are prepared, the meticulous assembly of a Rubens begins. We start on one of the two sewing machines in the studio, spending approximately 8 minutes hemming the bottom into a perfectly straight edge. There are 12 stitches per inch in our T-Shirts, with the total number of stitches per garment, varying from 422 stitches with style 0000 (our apprentice block T-Shirt) to over 1000 stitches with our more intricate designs (example being style 0025).
After hemming comes the binding of the body, most importantly our single french seam Signature Lapel back detail. This is where we get to witness the masterful skill and art in generations of craftsmanship at work. The lapel itself holds 161 of the stitches in a whole Rubens, and takes over half an hour to construct. We moved away from the common concept of side seams and moved towards producing a final single seam in the form of a traditional British tailoring lapel. The finalised flat pattern for the body is like nothing you’ve ever seen – it’s like a work of art mixed with a spaceship. Following the end of the Signature Lapel, we move onto creating and attaching the triangular taped vent at the base of the back. We use 0.73m of tape in the vent, 0.5m of outer tape and the remaining 0.23m for the braided centre. The decision to use a notch cut to craft the vent was inspired by bespoke and tailored jackets, much like the Lapel itself, and has been designed to assist with the ease of the fit.
The first working day ends with contrast stitching, a feature we only decided to incorporate in certain styles for more variation in our collection. In total we use approximately 1.3m of grey thread per garment to create this look. Upon completion, our expert team clear up the abundance of trimmings on the floor and workspaces (quoted as “a sign of a productive day”) and leave to rest before another day of expertise crafting.
Day two is dedicated to the formulation of the sleeving, inclusive of the shoulder stitching and neckline. In total, this section only takes approximately 30 minutes to complete however is just as precarious a task, specifically with the styles designed to have a curved rib neckline. The rib we have is delicate and very soft – so when it is in the seam it can pull and come apart, this meant we needed to find a way it was protected and held fast. So just like the British classic bomber jacket, we continued the rib, and curved it in so it folds in and is well protected and holds. It was a trial and error and a deeply considered process, but the result is strong and durable, but it also looks and feels amazing.
Finally, after 8 hours of painstaking concentration and application of skill, the masterpiece is complete. We hope you can appreciate and respect not only the expertise that is threaded into each perfect white T-Shirt, but also the efforts to create in such a way that is environmentally sustainable. It is now your turn to carry the legacy of traditional craftsmanship by feeling the wonder for yourself and wearing it with pride.
Main Component Measurements
Binding neck and shoulders 0.73m
Binding (other) 1.27m
Vent Tape (outer) 0.5m
Vent Tape (braid centre tape) 0.23m
Grey Thread 1.3m
Iron Press 10 mins
Layout/Cut/Trace 35 mins
Fusing edges 15 mins
Hemming 8 mins
French seam and binding 22 mins
Vent creation 10 mins
Vent attachment 10 mins
Contrast stitching 10 mins
Sleeves (neckline and shoulders) 30 mins