Talking Small Biz: Red Square to Rittenhouse Square: Russian-born dressmaker opens shop in Center City

Dressmaker Irina Sigal. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Dressmaker Irina Sigal. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: December 11, 2012

R ussian-born dressmaker Irina Sigal, 49, of Huntingdon Valley, opened a boutique on Locust Street near Rittenhouse Square on Thursday. After achieving success with bridal gowns and formal dresses, Sigal moved to the U.S. more than 20 years ago. In 2000 she opened a boutique in Elkins Park, where she also offered custom jackets, suits and skirts.

Q: Tell me a little bit about your business and exactly what you do.

A: I have six employees at my Elkins Park store and four at the new location, not including me and a couple people helping out.

Q: You're known for recrafting of garments, right?

A: Yes, it's like giving an older garment a new life. Fifteen or 20 years ago the quality of clothing, the fabric, was better than it is now. So whoever is smart enough to keep their outfits, they're still in good condition but out of style. What I do is change the shoulder, the color, the length of the jacket, shape of the coat, to give it a up-to-date look. That's part of a service I provide to my customers, besides designing my own brand and doing simple alterations.

Q: Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?

A: Coco Chanel [iconic French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand]. She had femininity, she was chic yet elegant, and she worked with two of my favorite colors, black and white.

When I see a customer, I try to get inspiration from her personality. If she's shy, I would never open the neckline too much. If she's older, I would never give her a short sleeve, but a modest long sleeve. If she's young and sexy, I would cut the dress above the knee.

Q: Do you take walk-in customers, or is it by appointment only?

A: I prefer appointments, just to devote enough time to a client. But walk-ins are welcome.

Q: Are your clothes sold anywhere besides your own shops?

A: Joan Shepp [Philly fashion doyenne with a boutique on Walnut Street]. I have a collection I create exclusively for her but it has my label.

Q: Who's the typical customer?

A: I would say professional women, ladies who love fashion, probably 35 on up to even 85, but who look like they're in their 60s. They are women who would never say, "Where would I wear that?" or "Where would I go in that?" They know what they're wearing and they know where they're going. I have a close relationship with my customers. One's a friend of Michelle Obama's.

Q: How much do your clothes cost?

A: My clothes may be a couple hundred dollars more than in department stores. We're not talking about Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue. We're talking about Bloomingdale's, Macy's. But the difference is my clothes are made here and designed by me and they're unique.


Email: hinkelm@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-2656

On Twitter: @MHinkelman

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