When Vanessa Wilkerson moved to Austin from Brooklyn, New York, in 1996, she was hesitant at first: With experience in clothing and costume design and a degree from the New York Fashion Institute, she found a less robust fashion industry in Central Texas. But after stepping foot in longstanding tailoring shop Ace Tailors, her tune changed.

“I was disappointed in Austin at the time, only because New York breathes fashion design,” Wilkerson said. “But when I came here, I fell in love with the tailors who were so skilled and efficient at what they were doing.”

The techniques used by tailors at Ace were not taught in fashion school, she said. Wilkerson had learned a variety of skills such as pattern-making, draping and couture sewing in school, but not the efficient methods and “street artisan knowledge” she encountered at Ace. Wilkerson started as an entry-level fitter and learned as many techniques as possible from her peers, eventually becoming a master tailor, and around 2010, the co-owner and director of operations for Ace Tailors.

Wilkerson is part of a business with a long tradition in Austin. Ace Tailors was founded in 1967 by Ramon Galindo, who got his start making and altering custom suits for magicians, complete with special features such as hidden pockets.

Today, Ace specializes in both complex and standard alterations, tailoring everything from bridal gowns to denim to leather biker jackets at locations downtown, near Barton Creek Square and at the Domain. Ace also offers express alterations, turning around garments in a day or less, and sometimes take care of garments for local celebrities, including several country recording artists and longtime Ace Tailors patron Kendra Scott.

Regardless of the customer or the task at hand, Wilkerson said she and her staff keep standards high.

“I always want to push. How far can I go? How well can we make this fit?” she said.

After 25 years at Ace Tailors, Wilkerson has come to respect Austinites’ fashion sensibilities, too.

“It’s not the same as New York, but they’re very high fashion. ... I love it,” she said. “They are very conscious of how a garment fits—from a golfer to an everyday person in a lawyer’s office.”


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