Sunday, July 03, 2022

Person of the Week

Fashion Forward: Ehrlich Crafts a Career

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For the past three years, 25-year-old Max Ehrlich of Guilford has been busy building his designer fashion line, running his local business, Express Cleaners & Tailors, and even mastering the custom-made Italian men’s suit (see next photo). 

Photo courtesy of Max Ehrlich

For the past three years, 25-year-old Max Ehrlich of Guilford has been busy building his designer fashion line, running his local business, Express Cleaners & Tailors, and even mastering the custom-made Italian men’s suit (see next photo). (Photo courtesy of Max Ehrlich)

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In January, 2021, Max Ehrlich (right) proudly donned his bespoke Italian men’s suit, made under the tutelage of Giannitti “Pat” Cariaco (left) at Ehrlich’s Guilford business, Express Cleaners & Tailors. Photo courtesy of Max Ehrlich

In January, 2021, Max Ehrlich (right) proudly donned his bespoke Italian men’s suit, made under the tutelage of Giannitti “Pat” Cariaco (left) at Ehrlich’s Guilford business, Express Cleaners & Tailors. (Photo courtesy of Max Ehrlich)

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'My great-grandfather was a master tailor in Germany and had his own shop, so it must run in the blood,' says Max Ehrlich of the passion that's crafting his career. 

Photo courtesy of Max Ehrlich

'My great-grandfather was a master tailor in Germany and had his own shop, so it must run in the blood,' says Max Ehrlich of the passion that's crafting his career. (Photo courtesy of Max Ehrlich)

Max Ehrlich has been busy building his designer fashion line, running his own business and, oh yeah, mastering the custom-made, or “bespoke,” Italian men’s suit.

Under the tutelage of a world-class master tailor, Max made his first Italian men’s suit last year, at the age of 24. A couple of years before that, at just 22, Max became the owner of his Guilford business, Express Cleaners and Tailors, located at 605 Village Walk. Now, at 25, his Maxwell Ehrlich designer label and his unique take on fashion is taking off on Instagram (@max_ehrlich).

“My great-grandfather was a master tailor in Germany and had his own shop, so it must run in the blood,” says Max of the passion that’s crafting his career.

For his design line, Max customizes clothing and accessories for men and women, and takes on special projects as well.

“My first run of clothing, I made 50 one-of-one unique pieces that were all made out of repurposed military bags,” says Max, who shares photos of his designs, together with models wearing several of the styles, at his Instagram site.

When it comes to making specialty items, “...I do everything from upholstery, like covering chairs, to bags, duffel bags, and backpacks,” he says.

Among his military bags-turned-wearable fashions, Max transformed materials gleaned from a 1940’s-era military duffel into some stunning new looks.

“I really love repurposing old fabrics that have kind of stood the test of time,” he says. “I like the deteriorated look. I’m always fascinated by antique fabrics.”

Max finds inspiration among materials culled from frequent visits to thrift shops, antique stores, and market shows.

“I’m huge into thrift shops and antique stores. I go to all the antique shops in the area, and then there’s this huge show three times a year in Brimfield [Massachusetts], where you can get a lot of fabric for cheap prices and find cool stuff,” he says.

Right now, Max is putting out pieces inspired by 1990s-era BMW seat fabric he’s sourcing through supply companies. A standout on his Instagram is a backpack done in charcoal gray that’s shot through with brightly colored streaks of cerulean blue, purple and red. Broad, bold stripes of the same colors pop into view when the bag’s unzipped and opened.

“Lately, I’ve been really into making stuff out of the BMW fabric. I think it’s just really cool, with the ’90s patterns with the colors,” says Max. “So, I’ve taken an interest in that, and repurposing the old seat fabrics and making bags and things. Hopefully, I plan to make a line of that in the future, but for right now, I’m mainly focused on the tailoring at the shop.”

In Business

Before becoming a local business owner, Max spent two very intensive years apprenticing with the shop’s former owner, Olmedo “Luis” Miranda. Max came into apprenticing after first taking on some self-teaching.

“All throughout high school I was really into sneakers, specifically, and the toward the end of high school, more into fashion and clothing and designers,” says Max, a Guilford High School Class of 2015 alumnus. “I didn’t really want to pay the high prices for the designers, so I kind of wanted to teach myself to make something like that.”

He was a couple of years out of high school when he started teaching himself to make clothes, mostly by watching YouTube videos and through trial and error.

“I was teaching myself how to make clothes for a while. I made a couple of pairs of pants and went from there,” says Max.

Max also went on to study business at college, finding after two years “it just really wasn’t for me,” he says. He lived for a time in New Haven before coming back to Guilford and deciding he wanted to become an apprentice.

“I wanted someone professional to teach me,” says Max. “So I was going around to the local tailor shops, seeing if anyone was willing to take me under their wing.”

When Max got to Express Cleaners and Tailors and met Miranda, he found his mentor.

“It was perfect timing,” says Max. “I met him when I was about 20 years old. He was willing to teach me, and took me in as his apprentice. I stayed with him every day for almost two years.”

Max learned tailoring, alterations, and dry-cleaning from Miranda—and discovered he liked every aspect of the business.

“I was just very interested in it, so that helped a lot,” says Max. “The dry-cleaning end of it was easy to learn, and I really enjoy doing it. It just doesn’t seem too much like work to me.”

Although Max realized he enjoyed the business, he wasn’t expecting to be its owner by the age of 22, but that’s when opportunity came knocking.

“He decided he wanted to move back to Spain,” says Max of Miranda. “So it was crazy timing. He sold me his machines, and I started up my own business, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Miranda, who opened the shop in 2009, provided Max with a customer base, including many Max had come to know during his apprenticeship.

“He had the tailor shop here for 10 years or so, so he had a decent customer base,” says Max. “When I started working as the apprentice, I got a real good sense of how he was doing, business-wise. And then I’d say, since I took over, it really has grown quite a bit. Just the amount of work has almost doubled, I would say.”

Max became the owner of Express Cleaners and Tailors in 2019, about one year before the pandemic closed in on the world.

“I had about a year under my belt before that happened,” he says. “It was nice to have a little experience first, but then I got thrown right into it. Obviously, COVID put a little damper on things for a while. But I’ve been back and better than ever now.”

While Max has retained the business name and exterior signage, he recently redesigned and renovated the shop’s interior to its modern, sleek upgrade.

“I kind of made it more my own,” says Max.

Tricks of the Trade

Through Miranda, Max met an amazing tailor, Giannitti “Pat” Cariaco, who taught Max how to make his first custom Italian men’s suit.

“He was one of [Miranda’s] buddies, and he happens to be a renowned Italian tailor who also worked in Greenwich,” says Max. “He’s been tailoring his whole life. It’s been his only job since he was 13 years old. I couldn’t find a better teacher.”

With that kind of support, it’s no wonder Max took on the Mount Everest of tailoring—and conquered it in January 2021 when he completed his own, beautifully fitted, Italian men’s suit.

“I’m really fortunate to come across someone who knows the trade like that so well,” says Max of Cariaco. “He still comes by a couple times a week and mentors me, and I’m always talking to him, every day. I ask him questions about the business, the tricks of the trade. He gives great pointers about how to sew stuff by hand, and how to do everything. So, I always have a source to check my work, basically.”

By learning what’s considered to be the pinnacle of tailoring from a master, Max says he also better understands the intrinsic value held by the completed clothing.

“I think it’s just the attention to detail and the time and experience it takes to make one,” he says. “Everything is done in a certain way and a certain order, and that is passed down, generation to generation. Everything is measured based on the person’s measurements—it’s not like a suit size or anything. Everything is tailored to the person wearing the suit, and it’s just very specific and form-fitting.”

Maybe it’s the tailoring that’s in his blood, or maybe it’s the desire to help others instilled in Max, who earned his eagle scout rank at 17 with Guilford Troop 474—but he sees his future not only as a designer, but as tailor who wants to mentor others.

“I’ve already started my line, and I’d love to continue making clothes,” says Max. “But since tailoring is so hard to come by—there’s not a lot of tailors left now, it’s really hard to find work—I would love to open another store, too, and kind of start teaching the younger generation about tailoring, and how it’s very easy to learn and most people can do it themselves. You can own a home machine and do something simple. It’s kind of like a lost art that people have forgotten about.”



Pam Johnson covers news for Branford and North Branford for Zip06. Email Pam at p.johnson@shorepublishing.com.

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