Same Friends spoke to Queens native Carlton Yaito about his bespoke clothing company, he and his partner’s design process, and his earliest NYC fashion memories.
Due to quarantine, Same Friends conducted this interview via iMessage. The transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Same Friends: How did you learn to sew and at what point did you feel confident in your craft enough to sell it?
Carlton Yaito: I started sewing in high school – I went to The High School of Art and Design, in midtown. It’s funny because in your junior year, they told you to pick a major. At 16, I thought to myself, “How the hell am I supposed to know what I want to do for the rest of my life?”
I jumped around from major to major, I did illustration, cartooning, architecture… I left after like two days ’cause it was so boring. One of my friends told me to do fashion, we used to airbrush on jackets but I wanted to learn how to make the actual clothes. Then I jumped into that and noticed that it was a room full of girls so I stayed there [laughs].
SF: Originally we thought it was just you, but your girlfriend is your [business] partner, right? How does having her involved work?
CY: It’s damn near how this conversation is. Nothing I make is really planned out. I’ll start making something and she’ll tell me I should make it this way or tell me to put it together differently. It’s kinda just an idea bouncing. In an interview I was just watching, Pharrell said that whenever he plans out beats – they come out horrible. That’s really how I feel. If someone gives me specific directions, I can’t really work like that. I work off of whatever I’m feeling at the moment.
SF: Yeah, if you put too much thought into it, you’re putting all that pressure on yourself right away. What’s your favorite garment to make?
CY: I think outerwear. I think the most work goes into making a jacket. It’s complex, say on a shirt I can’t get too crazy with all the bells and whistles.
SF: Levis let you customize a pair of the Jordan 4 they did and we saw you going through your closet online, pulling out all these old shoes; do you ever think about making your own?
CY: Funny, I have a friend who I always talk to this about. I would definitely want to make something completely new, I don’t really want to do customization.The footwear I’ve always gravitated to was super extravagant so I’d like to do my own silhouette
“People who think they have to put out a bunch of shit to keep up with the internet…”
SF: And what would that look like?
CY: High Top… honestly the shit would be a skytop.
SF: So we think there’s a lot of discussion/confusion with social. It’s like, are you a stylist or can you just post something and make people think you look good in clothes but it’s a matter of, if this platform went away, are you able to make a job out of this? Especially now during quarantine it’s hard for people. How many of the people who were outside before this are still gonna be there when it’s over?
CY: Yeah, I’ve repeated this sentiment a million times. It’s why I don’t have a large brand. I’m 29, about to turn 30, and I don’t feel like I have to rush to do anything. I know people who think they have to put out a bunch of shit to keep up with the internet. Most of them don’t know how to even construct the things they’re making. To me, it’s about how can you continue to make great things if you don’t even know the basics?