take it apart only to rebuild it again

An interview with Robert & Jeffrey from JCRT about outfitting Nine Inch Nails

By Leviathant

Late last year - back when we still went to the office to work - I had stepped up from my computer and walked to the other side of my desk where a couple of my coworkers were discussing the hoodie that one of them was wearing. Jesse, who in a weird way, is responsible for my career at that company, had been coming to work in an eye-catching plaid hoodie. Now, I'll be the first to confess that I took a hard pass on plaid in my life. The flannel fashion that grew out of Seattle grunge never hit home with me, but I always noticed this hoodie when Jesse wore it, and I was curious to hear the backstory. "These dudes have a shop, and every pattern they make is a reference to like, an album cover," he said. In fact, Jesse was wearing a jacket that was inspired by the artwork on the synth-pop album "Age of Consent" by Bronski Beat. Huh.

Avery, the third player in this brief interaction, was on the JCRT website, and scrolling down the homepage commenting on the different designs, he stopped and pointed to a flannel shirt he liked. "These are all really cool, but this one's my favorite." He clicks on the picture to go to the product detail page for more information; he notes that it's a little pricey for a flannel shirt, and Jesse is pointing out that their stuff is among his favorite clothing he owns, but I'm staring at the name of the shirt: The Pretty Hate Machine flannel.

The JCRT Pretty Hate Machine Flannel

I went back to my desk and had a closer look for myself. I thought it was a novel idea - not sure it was my thing. But then I read the description:

April of 1990. I saw NIN open for Peter Murphy (and I think Think Tree was the 1st act). Before that all I remember is the found footage-esque Down in it video that was so bizarrely beautiful. Trent and what seemed to be thousands of yards of cassette tape all over the stage made for one of my favorite performances to date. Flash to the future and what began in 1999 as a "can you make a few things for an MTV appearance" blossomed into Jeffrey and I being asked to create the wardrobe for The equally beautiful Fragile tour. This was a dream realized and still unbelievable to me. Trent is a legend and seriously one of the nicest and most talented guys I have ever met. Pretty Hate Machine is STILL a perfect album(there are NO bad songs).
What?! This began a series of events that led to a conversation with Robert Tagliapietra that I'm delighted to share with you today.


Trent Reznor at the 1999 Video Music Awards

On the page about the Pretty Hate Machine pattern, it's apparent that you're not just a fan of nine inch nails, but you had a unique opportunity to work with Trent starting back in 1999. Do you want to talk about how that transpired, and how that turned into a larger scale collaboration?

It all began with a call from a friend ours who had styled Trent for Spin magazine(?) and asked for a few pieces. We were then hired to create wardrobe for their tour and their upcoming performance at the MTV Music Awards later that year. We had discussed some initial ideas about riffing on some early to mid century military pieces and immediately got to work on these amazing pullover vests that fastened under the arms with these padded gussets. It was apparent that the band's wardrobe was to emote the same feeling as the record and that the clothing would also be military inspired but using technical fabrics and then playing with the finishings and treatments. We sometimes would build a piece, over dye it, then take it apart only to rebuild it again to give it the appearance of something with history. Once Trent got his hands on a few of the pieces though he trusted us to dive in. We would usually get a call that the guys needed some new pieces and we would pull an all nighter or two to make sure they were express shipped to wherever they were performing that night. It was likely a mix of the pieces being destroyed on stage and that the pieces themselves had to be so distressed to fall into the feel of the production!

What kind of experience had you had in the past when it came to outfitting touring musicians? When it came to Nine Inch Nails, were you iterating on ideas you'd previously executed, or was this an opportunity to experiment?

Jeffrey had worked with everyone from Salt N Pepa and Madonna to Depeche Mode and Book of Love when had I met him. A lot of it was for music videos that would then bleed into outfits used for the tours. Nine Inch Nails was my first ongoing project with Jeffrey and we got to experiment a lot actually. For instance, Trent or Robin would really like a pair of our pants so we would then do multiple iterations in different fabrics, changing details adding darts and seams and we'd use different dyes and treatments to rust or paint the fabrics and over dye them so they felt otherworldly, timeless and aged.

Have you considered doing a limited run of reproductions of something like that, or do you break the proverbial mold after you've assembled a collection for a band or a tour?

We have definitely revisited certain elements. I think our signature reverse tuxedo stripe at JCRT was originally used for this tour. As were some of the other grosgrain elements. The joy of working on productions like these though are that they are almost couture in a way and they only live in that time and space. The difficult part is that documentation is so different now. We were not recording everything the way we do now. It's hard to imagine a situation where you would not have all of this detailed through photos, videos, emails even- not to mention social media today. Maybe if it was recorded more thoroughly we would have, a demand for the pieces but as it stands all we have now are the clothing patterns and some photos.

You've designed wardrobes for a number of incredible artists - are there any pieces/collections you look particularly fondly on in retrospect?

For sure this. Nine Inch Nails were one of my first concerts I truly remember everything from. They opened for Peter Murphy for his Deep tour along with a band called Think Tree. Trent was an insane mess of cassette tape film, powder and a lot of screaming... Truly mesmerizing and that record will always be one of my favorites because of it. To be able to work with him was a dream come true and then to see my name on the credits of And All That Could Have Been is literally a highlight of my career. Also having been a fan of Bill Viola who did those gorgeous triptych videos - made it one of my favorite tours ever. This tour specifically was the tour that allowed us the most freedom with creativity and design once the guys saw what we could do, after a few outfits they would give us a mood and just let us design into it.

Danny Lohner, Trent Reznor, Robin Finck, Charlie Clouser

Even before I learned about the inspiration behind your designs, certainly before I learned about your connection to an artist that has such an influence on me, I thought the JCRT was striking - not only were the choices in plaids brilliant, but the way they're laid out on these shirts and hoodies is smart, and they've got a great shape to them - they just look good, you can tell they're quality. You've been building out JCRT for a few years now, and I imagine that's been an adventure of sorts. How's that been going?

It's great but so different than the womenswear brand Costello Tagliapietra we were running since 2005. JCRT was started with the idea of combining the analog and digital aspects of making clothing in order to produce on demand. This unity of tech and craft allows us a freedom to not limit ourselves and to be able to make as many different patterns as we want. It really helped define our brand and allow us to speak to the things that are important to us. Just how tartans historically represented clans, families and traditions we are designing into the things that create communities today. We are super grateful to have worked directly with some of our heroes as well! Bob Mould came to us last year to provide a flannel that he could sell on tour and we worked with artist Scooter Laforge who does these colorful twisted cartoon inspired paintings that we launched exclusively at Dover Street Market.

If you end up putting out any other NIN related patterns, you're going to give me the heads up, right?

YES

Charlie Clouser, Robin Finck, Jerome Dillon

Epilogue

As I mentioned at the top of the page - plaid is not a part of my wardrobe, and $125 is more than I budget for a shirt. At the same time, even before I had the chance to chat with anyone involved in this, I thought it was something really cool that I wanted to put out there to our readers. All I had was a product detail page, so I tweeted out some crack about how if I branded myself as an influencer, I'd ask for a freebie in exchange for a link, but here's the link. Something dorky like that - I hate the idea of "influencer marketing" and have some pretty sharp opinions about the commercialization of the internet. High irony that I work for an enterprise ecommerce platform, but that's a story for another day.

To my surprise, I got a reply from the JCRT account, asking for my information so they could send me one. This went back and forth, "Thank you, but I can't" and "But really what size are you" and I'm only going to say no so many times, so at 5' 10" and about 170lbs, I suggested a Medium in the Tailored fit. Why not? Not long afterward, the shirt showed up and it is wonderful. The proportions, the cut of the design, the material and the workmanship - it was a real "Oh, actually the price makes a lot of sense" moment for me. And, actually, I kinda love it. So I talked to them about doing an interview, pairing it with some kind of giveaway, and just as I was finding the time to put everything together, COVID happened. Their factory closed. Then they started producing face masks, and now, months later, they appear to be taking orders again. And then as I was preparing this write-up, footage of Minneapolis cops murdering George Floyd in the middle of the day, which brought the entire country (and several cities around the world) crashing headfirst into dealing with police brutality and once again addressing the systematic oppression that people of color have been dealing with in the US for centuries. Seemed like a weird time to post about designing the wardrobe for the Fragility tour. It's still a weird time.

I'm still figuring out how to qualify this giveaway. Maybe it involves posting your favorite plaid to Instagram and tagging their account while using a hashtag. Maybe I'll ask you to Tweet something, and we'll use that to draw names for a pair of gift cards I'll be giving out. Maybe I'll do face masks - I just picked up a set and they're pretty great. I'll get to that later - follow the NIN Hotline on Twitter or keep an eye out on our RSS feed. Stay safe, wear a mask if you have to go out, defund the police.

--Matt (aka Leviathant)

p.s. check out how old I got. I started this site 21 years ago!