Meet the owners
Passionate about sustainable fashion, Nate Revell runs Cambridge repair shop Gokotta Handcraft, using his exceptional tailoring skills to breathe new life into pre-loved denims
What inspired the repair shop name?
Gokotta is actually a Swedish word which evokes the idea of waking early in the morning and embracing the freshness and calmness of the day. It resonated with me because when I first set up Gokotta in 2017 I was working a full-time job for Levi’s doing repair work, and as I wanted to expand on this, I’d get up early every morning to do my own repair work before I started my job.
When did you first discover a love for tailoring?
It was actually during my time at Levi’s. It’s a great company and educates its employees on the history of denim, how it is produced and the impact it has on the environment. They offer a very limited alteration service, so they taught me the basics of alterations. I remember sitting behind the sewing machine for the first time and loving it.
How did Gokotta start?
Initially in an art studio in Norwich, which was an amazing space amongst a real mix of creatives. Then in November 2017, I was offered a studio within Dogfish in Norwich. It felt important to have a physical location to try to modernise the vision of what a tailor shop can be, and try to get a younger audience to care. The store in Cambridge (also inside Dogfish) has been open for six or seven months now. I fell in love with Cambridge when I studied here and so when the opportunity arose to have a shop here it felt right.
What fabrics do you work most with?
My work is fairly heavily focused on denim as the big industrial machines I’ve sourced work best with denim as a textile. As I’ve mentioned, there’s a huge environmental cost to making a pair of jeans so it made sense to repair the type of clothing that had the biggest impact on the planet. It’s a garment that can continue to look beautiful and retain its unique character with repairs.
Can you tell us about the repair services you offer?
I offer visible and non-visible mends. The non-visible mends are done on a Japanese Singer darning machine which came from Pakistan. It’s a first edition, made in 1917, and still working beautifully. I use that to repair holes in denim specifically; rather than using patches, the darning machine creates the weft and the warp of the denim, meaning a strong repair. For the nonvisible mends, I use a Japanese technique called Sashiko which creates stunning results. It’s a very simple running stitch often using a contrasting thread, which Japanese farmers traditionally used to repair their clothes. I have a whole book of Japanese textiles to choose from for these repairs. They add real personality to the garment.
What are you other specialisms?
I offer a full alteration service, ensuring that a garment really fits a customer’s silhouette. I also offer a full customisation service to add life to clothes that might be a bit tired. So that could be using patchwork, hand stitching embroidery or adding pockets (which is something I particularly enjoy).
Do you recall a favourite commission?
I particularly enjoy working on projects which have an emotional attachment. I had one customer who’d lost his wife and he and his son brought along a favourite jacket. He’d saved one of his wife’s shopping lists as a reminder of how she’d cared for the family. It had her doodles on it, so I incorporated the doodles in the jacket design, and took sections of her shopping list and put it onto the back of the jacket in her handwriting. It was a highstake project for me as I wanted it to be special, and I felt very emotional working on it and when the customer collected it.
How do you see Gokotta Handcraft developing?
I hope to keep building my client base, meet lots of new people in Cambridge and connect with the local community. I’d love to eventually employ another tailor in Cambridge, to give someone else a livelihood, and enable us to repair more garments together. My focus is to continue nurturing beautiful clothes, adding longevity to them and doing my bit to counteract the fast fashion movement.
Gokotta Handcraft is located in Dogfish, 5-7 Sussex Street, Cambridge. Find out more at gokottahandcraft.com
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