Today my Dad, Carmelo, turns 74.
He was born in a small town called Bagheria, just outside Palermo in Sicily.
He finished high school, and having a passion for ‘la moda’ he started working in fashion. By 24 he became a men’s tailor. We don’t come from a family of tailors or designers so this is a road he was paving on his own.
My dad is a rare breed of Sicilian. He is ambitious. Seeing little opportunity in his hometown he decided to leave behind everything for New York. No family came with him and he had no connections. A dollar and a dream as the saying goes…
At the time, New York’s garment district was the center of apparel manufacturing. It was filled with Italians looking for opportunity and Carmelo fit right in. Now if you want to find an Italian tailor in NYC you need to go the cemetery.
Then he switched courses and became a women’s tailor since there was more work in that field. Always moving forward he became more interested in improving fit and production so then he became a pattern maker. This is where he would build his career over the next 40 years working for various fashion companies.
I remember being 12 years old and going to his office and seeing piles of fabrics, hard paper, scissors, chalk, measuring tape, body shapes, and mannequins. I thought it was interesting, sure, but I was in my rebellious phase and all I gave a shit about was punk music and skateboarding. My dad didn’t get it and to put it lightly we weren’t on the same page.
It took me until I graduated college to realize my Dad wasn’t so bad, what he did was actually pretty cool, and that he sacrificed so much to give me the life I had.
Like him, I am always looking for opportunity. A few years ago when apparel manufacturing started to come back to the US I thought it would be awesome to try and bring it back to NYC, where it all started for my family. (Side note: my mom was a seamstress in the same factory where my Dad worked. She’s also Sicilian and from a town about 30 minutes away from Bagheria. You can’t make that up.)
So we started Bridge & Boro, a made in NYC clothing company for men and women. But this article isn’t about Bridge & Boro, its about Carmelo. Working together has been a really been a blessing. It has helped me get to know my Dad and have a relationship with him that I never thought would happen.
He is one of the most selfless people you will ever meet. Even now when he should be retired and spending his savings on whatever he wants, he is only worried about what other investment he can make to leave his kids when he is gone.
He continues to support my ridiculous idea of having a fashion company in NYC and spends hours on hours making all of our patterns for nothing in return.
He does everything for his family and sets the example for hard work that I try to live up to every day.
Carmelo is also hilarious. Whether he is trying to make you laugh or just being himself, he can bring you to tears. This is especially true when he’s back in his home land of Sicily. That’s where his heart is and really the only place he relaxes and stops worrying about everyone else. Seeing how different he is in Bagheria only makes me appreciate even more what he left behind to give us a better life. Truly selfless. I hope one day you get to meet him.
Happy Birthday Pa. Thank you for everything. I love you.