My First Real Job…

by Alden Cole on April 24, 2014 · 1 comment

2drawingsplusprintWPthree drawings done in the spring of 1969, each 11″ x 8.5″ • collection of the artist

From the end of August 1968 until late May 1969 I worked for Paul Ressler Ltd., a family-owned-and-operated business that specialized in mens pants, specifically trendily-designed pants for young men. Recently arrived in NYC I answered an ad in the NY Times — “small mens wear company seeks designer”. I phoned and scheduled an interview for a day or two later. Thus it was that early one morning in late August I met with Paul and his son Michael at their showroom & office in the basement of a building on the southwest corner of 33rd Street and 5th Avenue, directly across the street from the Empire State Building. On the basis of a set of sketches that included yesterday’s four drawings I was offered a job on the spot, starting at $100 a week, which I immediately and excitedly accepted. Paul, who had worked for years in clothing manufacture, was an ambitious entrepreneur who recognized a potential market when he saw one, launching out on his own and specializing in young mens pants, just at a time when the English Invasion was changing the face, as well as the derriere, of fashion in this country. Theirs was a small family business: Paul’s wife Sylvia was the book-keeper, their son Michael was the business manager; their other son, Ted, was a teacher, but he came in each afternoon after school and worked as part of the family team, at what I’m not sure. I was their first in-house designer; they, like many other small clothing manufacturers, got by without a paid designer by ‘knocking off’ designs by others, usually garments that were popular in a higher-priced market that could be made more cheaply, and profitably mass-marketed. The receptionist/secretary upfront, a lovely young lady named Shelley, just a few years my junior, right out of high school and in her first job, befriended me. We soon became lunch-buddies. And through her I was lured away from Paul Ressler after only working there for nine months. More on that tomorrow…

The only other company employees were two salesmen, Bob Stock and Alan ??, who spent a lot of their time out on the road and pounding the pavement, successfully selling lots of Paul Ressler Pants, those hip-hugging, low-rise pants that were the vogue, the in-look for the young and hip. The Resslers welcomed me to their business immediately: I was young, enthusiastic, who knows how else they saw me, and we hit it off. Paul, a man in his fifties, had a young company on his hands, youth-oriented; I was twenty-four, fresh in the business, and he looked to me to help him grow his already thriving business. He wanted to produce more than just pants; he wanted to make shirts and jackets and other forms of sportswear for young, fashionable men. He also understood and intended to capitalize on the Unisex trend that was blurring the lines between what could be worn and by whom. He had a daring eye for fabric and style combinations, and I learned considerably from working with him; among other things, how to cut out and sew up a pair of pants in very short order – an hour or less. Through his mentoring I honed my sewing skills putting together numerous pairs of sample pants over the next few months. One of our gambits was to design a pair of pants without an inseam or an outer-seam; instead we shaped and sewed the pants together with front and back seams, running along what would normally be the press lines, if you can visualize such strangeness. In profile the pants were very unusual with an exaggerated shape flaring over and emphasizing the calf. Not a great financial success, but it did give the company some good press in a market always seeking the ‘latest’. I was also learning about other realities of the business world I had just entered: meeting and hearing the input of buyers from major stores like Bloomingdales and Barney’s, interviewing fabric salesmen and looking over their latest wares. Even got to see the manufacturing end of the business when Paul took me out to Scranton to check on one of the production factories that made Ressler Pants. To be continued…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jill Ressler Duffy July 10, 2015 at 3:46 am

I enjoyed reading this article about my family. I’m Paul’s oldest grandchild, Michael’s daughter Jill. I was born in 1969 probably when you were working with them. Thought I’d say hello.


Jill Ressler Duffy


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