Jean Salvemini wrapped her arms around a pair of headless mannequins — one in a wedding dress, the other in a suit and tie — and made a fashion statement: “You know, we really don’t have a glamorous address,” she said, “but we do glamorous work.”
Mrs. Salvemini, along with her sister, Mary Ipekcian, owns Sorelle Tailoring, a sort of mom-and-pop store to the fashion industry that is as well-known to Ralph Lauren as it is to Nola Solomon, a 24-year-old freelance writer in Manhattan who arrived Wednesday with a skirt to be shortened ($25) and five pairs of jeans to be hemmed ($13 to $15 each depending on the amount of handiwork involved).
“A friend of mine told me they do great work here,” Ms. Solomon said, watching as Ms. Ipekcian began measuring and pushing pins through her skirt.
“This skirt is a gift from my grandmother, she wore it in the 1940s,” Ms. Solomon said. “When you have something you really care about, you want to make sure it gets put in the right hands.”
On Monday night, Mrs. Salvemini will work behind the scenes with the designer Giulietta at a fashion show in Gramercy Park.
“I’ll bring my tools just in case any of the clothes need fixing,” Mrs. Salvemini said. “Working with all the young models, it’s a fun job.”
Olivia Gazzarini, a production manager at Giulietta, said that Mrs. Salvemini and Ms. Ipekcian “do very professional, very complex work.”
“They do, they undo, they reshape clothing, they make things from scratch,” Ms. Gazzarini said. “They have been at it for a long time.”
The hands at Sorelle — which means “sisters” in Italian — are hired daily by walk-ins like Ms. Solomon and the dapper businessman who showed up early one morning after failing to negotiate a broken zipper.
“He was in a panic because he had a meeting to get to,” Ms. Ipekcian recalled. “I didn’t want to rush the job, so I sized him up, gave him a matching pair of pants from our store and sent him on his way. By the time he came back after his meeting to pick up his pants, the zipper was good as new.”
Though the sisters lament their location at 307 West 36th Street — “I’d much prefer to have my shop down in SoHo or on the Upper East Side,” Mrs. Salvemini said with a sigh — it has not prevented better-known clients from finding their cluttered shop between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, where several railroad rooms, sewn together, burst at the seams with well-dressed mannequins, racks of clothing, large spools of colorful thread and a couple of fitting rooms. The noise created by the heavy street traffic can barely be heard over the jack-hammering sounds of sewing machines manned by each of the sisters.
Mrs. Salvemini and Ms. Ipekcian have done alterations, fittings, fix-ups and other jobs small and tall for Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret and the Belgian fashion designer Tim Currans. Mariah Carey has brought them work, and so has Martha Stewart’s daughter, Alexis.
“We have a unique vision where clothing is concerned,” Mrs. Salvemini said. “Vision is of the utmost importance. How you see is how you sew.”
Mrs. Salvemini, 57, and Ms. Ipekcian, 59, were born in Istanbul. The daughters of a suit-maker, they arrived in America in 1980, settling in Cliffside Park, N.J.
“We learned to sew and work with clothing as very little girls,” Ms. Ipekcian said. “Our father didn’t want us to go into this business, he kept saying ‘it’s too hard to make a living at this, try something else.’ But we stayed with it and when we came to America, we took odd jobs for about four years until we finally got our green cards.”
In 1984, Mrs. Salvemini opened her own clothing factory in Union City, N.J., and she and her sister worked there until it closed in 1998. They worked for various companies until opening Sorelle Tailoring in 2006, where they now make and mend alongside Mrs. Salvemini’s husband, Salvatore.
“Mary specializes in clothes for women, she makes gorgeous wedding dresses, and Jean specializes in men’s clothing, she makes beautiful suits,” Mr. Salvemini explained.
When asked for his specialty, Mrs. Salvemini interrupted. “He’s in charge of talking all day,” she said with a smile.
On Friday morning, Mrs. Salvemini asked a customer, Daniel Green, to step onto a platform. She spread his arms out and began pushing pins into the collar of one of his new dress shirts.
“I was looking for a place to have my shirts taken in and my pants tapered, and I went online and found this place on a fashion blog that I often read,” said Mr. Green, a Manhattan lawyer. “The guy who writes the blog usually trashes everyone, but when he mentioned this place, he had nothing but nice things to say.”