Initially, all David Alexander Viato knew about the item that needed alteration was that it was unique, a custom Givenchy jacket. The tailor soon learned, though, that the item, which would be part of the Weeknd’s Super Bowl halftime ensemble, was covered in hand-sewn crystals and weighed over 40 pounds. “It was something that was like no regular jacket,” says Viato. It was also too big for the pop star. Viato would need to take it down about four sizes. And, he had less than a week to finish it.
“It was something that we hadn’t seen before,” says Viato, who has a studio, De Leon Tailor Shop, on Melrose Avenue in East Hollywood. It took three fittings and more than 150 hours of work, but Viato, joined by three other tailors and his mom, was able to finish a very complicated job.
Clothing is in the 30-year-old’s blood. His dad is a master tailor and his mom is a fashion designer. “I learned a lot from my parents,” says Viato. About seven years ago, he went to work at his dad’s tailoring shop in Culver City, where he learned alterations. Then he studied fashion design at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. His dream is to one day have his own brand.
Tailoring and design, he explains, are quite different, but he’s able to apply both skills to help customers on special projects. About 80 percent of his clients are celebrities, whose tailoring needs usually come to Viato through their stylists. He’s worked with French Montana and Diddy and had tailored outfits for Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant. Viato has tailored for the Weeknd for over a year. He even worked on the singer’s Nutty Professor Halloween costume.
His customers often find him through word-of-mouth. “I’m not a social media person at all,” says Viato, who occasionally posts his projects on Instagram. He just loves what he does, he says, and it shows. Viato says he tends to get “random messages” from potential customers who have heard about his work.
In addition to suits, Viato’s shop also handles alterations for wedding attire, evening gowns, and leather. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, his business, like so many others, was impacted. “People get all these clothes done because they want to go out,” he explains. With so many events canceled, and people working from home, there’s been less of a demand for clothing alterations. However, Viato says that work is starting to pick up again.
Previously, he customized the Weeknd’s jacket worn both in the “Save Your Tears” video and a Super Bowl halftime promo clip. For that project, Viato and his team made sure the red jacket was a perfect fit and then added 10,000 Swarovski crystals.
The Super Bowl jacket, though, was a different kind of beast. Viato says that even his dad thought it might be an impossible task. “I said, I have to handle it,” he recalls. “It’s for the Super Bowl. It has to be perfect.”
It was a complicated process that involved carefully removing crystals, cleaning seams and then resewing the crystals. That’s in addition to alterations like taking in eight inches on the sides, shortening sleeves and then adding an extra panel of fabric on the sleeves so that the artist could perform comfortably. “It was like a huge surgery,” he says.
It was a challenge, but one that Viato was happy to oblige. “We never stop learning,” he says. And the Super Bowl jacket was an opportunity to do just that. The Weeknd’s Super Bowl jacket, along with the “Save Your Tears” jacket, now rank as his favorite projects. He says, “I love the challenge.”