Finding Success in Divine Designs
Local tailor Nikita Borisov has earned himself a name dressing the holy men of the Orthodox church.
Published: August 27, 2014 (Issue # 1826)
“You know, there is a story about [Leonid] Brezhnev and jeans,” says local St. Petersburg tailor Nikita Borisov. “As you know, jeans are very strong…stiff, you need to wash them before you wear them. Well apparently, he wore them new once and they gave him problems down there [gestures to groin] and so he banned jeans in the Soviet Union,” Borisov says laughing. “No jeans for anyone! So we started making our own jeans and selling them with fake labels. It was illegal of course, but it was better money. In fact, once, we were inspected by the police and after they examined our jeans, they declared them to be the real thing, that’s how good we made them.”
For over 40 years, Borisov has been working as a tailor in both the U.S. and St. Petersburg and in that time has developed a large clientele both locally and abroad. In 1991, he began specializing in custom-made garments for the Orthodox religion, with his handiwork earning him a reputation worldwide and he now receives orders from as far as Australia, as remote as Nigeria and even requests for film costume creations. Such is the high demand for his work that the talented tailor has had to seek more space and recently moved his workshop from the cramped, tiny basement of an apartment building on Ulitsa Rubensteina to a larger and holier area — a room next to the majestic baroque-style Nikolsky Cathedral, one of St. Petersburg’s most beautiful churches. “This is very special for me as this was the church I got baptized as Orthodox when I was 22,” says Borisov.
However, despite being baptized in Russia, it was not until the tailor was living and working in the U.S. that he began creating Orthodox garments. While working at a tailor shop in Sea Cliff, New York, a member from the Lomonosov family approached him about making a cassock, a full-length garment worn by members of the church. “Within a week of arriving in the U.S., I was working for an Italian man, making custom-made suits and alterations. I said that I have never made a cassock before but if you show me one, I can replicate it. So he gave me one, I opened it all up and copied it,” he said. “I did a good job, word spread and after one year I was able to open my own tailor shop in New York, specializing in Orthodox and religious garments.”
Being self-taught is nothing unusual for Borisov — it was this exact curiosity and determination that got him interested in the profession in the first place. “I started making alterations when I was 12 or 13 years old because there wasn’t anything good in the Soviet Union back then. My mother would order me pants and they were always too big, so I would take them in myself. Pants, shirts, shorts…I would open up old clothes, see how they were sewn and then make the alterations on my own clothes,” he said.
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