Urbanist Jane Jacobs likened a New York City sidewalk to a complex ballet. Facing the loss of gigs during a pandemic, Makayla Wray started a microbusiness to help costume the dancers. Using her skill as a tailor, she creates and repairs in the East Village, encountering garments and people with fascinating stories along the way.
Call her Tailor Swift.
Makayla Wray, 29, an East Village tailor, works in Chinatown for an upscale designer during the day.
But Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 p.m. until dark, she’s a street seamstress working out of an old cart stationed at the corner of East Houston and Mulberry streets.
“In the morning I make runway clothes, then I come in at night to hem the little guys,” she told The Post.
The pandemic has created a throwback economy — and Wray represents an updated version of the old-timey merchants who used to barter and haggle downtown in the early 1900s.
“People say to me, ‘You’re keeping [the spirit of] New York alive,” said Wray, who offers onsite mending, as well as alterations.
Her cart — a retro-fitted nut-roasting apparatus — is one she inherited from her old boss, Byron Kaplan, at Peddler. In 2018, she worked at the “mobile coffee shop” slinging joe in the mornings before heading to TV and movie sets to earn money doing quick fixes on costumes.
“Byron used to say, ‘You should work full days,’ and I told him, ‘If you put a sewing machine on this cart I could,’ ” said Wray. “It was kind of a joke.”
But after her freelance gigs dried up when the pandemic hit, Wray struck a deal with Kaplan to take over his old coffee rig at the beginning of June.
“I had to weld an ironing board onto it and make a clothing rack,” said Wray, who also outfitted the cart with vintage Abraham & Strauss and Singer sewing machines, along with spools of thread, a mini-iron and more.
“I was originally going to park it [one block west] under the Calvin Klein ad to create a contrast between me and the fast-fashion billboards,” said Wray. “But there’s not as much foot traffic there.”
She currently works three evenings a week, weather permitting, and accepts cash and Venmo.
While she’s sewing, by hand or with her machine, she’ll send customers to nearby bar Botanica for a drink. More time-intensive projects can be picked up the following day.
The Pittsburgh native charges a range: two bucks for an on-the-spot button, $15 for a hem, and $60 for an old pair of trousers that a friend requested be made into a new bucket hat. And she’ll make custom wares out of old clothes, too.
“I use every inch of material that I can, and I’ll turn scraps into teddy bears,” said Wray, whose favorite projects are ones where she gets to use her tiny workshop to update a beloved family hand-me-down.
“Some guy wanted me to repair Army pants that had a bunch of holes and tears. The pants were his grandfather’s in the war, and his dad also wore them and passed them down” said Wray.
“I’m happy I got to save something from being in a box in a storage unit.”