I have been in tailoring for over 20 years. Following fashion college, I started my apprenticeship at just 17 with master tailor David Chambers, local to my home in Hertfordshire. David, who had been trained on Savile Row himself, taught me all the skills I needed to make a suit by hand.
I made everything, trousers, jackets and waistcoats from start to finish. I thought this was normal for a tailor, at that time. The one thing that still surprises me today is how very few people can actually do all of this, solo. I never realised in other organisations that one person made the pockets and another the hand finishing and pressing. I can do all of it, as a lone apprentice for one man, I had to!
Except I was missing one vital skill. The first stage of construction for me to literally create anything I liked – pattern cutting! Getting the pattern right from the start is fundamental to making the perfect suit.
So 8 years ago I left my mentor and my job and ventured onto ‘the row’. I was taking a risk and didn’t know where to start. But not one for being shy I decided I would ask around in a few shops to see if they were looking for someone with my expertise.
Immediately upon entering Oswald Boateng’s shop, the man himself commented on my overcoat, which I had made – instantly impressed he offered me a job on the spot. I freelanced for him for 6 months, but I really needed to learn the final part of my trade the bit that would make me a complete master tailor!
A chance to do this came up with Henry Poole, I jumped at it. I know my own value and set myself a goal to become company director within 5 years (I actually did it in 3).
What is a Master Tailor and why are there so few of us?
It’s not easy when you start making money as a tailor to go back to basics and learn another part of the process, it’s time consuming so people tend to specialise in one aspect. Everyone needs to make a living. That’s why becoming a ‘Master’ is so rare. Plus there aren’t many tailors today who actually can do it all themselves, to be able to pass this knowledge onto an apprentice.
Learning everything takes years, decades even but for me it was worth persevering to reach the top. To really be the best you need to know every element. There are many people who claim to be a ‘Master Tailor’ yet have never even picked up a thimble. (Beware of fakes, a true ‘Master’ in every sense is someone who can completely create any garment from conception to pattern, cloth selection and style, right through to actual creation and finish. They shouldn’t cut any corners, literally – pardon the pun).
A perfect suit is an a investment, like a piece of art. I hand stitch everything including the original way to pad a collar, it’s surprising how many companies use machines which isn’t in keeping with tradition. I call it ‘pure bespoke’, the real way to tailor.
Now I can turn my hand to anything – including making a commissioned cover for an Aston Martin car. A grey pinstripe for the grand reveal of the ONE-77 at a Paris car show in 2009. It was challenging, not a normal request, but the only way I continue to learn is through doing something extraordinary. Why not?
Apart from having a wardrobe worth a small fortune and getting to dress like James Bond every day, I have always been passionate about clothing. There is something really special about putting on a good suit and the sophistication it brings. Especially when I know it has been made just for me. My suits are as unique and individual as I am. One size does NOT fit all in my world.