I never thought that tailoring would become so much a part of my life.
It is a very demanding job and as the famous saying goes whatever you put in, is what you get out of it. It is a very true statement in the world of tailoring. I completed a tailoring course at Newham College, so I had some sort of idea of what skill was needed for the job, but I never apprehended how mentally challenging it would be. It wasn’t until my Apprenticeship at Huntsman in Savile Row began that I truly got an insight to the structure of the tailoring trade.
There a lot of systems which make the job a tactical procedure. I learnt in college just to make a jacket but not the important stages a it undergoes in its development from cloth to the final product. The main stages of tailoring a jacket are plain baste, pocket baste, forward and finish. These are the fittings I prepare the jacket for the cutter to try on the customer.
When I first started I was surprised by the vast amount of effort and skill that goes into a jacket and I started to comprehend why people say Apprenticeships can take up to five years to complete. The greatest lesson I have learnt during this process is that repetition helps me improve my profession. My job requires me to be mentally strong, having to train the mind but also focus: if the section of the job you are working on doesn’t look right 90% of the time your eyes are telling you the truth, you have to use your eyes as well the training you have been given.
Each jacket is a new challenge that requires problem solving, dedication and professionalism to produce a quality jacket that everyone can be proud of.
My day starts are 7.30am. As I get into work my teacher Albert is already waiting shuffling his feet as he blasts out Latin American music and Jane is in the corner finishing as usual. We have a bit of general banter about how the weekend has been. I try to not talk too much as it tends to me slow down, although it can be difficult sometimes as I do love a natter. Albert will have work prepared for me: it could be padding canvas, preparing foreparts or amending a job.
I may spend some of my time watching him; Albert is my new teacher so I’m now learning his way of making jackets that is a different tailoring style to my previous teacher. The benefit of learning from various tailors is that I can incorporate different styles together. It can be very helpful to watch other tailors at work as it helps you to learn tricks which help improves your work. From time to time he will appear at my table for his routine inspections. If the work is lacking quality Albert will instruct me on what amendments to make and I will start over, it can be frustrating at times but it encourages producing only high level quality pieces of work.
Today my job is to finish off basting a jacket together for a fitting later on. I’m at the stage of putting the shoulders together. On the first attempt I realise there is too much fullness, at least a quarter of an inch more than required. Sometimes I have to use my own initiative; you can’t always follow what the cutter has drafted. The cutter does not make up the cloth so it can be hard for them to visualise how the shoulder will look, as certain cloths stretch more than others.
My main aim is to draw clear roads with my chalk and mark where I want fullness and evenly space it out. Albert and I work together for most of the day, going through what I’m doing and things I need to practice. Albert is very much practice makes perfect, so from time to time I may spend a few hours going through pockets, as it’s not just about knowing how to make a pocket but how to do it well at speed.
I am now nearing the end of my Apprenticeship and my aim is to be a very good tailor producing high quality jackets. I also want to be efficient and I am willing to do what it takes to achieve that. I am trying to understand cutting as well, as it is beneficial to know both areas to build a good relationship between tailor and cutter. Once my expertise builds up, I would consider becoming self-employed which will enable me to manage myself and choose the amount of work I wish to undertake. I really love the flexibility that tailoring offers.
Tailoring is not an easy career choice but I like to be challenged and I love my profession; being able to work on a jacket from the very beginning and see the progress that develops is amazing. When a jacket is completed it also gives me a sense of fulfilment and achievement.
Pointing out where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and reflecting on how to improve the next jacket are what gives me satisfaction in my job.