These are the key people in a tailoring business:
They are normally not directly involved with the suit’s making, but usually have a first class knowledge of cloths and trimmings, and also are very aware of the business, the styles and details. This, of course, helps the customer pick the correct styles and fabrics for the right occasions. In some businesses with a CMT service (Cut, Make & Trim), a salesman will take basic measurements which are then sent to a factory for manufacture. This is not true “bespoke”, but depending on the sales person’s experience, this can produce a relatively good fitting suit for the money.
That’s me. OK, at English Cut I’m the salesman as well, which is the norm for a smaller outfit. As I’m sure you’re aware I’m more the architect of the suit. I take the measurements, I draft the pattern, I cut the cloth, then I send it off to the tailors for the sewing.
These are the people who take the cut pieces of fabric and match them up with the canvas, linings and silk etc, so the suit can actually be made. And yes, that’s my job too. Again, it’s usually a full-time job only in the larger houses.
These are the people who actually sew your suit together. If I am the architect, then these are the actual builders. They usually specialize: making coats, trousers or waistcoats, and some only make dressware. But like me with other roles, tailors adapt their skills. Many of the tailors will turn their hand to making anything- except for trousers, which are usually left to the specialist trouser makers.
These are usually ladies who have perfected the art of hand buttonholes, felling the linings and all the hand-sewing needed to finish a coat and trousers. The nickname for them in the trade is “Kippers”. This is not because they suffer from the smell of smoked fish, but that they usually worked in pairs. This is so they could more easily fend off the flirtatious advances of cutters. We cutters do have a rather undeserved reputation for that, I might add.
Tailors and cutters always argue in the pub over who’s most important, but we both know that we’re as dependent on each other as “needle and thread”. It’s true the cutter will usually get all the praise for a beautiful job, but he gets to feel the full wrath if it goes wrong- something the tailors are normally spared. To decide which suits you best you’ve got to decide which you prefer: the highs and lows of a cutter’s life, or the tailor’s more constant, steady flow of making beautiful clothes.
Ladies are often asking me what opportunities there are for them in the business. Quite simply, they can and do the same as men, often a lot better. However the only real restriction which I’ve seen is that I’ve never known any ladies do the actual measuring of customers.
They’ll often get the measurements from a colleague, then go cut a suit as well as anyone, hidden in the back of the shop. But sadly many of the customers don’t feel comfortable having the 4” brass end of a tape measure thrust up between their legs by a lady.
Tailoring is just a lot more personal than most industries, with the customer and the product always far more important than any money to be made.
As far as mastering cutting and tailoring, there’s no easy answer. Even if you’re brilliant, you’ve got to be humble and patient for a good few years – a quality that’s getting rarer than hen’s teeth these days.
However if you do have the right stuff for it, you’ll never starve, and you’ll never dread going to work in the morning. Can’t say fairer than that.
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Image reproduced from englishcut.com
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