Bespoke tailoring is a self-regulated industry, meaning it’s not licensed by a civic or government body. Nevertheless, you’ll find that bespoke tailors are highly experienced and well-studied people. To practise the difficult and complicated art of tailoring, they have to be.
Like many highly skilled crafts, tailoring is passed down from one generation to the next by means of an apprenticeship. All tailors work their way up through the profession by becoming an apprentice at a tailoring firm. Before becoming an apprentice, they usually complete a pre-apprenticeship course at a college.
Here are our top 5 steps to become a professional tailor.
Earn a pre-apprenticeship diploma
Most of Savile Row’s apprentices have attended the pre-apprenticeship course at Newham College in East London. According to the Newham College website, people interested in working on Savile Row or for another tailoring company ought to apply to enter the Bespoke Tailoring Diploma level 2 course.
How do you get into the course? They want to see evidence of your personal interest in making garments, as well as a commitment to working in the field of bespoke tailoring.
Apart from Newham College, numerous courses are available in bespoke tailoring from different colleges and academies. Institutions such as the Fashion Tailoring Academy offer technical training, leading to diplomas, in every aspect of tailoring. Without these kinds of courses (and the valuable experience they offer), you may not be considered for an apprenticeship with a bespoke tailors.
Learn about the industry
As with any professional goal, it pays to learn as much as you can about the industry you want to join. Read everything you can get your hands on about the bespoke tailoring industry – in newspapers, online and in books.
If you’re still in school or college, you may want to find part-time or menial work within the tailoring or fashion world. Any bit of exposure to the industry helps, especially if it exposes you to the making of garments.
Get work experience with a tailor
Before applying for an apprenticeship, request work experience at a bespoke tailors. Emma Martin, a young tailor on Savile Row today, told The Telegraph: “As part of the course [in tailoring at Newham College], I did one day’s work experience a week on the Row and that’s how I began at Dege & Skinner.”
Become an apprentice
This is the most important step in becoming a bespoke tailor. During the apprenticeship, you’ll practise under a master tailor who may have been working in bespoke tailoring for decades. He or she will pass on to you their valuable skills until you’re ready to tailor a suit independently.
Don’t expect to jump from one bespoke tailors to the next once you’ve finished your apprenticeship. My understanding is that once you commit to a firm, you’re committed for a long time. They invest a lot of time and energy into training you, after all.
Work long hours
According to Philip Parker, head cutter at Henry Poole & Co. (Savile Row’s oldest tailor), in The Telegraph, you have to work long hours: “I worked my way up and… until recently I’d work 12 hours a day – you can make a good living here but you work hard for it.”
Don’t let this deter you. Achieving any professional goal requires hard work, perseverance and long hours. Bespoke tailoring is no different. A hand-craft requiring great concentration and precision, bespoke tailoring may even be a more taxing profession than most. Consider it an art. We do.