‘Clients are at the heart of the [tailoring] process for me so I’m always keen to find out how they see their pieces fitting into their lives.’ (Kathryn Sargent of Kathryn Sargent Luxury Bespoke Tailoring, one of the Walpole 2018 Brands of Tomorrow)
LC: Luxury Bespoke Tailoring! Tell us what drew you to this kind of work, and what it is that you aim to do better / differently than other similarly minded businesses in the area?
KS: I was always interested in fashion, in particular men wearing sharp suits, and wondered how to make them. As a teenager, I remember going on a family holiday to Paris and noticed how differently the women dressed – their style and attention to detail inspired me to want to make things for stylish people. My passion for tailoring really set sail when I went to Fashion College and then on to Savile Row.
First and foremost, I like to think I create garments for clients of the highest quality. In terms of what sets my approach apart from others, I believe it is my personal approach. I am always keen to get to know my clients, and find out how they see their pieces fitting into their lives. We discuss their lifestyle, for example if they will be travelling a great deal, what other pieces they have in their wardrobe, and how my garments might complement these other pieces. I offer recommendations and ideas throughout our relationship, but the process is driven by the client, as I always want to be sure that they are happy and the pieces I create work well for them.
LC: What was your journey, in terms of getting to this point in your career / business? Were there many bumps along the way, and if so what did you learn from them?
KS: One of the biggest challenges was taking the leap to set up my own business. I left a secure and safe job and all its surroundings to challenge myself and continue my bespoke journey. I tried to absorb all the information and good advice that I could to ensure that my business would be successful. Learning new business skills was very challenging, but thankfully I had amazing support from friends, colleagues and clients, which made the experience a demanding but enjoyable one.
LC: Let’s talk about the fact that you were the first woman to get the position of ‘Head Cutter’ in the entire history of Savile Row. Why is tailoring such a male-dominated world? I know you’ve said that ‘being a woman is incidental’ that you’re a tailor first and foremost, but is there anything in particular that you think women like you are bringing to luxury bespoke tailoring (i.e. how can this male-dominated aspect of fashion benefit from more female input)?
KS: I was always aware from early on in my career that being a woman – or indeed a man – working on Savile Row, you had to earn people’s respect through hard work and being passionate about the training and the art of tailoring. I think I have been dedicated and fortunate enough to move up through the ranks to a place where I am now recognised within the tailoring community. I have met with some resistance along the way, but for the most part my colleagues and the tailoring community have been supportive. My passion for the craft has always been the main driver to spur me on.
When I first started working in tailoring being a woman was more unusual. However, over the years more and more women have become involved. There are now more female tailors, cutters and also clients coming to Savile Row and Mayfair, and therefore I think it is inevitable that we will see a progression to include even more women, but with the history and craftsmanship remaining at the heart of all the work.
My advice to any aspiring female tailors would be, if you have a real interest and passion, then do it. There are fantastic opportunities in the world of tailoring for anyone, man or woman, to be able to forge a fantastic career. You just need to put in the hours and seize the opportunity. There is such a wonderful history of tailoring, particularly British tailoring on Savile Row, so a desire to read up and research the craftsmanship that has gone before is essential. It is challenging work, but being part of such a fantastic industry full of talented people makes it all worth it.
LC: Do you have an average day – if so what does it look like? Can you briefly describe some of the main aspects of your work?
KS: Not one day is the same. I am generally a morning person so I aim to create my most complicated patterns first thing. Pattern drafting is quite mathematical and so I need quiet or classical music in the background as it is important to really be able to concentrate and think of the person you are creating the item for, to achieve the best results. I generally have appointments with clients throughout the day and do my other work around that. You never know who is going to be in town visiting so when the day finishes you look back and think that was good but it did not go as planned, simply because people change their plans and it has an effect on your work schedule. It is always a fun as I love meeting people from different backgrounds and professions. The client is at the heart of what I do and drives the process, so there is always lots of inspiration.
LC: Congratulations on being voted one of the Walpole Brands of Tomorrow 2018. What have you got out of the collaboration with mentors so far?
KS: I am thrilled to be part of the programme this year. Everyone has been very generous with their time and it is a privilege to be able to seek guidance from such talent in the British luxury industry. My business mentor has inspired me and suggested a number of ideas in helping take my business forward, and my legal mentor has been wonderful and highlighted aspects to think about – both have provided invaluable help so far. The other brands are great and I am sure interesting collaborations will happen. It is such an opportunity to be able to share my dreams and challenges for my business with other entrepreneurs in the luxury sector.