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1st female master tailor opens shop on Savile Row


04-08-2016 07:00 BJT

For more than two centuries, London’s prestigious Savile Row has been the go-to place to get a bespoke tailored suit. And now, its first female master tailor has opened up a shop.

 1st female master tailor opens shop on Savile Row

The news comes as the number of women in the traditionally male-dominated industry grows. Kathryn Sargent made history on Wednesday. After being trained at Royal tailor Gieves & Hawkes for 15 years, where Sargent also broke ground by becoming the first female head cutter, her journey came full circle when she opened the doors to her own store on the iconic street Savile Row, which has traditionally been dominated by men in its near 200-year association with tailoring.

“I feel quite proud of my achievement, but it’s been 20 years that I’ve been training and working in the Row. I set up my own business just under five years ago, and it's born on the true values of Savile Row bespoke tailoring, so it’s nice to be here, in my sort of spiritual home,” said Sargent.

The softly spoken 41-year-old is wearing clothes of her own creation. She said she learned from some great people, all men, who were happy to pass down their skills to a younger, energetic generation of tailors.

 1st female master tailor opens shop on Savile Row

Philip Parker, Managing Director of Henry Poole and Co., the oldest tailor on Savile Row, is one of those who mentored her. He says attitudes to women in the industry have changed.

“Things evolve, even Savile Row evolves. It’s still evolving and it will continue to evolve. Over the last 10 years, the number of female artisans in our workshops and in cutting rooms. Cutting is not the only one, but she’s the one who has put her name above the door and that's very significant,” said Parker.

Originally from Leeds in northern England, Sargent said her well-dressed father was a source of inspiration and that she got her creative genes from her mother, a keen knitter.

It was her love for formal menswear and the process involved in making it that drew the fashion student to Savile Row, where she was “enchanted” at her first visit. She became an apprentice in 1996 and the first female head cutter in 2009 at Gieves & Hawkes.

She started her own business in 2012 and soon moved to an atelier where she made bespoke garments for men and women. The new store will also target both sexes, making it one of the few on Savile Row to cater for women. In that vein, she is also launching her own unisex "Sargent Harris" tweed.

Bespoke two-piece suits at her store start from 4,200 pounds and can cost 10,000 pounds if made from very exclusive and rare cloths. Sargent says her breakthroughs are reflective of a wider trend in the tailoring industry, and the majority of newly qualified tailors to have graduated from the Savile Row apprenticeship scheme last year were women.

“It’s very inspiring for them to see that a woman can do this job. To have an opportunity to work in this industry, now there are more and more women coming through the ranks. Last year, out of all the newly qualified tailors who received their apprenticeships and diplomas in Savile Row, 65 percent of those were women,” Sargent said.

“There are more women in client facing roles, cutting suits for both women and gentlemen internationally here. It’s something that is not going to be such a talking point in the future, but I’m very delighted to be the first.”

When the scheme started just over a decade ago, female graduates accounted for only 20 percent of the total. It may have taken hundreds of years, but it seems women are finally making their mark on the world of tailoring.

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