The New Generation of Tailors: Laura Teasdale
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Who are you, what is your age and what do you do? Do you have a specialization?
Laura Teasdale, 29, a bespoke tailor, born in London and now making bespoke clothing from my home studio in South London. Whilst training on Savile Row I specialized in coat making; now I am in the process of developing my skills in order to take on bespoke commissions and complete all stages of the process myself.
Why are you a tailor? What was path that lead you to the decision to become a tailor?
I was drawn to tailoring through fashion design. As a child I always wanted to be a fashion designer; which lead me to completing a fashion design degree at Kingston University. Here I specialized in menswear and completed projects for companies such as Brooks Brothers. Once I graduated I completed work experience with Richard James on Savile Row. Here I learnt more about the world of bespoke tailoring and I decided to do a bespoke tailoring course at Newham College, as well as further placements on Savile Row. This led me to working full time at Chittleborough and Morgan on The Row.
How do you see the sartorial world evolving in the next 5, 10 or 20 years?
I see a division happening especially in London. I feel on the one side Savile Row will mainly be focused on RTW and MTM, with very little bespoke being produced and then on the other side I see the younger generation who trained on the row leaving and starting up small artisanal bespoke companies.
How would you describe what a “perfect” tailor shop would be like? What types of characteristics are important to have in a high-level tailor shop? What type of relationship between the business-side and the making-side in a tailor shop do you feel is needed for success?
The space should be clean, with natural light and fresh air, with a view to an outside space. It should be a large open space with wide windows, so there is a connection to the outside world and nature. Minimal, uncluttered, clean lines and shapes. White in colour. Approachable to passersby. The goal should be to focus on providing solutions for people now, not on heritage and the past. The business and making side should be closely linked. The making should lead the business and not the other way around. People should be drawn to the company because of the product and service that you offer not because of the brand name.
In the last few years do you see the number of tailors rising or falling? Are people interested in having a career in tailoring?
I think numbers are increasing (pre-Covid) due to more tailoring courses running and the exposure to the work of tailors on social media and people being drawn in to this. People now want to learn the skills and do work that they enjoy and find purpose in. So there is a lot of younger people in the industry now and even more wanting to start a career in tailoring.
What is environment around tailoring like in the U.K? How do tailors, young or old, communicate? Through group gatherings? Work relationships? Friendships? Tailoring schools?
Everyone knows everyone in terms of tailoring in the UK. Firstly 90% of the tailors are all located within such a small area: Savile Row, Mayfair and Soho, so when you go for lunch you end up bumping into multiple people you know and can catch up. Also prior to that, due to studying at places like Newham College and LCF before getting a job, you tend to have formed friendships with people, before even entering the workplace, which is good as you already have an existing support network, which will help you through your first years of work. Pre Covid there were a lot of work events, so that offered another opportunity for people to meet up and talk all things tailoring.
Have you made sacrifices to get to where you are today? What kinds?
I’m focused on putting 10,000 hours into mastering my craft. I wanted to get the main bulk of that learning done in my twenties; so I’ve spent a lot of time, weekends and evenings working on honing my skills. I believe that’s the best thing to do during your twenties, take risks, gain the skills that will set you up, whilst you have no other responsibilities. You also become disciplined, patient and focused on longer term goals over shorter fixes.
What are the most difficult phases of work in the creation of a bespoke suit and why? How did you learn them and how long did it take you to become proficient? What is the most difficult type of garment to make in mens tailoring and why?
Sleeves! It’s where the work of the cutter and maker combine and it’s here more than ever that the two disciplines need to work together. If things have been done methodically in the cutting process, it should be fairly easy to make up and insert sleeves (especially if you are working with good cloth), however if this is neglected it can be difficult to fix previous faults without seeing the coat for yourself on the client.
Do you have any advice for current apprentices? Any advice for those teaching the apprentices? What advice do you have for the clients of bespoke tailoring?
For current apprentices: take on personal projects. This will be your chance to develop your own skills without fear. Test out new ideas on your own clothing and set goals- for example this could be time related, to speed up etc. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and try new ways of making, not just the existing ones you’ve learnt whilst training.
Those currently teaching: this is a little difficult, as I’ve never trained an apprentice. Probably to take the time to best understand how your apprentice learns and then teach them in this way, for example, making them watch a demo and then repeat or a verbal explanation or videoing the process and re-watching or diagrams. Also give feedback on a weekly basis, so the learning process is structured.
Clients: Understand it will take time to produce the piece of work and to develop the relationship with the tailor. Each new commission will result in a better product and a smoother set of processes.
Why is it that when I talk with some tailors it feels as though they are trying to hide something from me, or to not explain the concept to the extent that it needs to be explained? Or if you do not agree with this premise, could you explain why?
This could be the fear of sharing knowledge and therefore creating competition. People working from a fearful mindset, where they are in a survival mode, instead of seeing there are so many opportunities out there for people to do their own thing and succeed. Of course it’s hard to feel that way all the time, but it’s of benefit to have competition and to work in an industry that’s thriving and feels abundant. This could also be down to time pressure, as it takes a lot of time to train someone up completely and so you may feel as if you have a lot of work to do and do not want the distraction of an apprentices questions. Though, there could be local investment to encourage people to train others and to take the financial pressures off.
How did you learn pattern making? Did you use books? Have teachers? School? What was the journey you took from knowing nothing about cutting to being truly capable on the cutting table?
I’m still learning to be honest! But it all started for me around the age of 15/ 16 when I did Textiles GCSE and A-Level; so I learnt very basic skills there and progressed on with a fashion degree and other short courses to supplement my learning. Plus I read a lot of pattern cutting books and just observe and take photos, which I study every time I do a fitting. So it’s a combination of all of the above to be honest.
What are some tailors that you admire (past or present)? Who are some people in the community that you see as the “up and comers”?
I admire Davide Taub at Gieves and Hawkes. I like that he can make and cut. I like that his cutting work is very diverse and not limited to a specific house style. I also like his work outside cutting, his illustrations and that he trained in architecture beforehand. In terms of the future; I’m excited to see what people who have trained on Savile Row, but have now left to pursue there own thing, will end up achieving. Reza launching Akeila, Speciale324 in Notting Hill, Paley Mundy, Dobrik and Lawton and Michael Browne in Mayfair. So there’s a lot going on at the moment.
What makes a true tailor? When did you feel as though you were a true tailor?
For a long time I felt awkward even calling myself a tailor. I guess once you start working for yourself and are less reliant on others. But really, I think the learning process is a lifetimes work and can’t be limited to a few years, even if your working really hard. I’m still learning so many things and that’s the mindset I want to maintain forever.
Why is it that tailors will talk extensively with news outlets and journalists but not necessarily with their own apprentices or employees? Or if you don’t agree with this premise, could you explain why?
I haven’t really had this experience, but I guess its part of the job having to communicate and tell your story with journalists. I guess this is the part that some people enjoy and are good at.
Would you talk about some of your current projects? What are the services that you personally offer?
Right now I’m in the process of developing my own work and knowledge. I’m taking on commissions, whilst also completing freelance projects for other people. I’m pushing my making to try new styles and techniques, I’m reading a lot of vintage pattern cutting books and I’m enjoying working with different clients off the row, to challenge myself by working to new briefs. I’m excited to keep pushing myself to see what I can achieve next.