The New Generation of Tailors: Reza
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Who are you, what is your age and what do you do? Do you have a specialization?
My name is Reza and I’m 27 years old. I’m a cutter, tailor and the creator of AKEILĀ.
Why are you a tailor? What was path that lead you to the decision to become a tailor?
As unexpected as it can get. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be and was following my curiosity in film making, photography and sound design. I had decided to become a film maker but after a few projects I transitioned into photography. This all happened while I was studying sound design. It didn’t take long for me to find out that I wasn’t happy with what I was doing and so I moved on to study graphic design. I met a fellow Iranian whose trousers caught my attention. I wasn’t really into fashion but I was very particular about the fit. He told me about a tailor he knew back in Iran who had made him many things before and that if we ever got a chance to go there, he would introduce me to him. Guess what! That same year we ended up going to Iran. We bought some fabric and brought it to the tailor. I was introduced to this toothless, opium smoking, pigeon enthusiast who took some measurements and told me to come back a week later to pick up my jacket. I kept thinking 'could this be? Is he going to be the master tailor who is going to make it all happen'? Anyway, a week turned into 8 months by the time I received the jacket. I actually had to sit a few days in his shop just to make sure the man did something! It was so frustrating! I Eventually received the jacket. I’ve never cursed anyone so much in my life as I cursed him. Imagine what a chimp on crack would make as his first jacket whilst holding his pee the entire time! That’s what I received. I got so angry that I decided to do it myself. I asked my mom how a sewing machine is threaded and made a pair of boxershorts. I eventually bought a few commercial shirt patterns and went from there.
How do you see the sartorial world evolving in the next 5, 10 or 20 years?
A lot of young businesses and freelance tailors. That’s for sure!
Many things will stay the same but a few companies will do extreme things that will change the landscape. Not to forget, technology is going to be the biggest influencing factor. Both virtual and augmented reality will force business structures in certain directions and 3D software will be used more and more which should help speed up the apprenticeship time frames. But slowly. There are tailors who are tailors because they want everything to be old, stuffy and made of wood. And on the other hand there are a small group of tailors who want everything to be modern, electric and smart. The clash between these two will be what the new norm will be.
In the last few years do you see the number of tailors rising or falling? Are people interested in having a career in tailoring?
Definitely rising. Many young tailors who are working in firms are absolutely fed up with the way companies are conducting business and treating their staff. And so as soon as they learn what they need to learn they’re out. They either work for themselves, start a business or go to a company who treats them better. There is a big wave on the rise.
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?
There are tailoring courses who provide a foundation but the real learning takes place in the workshop. I think both the courses and companies are doing a dreadful job in terms of education. There is very little communication and if there is any, it usually isn’t that deep or constructive. You don’t have think tanks or R&D sessions. There are many gatherings and formal events outside of work where tailors are invited to which is great, but again not very constructive. There is also a generation gap which isn’t helping either. All of this, is due to the nature of an “individualistic” approach to the craft. There is practically no leadership. There are no team projects. There isn’t enough investment in innovation and so most tailors are just individuals working for a firm that has the basic model of production running as fast as possible and selling as profitable as possible. Visionaries aren’t really welcomed in the majority of tailoring companies.
Have you made sacrifices to get to where you are today? What kinds?
Well yes. Social, financial, and health wise. I left my family to move to London to learn tailoring. I missed many holidays, weekends and moments with my partner and worked from very early mornings until midnights. Extremely long hours and lack of sleep don’t really have the best effects on your health. But all of this feels less intense when you are obsessed with what you do.
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?
Again. This is a very relative question. Learning something new is very difficult in general but can feel worse depending on your perspective. Some people don’t have the patience to redo something until they are sick of it. Or some people react very dramatically to small mistakes. It also depends on your previous experiences. Some people have a very good spatial reasoning capacity which makes them very sharp in imagining constructions. At the same time curiosity has a great impact as well.
It took me about a year to learn how to make a jacket (not a perfect jacket of course). After that it was a matter of improving and adding new skills and techniques to my repertoire. Learning cutting was parallel to learning how to make. I must say that I worked very long hours month after month and was very aggressive and intentional in my progress and learning. Obsessive behavior paired with aggression and focus does miracles. I kind of compressed 10 years of work into 5.
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 the apprentices: Don’t ever think that tailoring is wizardry. It’s just a list of techniques that when combined together they become a garment. Understand that style (design) and technique (construction) are two different things that should be treated separately. They do however impact each other but when you are trying to analyse a garment and learn, you must be able to tell the difference.
For the teacher: Teach your student how to think. Don’t just teach them things based on measures and steps. Instead focus on the logic of why something is the way it is and encourage exploration paired with evaluation.
For the customer: Make sure you push your tailor to be better at every possible level. Be a demanding customer!
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?
What a great question! There could be a few reasons for this. They may not have enough information. They may not want you to know more so they can get away with mistakes. They may not have the skills to explain things in an articulate way or they may feel threatened due to the nature of being questioned. Or it may be that they are explaining things well but that YOU are not satisfied with the answers. The tailors who have only learnt steps can’t really go beyond a certain point when it comes to technical conversations. The ones who have understood the reasons behind those steps can be more constructive.
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 did use books to some extent for making the patterns but not a lot. I did however read a lot of them. Roughly around 100. Majority of them were old though. It was a very boring few months. Most of them went bragging about how brilliant they were while their patterns looked like frogs who would dance in the sun if they got any. Majority of it came through very deep thinking and visualisation of every single step and of course trial and error. I didn’t have a teacher for cutting.
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”?
The tailors I admire are the ones that are curious, tenacious and innovative. Mastery of the basics is of course fundamental. I haven’t yet seen a company that has blown my mind but I do see MANY individuals who are promising. One of them is the young Alex Bello. I see a lot of potential in him. We shall see in a few years.
What makes a true tailor? When did you feel as though you were a true tailor?
You become a true tailor when mastery of techniques (engineering), design and psychology come together and a big bang follows. I have not reached that big bang...YET!
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?
There could be many reasons for it. A tailor who sets up a company or shop for instance isn’t necessarily a good manager or leader. They may be good business people but it won’t guarantee good communication with staff. Tailoring is very individualistic. You go through a lot of crap to just learn the basics, let alone do anything special. And so when you have the opportunity to tell your story, you will! And quite frankly, because they are ego maniacs! Standing in the spotlight is a lot nicer for a tailor than to give the spotlight away to a “less skilled” apprentice.
Would you talk about some of your current projects? What are the services that you personally offer?
My entire focus has been on AKEILĀ now. I won’t be able to say much about the services yet as we are still working on them. but what I can say is that bespoke tailoring needs an upgrade. Both from a business as well as a tailoring perspective. Companies have forgotten the fact that they are not just single companies but part of a machine that only functions if all of its smaller parts do. Investment in staff has been shoved aside and “traditional” tailoring has been glorified beyond what should be and the internal rigid structures have only prevented genius from taking place. We are currently working to make that happen with AKEILĀ.