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An interview with Claudia Chan-Deans

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July 4, 2018 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

CCD: I’m 26 years old and working as a Bespoke Cutter at Sims&MacDonald.

VR: Your educational background?

CCD: Up until the age of 16 I did all my studies in Hong Kong (where I am originally from), studied figurative art and anatomy in Italy, before completing a Bachelor’s degree in Bespoke Tailoring at the London College of Fashion.

 

VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your tailoring enthusiasm)?

CCD: I don’t have any children but am married and my husband also works in the trade at Gieves and Hawkes.

Although we share an interest in tailoring, I do try to avoid talking about work at home. Of course there will always be the odd question but I try not to get into a deep conversation about the ideal lapel width, for example.

 

VR: …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions back in the days when you began your studies?

CCD: They were not sure where a future studying Bespoke Tailoring would lead to but I convinced them it is a skill that will allow me to at least pay my bills. Whilst if I insisted in pursuing a career as a figurative painter, I will probably be eating beans on toast every day.

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?

CCD: Drawing and painting, sports (swimming, yoga and badminton) and simply being within nature.

 

VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards classic style? Why classics instead of fast fashion?

CCD: Clothing as a means of personal expression probably came as a natural instinct to me. Despite being a rather timid child, I always had a rather bold, or what some might call, eccentric dress sense. Both of my parents had their own unique way of dressing; one was a handbag designer and the other an architect. In a way I suppose I was also mimicking them as a child.

Classic instead of fast fashion because I am a strong believer and supporter of slow fashion for a more sustainable world. The fashion industry has created enough disposable items for this planet; I consider making long-lasting garments for customers, who can potentially pass them on to their next generation, as the ideal of slow fashion.

 

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of tailoring — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?

CCD: I gained the foundation from my university course but it was during my work experience at A.W. Bauer in Stockholm that I realized how much there is to learn on the actual job.

I am fortunate to have had a few mentors in my career who were very willing to pass on the knowledge that they have gained through many years of experience. Clive Phythian, who I currently work with, really helped me to further develop not only my cutting skills but also the cutter’s other main task, looking after the customer.

VR: How would you describe your own dress?

CCD: Bespoke-tailored trousers and waistcoat in the summer and a two- or three-piece suit in the winter. Classic in cut but always something unconventional about the cloth, be it the colour or texture. Appropriate but fun!

 

VR: How did you join the team at Sims & MacDonald?

CCD: Through people who I previously worked with. I got introduced to the owner at Sims, and voila. It’s been over two years now.

VR: What goals did you set for yourself when you were made a cutter?

CCD: To create garments that will bring confidence to the wearer. This involves working in coherence with the makers as well as trying my best to convert a customer’s vision into an actual 3D-product.

Another important goal is never to┬ástop learning and experimenting. I have a quote of Soren Kiekegaard on my board that translates as ‘courage is the only measure of life’. When one stops trying, complacency sets in. Let it be a new way of cutting or daring to change things at the fitting stage. Be bold!

 

VR: What’s the Sims & MacDonald house cut like?

CCD: I suppose the standard answer should be a British tailored cut (i.e. quite structured in the shoulders and chest, with a moderate rope to the sleevehead) but I always tell customers that we are here to create Bespoke garments and the wearer’s opinion is equally valid in the cut of a Sims suit.

A prime example would be some customers requesting a softer look with a flat sleevehead and less pronounced shoulder line. I think a good tailor should be flexible in creating different styles rather than being fixated in a certain ‘look’.

 

VR: Why should my readers try you out over other British tailors?

CCD: At Sims we are offering a product at a more reasonable price. For people that are looking to take their first steps into the world of British bespoke tailoring, Savile Row can have quite a daunting price tag.

You will be seen, measured and fitted by the same person that will be drafting your paper pattern and cutting your suit. We pride ourselves on creating the personal relationships that only the very best bespoke tailors pride themselves on and your garment will be cut and made in London.

 

VR: Who or what inspires you?

CCD: Anatomy and nature. Egon Schiele, the Austrian painter, with his drawing style and the way of observing a human body has always been a profound influence in my drawing as well as pattern drafting.

 

VR: What’s your definition of style?

CCD: The best expression of one’s character.

Cut by Claudia

VR: Finally, does the business treat woman tailors differently?

CCD: I find this question, or similar ones being asked more often, not only in tailoring but in a wider social context. For me, I think it is healthy that there is conversation happening.

It is much more acceptable for a woman to play a role in the workings of a tailor’s shop nowadays but mostly as a tailor (maker). Being a woman in a cutting role can be quite intimidating at first, certainly when faced with customers of a more ‘traditional’ mindset but I can also see a change in mentality with the younger generation of bespoke customers. I think the future for female tailors and cutters is optimistic.

 

https://www.instagram.com/claudianotschiffer/


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"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell