June 7, 2013 by Ville Raivio
‘I’m 46 – Master Tailor and Educator, Savile Row-apprenticed from the age of 16 yrs. I am happily married and have one son. I have fostered children in the past and consider doing this again in the future. They are fully supportive of my work and commitment to tailoring and training as they can see the happiness it brings me. I didn’t know much about my dad apart from he was in the building trade and wanted me to follow in his footsteps, which is something a lot of dads hope for. It was my mum who brought me up in the east end of London and the person I spent a lot of time with. My mother was a skilled sample machinist for Turnbull and Asser, which is probably where I get my passion for fabrics and construction from.
Whilst at school I used to have a Saturday job in Mile End, working with clothes, although it wasn’t until I met a tailor from Savile Row and was curious about the trade, that I was inspired to approach The Row for an apprenticeship. When I turned 16, I started at one end of The Row and knocked on the doors asking them to train me. I ended up being told “we have nothing at present, but go to such and such and ask for…tell them I sent you.” I ended up meeting a lot of established and world-renowned cutters and tailors doing this, even though I didn’t realise it at the time! Eventually, when I got to Anderson and Sheppard, the gentleman I spoke to asked if I was there for an apprenticeship, gave me £5 fare for the journey home and said “come back tomorrow, you have an apprenticeship.” I trained under Patrick Davey and spent many good years working on high-quality garments for the rich and famous, royalty and the elite. At one point I was in charge of training a young man who later became the legendary fashion designer Alexander (Lee) McQueen.
I was lucky enough to learn a massive range of skills from a world class leading tailoring house, techniques passed down through generations of skilled professional artisans through the years, who have passed through the doors of Anderson and Sheppard. Knowledge, however, is gathered from everywhere, from the errors you make in experimenting, sampling, testing, the people you listen to, blogs and books you read, the transfer of knowledge from other experts and enthusiasts. Information is all around us and learning and improving is a continuous process.
I prefer a very casual style, particularly when actually constructing garments. However, when meeting clients I have to look the part, and wear a perfectly fitted and crafted suit. It is all about making impressions and impact! With RTW makers work, I favour the designs and work of Paul Smith. His life story and Witty Britishness generates a fresh and classic style which is infectious. A fine example of British heritage and marketed successfully around the globe, a true inspiration to the youth of today.
I decided to set my own company up many years ago, designing and making bespoke-tailored garments and have built up a loyal customer base and a reputation for high quality craftsmanship. I have had ups and downs like most companies, particularly at the beginning when I followed the wrong business advice, but when you are new to this kind of thing, everything becomes complicated and the admin side takes up a big part of your working time. Savile Row training is a joint venture with David Morrish, an award-winning designer, lecturer in fashion design at higher education level in the UK, and a fellow of the higher education academy.
We discussed the idea of expanding the training aspect of tailoring after receiving lots of requests from individuals and companies, whether it is about the teaching of specific techniques, improving company resources, quality or even training staff on how to take body measurements and adapt clothing for fitment. So far, with the help of social media, it has been well-received and created a lot of interesting opportunities. Our blog, savilerowtraining.co.uk, receives many hits each day, with a lot of interested professionals emailing with enquiries. The fundamental and crucial aspect of our business has to be to reinforce quality in order to uphold the ethos and philosophy of Savile Row. I firmly believe quality should be the prime focus and at the heart of every business and should never be sacrificed in order to cut costs or save money.
We do not hold a specific style as each garment or training program is built to meet the customer’s specific needs and wants. I do personally prefer a natural shoulder, soft chest, nipped in waist and clean drapes to my clothing. There are lots of great tailors throughout the country and I always recommend you find one that suits your personal requirements and expectations. You may pick someone because of cost, location, customer service, the fit that’s better for your body type, the finishing is more to your liking or you respect their choice of fabric suggestions, etc. Once a customer finds a tailor who can exceed their expectations they often stay with that tailor. It is very similar to a man who finds a trustworthy garage or barber, they become loyal to that company or brand.
[I’m inspired by] youth! The passing of skills to the next generation and seeing their confidence grow. Pushing of boundaries and innovative creations through passion and enthusiasm. For me, style is about individualism. I love the Savile Row cut, but I’m also intrigued by fashion’s influence. If you can wear clothing with confidence, conviction and it reflects who you are as a person, then you have created a style. Clay pigeon shooting is a past time I am slowly getting better at and a great place to network! The Internet is wonderful and I love finding new social media platforms and technologies to try out and test. My dog, Mr Bose, keeps me company when working long hours, and lets me know when I need a break, it is so easy to get absorbed in work.
One thing I have learnt over the years is that the Internet can be a great for marketing and a powerful tool to build a client base and reputation. However, depending on the website owner’s or blogger’s intentions, it can also be incredibly damaging. The problem is that the Internet leaves a digital footprint and your history and mistakes can always be found somehow. This is a great lesson for all students and people who are new to entering the business world; be careful who you connect with and what advice you follow. I naively followed some bad business advice and upset some influential people, which ultimately resulted in some bad media coverage, and it still haunts me to this day.
Don’t, however, believe everything you read online or in the press. This was a very bad and dark experience for me, my family and business, and I learnt a lot from going through this. As the years have passed, I have been more careful with projects I have attached my name to, people I seek advice from and websites I work with. These issues have all been resolved and lessons learnt at great cost. One piece of advice I would give to all of your readers is always value and protect your name.
Do not underestimate the value of good, fitted clothing. There are too many men wearing clothes that are ill-fitting and not suitable to their body shape or posture. Off the peg clothing may fit some, howeverm for the majority of individuals some aspect of the garment will be incorrect, whether it be the sleeve length, shoulder width, trouser seat, front or back balance or the garment fabric pattern itselfm etc. A bespoke garment should fit you perfectly and will enhance your body, which, in return, will build your confidence, persona and general happiness. Spending a bit more money on something bespoke will last longer, speak quality and generate self pride.’
Pictures: © Darren Beaman