January 5, 2020 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
ACJ: Age 72 years. Occupation: Citizen and Merchant Taylor of London. My career has been as a tailor and a teacher, now I work part time.
VR: Your educational background?
ACJ: Secondary School to age 15. At age 15, I started a 5-year apprenticeship as a tailor attending the London College of Fashion part time whilst also working, and gained City & Guilds qualifications. Later in mid career, in 1985, I studied part time to gain a PG-Certificate in Education so I could start to teach tailoring. In 1995, I enrolled on a Master’s course, part time, to take an MSc in Technology Management, graduating in 1997. This enabled me to progress to teaching at Master’s level and to supervise Ph.D. students.
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your tailoring enthusiasm)?
ACJ: Married 48 years, with three children who are a Mountaineer, a Teacher and a Garment Technologist. So my youngest has followed into fashion in a technology role.
VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you told them of your job goals?
ACJ: Always supportive and encouraging.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
ACJ: Outdoor walking, Canal boating, theatre and music. Frequent concert attender, especially jazz, blues and rock music.
VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you turn your eyes towards more classic pieces? Why these instead of fast fashion?
ACJ: After I started my apprenticeship at age 16, I went into tailoring as a career to learn skills and my interest in style developed from that. I was aged 13 in 1960, so those formative years were through the 1960s for all my teenage years. The ’60s was an amazing period for both music and fashion.
At Chester Barrie‘s
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of tailoring — from books, in-house apprenticeship or somewhere else?
ACJ: Through my apprenticeship, followed with reading books and magazines, talking with people and listening and learning from my masters (Master Tailors).
VR: You worked for Chester Barrie back in the days, first as a cutter. What was CB’s cut like?
ACJ: The CB cut was a mixture of American and Swedish. The company originally started in New York, then opened a factory in Crewe, England. The original cutting was American and then in the 1950s they took on a Swedish Designer who was technically trained, and he developed the classic cut and style. I worked alongside him for a year which was memorable. He was a very talented man and a good teacher.
VR: How was Chester Barrie different from others, and why was it so influential?
ACJ: First of all, QUALITY. The quality of C.B. suits was at the same level as Bepoke Tailoring at Savile Row. The suits were partly hand made (sewn) but in a very engineered method ensuring consistent quality. Several Savile Row tailors stocked C.B. suits as a ready to wear option if customers required that service. They led the world at that level, a comparison today would be Brioni, Cifonelli. They were ahead of Hickey Freeman and Oxxford Clothes in those days.
VR: Your path led to the London College of Fashion after CB. How did you come to join the college and what was your position in its ranks?
ACJ: The industry started to go off shore and the Ackerman family decided to sell C.B. to a retail consortium, so I looked for a career move. I was speaking at an industry conference on tailoring and afterwards was approached by the Principal of the London College of Fashion, and asked to join them to lead and develop both Menswear and Tailoring at the college. I started as a Senior Lecturer rising later to Principal Lecturer and Director for Menswear and Bespoke Tailoring.
VR: How did you feel about the changes in men’s tailoring in the ’60s?
ACJ: The 1960s were very much about the Mod era with Tonik suits. Carnaby Street and the Kings Road in London revolutionised young fashion by breaking all the rules. People like Mary Quant, Mr Fish, Tommy Nutter and Edward Sexton really changed fashion whilst challenging it, and they kept a quality to their work.
VR: Do we have it better style-wise now than before? How do you view the future?
ACJ: Yes, we have much better insight into style and fashion than before from magazine, blogs and the Internet generally. It has to be said, though, that while it is there, it’s the people who have to choose to follow it. We see many fashion conscious people wearing style and quality, and others buying the cheapest on the high street. It has to be a choice. Currently there is a strong interest in good tailoring and it is affordable for the discerning customer. The future is good, simply because people have to wear clothes and want to be individual.
VR: Who or what inspires you?
ACJ: Always good tailoring, looking back to inspiring designers/tailors such as Hardy Amies. I respect Paul Smith for what he has done for fashion and the Antwerp Six. I currently follow the work of Joe Morgan on Savile Row and Boglioli, Cifonelli. Recent revivals have also been Tiger of Sweden. Many good Italian labels, such as Pal Zileri, Canali, Caruso. The current Caruso range is really strong. I also respect others such as John Smedley knitwear, Sunspel underwear and casual wear, plus Levi’s, Desiel et al. For shirts, I go for Thomas Pink and Paul Smith.
VR: What’s your definition of style?
ACJ: Classic quality which looks good and does not date. Details that are classic. My idea is that you can be wearing a garment for ten years and still get positive comments when wearing it. It is important to have a range of clothing and wear a different garment each day to let them relax. Don’t wear the same jacket and trouser on a number or repeat days. Even if you only have a few changes, keep changing them.