LONDON (Reuters) - Kathryn Sargent made history on Wednesday by becoming the first female master tailor to open her own shop in London’s prestigious Savile Row.
After being trained at Royal tailor Gieves & Hawkes for 15 years, where she also broke ground by becoming the first female head cutter, her journey came full circle when she opened the doors to her own store on the iconic street, which has traditionally been dominated by men in its near 200-year association with tailoring.
“It feels just wonderful to be back in Savile Row and to actually have my name across and above one of the shops here,” said the softly spoken 41-year old, wearing her own creation.
She said she learned from some great people, all men, who were happy to pass down their skills to a younger, energetic generation of tailors.
“When I was younger, I think people were quite surprised that I wanted to do this and it’s still a talking point but everyone has welcomed me with open arms in Savile row,” she told Reuters.
And a talking point it is. The store opening was being widely covered by British media with Sargent and her assistant asked to cut fabric, draw with chalk and take measurements for television crews.
Originally from Leeds in northern England, Sargent said her well-dressed father was a source of inspiration and that she got her creative genes from her mother, a keen knitter.
“I have always been inspired by men in suits. My father was a very smart gentleman always wearing nice blazers and jackets and suits, I never saw him in casual clothes. I think that had an impact,” she said.
It was her love for formal menswear and the process involved in making it that drew the fashion student to Savile Row, where she was “enchanted” at her first visit. She became an apprentice in 1996 and the first female head cutter in 2009 at Gieves & Hawkes.
“That was quite a momentous achievement and then I thought what next?”
She started her own business in 2012 and soon moved to an atelier where she made bespoke garments for men and women. The new store will also target both sexes, making it one of the few on Savile Row to cater for women. In that vein, she was also launching her own unisex “Sargent Harris” tweed.
Bespoke two-piece suits at her store start from 4,200 pounds ($6,000) and can cost 10,000 pounds if made from very exclusive and rare cloths, she said.
Her breakthroughs are reflective of a wider trend in the tailoring industry, she said, adding that a majority of newly qualified tailors to have graduated from the Savile Row apprenticeship scheme last year were women.
“There (are) more and more women now in all of these roles from tailoring to client-facing and last year (out of) all the newly qualified tailors in Savile Row who just got their diplomas, 65 percent of those were women.”
That was up from 20 percent of female graduates when the scheme started just over 10 years ago.
Editing by Stephen Addison