Thomas Mahon: Young people are very interested in custom made clothing
Today, we are going to present you Thomas Mahon - head cutter and director of bespoke atelier English Cut, established in January 1995.
He was working with Edwin Deboise of Steed Bespoke Tailors who he met whilst he was the personal cutter for his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales with his Alma mater Anderson & Sheppard of Savile Row.
In 2005 Thomas started englishcut.com - the original bespoke tailors blog and arguably one of the first craft blogs of its time, where he reveals the skills and people who make this craft as unique as it and let readers see behind the closed doors of Savile Row.
- Mr Mahon, would you please tell our readers more about you and what differentiates you from other Savile Row bespoke tailors?
- The most singular difference between myself and the other tailors I rate highly, is that I'm not permanently based on Savile Row. Though I do the lion's share of customer measuring and fitting on Savile Row, I do my cutting at my workshop in Cumbria, near the small village where I grew up. But because of my Anderson & Sheppard, background, I only use sewing tailors who have been trained to sew 'The Anderson & Sheppard Way', which means the majority of the tailors I use are currently used by A&S as well. So there's no loss of quality for my customers in my business model, just an improvement in the quality of life for one humble tailor.
This benefits my customers in two major ways. Firstly, basing my workshop outside of London saves me the huge overheads. This allows me to sell my suits at about 20-25% less than the big houses on Savile Row.
Secondly, staying mobile has made my business far more flexible than my competition, mentally as well as physically. I don't wait for customers to visit London, to visit Savile Row before I 'condescend' to take an order. No, I happily travel to them. If they live in Paris, I can go to Paris. Or New York. Or Chicago. Or San Francisco. Wherever the market dictates.
And of course, if the client is wanting more than just the suit, and desires the full-on, real-time Savile Row experience with all the local history and colour, I happily meet them there at Number 12 Savile Row, where I have my London offices.
- What is your formula for success?
- Hard work but it helps if you love what you do.
- What inspired you to start a blog about the craft of Savile Row tailoring?
- A good friend of mine, Hugh from gapingvoid.com. He enjoyed how I spoke of the trade and told me to start the blog. Although ten years ago I thought no one will be interested.
- I read in your blog that you make visits to the USA. Would you tell us more about your trips?
- When a Savile Row tailor visits, let's say, New York, it's part of a continuous cycle.
I bring a good selection of cloth samples with me, which includes the basics of everything a client would want - classic worsteds, tweeds, lightweights, etc. New customers are consulted on their requirements and have their first measuring, so I can draft a personal pattern when I return to England. Then the fitting will be arranged for my visit a few months later.
And naturally, I also bring with me the fittings to try on customers who ordered on my previous trip a few months earlier. After I fit my clients in New York I then return to the UK. There I recut and alter their suit and/or amend their pattern if necessary.
Once completed I courier the suit to the US. But this is not the end of the story. I ask my customers who have received their new suits to meet me my next visit in New York, so I can check the fit after they have been worn. Should they need a little tweaking, I arrange to have that done in New York.
And then, yes, if the client in happy with his latest suit there's a good chance he'll want to order a new one - the cycle begins again.
- Do you find that gentlemen are getting as stylish and fashionable as ladies?
- Very much so. I've never known so much interest.
- Do you think that the tradition of custom made clothing is attractive for young people or they prefer ready-to-wear pieces?
- Well that's what we've found. Young people are very interested.
- What do you think is the future of men's fashion?
- Much the same as always I guess. It'll go round in cycles.
- Do you work with young fashion designers, who want to follow your profession?
- Yes we do. We have various students come and work with us from time to time. Also I give pattern cutting seminars regularly at colleges including the British Fashion council. The main aim is to highlight the importance of technical skills involved in creative pattern cutting at graduate level and demonstrate ways of developing new and innovative ideas for design and cut, therefore to improve design development. My next class is in November.
- What advice would give to fashion design students and young fashion designers for starting and developing successful career in the fashion business?
- 'Don't give up. I've been at it 30 years and doesn't get any easier.
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