Cut from a different cloth
Earlier this year, Kathryn Sargent became the first female master tailor to open her own store on Savile Row. Synonymous with men’s style, the Mayfair street has traditionally been a male-only bastion for over 200 years.
Originally from Leeds, Kathryn worked her way up the ranks as a tailor, spending 15 years working for Gieves & Hawkes. In 2012, however, she branched out and set up her first shop in nearby Brook Street before finally claiming a much sought-after Savile Row shop front for her namesake store.
Kathryn, who describes her style as “quintessentially British with a fresh contemporary vision”, has helped dress Britain’s elite; from actors, politicians and business leaders to royalty.
We caught up with Kathryn to talk about her rise to the top of her profession and what both men and women should look for in a tailored suit.
How did you get into tailoring?
I was always interested in fashion, particularly men wearing sharp suits and I always wondered how to make them. As a teenager, I remember going on a family holiday to Paris and noticed how differently the women dressed, too. Their style and attention to detail inspired me to want to make things for stylish people. My passion for tailoring really took off when I went to fashion college and then on to Savile Row.
Why don’t more women go into it?
Traditionally, tailoring has been a male-dominated industry and in the past women may not have necessarily felt it was a career that they could be successful in. When I first started work as a tailor I had to prove myself, as would a man, through hard work and appreciation for the craft.
However, I have to say that my peers have mostly been extremely supportive. If my being a woman inspires more women to become involved in the industry, then I am flattered and see it only as a positive thing and a sign of the times.
What should women look for in a tailored suit?
When creating a bespoke suit for a woman, not only should it fit well and flatter her figure but it should feel comfortable and fit her personal style. What I mean by that is that it should look effortless and elegant.
For women, as with men, if a garment makes you look good it can also make you feel good. It is important to take this into consideration when buying any type of garment. A suit can be very feminine if these elements work together and I would advise people to look for cloths with a good drape and flow.
How does it differ from what men look for?
I think some of the same elements still apply. Men should look for simple elegance and comfort as well, and again should go for suits that meet their needs and enhance the individual.
Who is the most well-tailored public figure, in your opinion?
There are many people whose style I admire and I consider to be ‘well-tailored’. HRH The Prince of Wales is always dressed impeccably as is his wife, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. There are also some extremely well-dressed models and young actors such as David Gandy, Nicholas Hoult and John Boyega.
And what have they got right?
All of them exude a sense of confidence about what they wear – they present a classic tailored look and don’t seem to veer towards particular fashion trends or fads in their sartorial choices.
You have said that your clothes aren’t fashion pieces; they are there to do a job. What job does a suit do for a person?
A bespoke suit, whether for a man or a woman, needs to match the lifestyle of the client it was created for. There is little point in creating a suit in a heavyweight cloth if it will be worn for the majority of the time in a warm climate. Suits are worn for a multitude of occasions and their job is specific for each of these.
For me, however, every suit – no matter the occasion – must be practical, comfortable and stylish. By working closely with the client, I am able to create bespoke pieces that can encapsulate all three of these things.
What do you get from going to a tailor, apart from a suit?
It is imperative that I listen and get to know my clients to find out how they see their bespoke pieces fitting into their lives.
We would discuss their lifestyle. For example, if they will be travelling a great deal, I would ask them what other pieces they have in their wardrobe and how my garments might complement these other pieces. I would also offer recommendations and ideas throughout our relationship. The process is driven by the client at all times. I want to be sure that they are happy and the pieces I create work well for them. For me, going to a tailor should be enjoyable and the best experience it can possibility be, from start to finish.
(First published in October 2016)