I’m the head trouser maker and ladies’ tailor at Elder Street. I’ve been working for Tim for six and a half years. I actually applied to be a coat-maker, but Tim already had Annika in that position, so I first worked as a trimmer alongside the cutters, then I trained with Marcus, Tim’s trouser-maker, for a month, and then they took me on full-time.
I’m from Lithuania originally. I came to the UK thirteen years ago, when I was 23. In Lithuania I worked for a bespoke designer, where all the clothes were knitted – we even did knitted wedding dresses. I always wanted to be a tailor, so one of my friends said to me hey, come to London, home of tailoring, hang around, see what happens. It wasn’t so easy for me – tailoring is a narrow street. After a month I bought a domestic sewing machine and started doing alterations for tailors and friends in my flat. I was living in Spitalfields at the time – in Fashion Street, appropriately – and I went to City & Guilds College in Tower Hamlets where one of my tutors, Lauren Mitchell, really helped me out. We went on trips to Savile Row together, and she sent me on to the London College of Fashion to do their bespoke tailoring course. The LCF sent me on a summer internship to the costume department at Glyndebourne, where I got some experience in creating a bunch of crazy opera outfits, which was great.
I applied to all the major Savile Row houses, but there were very big queues, like a year’s wait, to get on their training programs. Luckily, Keith Levett, the manager of the livery department at Henry Poole and a very nice man, invited me to work with him for a few weeks, which was fantastic experience. And then, from living in Spitalfields, I knew that Timothy Everest was just around the corner. I wrote a letter, and they asked me to come and show them what I could do. So that was the kind of long and winding road that led to me becoming Tim’s trouser-maker.
Part of my job is to train up apprentices in the art of trouser-making. I trained Holly, who joined Tim’s two years after me. There’s a lot to learn, because every figure is different, and I think that’s expressed most fully in the variations in the making of trousers – what size is the waistband, does the customer want pleats and if so how many and what style, where are the pockets going, are they slim-fitting or slightly roomier, are they cuffed or uncuffed, straight-legged or boot-cut or flared, etc. And don’t forget that at Timothy Everest we are not only making suits but also more individual things, with different shapes or crazy braids or interesting linings. It can take up to three days to make a pair of dinner trousers, for example, but one of my first jobs at Tim’s was to make a pair of dinner trousers that were needed very urgently. I of course said I could do them, but I was panicking a little bit. So I waited till everyone else had finished work, at 6pm, and when they’d gone, I went upstairs from my spot in the basement, I found some dinner trousers on the rack, unpicked them during the night and investigated every single mark and stitch, closed them back up, went home, had a shower, changed my clothes, came right back to work, and made the urgent dinner trousers right there, remembering what I’d seen the previous night. And they were fine. I’m really not scared of trying – you can’t be in this job. And working for Tim, you never quite know what’s coming next.
Tailoring is not quite a 9 to 5 job. And it can take up to 4 years before you start earning a decent salary, so you have to be dedicated. But I like the freedom I have at Tim’s. I’m always bothering people with my ideas, which they sometimes politely listen to. A couple of years ago, I got into the idea of embroidery in a big way. I wanted to study it farther, and the best place for that is Ecole Lesage, in Paris – it’s owned by Chanel, and they say it produces the finest embroidery in the world, including that for Chanel couture. So I decided to go there, just to try it. I didn’t tell anyone about this; I just took a day off, booked my ticket on the 6am Eurostar, found the place, pressed the buzzer, asked the lovely lady who answered the door about it, in my pidgin French, and ended up booking a fortnight’s course in couture embroidery, which is a combination of French crochet and English-style needlework. Now I’m going to do a second course – there are eight altogether, though you don’t have to do them all – and I’m hoping I can get to put these new skills into practice at Tim’s. They’ve put my first embroidered pieces on show in Elder Street, and there’s been some interest in them, so that’s really good. We’ll see what might come out of it – we’re starting to do a lot more womenswear at Elder Street now, which I’m very excited about, so maybe that’ll prove fruitful for me.
I really don’t believe in blowing my own trumpet. I think that, if you are really good at what you do, people will find you. That’s what’s great about Tim’s – Elder Street is a kind of hidden jewel, with a great energy about it. What I’d say to people who are thinking they might want to get into tailoring? You have to be sure about it. And if you have something to prove, it should only be to yourself, and not to other people. And like I said before, don’t be scared of trying. I’m not the loudest person, but I’m definitely very determined, once I put my mind to something.