Holly has lived in East London since she was 19 after growing up in Essex. She studied BA Bespoke Tailoring at LCF, graduating in 2010. She now works as a bespoke tailor, trouser, and waistcoat maker, and has her own studio based in Hackney Central.
Did you always know you wanted to pursue a career in fashion?
As soon as I did pattern cutting at college I knew I was opening the door into my fashion journey. I didn't feel I fit in with the traditional fashion design or textiles side of things but I loved the logic of drafting methods, and realisation into a finished garment. 2D to 3D! I have always had a passion for craft since I was a toddler and love getting my hands on things.
When I initially read the bespoke tailoring course prospectus I knew this was the right course for me and to have the realisation that there was a course/career path out there that was very technically lead yet creative including both pattern cutting and craft. Knowing I could do a degree in something I feel I have a natural talent and huge passion for was a real dream.
Why did you choose to study at LCF? What attracted you to this university?
I chose LCF as they're the only university that does bespoke tailoring as a course at degree level. Whilst studying my pattern cutting foundation I had looked through numerous prospectus and they didn't really see to suit me.
On reading the bespoke tailoring prospectus from LCF it just felt right as I'm not really a fashion designer, I'm a crafts person and thats something I have always wanted to maintain.
What did you enjoy the most about your course?
The skill set that I acquired. I honestly cannot stress enough how much I love craft!
It was enlightening to see something through from nothing to a full bespoke garment, the realisation of what is actually possible with some fabric and needle and thread and then knowing that this could actually be my career.
About your final project: Which topic did you explore and why did you choose it?
My final project was a ‘period in time’ collection. It was a sort of juxtaposition of 18th century garments but using modern tailoring techniques. I was using a lot of corset lines and panels and puff sleeves and kind of bringing history up to date for the modern tailored woman. It had a touch of theatre and drama, but just enough to still be clearly within the boundaries of bespoke tailoring. and I of course played around with pattern cutting and creating classic cuts but with very un-classic patterns.
What was the best piece of advice you received from a lecturer / tutor during your time at LCF?
I cant now remember any specific advice, but I certainly remember a huge feeling of reassurance and being told that I was in the right place for what I wanted to aspire to be. A sense of knowing from the tutors that they could see my passion and skill.
I felt the tailoring tutors at LCF ensured my confidence was always high which I feel is a hugely important thing in order to get the best out of somebody.
Their encouragement spurred me on to be the best, and not just in the class, this is something I have kept with me since graduating. I strive to be the best tailor I can be on a daily basis.
What have you been working on since finishing your course?
Prior to finishing my course I was already employed part time with tailoring house Timothy Everest following a very successful work placement in my 2nd year on the course.
On graduating this role then became full time and I earned the title of full time in house trouser apprentice. Gaining invaluable experience from my then mentor Maria Mikstaite.
Upon becoming fully trained and confident with all types of trousers and acquiring a vast array of hands on technical skills such as hand finishing, adding button flies, making all variations of pockets and even making plus 4s. I then became self employed as I felt I had developed the necessary skills to do so. I was also very aware of the importance of becoming my own boss and infiltrating the tailoring word as an independent craftsperson. I have always had a business mentality as well as being hands on and crafty.
Through going independent this then gave the opportunity to work for more varied tailoring houses such as Tom Sweeny and Alfred Dunhill.
I also maintained my working relationship with Timothy Everest I was given the chance to produce trousers for the film Skyfall for them. I have also since made trousers for people like Mick Jagger, Frank Lampard and David Beckham.
It wasn't an easy ride to begin with and I was initially running my studio from my flat in Bethnal Green but as time went on and as my business grew and through many twists and turns I was able to get a small shared studio space that could have been potentially big enough for two. It was shortly after this I decided to get my first part time intern. The business has recently expanded again into a private studio space big enough for 4 of us, as I currently work for up to a dozen tailoring houses at one time such as Huntsman, Ede and Ravenscroft, Norton & Sons, Alexander McQueen Bespoke and Kathryn Sergent.
For you, whats the best thing about your job?
Recently I have found myself lucky enough to build my business to a point where I have a multitude of interns of who I am able to pass my knowledge onto, something which I find very satisfying.
I love the fact that I have been able to build a reputation out of nothing which had lead me to be able to work with some people I highly respect within my industry, plus seeing your work in films is always a buzz.
Even after 12 years in the industry there is never a day where you are not learning. From picking up hints and tricks from other tailors so I can improve my own work to finally picking up my old workbooks and taking the time to relearn waistcoats.
The fact that there is now other tailors my age, sharing knowledge between other each other and myself is something that I think is excellent for the industry as a whole. Networking is important in any profession but when its something that is so hands on and technical its great to have people to learn from and who you can also help in return.
All of this aside the main thing is the fact I get to sew everyday, I am so lucky to be able to doing something I love for a living.
Any exciting upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I am currently working on a lot garments for the Kingsman 3 and The Crown.
What are your plans for the next few years? Where would you like to see yourself professionally?
In the last few years I would say my business has expanded dramatically, my studio space has grown and now is able to accommodate up to four people all working at one time so I am equipped to give multiple students work experience at one time.
I have several finishers (hand sewing specialists) who work for me and have taken on my first part time in house employee who was actually my first ever intern 3 years ago. I have recently started making waistcoats professionally so that is a new avenue for my business and in doing so I have opened up my workload to new projects such as the Kingsman 3. As it stands I cant see me expanding much further any time soon as this change was quite recent but who knows maybe eventually my space could grow even further someday and I could go the whole way and learn to make jackets as well. I have even considered taking the teaching side of my work to another level.
What advice would you give to potential students who would like to enrol on the Bespoke Tailoring course?
Being ready to learn something is difficult, get ready to learn a process. Preparation is key. The course is intense but my advice is keep an open mind in terms of the things you will be learning as they may feel a little outside the box at first but they may just be something that you will keep throughout your career.
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