Savile Row's first female tailor
Kathryn Sargent has made history by becoming the first female master tailor to open her own shop in London's prestigious Savile Row. Video: Reuters
"You really have to earn your stripes on this street. Or, should I say, pinstripes," says Kathryn Sargent.
The 41-year-old from Yorkshire recently made history as the first woman to open her own namesake store on London's storied Savile Row. Being an area where tailors' shops evoke the feel of a gentleman's club, this makes Sargent's achievement all the more remarkable.
Savile Row isn't famed for its acceptance of change. When Richard James set up shop in 1992, his Saturday opening hours caused many a colonel to choke on his kippers.
But Sargent is settled here. "I have been part of this tailoring community my whole working life. Without that background, opening a shop with a woman's name above the door might not have been as warmly received as it has," she demurs.
Women have always played an integral role in Savile Row's story: pinning, cutting and sculpting the suits that have made this street famous. Sargent trained as an apprentice at Gieves & Hawkes, working with two inspirational women – one a military tailor, and the other a finisher who did the lining and buttonholes. "They showed me that there were strong women within these teams, despite being outnumbered."
Such formidable colleagues helped give Sargent the confidence to shatter what she terms the "windowpane check ceiling".
"Have I felt like a woman in a man's world? Initially yes, but nowadays I realise that I'm a woman in a diverse world," she says. "What matters is being able to communicate with the client. Having said that, my father wouldn't let me measure him!"
Leeds-born Sargent was drawn to tailoring by the art of construction, buying old Burberry suits in charity shops "just so I could take them apart, and put them back together".
The recipient of the Golden Shears Award in 2000, a hallmark of excellence awarded to industry newcomers, she launched her bespoke tailoring service in Mayfair two years ago, and has dressed royalty, actors, politicians and business leaders.
Sargent believes that part of her success is due to the fact that it's no longer just men who want to shop on Savile Row. "I cater to women who have worked hard to get to where they are, and they need high performance tailoring to help them look professional. My clothes aren't fashion pieces, they are there to do a job. A good suit can do a huge amount for a man or a woman."
For anyone else seeking to join the this most revered street, Sargent has only one piece of advice: "Be patient. Don't expect it to happen overnight."
Watching her guide clients through cloth swatches, it's clear that Sargent's patience has paid off.
Five secrets to the perfect suit
A suit has to sit comfortably around the neck
"A good tailored jacket should frame the face, if it doesn't fit properly there, it won't elsewhere."
Pay attention to colour
"See what the cloth does for your complexion. If you opt for a bold statement shade or check, think about how it will fit in your wardrobe."
Get the right sleeve length
"Consider the shirt you're going to wear with it - is it single or double cuff? - and allow for that in the length."
Avoid extreme trends
"If you're having something made bespoke, it must have longevity."
Accessorise with contemporary pieces
"Make sure that the suit itself always errs on the side of classic."
The Sunday Telegraph, UK