Women in menswear IV: Savile Row Cutter Kimberley Megan Lawton
All photographs copyright: Lee Osborne/Sartorialee
Kimberley Megan Lawton – age 24
Savile Row Cutter
Sartorialee: When did you first arrive in London? Was the plan always to head to the big smoke?
Kimberley Megan Lawton: I arrived in London 5 years ago when I came down for my degree in Bespoke Tailoring. It wasn’t planned, I applied to London college of Fashion as a wild card, I never thought I was going to get in, I’d actually only been to London once before I came down for my interview at LCF.
S: What excites you most about London?
KML: I like how every street has something different, every time you turn a corner there’s something new to discover, its so big you can keep finding out new things about it. London is obviously a huge contrast to the small village in Yorkshire I grew up in and I love the culture in and around the city. Living in the East means that I’m surrounded by loads of fashion and music and a really diverse mix of cultures and backgrounds and that can sometimes seep into the inspiration for the work that I do. The museums are amazing, I love the varying exhibitions that are on throughout the year. There’s always something exciting to see, and you don’t have to look far to find it. I was especially fond of the McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition hosted by the V&A Museum.
S: Do you see yourself staying put in the capital?
KML: Working in the city is a great experience and I don’t think I could stray too far as London is definitely the home of the UK tailoring industry. Saying that I often end up in the parks on the weekend as I like to get away from the hustle and bustle of central London. If I could I would escape to Italy as I adore it. Lake Como is incredible, Florence is so picturesque, it all has a beautiful warm feeling to it that I find comforting.
S: Favourite style destination?
KML: The V&A museum is a favourite of mine, the exhibitions they have are very interesting, and I love to get lost in the historical books in the V&A library. The old mens and womens cutting books are a favourite of mine to analyse and take inspiration from.
S: You have a very distinct style. Describe it and where it originates? (eg. influences growing up)
KML: I’m not sure where my style came from. When I was in the first few years of high school I wanted to be accepted, blend in and have lots of friends, but that didn’t work out for me, so I resigned myself to just being different and exploring those differences through the way I presented myself.
S: Talk me through the rings and jewellery that populate your fingers…
KML: I got the first one as a gift when I was 16 and now when I stumble across a market with a jewellery designer and a ring catches my eye I buy it and add to the collection. Some are from Sheffield, Barnsley and Como.
S: Who do you most admire in the UK women’s tailoring sector and why?
KML: I don’t feel like there is a tailoring sector exclusively dedicated to women currently, but if I had to pick someone who is giving women’s tailoring more recognition it would be Kathryn Sargent. She was the first female head cutter of a Savile Row House and I think that has changed people’s perception of women in the industry.
S: Describe the challenges of being a woman in a predominantly male profession…
KML: I don’t think that I’m necessarily treated differently or challenged by my colleagues in the trade but I do feel that certain opportunities aren’t as open to me as my male counterparts and some male customers are definitely still adjusting to the idea of women taking leading roles that have normally been given to men.
S: Who epitomises women’s style in your opinion?
KML: My icon would be someone like Katherine Hepburn who during a male dominated time in Hollywood took masculine clothing and used it to accentuate her femininity. Daphne Guinness is another favourite of mine, her clothing, shoes, hair and the way she styles herself is stunning.
S: Most stylish guy you know in menswear?
KML: I think that there are lots of well-dressed men in the industry, but I couldn’t say that any are the most stylish. They are all so varied.
S: Do you have a preference for tailoring for men or women?
KML: I don’t think I have a preference, women have a lot more curves to shape the coat around, which means every woman client presents a learning opportunity and a certain level of challenge. I relish the opportunity of being able to cut for any body shape despite the difficulties some configurations can create because each customer gives me a chance to refine my skill-set and deliver a better end result.
S: How easy is it to tailor a suit for yourself (taking your own measurements etc)?
KML: It’s difficult as you can’t measure yourself or fit yourself. To fit a garment properly you need to see the back of your body and use your hands to get a feel of the jacket for the fit of the shoulders or balance and to do that you need to be stood relaxed with your arms down. That means when it comes to making my own garments I always need an outside eye that can see the things I can’t during the fitting.
S: What item of clothing would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
KML: A good winter coat, not only for style but for practicality too! There’s a vintage Aquascutum poster from the 40s that features the exact style that I would like; a double-breasted coat with a large collar, sculpted waist and a long flowing skirt that sits way below the calves.
S: What drives you?
KML: That I still have so much more to do, achieve and learn. I’m not the type of person to become complacent, I will always strive to work harder and develop in my own time as well as in work hours.
S: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
KML: I don’t have any milestone ambitions, I just hope in 5 years I will be delivering garments that embody all the wonderful qualities of bespoke to satisfied, returning customers who feel my products are the ones that best suit their needs and help them represent an element of their character.
S: Proudest career moment so far?
KML: Starting my own business with Joshua. Registering the company, opening the business bank account, the website, everything with that has been so much fun, so scary, but we’re taking every challenge head-on as a team.
S: What ambitions do you have?
KML: I want to be able to create beautiful suits, but also more than that, tailored couture and tailored casual wear, and for my clients to wear my creations. To grow the business with Joshua in a way that lets us both to have our passions fulfilled and for us to feel fulfilled creatively.
S: What age group do you mainly serve?
KML: This is a difficult question for any bespoke tailor to answer as we don’t really have a model customer. Our customers age between 20-60 and it is quite evenly distributed. Regardless of age what unifies our customers is that they want something either more personal or more unusual.
S: How did you get into tailoring? What courses/training did you have?
KML: I studied a BTEC in Fashion at Barnsley College, I found pattern cutting the most interesting aspect of the course so when my tutor suggested tailoring I applied for the Bespoke Tailoring course at London College of Fashion. I didn’t actually get onto the BA course, I started with the FdA in Tailoring which was a two-year course that gave me the grounding to move on to the BA in Bespoke Tailoring, so I did a year of bespoke, a year of production tailoring then a final year of bespoke. The shift from production tailoring back to bespoke was a huge leap; to learn the intricate and time-consuming methods isn’t made any easier by the pressure to perform. However, I was able to persevere and I achieved a First Class Honors after 3 years of studying.
Whilst at university I heard the trade was hard to get into and I that I would need to get as much experience as possible. I knew if I didn’t do work experience while I was in London I wouldn’t be able to do it when I finished university as I wouldn’t be able to afford to the cost of staying. Before I graduated I was able to work at E Tautz, Timothy Everest and Richard Anderson.
After University I sold ready-to-wear at Richard James whilst creating skeleton bastes for Davies & Son with my evenings and weekends. Tailoring on the Row is like a family, everyone knows each other, so while I was working for two firms based there I did my best to mingle and get to know people and make as good as an impression as possible, 5 months after graduating university I was lucky enough to start my career as an Under Cutter at Huntsman, 11 Savile Row, where I worked under the head cutter for two years. Before leaving to start my own business with my colleague Joshua Dobrik in August.
S: In what place are you happiest?
KML: The feeling of accomplishment when I finish a garment and a customer tries it on during a final fitting and I can see it has met their vision or even made it better! One of the main things that drove Joshua and me to create garments under our own name was being able to to be totally responsible for their quality and the fact we find so much pleasure in the craft – developing and learning, testing our ideas rather than binding ourselves to rules that have just been created by tradition and tailors being taught them over and over.
If you make a bespoke suit what’s the lead time?
Our lead time is really dependent upon our customer’s availability. Recently we were able to go from our first consultation to a finished suit in a month but our customer lived in London and had a very open schedule for fittings. If potential customers wanted to approach us with a time-frame in mind I would say 10 weeks. That works for customers who have total availability and for customers who have busier schedules. Like any tailor, the only factors that really affect our lead-time are a customer’s availability for fittings and the number of orders we are processing.
Tell me about your collaboration with Rosemary Goodenough…
My collaboration with Rosemary has been long-awaited, mainly due to me keeping her waiting. After getting my job at Huntsman, I was working all of my evenings and weekends to learn and progress and develop my skills as quickly as possible. I’ve now turned to starting and growing my own business in all of my free time! But I would still like to collaborate and create something beautiful with her, although it may be even further in the future!
Next up in my Women in Menswear series: Melbourne based tailor Giulieta Falvo,