A ROMANTIC SCENE
When Jihae An first set foot in a London tailor’s shop, it must have felt like wandering into a hidden world.
Here was a place where fine fabrics were transformed into garments for discerning and debonair clients; where skilled artisans measured, drew and cut with the steady weight of ancient knowledge in their hands.
“It was like a period drama happening in front of my eyes, and that was really quite special,” Jihae told Ernest Wright over Zoom.
“Everything down to the dusty chalk sharpeners looked really romantic to me.”
At that time, Jihae was studying a Fashion Atelier BA with the University for the Creative Arts. A Savile Row tailor had visited the university to teach the students about tailoring, and Jihae found herself drawn to the discipline.
“I fell in love with the fact that whereas fashion is so subjective, with tailoring, the more you do it, the better you can become,” she says.
Jihae practised her craft, until one day she felt ready to take a half-jacket sample to a tailor’s shop and offer her skills. In the tailoring industry, there’s no better job application than one somebody can wear.
My job is to make the customer feel their best under any circumstances
Within a few years, Jihae had distinguished herself among the talented young tailors learning their trade on Savile Row. She currently works for Ede & Ravenscroft, a firm with three royal warrants and a history going back to 1689. The company makes bespoke clothing ranging from sharp suits for professionals, to ceremonial dress for royals and peers.
“At the beginning of the week I’ll set goals for each day, things like ‘I must have a collar on by the end of this day’, or ‘I must have the sleeves on by this time’, says Jihae.
“Doing things as fast as possible without compromising is the biggest goal.”
Although there’s lots to get done, there are no shortcuts Jihae can take, since each item needs to be made by hand to perfectly suit the customer.
“Everything’s bespoke, and I really do believe in providing for any needs,” she says.
“My job is to make the customer feel their best under any circumstances, especially if that person cannot get what they need in a ready-to-wear shop.”
Cutting, tailoring, finishing, pressing – each step is an art form in itself
As a tailor, Jihae is one of several specialist craftspeople who contribute to making each Ede & Ravenscroft suit.
“When I say I’m a tailor, a lot of people think I’m the one who measures the customer,” says Jihae.
“Actually, I’m only the maker. It starts with the cutter, who takes the customer’s information and puts the design on paper. Then the design is cut out and given to me; I make it, and then when I’m finished there’s more work to be done by a finisher and a presser.
“Each step is an art form by itself.”
KEEPING THE CRAFT ALIVE
By very early into our workshop closure, we had sold out of most of the scissors in the
For Jihae, tailoring is more than a career and a craft; it’s a way of connecting with British heritage.
“I’m a first-generation immigrant to this country, but even at a young age I knew Britain had a sense of pride in its traditions,” says Jihae.
“I feel like I stumbled into tailoring, which is this core, British heritage craft that should be just as well protected as Swiss cheese or champagne.”
Jihae had always known Savile Row was famous for its suits. But the experience of tailoring first-hand revealed a deeper truth: that of a rich heritage underpinning the nation’s pride in its tailors.
“I saw that this was something important,” says Jihae.
“By being involved in tailoring and enjoying it, I can keep the craft alive.”
Never part a tailor from her shears
The relationship between a tailor and her shears is a sacred thing. If a trainee tailor were to feel tempted to pick up a colleague’s pair of shears, they’d be doing so at the risk of getting a telling off.
“The very first thing I was taught when I walked into a tailoring shop is you do not touch anybody’s shears – it’s not up for discussion!” says Jihae.
“From that point onward, I really wanted my own shears and that special relationship for myself.”
Jihae settled on a pair of Ernest Wright shears that combined the style of classic tailor’s shears with a smaller size that suited her hand.
“When I got the scissors I was blown away, and they took pride of place on my board straightaway,” she says.
The look and feel of the Ernest Wright shears had an immediate appeal to Jihae – but it was the scissors’ technical potential that interested the tailor the most.
As Jihae puts it, “They have the weight and size of cutting shears, but then they have the versatility to be making shears too.”
This added adaptability brings the potential for Jihae to further refine the skills of tailoring and cutting, and the opportunity to find new ways to connect with the craft.
With every stitch Jihae An makes, she moves forward in her career and digs further into its heritage. Wherever those stitches lead, we can be certain the way is lined with the most beautiful tailoring.