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Francis PaleyChittleborough & Morgan, Assistant Cutter
• Born – 23/02/93
• Education – Newham College
• Mentor – Joe Morgan, Head Cutter

What is your role at Chittleborough & Morgan?

I’m an Assistant Cutter; I cut and make jackets and trousers here.

 

When did you first become interested in tailoring?

I was around fourteen when I first watched a documentary about Savile Row and was instantly intrigued. I had always known I wanted to be involved in fashion and after watching the documentary I knew I belonged in the sartorial industry. I started emailing as many tailoring companies as I could, volunteering to work during nearly every school holiday; I just wanted to spend what time I had spare doing work experience. Most of the replies were a no but I just kept on trying; there was really no other way to get information about work experience or to get a foot in the door back then except with direct contact and persistence.


What is your educational background?

I left school when I was seventeen and applied to a variety of art colleges and fashion courses close to where I lived. I also applied to Newham College because it seemed like the best course to get you into the industry and to actually teach you practical skills. Thankfully I was accepted into Newham College; I remember that I was initially nervous because I hadn’t even picked up a thimble before then, but I was taught all the basic skills needed. You learn how to sew and make things, I was there for two years and it was such a great and rewarding time.


Who gave you your first shot?

Joe Morgan, he has been my mentor here at Chittleborough & Morgan for the past five years. A friend of mine who had experience on the Row recommended Chittleborough & Morgan and said I should speak to Joe. I visited and phoned the shop every week asking for an opportunity to get some work experience. Joe finally agreed to let me come in once or twice a week whilst I was in my second year at Newham. I was fortunate enough to be getting the practical skills and knowledge at both Newham college and an established Savile Row tailoring house. Once I had finished college Joe asked me to stay on permanently as an apprentice, and I have been here ever since.


What is a day in the life at Chittleborough & Morgan like?

I have very varied days here, I’m Joe’s Assistant Cutter so I can come in and be working on any number of things from cutting patterns for trousers or jackets, I could be making things or assisting with fittings or packing and delivering things to customers. There is always something to do and if not I watch Joe, I’m constantly learning from him.


Is there anything you had wished you had known before you started this journey?

I think at the beginning you imagine yourself  jumping straight into the thick of it and assuming  you be making these fantastic suits and you do get the opportunity to do these things, but I wish I knew that it comes after a long process. It is a demanding journey and you will be spending a lot of time learning and watching and helping out in any way you can; whether that means making the teas and coffees or running an errand around town. You also have to be thrifty and budget your money as an apprentice. In the end you are working for somebody so you are getting paid but it’s not a lot; so sometimes that could also be quite hard. However you are getting paid to learn such a valuable skill so I always considered myself lucky and was just very smart with my wages.


What was your most exciting moment at Chittleborough & Morgan?

I think it would have to be when I was finishing off my apprenticeship last year. It was challenging but that is what made it so exciting. I had to submit a baste, a forward, and a finished jacket, along with some trousers and shorts I had made and my written portfolio. This was at the same time as the Maison Mais Non gallery’s Artist: Artisan exhibition that I was also involved in. I was collaborating with a Central Saint Martin’s fashion MA graduate, we made an overcoat out of a cashmere blanket and it showcased the duality between Savile Row apprentices and fashion students. I was only 22 years old and I was coming to the end of such a great journey as an apprentice and also having my work displayed in a Soho gallery. It was such a thrilling, challenging and satisfying experience.


What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a seersucker jacket and a chinchilla jacket. I love working with fun cloths, and right now I am also making a denim blazer. Everything we make for our customers is exciting.


What are your favourite aspects of tailoring?

I really enjoy making things; I like the whole process of it. You take some measurements, cut the pattern and then cut it into cloth and then the cloth comes together. It’s the process of going from nothing to something that looks so amazing and seeing the happiness it brings to the customer. I also like making things for myself because it’s an opportunity to build up my wardrobe whilst showcasing what I can do; I can spend a Saturday making my own things and bettering my skills in my own personal time. It is the best feeling when somebody asks me where I got a jacket or a pair of trousers I’m wearing from and I can tell them that I made them myself.


What advice would you give to anybody that wants to get into the bespoke tailoring industry?

Make sure this is something you really want to do, something you have a real passion for so you don’t waste your time. It is fun, rewarding and stimulating but it’s not all glamour; its four to six years of tough work and you have to show dedication in everything you do. Start from the bottom, make your way up, make the tea and coffee, run the errands, be friendly and cooperative and most importantly work hard.