Just the course to suit you, sir

17th February 2006 at 00:00
The world-famous home of the bespoke suit, Savile Row, is looking to an east end college to ensure that fine tailoring does not become a dying art.

Newham college has launched a tailor-made apprenticeship to help meet the demand for handcrafted suits.

Ray Stowers, bespoke manager at Gieves Hawkes, said the shops on Savile Row had realised they had neglected training for too long.

He said: "It's only recently, in the last three or four years, that we have been actively taking on apprentices. It's partly down to people not having the foresight that staff wouldn't last forever.

"Most of the staff are older, and it's pretty much the same all down Savile Row. People have woken up and thought, there's a shortage of workmen."

Mr Stowers estimated that each traditional apprentice could cost them Pounds 80,000 over five years in pay and time invested. The new course is intended to make training more economical by offering a pre-apprenticeship at college to learn the basic skills of sewing, before work starts in a Savile Row shop.

"Fashion colleges don't necessarily teach people to sew - it's not a requirement," Mr Stowers said.

Students can also get an advanced apprenticeship under the sole guidance of a master tailor.

Despite Prince Charles reportedly swapping pound;4,000 bespoke suits for cheaper made-to-measure ones, Mr Stowers was upbeat: "We're thriving. I've always said bespoke tailoring is fashion done properly. And people have got the money for it at the moment."

The course was designed by the college and tailors after Skillfast-UK, the sector skills council for the clothing industry, found that there was no training programme for bespoke tailoring.

Mike Bentley, director of business development, said: "Newham college's role is vital in ensuring that bespoke tailors benefit from new recruits who can earn them money, rather than costing them, due to a lack of skills."

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