Previous generations took making, repairing and altering clothes for granted; often as a matter of financial necessity. Fast fashion would have been unimaginable for most people in Britain in the early twentieth century.
I recently lost weight, and some of my favourite dresses don’t fit properly anymore. I didn’t want to take them to a charity shop, and I definitely didn’t want to just throw them away.
And although I know there are lots of fun and supportive sewing clubs springing up around London – organised by the likes of Fabrications and Pico – still … I haven’t used a needle and thread for decades. I decided my dresses would be better off in the hand of a professional tailor.
An online search came up with Orhan London Tailoring, in nearby Shoreditch. And the whole process was fast, easy and relatively affordable. I dropped my dresses off after work; had a fitting with seamstress, Sanna, so the dresses could be pinned up for that perfect fit; and collected them a week later.
I was intrigued to discover that Orhan previously worked in the tailoring industry making coats and jackets for high-profile clients including Vivienne Westwood and the late Princess Diana. I wondered what inspired him to open his own boutique tailoring shop, so I popped back for a chat with co-owner, Denise.
Denise, what initially prompted you and Orhan to set up your own boutique tailoring business?
The seeds were sewn one summer evening, sitting outside a country pub, when Orhan told me he would love to have his own tailoring studio. He imagined a role for me helping customers to find the right styles and colours to reflect their personality, and also keeping everything running at a practical level.
Liking the sound of this dream I said “Ok, let’s see what we can do then”, and just a few months later we had made it a reality and opened our studio shop in Shoreditch.
Have things changed at all since you first launched Orhan London Tailoring in 2007?
Just as we opened our doors the financial crisis of 2007 hit. Our first clients were mostly from the financial sector, and we made lots of shift dresses teamed with tailored jackets for day to evening wear.
We found that many women in business struggled to find good quality garments from the high street that were comparable to their male colleagues who were wearing tailored suits. Also these women didn’t want to dress in traditional suits. They wanted to bring more feminine styling to their working wardrobes whilst being in keeping with their professional environments.
At first we just offered bespoke ladies’ clothing. But many of our customers came with their husbands, and soon they were asking if we could make suits and jackets for them. So we began to offer tailoring for the gents too.
One niche area we didn’t anticipate is gay women looking for styles that are difficult to find on the high street. Men’s garments just don’t fit a woman’s curves, and we’ve found that gay women in particular often really struggle to find clothes that embrace and reflect their personality. It’s been a delight developing a more androgynous style for female clients who prefer strong masculine shapes.
Then clients started asking to bring in pieces they had already in their wardrobes to improve the fit. Which prompted our alteration service. No-one is a standard size . . . We advise our clients to always buy something that fits the largest part of them, and we can tailor the rest to fit their shape.
So many of us have clothes in our wardrobes we buy but then don’t wear. We educate people on what is possible with their existing clothes: tweaking them here and there means more of their wardrobe is actually worn. Not just thrown away or taken to the charity shop.
Sustainability is quite a complex issue. For some people, it’s about investing in good quality pieces which won’t date or wear out as quickly as fast fashion. For others it’s more about provenance and the supply chain. What aspects of sustainability are most important to you?
We are very aware of the effect that throw-away consumerism has on the planet’s resources. Altering existing wardrobe items that no longer fit (or never fitted!) is a satisfying way to contribute to sustainable style.
Our bespoke pieces are often made from British wools (woven and finished here in the UK) keeping our footprint as small as possible. These gorgeous cloths are of superior quality and – when chosen appropriately for their function – last a long time.
A bespoke piece really is an investment. Bespoke clothes not only look good but are perfectly fitted for comfort too. People are likely to wear them more often, so fewer pieces are needed to create a really strong wardrobe that can take you anywhere.
What do you most enjoy about running your own business?
The people! We are in the most fortunate position to be able to meet and talk with so many diverse people. It is our absolute privilege to create relationships where we bring value through realising beautiful clothing for our customers.