Rory began his tailoring career at nineteen years of age
a few short months after finishing his high school education. From those early days he dreamed of one day moving to London and training with Savile Row founders Henry Poole & Co.
His first tailoring apprenticeship was with one of Ireland's last surviving bespoke tailoring companies, Joseph Martin. The company’s namesake was the third Joseph Martin and his father, though retired, became a figure of admiration to the young Rory who had weekly chats with him on Wednesday afternoons when Joseph Martin Jr. was off visiting clients in the country’s capital.
Rory’s training wasn’t restricted just to the Martins’ head tailor, Eugene Foley
who was also master to this young apprentice. Rory found ways to visit other tailors nationally and glean as much information as he could from the nation’s last reminiscence of bespoke tailors.
One such tailor was Louis Copeland who had a team of ageing tailors at a workshop on Capel Street, Dublin. There Rory met the man who would first teach him pattern cutting on Saturday afternoons, Peter Fletcher. Peter loaned Rory a book which became his first introduction to the world of pattern cutting.
Rory's dreams were too big for the small workshops of Ireland
and after just three years he found himself emigrating to the city of London to further his tailoring career. Starting out, Rory enrolled in London College of Fashion’s one year Handcraft Tailoring Diploma which opened the door to an internship at Henry Poole’s. Rory spent two and a half days a week at college, one day with a trouser maker on Berwick Street and another day with Paul Frearson at Henry Poole.
Paul soon realised what a determined young man he had on his hands. Rory worked long hours staying on with Paul late into the evening when even the mice had gone home. Upon finishing his one year diploma at LCF, Rory was a competent trouser maker and pattern drafter, though he downplayed both skills so he could glean more from the tailors of Savile Row. Henry Poole graciously offered Rory an apprenticeship as a coat maker under Paul's watchful eye and despite many ups and downs, both men remain close to this day. It was here in the founding house of Savile Row Rory first hatched his plan for a tailoring academy so all the young people who were turned away on a weekly basis could achieve the same dreams he had.
It was early in 2009 that the decision was made to release Rory from his apprenticeship on the night of The Golden Shears Award
a most auspicious event in which Savile Row’s finest pit their apprentices against one another to see who could claim the top prize. At that time, no Henry Poole apprentice had ever taken gold. Hopes were dashed in 2007 when the then Henry Poole apprentice failed to even register in the top three. No one had faith in Rory's ambitions except Rory. To him it would be a fulfilment of his destiny.
So far he had succeeded at all his goals -
learning pattern cutting, learning both coat making and trouser making, successfully completing a diploma in handcraft tailoring and most importantly apprenticing at Savile Row founders Henry Poole. The workshops of Henry Poole were better than any school of tailoring one could have conceived of back then. With experts around every corner, Rory knew them all by name. His gentle nature made him easy to approach and his inquisitive mind made him a known aspiring tailor. In many ways Henry Poole’s was a bespoke tailoring school in which every tailor was a teacher and anyone who would listen made for an easy student.
As faith would have it on the 16th of March, Rory not only finished his seven years of training but topped it off by bringing home to Poole’s the highly coveted Golden Shears Award. There to celebrate with him at The Merchant Taylors’ Hall was not just his close family members but also his two most influential masters, Paul Frearson and Christopher Florenzou (trouser maker).
Rory’s destiny was not stay at Poole's forever
even the responsibility of an apprentice of his own did not hold him back for long. Rory fast tracked his apprentice through their coat making training proving once and for all that the art of coat making could be learned in eighteen months and not the five years as many are lead to believe. It was this apprentice that would go on to win first place in the following Golden Shears Award competition and it was at this point that Rory knew that his dreams of a tailoring academy was possible.
Rory realised that training in the art of tailoring wasn’t enough to open a tailoring school. He needed to excel so that other aspiring tailors would have faith in his knowledge and that knowledge and wisdom only comes from the practical application of training into the field of tailoring. In 2010 Rory emigrated to New York city and founded his own company Rory Duffy Handcraft Tailor.
Within months, Rory was off to a good start
using the success of his Golden Shears victory to secure the high end clientele that purchase bespoke suits. As ever, Rory was always pushing forward his idea of a school of tailoring by recruiting a small team of aspiring tailors to help him on his journey. Though this wasn’t the tailoring school of his dreams, it was enough to keep the dream alive.
Over the next six years Rory would go on to make suits for New York's best dressed millionaires and billionaires. His free video series on YouTube was the honey that attracted all of his clients and apprentices. Now with over two million views, the video series “The Making of a Coat” is how many of Rory's students were first introduced to him and give them the confidence that his tailoring school was worth the investment.
Finally in 2014, another milestone was added that inspired Rory once again to set up his bespoke tailoring school - an invitation to The White House
Michelle Obama’s aids had selected Rory to represent the field of tailoring at a fashion luncheon where industry professionals met students from disadvantaged backgrounds to share with them the story of their struggles and successes - to show these young people the power of self belief and daring to dream.
It was then that the First Lady thanked Rory for his contribution to education and encouraged him to follow his dreams of founding a bespoke tailoring school.
Rory's YouTube videos were the first examples of his online tailoring classes
and the success they had at bringing handcraft tailoring into the homes of many aspiring tailors. His years teaching tailoring at Parsons the New School’s BFA Men’s Fashion program showed him that a real bespoke tailoring school was badly needed. Many snippets of Rory's classes at Parsons are still available for free online with one video. One example being 'How to Use a Needle and Thimble' which has clocked up over three hundred thousand views.
Rory made up his mind when the store front he shared in the Lower East Side was being sold to a new owner who had designs of turning it into a high end restaurant. It was as if the stars had aligned causing Rory to make the ultimate decision to return to the place his ancestors had served as tailors since the 18th century and set up his tailoring school, ‘The Handcraft Tailor Academy’.
For the first time, international students could take online tailoring courses from a Savile Row trained master tailor
His tailoring academy was the first of its kind in the British Isles, a tailoring school that offered courses both live, online and in-house that most people can afford.
Though it took longer than he had planned, Rory’s tailoring school finally started offering online classes through his video series The Making of a Savile Row Coat released in 2020 so that anyone, anywhere at anytime could learn the skills and secrets to Savile Row tailoring. His live online classes were a precursor to these video series’s which give student a great start without having to attend his tailoring school in person.
Aspiring tailors across the globe can now learn the art of handcraft tailoring from someone who has proven himself not just as a great teacher but also a great tailor. From someone who went to New York City with nothing but hope in his pocket and made it all the way to the White House.