The HTA's Tailoring Apprenticeships
When we think of learning the tailoring trade one is first drawn to the idea of securing a tailoring apprenticeship. For many, this can be both a positive and negative experience. It’s the temperament of the tailor that makes for a good master. During Rory’s time at Henry Poole’s, three apprentices left prematurely owing in most cases to the attitude of their masters. Many masters find it difficult to relate to their apprentices. Many see themselves in a parental role which in and of itself can cause friction between the two parties. Many older masters reared their children during the time of corporal punishment when hitting a disobedient child was normal. Though they may not have physically assaulted their apprentices, shouting and scolding was a normal response to errors made.
Like any child, scolding instils fear which can cause one to become nervous and insecure in their abilities. Not all tailors are born to be teachers. There can often be a lack of patience, understanding and self-reflection that is needed to understand how difficult it is for a novice to grasp the techniques, skills and terminology that accompanies a tailoring apprenticeship.
Others see the apprentice as a means of increasing their weekly wage, having someone to do the donkey work. It can often take years for an apprentice to progress as the master is not encouraged to keep teaching their apprentice new techniques or even have a plan in place that see the tailoring apprenticeship through to a full working tailor and eventually master.
Rory always believed he was the one who pushed his tailoring apprenticeship forward. His own strength of character saw him finish his coat making apprenticeship years before most others in his place. Rory had a driving force and a level of commitment and wasn’t easily distracted by outside influences. When his other counterparts were leaving at 6 pm to return home, Rory worked on often until midnight making projects of his own to improve his skills, add to his wardrobe and ultimately advance his tailoring apprenticeship.
All masters need faith in their apprentice. When they give them something to work on, the apprentice won’t put it beyond repair. There is a sense of give and take between the two. Once an apprentice feels confident, they will wish to pull away from their master so they too can earn a living, but for the master, it is this time that is the most profitable for them. An apprentice with skills is a great earner and can help supplement their income.
After all, has the master not earned it? All that time spent teaching, correcting and overseeing needs to have its own rewards.
Apprentices are too often focused on themselves, their needs, their wants and their wishes and fail to see an apprenticeship as a two-way street. When one is learning, they must also be earning their way. Not all Savile Row houses have apprenticeship programs. Many other houses act as vultures waiting for new makers who come to flourish so they can pick them off, attracted by higher wages and an opportunity to be free of their masters.
Tailoring schools and academies such as The Handcraft Tailor Academy are set up for the sole purpose of teaching tailoring where apprenticeships are not. No master takes on an apprentice so they can watch the trade live on, they usually do it so they can earn more money and have someone to help ease the burden. Many times during Rory’s seven years he was told, “This isn’t a school” or “No one is paying me to teach you”. No information is gathered on how many apprentices leave training after the first year but if it was, it would be found to be quite high. Many aren’t prepared for how difficult it can be to be taught by someone who probably was not meant to be a teacher. They lack the interpersonal skills, empathy and understanding that makes a good teacher. Such high bars are placed within mainstream educational systems so when it comes to a tailoring apprenticeship, something is found to be lacking. If Rory never found himself on the road to a tailoring career he would have most likely ended up in mainstream education teaching perhaps one of his favourite school subjects like art or woodwork. Many of Rory’s students have complimented him on this teaching abilities, the care he takes with them so even after saying the same thing a thousand different ways that they finally understand his meaning.
The video series Rory created were set up with the student in mind. A way of passing on the knowledge from master to apprentice, so that the student can watch and re-watch them multiple times to absorb the information being given. They are made available at an affordable price, so anyone, anywhere at any time can unlock the secrets of Savile Row tailoring.
It is therefore no surprise to hear that many Savile Row occupants were not pleased to hear about Rory’s video series learning that one of their own has managed to boil all their years of practise and training down to a few hours of film. Rory and his videos have banished all the mystery and mysticism. There is no magic and no illusions in his teachings; just the practical application of tried and tested methods to making bespoke clothing.