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Kathryn Sargent is a self-professed “tailoring geek.” She’s also a pioneer.
This story first appeared in the June 18, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The tailor has the distinction of having served as the first female head cutter of a Savile Row firm—the vaunted Gieves & Hawkes, where she worked for 15 years, climbing the ladder to the top cutter position in its bespoke department. “It’s quite a talking point,” she says with a laugh. “But I really loved the job. Years ago, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity—it was such an old-boy network.”
In January, Sargent left Gieves & Hawkes to launch her own business, Kathryn Sargent Bespoke Tailoring. But while continuing to break new ground, she maintains a strong sense of tradition: Her firm is located on Sackville Street, near Savile Row, where she shares the premises of Meyer & Mortimer, a bespoke company whose former clients included the 18th-century British dandy Beau Brummel.
Sargent notes that women have a long history of working on Savile Row, though they remained behind the scenes, not in a “client-facing role.” When she became a head cutter, she says, “most people were really welcoming,” but she did meet some resistance. A couple of customers refused to work with her, and she recalls an elderly woman who bluntly said, “A girl should not be doing this.” Sargent’s reaction:“I knew I had to do a bloody good job, since there were people who were waiting to see if I could cut the mustard.”
Sargent views the bespoke process as a “creative collaboration” between herself and her client, which means working closely with customers to resolve fit and lifestyle issues. “It’s about getting to know people individually and tailoring to need,” she says.
Although based in London, she travels to New York and Chicago three times a year to measure and fit both men and women. The client chooses from thousands of British fabrics (“I’m biased—I think we make the best wools in the world”), Sargent personally hand-cuts each pattern, there are two to three fittings, and the garment is delivered within 12 weeks. Prices start at 3,200 pounds, or $4,071 at current exchange.
As her business grows, Sargent hopes to add custom shirts and to expand her women’s offerings. “I would love to provide tailoring heritage to more people,” she says, adding, “I feel quite liberated.”