At Dugdale Bros, we love to see long-standing textiles and tailoring traditions being passed on through the generations. Our own story is just one chapter within the UK’s illustrious cloth-making history, so it’s inspiring to see young, talented individuals from across the country continuing to drive this narrative forward.
This time, we interviewed Emma Cope – undercutter at Savile Row’s Huntsman – about how she began her career in tailoring, her style inspiration, and her favourite parts of the job. Here’s what she had to say…
- Where did your tailoring journey begin?
For as long as I can remember I have always sewn and experimented with making garments for myself – I studied Costume before completing a couple of internships.
My first work placement was with Mark Purcell in Birmingham – where I was taught the correct hand stitching techniques for tailoring. Then, in the following years, I completed internships at Savile Row’s Gieves and Hawkes, and Huntsman. Through hard work and determination, I was offered an undercutter role at the latter – which has been a dream come true.
- Who inspired you to become a tailor?
I wouldn’t say there is one particular person. Looking at my family history, we have always worked in the cloth trade or selling garments, so perhaps it was in my blood. I gave tailoring a go and immediately knew it was what I was meant to do.
- If you weren’t a tailor, what would you be?
A dancer, I would love to be on the stage!
- Which designers do you most admire?
I love Alexander McQueen’s early tailoring work – particularly his inventive and futuristic use of pattern cutting. I also admire how Olivier Rousteing has evolved Balmain designs – I’m a fan of the bold structured shapes he creates.
- Who is your style inspiration?
There are a few – Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and The Duchess of Cambridge.
- What is your favourite part of the job?
I enjoy the challenge of the fittings process. I find it so rewarding to see how a garment fits after I have drafted the client’s pattern to their unique figuration. Also, it’s interesting seeing how fit-related issues can be corrected – this is a problem-solving part of the job.
- Which of your pieces are you most proud of?
Regarding the work I do at Huntsman, I recently cut a suit for a man who had undergone a lot of surgery and had a figure I hadn’t worked with before. I was delighted with how successful the fittings went, and it was so rewarding to see how happy he and his family were with his new attire! I really love experimenting with pattern drafting, and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from achieving a perfect fitting garment is priceless.
Regarding my own personal projects, I feel my best is yet to come. I am still learning, so everything I make for myself feels like an experiment – and there are always things I’d like to improve upon. I’m very proud with the tailored dresses I have made for myself, as I enjoy creating my own system for drafting the pattern and designing something unique.
I always have a personal project on the go – I love the exciting feeling of wearing handmade garments I’ve made myself.
- How important are ethics and sustainability to you?
They are crucial. It is rewarding to work in an industry that values maintaining craftsmanship, the environment and a sustainable future.
I believe emphasising the importance of English-woven cloth – in both heritage and contemporary tailoring – is vital for the industry. And, the fact that Dugdale’s fabric is locally woven in Huddersfield is great to see.
- Describe your style of tailoring in three words…
Elegant, sophisticated and refined.
- What one piece of advice would you give to anyone wanting to start out in tailoring?
I would say to just have a go, keep practising and ask questions. I believe that if you are passionate about something you will throw your all into it, and in turn you will be successful.
- What do you hope to have achieved in 10 years’ time?
I wish to carry on cutting and tailoring – strengthening my current knowledge and abilities.
- If you had to choose one of our cloths for yourself which would it be and why?
I thoroughly enjoyed working with the navy overcoat cloth for my latest project – it gives such a wonderful result – so I would love to choose another fabric from that collection. I adore Dugdale’s grey herringbone wool in that bunch – cloth 6304.
- If you could describe Huddersfield’s reputation on the global cloth map in one word, what would that word be?
One word is too difficult – charmingly British.
To explore Emma’s work further and find out more about her tailoring journey so far, head over to her Instagram @emma_cope1.