Blog - Clements and Church News
James Woolley, Tailor, Birmingham
James has worked in retail since completing full-time education, apart from a brief period working for a successful Midlands-based marketing agency. Previous roles as a Manager for Topman and Department Manager for Harvey Nichols, have taught him all he needs to know about keen service before a change of career into the world of Tailoring.
A keen sportsman, James spends his free hours playing football for various local football teams aswell as being partial to a set of tennis.
Having been introduced to the brand by a mutual friend, the opportunity to join the family was too good to miss for James. A long-term goal of joining an exciting and growing business has now been realised, and James relishes the challenges that are ahead for both himself and Clements & Church.
Steffano Abonandi, Tailor, Royal Leamington Spa
Stepping into the role with no tailoring experience has been a challenge relished by Steffano, with a natural thirst for knowledge being one of his many accolades. Vital skills learnt from previous vocations in teaching, coaching and also some time as a stock market trader have helped him to bring a professional and insightful approach to Clements & Church.
Having played football at a semi-professional level, it’s safe to say Steffano enjoys keeping fit and looking good whether that’s working hard at the gym or researching clothing and keeping up with the latest menswear trends.
We like to think of ourselves as a family here at Clements & Church, this been further strengthened by the fact that Steffano was presented with this new opportunity by his brother Marco who is a Tailor at our Solihull branch. Steffano sees this new appointment not only as an opportunity to progress as a Tailor but also as a successful individual.
At Clements and Church, not only do we specialise in suiting we excel in footwear too. Our unique designs and quality are what help to set us apart from the competition. Like our garments mentioned previously, our shoes are produced in the most established area of the country. My next stage of training required me to visit the workshop in Northamptonshire to educate myself on its history, values of shoe production and the many fascinating processes that go into making the products.
The association between Northampton and its footwear industry dates as far back as the 15th century. The access to raw materials, with it being a cattle market town and its central location for distribution around the country, quickly enabled Northampton to be at the centre of the Universe when it came to making premium quality footwear.
The workshop dates as far back to 1886 and is one of only 34 that still remain. Its legacy and notoriety has flourished ever since. We are one of the few makers still handcrafting their shoes completely from start to finish. 120 skilled staff to make a single pair of shoes performs 200 operations. The whole process takes around 6 weeks and is largely unchanged from the original beginnings of the company.
Originally the raw materials were obtained locally but now it is sourced from countries such as Italy and Scandinavia, as the hides provide a superior finish.
It was explained to me by a leather inspector, that only the best possible leather is used, meaning that the skin will have no scarring or stretch marks apparent in it. Each calfskin makes approximately 3 pairs of shoes.
With the aid of technological advances, the design and patent aspect of footwear is able to stay at the forefront of engineering
Patterns and designs are all done using Computer Aided Manufacture, printed out and then pinned around a shoe last to give an idea of what the shoe will look like. Once the designer is happy with what they have created, they then cut the shapes needed to create the shoe upper out of plastic. I soon learned that the whole process costs well over £1000 per individual design.
Once the patterns are made, the leather is then hand cut with precision and slight of hand staff.
More intricate processes are then applied. Punching and skiving finishes off each part of the upper, tidying it up and applying a pattern to the edges.
Once prepared, assembly comes into play by stitching each of the parts together like a jigsaw to create the shoes’ upper. This is finally checked, tidied up and then sent to ‘the box’.
‘The box’ is where all of the uppers are stored for a couple of weeks to moisten the leather. This ensures that the upper is easier to mold around the shoe last and then attached to a heel and sole.
As the upper is prepared for sole attachment, it is put through a humidifier to keep the leather warm and easier to manage whilst it is molded around the last. Finally creases are blown out to give a smooth finish.
The inside of the sole and heel consists of mainly cork. This timeless method is still seen as the best way to ensure breathability and comfort within the shoe. Goodyear welt. This is easily the best waterproofing assembly available and allows the shoe to be re-soled time and time again.
The sole is concreted and stitched on by hand. It’s amazing how easy the stitching is made to look. A craftsman informed me he has been stitching soles onto shoes for 23 years. Second nature to him obviously….
Once the shoe has been constructed, it’s just a matter of proper finishing. The sole edge is smoothened and painted. The bottom of the sole is then waxed, stained and engraved all the way round, expertly and lovingly completing the process.
The actual upper of the shoe is waxed, polished and buffed and sprayed if needs be to finish immaculately.
The shoe is then finally put through several quarantine methods to ensure it meets our industry-leading standards.
Once boxed it’s then a matter of dispatching to the lucky consumer, for them to be newly acquainted with a pair of our beautifully constructed shoes.
Manchester United’s Ashley Young spotted at Chester Races wearing Clements and Church.
My first part of my training last week involved visiting Scotland in search of the finest tweeds and woollen blends for our formalwear and bespoke suiting.
In case you did not know already, the Scottish borders is at the very hub of the worlds woollen industry, creating some of the finest garment designs for the ever changing and exacting fashion houses.
Our journey took us to the very heart of the industry, to the town of Peebles, home of the Robert Noble mill.
Established in 1666 by David Ballantyne, the company has enjoyed a rich and illustrious heritage in creating some of the most beautiful cloths the world over.Housed in a specially designed room, I managed to take a look at Robert Nobles archive, which gave me a wonderful insight into the history of the mill.
Containing hundreds of samples of cloth in volumed books, this time capsule has fabric designs and qualities made by the mill dating as far back as the early 1800s, providing inspiration for Nobles in-house designers.
Given the opportunity to visit the mill, I can see why it is so renowned. The detail, design and workmanship is something that you have to see for yourself. To provide some sort of insight, I took some photos to give you an idea of how much time, process and skill goes into making these luxury materials from start to finish.
CARDING AND SPINNING
After sorting and dying a batch of blended and oiled wool is passed through a carding machine. This robust piece of kit consists of an arrangement of cylinders or swifts covered with wire clothing. The swifts separate the wool fibres from one another using fine wire teeth.
From the carder, the web of fibres are passed directly into a condenser. The web is divided into a loose ribbon form. These are rolled into soft, round rovings or slivers, which are carefully wound onto wide bobbins to be handed over to the spinning department.
The rovings need to be twisted to give them strength, in the same way as a straw rope is made. After the minimum requirement for twisting, further twisting may be applied to provide extra firmness or other special effects to the yarn.
The spinning process requires considerable knowledge and craftsmanship, not least in making the machine adjustments necessary to produce different quality batches of yarn from the rovings.
The spun yarn is then organised and stored into a yarn store, which is readily accessible when required by the store foreman for preparation.
Warping is a necessary preparation before weaving. This involves running the exact length of yarn to be woven into the cloth onto a large reel. When complete, all the threads that are to be woven are arranged in their full length according to the pattern and are then correctly spaced. From the large reel the completed warp is run onto a small diameter roller or beam that can be mounted onto a loom.
Weaving is where the magic happens. With out over complicating things,a woven fabric is made from two series of yarns. These are the warp, which I have just mentioned and the weft or filling. This gives the cloth the colour and is passed between the warp threads that are lifted and lowered separately by the loom according to the desired pattern. This is set up by a tuner.This specialist engineer has an in depth knowledge and understanding of cloth weaving and maintaining the efficiency of the loom. A weaver then operates the loom, skilfully observing the process at all times, making sure that no faults go unnoticed.
MENDING AND FINISHING
The piece removed from the loom is raw and thready in appearance, dull in colour and rough to the handle, so it is passed to the finishing departments to be given the appropriate finish required. In all cases, the cloth is closely inspected for faults and blemishes, with a note made of any special finishing processes needed.
From the mending department the fabric is passed on to be washed or scoured.
Cloth or piece scouring is done in a machine consisting mainly of a couple of large smooth rollers above a deep trough in which the scouring liquid is held. The liquid is then applied to remove excess oils and stains in the cloth. Once this is done the material goes through a final wash in clean water, making it immediately feel softer, losing its thready appearance. The colours in the cloth also come up bright and clear. The piece is now ready for cropping.
Cropping is a process that perfects the look and feel of the material. This entails running the fabric through a machine with rotating spiral and fixed blades, a bit like a lawn mower. The irregular surface fibres are cut to a uniform level, providing an even softer feel to the cloth, displaying the colours and weave pattern more vividly. Finally the fabric is pressed. By applying a small amount of heat, a suitably conditioned cloth acquires lustre and greater body. The process requires good judgment to the amount of conditioning, healing and pressure required to produce the best results.
The finished cloth is given another close inspection, then measured, weighed and folded onto boards or rolled onto full-width tubes, before being passed to the warehouse for dispatch to customers.
As you can see a lot of due care and attention goes into making these exclusive pieces. Their quality, designs and british craftsmanship go hand in hand with the Clements and Church ethos.
Watching and talking to some of the staff concluded how extraordinary their skills really were and how quickly they work with little error in producing their product.
Most of the staff have been working at the mill all their working lives. One lady told me she had been working at the work shop for nearly 30 years. Most of the employees family histories transcend and link to the mill. This gave me a sense of real heritage and institution.
It was really fresh to see the passion, care and pride that everyone takes into producing these beautiful cloths. You could see that in everyones faces. Spending a day at Robert Noble proved why it has been so successful and why it will be even more successful for many years to come.
I’ve always believed that a suit is an essential building block into looking good. Whether you’re a builder, an office worker or someone who just loves dressing up; every man should have at least one suit in his wardrobe. It is an integral part of men’s fashion that is timeless and flexible.
With that in mind, as a new member of the Clements and Church family, I’m taking this opportunity to share some of my experiences and education from my training with the company over these next few months.
In doing so I hope to give guidance and create a picture, an idea, or if you like, a Clements and Church philosophy that will transcend to you, the reader. I want you to understand our theory, passion,creativity and the stamp that we put on the art of tailoring and men’s fashion; mixing tradition with contemporary notions.
Here is an example. We have taken a classic worsted jacket and brought it to life with certain details and design. Even though we’ve kept within the boundaries of tradition in its cloth, we’ve given it our own stamp by adding purple jets to the pockets and changed the colour of the button hole and collar. It’s also worth to mention that the lapel is narrower than a conventional lapel and to express that we’ve used a slim tie to go with the outfit.
Again with our latest mohair suit, we’ve added a bit of colour to the Melton and button hole to match the lining. Looking at the Melton you probably may have noticed the unique approach we have taken by designing the suit with a tab collar.
And when I refer tailoring as an art, I don’t say it flippantly. I really do mean that. I never used to see tailoring in that perspective, but In these first few weeks of my profession, it has been a wonder to see the progression of a customers suit from their first fitting as a blank canvas, to the finished product.
The fit of a suit is so important. Tailoring a suit creates something that is organic and shaped to your profile only. It’s amazing how tweaking a jacket depending on the shape of your shoulders or how you hold your head can change an ill fitting suit into a perfect fitting one. From what I have seen at Clements and Church a truly gifted tailor can hide the hunch back on Quasimodo. They pick out the little things that the untrained eye cannot.
One must realise that most men aren’t generic in size. This is why wearing something straight off the peg without a tailor to assist you is usually the wrong way to go about things. A well tailored suit acts as a cloak if you like, hiding the imperfections and those bits you don’t want others to see.
A bad fitting suit that is baggy, creased and hangs hugely off your shoulder can make a £1000 suit look like a £100 one. More importantly it can make the man wearing it, look frumpy, over weight and un attractive.
The jacket and trouser should make you stand to attention, look sharp with little creases creating clean lines. You should wear it looking and feeling a million dollars. There is a saying, ” who needs a plastic surgeon, when a tailor is at hand.”
I stick by that and so does everyone that is Clements and Church. I’ve learnt in these early stages of my career, that as long as I’m in this business I’ll never let anyone leave my shop unless I know that they look no more than perfect. The customer is an ambassador for the brand after all, so I want to feel confident knowing that the customer feels exactly the same way as I do. As long as I have that in mind I know I’ll do well
Hugo, Junior Tailor, Oxford
An avid traveller with a passion in the culinary arts and a fierce collector of the teas of the world Hugo first found an interest in fine tailoring after a stint under the House of Versace Couture followed by some time at Paul Smith.
With a keen eye for tailoring both contemporary and traditional, being based in Oxford it would only be a matter of time before he would find himself at our Oxford store enthralled with what we do.
Hugo is, as we are, very excited to build a great relationship both with Clements and Church and our cherished clientele. So next time you find yourself on Little Clarendon St pop in and meet Hugo.
Marco, Junior Tailor, Solihull
Marco Abonandi is a graduate of journalism from the University of Sheffield Hallam. Before finishing his studies in 2011, Marco spent a successful three years running the formalwear and alterations department at John Lewis Solihull. This experience taught him the basics of tailoring and first ignited his passion for the art. Feeling he could not progress as a tailor, Marco then dedicated his attention to writing and music and decided to go into further education.
Though a keen fondness for writing and music, Marco didn’t feel entirely fulfilled with the path he had chosen. After arriving back from his travels around Central America and South East Asia early 2012, Marco then decided to re-ignite that first passion from many years ago and aspire to become a tailor. Finding this opportunity at Clements and Church one year on has enabled him to strive towards something he has always wanted to do as a career.
To get you through the last snap of winter, our Oxford store has brought a little bit of sunshine to Oxford this week, summer is on it’s way!
One of our clients looking very dapper in a Clements and Church DJ at the Skyfall Premier in London.