Forward Thinking: Gieves & Hawkes Apprenticeships
Georgie Lane-Godfrey talks to head cutter Davide Taub about why the British tailor’s apprenticeship programme is a hotbed for new talent.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again is very good advice for anyone who wants to secure themselves an apprenticeship in the fabled workshop at Gieves & Hawkes.
'There aren’t many positions available,’ explains the Savile Row institution’s head cutter Davide Taub. ‘It takes three to five years from the moment you step in the workshop to become a professional.’ But if competition is fierce, the resulting position merits it. After up to six months spent rotating between the different disciplines of cutting, hand-sewing and pressing, apprentices are matched with a mentor. Often with decades of invaluable experience and knowledge, the training this mentor provides is second to none.'
The learning process is a slow yet rewarding one - clearly this career is a labour of love. ‘Patience is probably the most important skill of a tailor,’ says Taub. ‘But they also need to have a connection to their work. You don’t have to be innately talented when you arrive, you just need to have a love for the handcraft. It’s the people who want to spend all hours working hard to perfect their skills who become a success in the trade.'
Currently five apprentices can be found in the Gieves & Hawkes workshop, including Mike Deans, who began his apprenticeship 18 months ago after being sold on the brand’s reputation. ‘The bespoke department at Gieves & Hawkes is quite forward-thinking,’ says the apprentice bespoke cutter. ‘There’s a respect for tradition but the garments are always relevant to modern life.'
It’s this approach that has turned out serious talent from the Gieves & Hawkes workshop. Last year, former apprentice Riki Brockman won the 2017 Golden Shears – the prestigious Savile Row competition for cutting and tailoring.'
Nurturing this talent is just as important for Gieves & Hawkes as it is for the apprentices themselves. ‘Without the apprentices, the vitality of the workshop would disappear,’ explains Taub. ‘But there would also be no future in it. We not only need them to pass on the knowledge, but also ensure continuity so that when customers reorder they receive the same high standards.'
Gieves & Hawkes prides itself on taking interns from all educational backgrounds. In partnership with Fashion Enter, a training provider introduced by the Savile Row Bespoke Association, Gieves & Hawkes has launched the first Level 5 Apprenticeship programme that will result in a final qualification equivalent to a degree.'
In the meantime, the system remains consistent – an informal but structured process built on mutual trust and respect. ‘My career highlight came when my mentor let me cut some trousers for a customer for the first time on my own,’ recalls Deans. ‘Knowing she had the confidence to let me do this so early into my apprenticeship was a big confidence boost. Every garment we make ends up with our name on the label, so knowing that piece walked away with my name in it was a proud moment.'