Seven years ago, New Business profiled Andrew Ramroop, owner of the esteemed Savile Row tailor Maurice Sedwell. Today, he's supported in running the business by Daniel Haworth, a product of his own academy system, who is helping the firm to move with the times. Nick Martindale reports

Back in 2011 when New Business first interviewed Andrew Ramroop, who had left his home country of Trinidad in 1970 with a dream of working on Savile Row and ended up owning top-end Maurice Sedwell, he was keen to talk about his latest initiative. As well as coping with the day-to-day challenges of running arguably the leading brand on the famous street, Ramroop was investing his time and money into setting up the Savile Row Academy, designed to create the next generation of top-end tailors.

"Nowadays all these learning organisations have university titles and to get in you have to have all these qualifications," he said at the time. "As someone who came into tailoring at 13 or 14 with no qualifications at all, I felt we needed to find a route into tailoring for those who are not cut out for academic achievement."

Seven years later, that investment has paid off. As well as overseeing a new generation of graduates from the academy who are now plying their trade in various Savile Row firms, Ramroop today is helped by Daniel Haworth, who became a director of the company earlier this year, having started on the academy programme in 2012. "I had no experience when I came in," says Haworth. "The course teaches people the basics of handcraft tailoring, and you come out of it able to make a three-piece suit.

"I was on it for a year and a half, but it only takes you to a certain standard; it's not to the level and quality that you would expect if you were to buy a suit from a Savile Row tailor. To get to that stage you need at least five years' training, but it gives you that core ability to then go into an apprenticeship."

It was while he was on the course that Haworth's career really started to take off. "Halfway through the course I started working part-time at the front of the shop, just doing very small bit-part roles and little jobs that seemed a bit menial at the time, but I was just slowly getting used to the way the company worked and what everyone's roles are, and what was expected of me." His learning journey continued until he was offered a directorship, and he now works alongside Ramroop, servicing clients and helping to manage the business.

In at the deep end

It's all a far cry from when an 18-year-old Haworth first appeared at the esteemed business back in September 2012. "I actually applied on the day the course was starting so I had to jump on my bike and pedal into town as quickly as possible so I could make the first day," he recalls. "I'd realised I wasn't going to go to university and was quite happy with that, and wanted to do something more vocational. This was a mix of clothing, which I had always liked, and something practical, and I knew I had the skills to be good at it."

In fact, Haworth had started researching tailoring as a possible career while he was still at school. "Back then it was the height of people writing blogs and spreading information about these different worlds, and it all became more accessible online," he says. "I started to find out about tailoring and menswear on those platforms while I was still at school. It was a mix of that and the idea of making something to a high standard by hand that really appealed to me.

"I grew up in the 1990s and 2000s where everything was made in a factory and bought in a shop, and you're presented with a finished product, so the idea of making clothes yourself wasn't really a common idea," he adds. "I was fascinated with that and decided to try my hand at it. I've always been the type of person who, when I can see people working at the highest standard, really appreciates what they do, and the ability that they have put into it. I had the mentality that I wouldn't leave until I was good and that drove me on."

Learning on the job

After the course Haworth started working in the business, dealing with customers in the shop but also designing and cutting suits in the back office. "It was a gradual progression; I wasn't let loose on customers straight away," he says. "First I was cutting just trouser patterns and then it went on to jacket patterns and, eventually, to cutting and fitting the suit, which is the real skillset for a quality tailor. All the while I was in the fitting room with Andrew, just observing how he diagnoses and remedies situations, and how he deals with customers.

"As I progressed on the course, the amount of actual tailoring work that I was doing was increasing," he adds. "I finished the course and Andrew asked me what I wanted to specialise in. I said I wanted to be a cutter, to learn how to cut and fit suits to the standards that would be expected. So I started training as a cutter and worked my way up to a point where Andrew was happy for me to deal with customers one-on-one, without his constant supervision, and then that led to the directorship role earlier this year. It's been a steady progression."

Alongside the practicalities of making bespoke suits and liaising with customers, Haworth also started to take more of a role in the running of the business. "From a very early stage Andrew got me involved in organising the tailors and making sure they were doing the right jobs at the right time, and keeping things ticking along," he recalls. "The longer you're at a place that translates into not just focusing on the here-and-now but also planning for the future, so I would try to help Andrew and support him in those matters."

This has included learning about the day-to-day realities of running a business. "On the admin side, it's been very much an apprenticeship approach," he admits. "It's been a drip-feed process where I have only moved on to the next stage when I was quite comfortable with what I had done before so it's never been way over my head. But I have a personality where if there's something I don't know then I want to find it out, and learning those skills has been
quite interesting."

Fresh eyes

Aside from helping out with the management of the business, one of the obvious ways in which Haworth can add value is by helping the firm to engage with a younger, and more online-oriented, audience. "I can perhaps take more of a 21st century approach to that, through social media or email," he says. "Growing up in the era I have, I probably have more of an understanding of the modern customer and the precise planning that people usually do. They research everything and read up about it and they'll come in with a pretty firm idea of what they want."

This kind of approach will be vital in helping the organisation adapt to the modern world; one in which it faces competition from new entrants such as Cad and the Dandy as well as its traditional Savile Row rivals. "There's no problem with competition," he says. "If you're able to justify the quality of what you're doing, then the focus can be on maintaining standards because that's what is going to stand the test of time.

"There's one side of it which is about being progressive and moving the company forward, but there's also another which is about remaining true to what brought

Maurice Sedwell the reputation it has now." That's something that is drummed into the new generation of tailors who come into the academy, he adds, with an emphasis on both practical skills but also having right mentality around the importance of quality.

In fact, Haworth believes the concept of quality is something that is becoming more rather than less important, with the younger generation in particular putting more of an emphasis on the provenance of a product.

"There has been a real renaissance in crafts and people having things made bespoke for them, such as clothes," he says. "There's a real passion from young people in wanting to know where things are made, how they're made and why they're of such quality. They're not going to just accept that it's of a certain quality because it's a certain brand; they want to know the person who is making it and what goes into it."

Ramroop and Haworth believe this is why it's so important to be open, and like to show people just how their suits are made and the whole operation works. "With a company like ours where it's all made on the premises we're in a prime position to really make the most of that," says Haworth. "We don't hide anything; sometimes we even take people into the workroom and they can see their suits being made by tailors. In the 1960s and 1970s the famous tailor Tommy Nutter opened the curtains to the shop, which made the shop window into more of a feature, and that was a groundbreaking move at the time.

"The next move for this generation will be to pull down the curtain and show people how things are made, who is making the garment and why the way you make it is so important and integral to the quality of it, and ultimately to the price of it,
because these garments come with a very hefty price tag."

Customers are also more willing to see the purchase of a suit as an investment, believes Haworth, rather than simply going for the cheapest option. "It's not just a luxury; it has longevity to it too, and people realise that our suits will last for far longer and look far better than if they have to buy three or four over that same period of time." This has helped to ensure demand has remained steady since he has been involved in the business, he adds, despite the ups and down of the wider economy.

Facing the future

With the new set-up now bedded in, Ramroop and Haworth are considering new ways to expand the business, including the possibility of opening up an overseas store and expanding into other items of clothing beyond suits. "It's not so much about changing but growing; we have a lot of young staff at the moment and it's really about seeing them become high-quality tailors and producing high-quality suits but at a higher number, while still maintaining standards," says Haworth. "Nothing is set in concrete, but we're looking to grow Maurice Sedwell abroad and in other places. But it has to be done while keeping quality levels the same, because that's fundamental to us as a company."

The other focus, as well as developing the business, which currently employs 10 people, remains the academy. Here, the focus is on growing it beyond its traditional role of developing a pipeline of talent for Maurice Sedwell. "It's the future of bespoke tailoring, so we're trying to improve the way we run but also to grow that to become more of an independent academy for bespoke tailoring," he adds.

As for Haworth himself, it's been quite a journey from the school-leaver who first turned up at the academy back in 2012, and he can scarcely have foreseen how his career would have developed back then. "I can still remember getting off the number 22 bus stop and thinking ‘I'd love to be a tailor on Savile Row' and seeing it as this big ambition," he recalls.

"But, over time, what you see as normal changes as you're always looking to the next thing and how to improve. I see it as the norm now, but it's been very exciting and fun. I'm very grateful for the opportunities that I've been given."