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Interviews

Careers in Sewing: Bespoke Alterations at Harrods

Have you ever considered a Career in Sewing? Do you dream of ditching the 9-5 and pursuing your creative dreams? In this blog series we will be posting interviews for a range of different sewing jobs to give you a taste of what possibilities are out there.

Today we interview Christina who has a fascinating job as a fitter in Harrods bespoke alterations department. Alongside this Christina has a super inspiring blog Gussets and Godetsthat you all must go and have a look at!

What is your background and how you have ended up working where you are?

I am a self confessed craft addict! Since childhood I was always making and crafting things and that was where I discovered my love of sewing. I studied fashion through college and university because it was something that I loved. I wanted to work in an environment full of creativity where I would always learn new things and be challenged. I have always been best at the technical side of fashion with the pattern cutting and sewing. The design side was lost on me because I just wanted to use my hands to make something. After university I accidentally fell into the alterations industry, working in bridal boutiques. It was fun but I didn’t want to stay in such a narrow field, so I looked for something covering a broader spectrum of fashion.  That was when I started my current job.

Can you tell us about your job and where you work?

I work as a Fitter in the Bespoke Alterations department in Harrods. Harrods is the most famous department store in the world. In my department, we alter and restyle garments from the most luxury, designer labels. It is such a nieche job and entails so much more than I could have ever imagined going into it. Ready to wear garments rarely fit as they should, so alterations will often be needed. Sometimes that can be extremely simple, but because everyone’s body is so different, garments can need extensive work to fit the body the way that they should. My role is customer facing, I meet with customers to discover what they need from a garment, giving advice on how to make a piece work for them. It’s about listening and then translating their needs into a tangible thing. And keep in mind that not everyone always knows what they want.
 

What do you do in a typical day?

My day completely depends on who walks in to the store, and what garments they choose. Some days I could be in men’s tailoring all day, pinning up very structured garments. Other days I can be under meters of chiffon, totally deconstructing a gown to better suit a clients needs. It is a fast paced, dynamic role, and every day is different from the last.

 What are the best and worst bits?

Working in alterations comes with its own set of obstacles. You are working with a finished object and some adjustments that could easily be changed in the pattern, are no longer an option. So it means that you have to look at a garment from a totally  different perspective. It’s my favourite part of the job though. You get to open up your mind to limitless creativity to try and solve a problem.

Did you always want a creative career?

Making was always my hobby, I studied fashion just because I wanted to grow my skill set. I didn’t realise that there were jobs like mine, where you can keep learning new skills and challenge yourself while being creative and surrounded by the highest quality brands. I didn’t really think about what job I would end up doing, I just did what I enjoyed and took the opportunities as they popped up

What qualifications, skills or experience did you need to get your job? Have you continued to train since starting?

All of the members of my team have taken completely different career paths. Some have academic qualifications from college or university, some have done apprenticeships and learnt on the job. There isn’t a specific set of qualifications that are necessary. Of course technical skills in pattern cutting and tailoring are a must, in order to understand the construction of garments, but it takes a special sort of person to build relationships with customers and understands their needs. To walk into a room with a complete stranger and spark a connection with them. For me, that is the most important part of my role. I am constantly learning new things at work. Garments change, season to season and so do the fabrics and finishes used. As a team we are always finding new ways to do things, brainstorming ideas together to find a new solution. I am incredibly lucky to work in a team full of such talented people and am constantly learning from them

Do you have any tips for someone looking to get into the same thing as you?

I would say to start small. Alterations are a totally different ball game than sewing a garment from scratch. Small changes have a big impact on a garment, and once you cut into fabric, you can’t grow it back! Of course studying Fashion will give you that fantastic base of knowledge and skill, but from there you need to learn to think outside of the box and use your skills in a creative way.

If you could do anything else what would it be?

 I really enjoy teaching, and would love to do more of that. Sharing knowledge and passion for crafts with like minded people is extremely satisfying

What is your favourite sewing tool and why?

I have to say a good iron! Pressing your seams as you go makes the world of difference! A well pressed garment looks crisp and professional. I am spoilt at work with an industrial steam iron and a suction ironing board. I will never be able to enjoy using a domestic iron again.

What are you sewing right now/will be your next project?

I do a lot of home sewing and usually have a few projects on the go. At the moment I’m working on a fitted grey suit jacket from a vintage 1950s pattern, Simplicity 3343. This has been a long term project as I have only used sew in canvas and interfacing, with a lot of pad stitching involved to give the jacket structure. It is coming together quite well so far, and I can’t wait to finish it so that I can finally wear it! I share pictures of my most recent makes on my blog Gussets and Godets.

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