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IN CONVERSATION WITH MENSWEAR DESIGNER ALEXANDRA WOOD
Written by Menswear Style in Interviews on the 13th July 2020 / In Conversation with Menswear Designer Alexandra Wood
Alexandra Wood started her tailoring business in 2007 as a hobby and has since designed and made clothing for hundreds of high-profile men who want to make a positive impact to the way they look and feel. Her career started in Savile Row, as one of the first, female owned tailoring businesses. She then went on to re-open the longest standing tailors (400 years) in Bishop's Stortford, with a new, modernised version of men’s tailoring. The brand has recently expanded from made to measure tailoring to successful, ready to wear collections. Alex continues to break the mould when it comes to delivering exceptional quality and service in menswear. The brand has helped land politician Chuka Umunna on GQ’s Best-Dressed top 50 twice, and GQ Columnist Tony Parsons named them ‘Tailor of the 21st Century’. Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A wore an Alexandra Wood two-piece while cutting the ribbon on the vaunted Christian Dior retrospective, and so did director Rupert Goold, while showcasing his new film Judy at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
In a recent episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interviewed Alexandra Wood about how she first got started in men's tailoring and the story of how she set up her business. It was whilst on maternity leave that she began as a visiting tailor, meeting clients in their offices or at home. She now serves them at both the brand's Savile Row showroom and Bishop's Stortford store, whilst also managing the marketing and eCommerce for the brand. Our host Peter Brooker and Alex also chatted about education and training, the differences between design and cutting, elevating a man's style, why you shouldn't follow trends, and opening a 1000 sq ft shop to showcase new and forthcoming Alexandra Wood ready to wear collections.
Does your bespoke cutting training and design eye give you a competitive advantage?
“Yes, however I don’t cut anymore. I did in the beginning, but I don’t think any of my clients would have their suits very quickly if I continued to cut, design and grow the business. Design is where my passion is and it’s more than that as well. It’s seeing a customer walk in and I’ve already seen the completed outfit in my mind. I can quickly see how great they will look, and I get excited. But I need to backtrack and explain the process, be nurturing and understanding of their fears.”
Do you have customers that want something that doesn’t sit right with you?
“I just won’t make it. That might sound terrible but actually, the reason why customers come to me is because they don’t have time to think about it. Some of them have a natural style but they come to me because they know I will enhance and elevate their style. I’ve had a customer ask for a 1920s pair of trousers and I recommended another tailor to them so they wouldn’t be disappointed. My style is more timeless and modern with splashes of colour. I definitely have a certain type of clientele and I like to create looks for them.”
Please tell us about your Bishop’s Stortford store
“From what was mainly a hobby, in 2016 I decided to open a shop to take the business further and really think about my branding and marketing. Before, I hadn’t really given it much thought. It’s a strange switch when you decide to make something into a business. I moved into a building which is 400 years old and it was the oldest tailors in Britain. They closed their doors three years prior to when I got here. I actually didn’t know much about the history of the building, I just thought it was really nice. I was a bit scared because I had put all my own personal money into it. My view was to go into ready-to-wear which is what I have now done. I needed a home and testing ground for that. It’s my market research, I get to see people come in and try things on and see if things fit and work well on my customer. The shop is where I can see if my new releases will take off as I push more towards eCommerce. The previous tailor sold other brands, so I often get customers come in asking for certain labels. So, that’s when I decided I best start making garments so people can come in and buy them. I love designing, so creating ready-to-wear has gone really well.”
This is a shortened transcribed edit of episode 70 of the MenswearStyle Podcast with Alexandra Wood, Founder of alexandrawoodbespoke.co.uk. You can listen to the full version below or listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast player. Portrait photography by Amanda Forman.