A tall, slender blonde in a well cut trouser suit, Kathryn Sargent seems a quintessential English rose but behind the quietly spoken, charming persona lies steely determination and firm career resolve.
She first made headlines just over two years ago when she became the first ever female head cutter of a major Savile Row house. This was at the illustrious Gieves & Hawkes and was the culmination of a career that began there as a trainee some 15 years earlier.
But having reached what seemed the pinnacle, Sargent’s ambition lead her to leave there at the end of last year in order to start her own business.
“My ambition has always been to work for myself,” she says simply. “I’m very proud to have worked at Gieves & Hawkes, but my next thing was to establish my own company. It was what I needed for my personal development.”
Sargent started off on a course in fashion at Epsom College, concentrating upon menswear. From there, she went first to Denman & Goddard, and then to Gieves. “Really, that was where I learnt all aspects of tailoring. It gave me a wonderful grounding.”
Female workers have long been part of the tailoring workforce and in recent years have moved into increasingly high profile positions. But not since the legendary Dorothy Donaldson Hudson has there been a bespoke shop run by a lady. Now, we have Anda Rowland as joint MD at Anderson & Sheppard, and this new firm of Kathryn Sargent.
She is very pleased that she has found space within the Meyer & Mortimer premises in Sackville Street, keeping her overheads low. Some of her customers at G & H have followed her, her website has just been launched, and an early trip to New York saw her following up contacts to establish the all-important American customer base.
“I don’t have a house style,” she says. “I very much work with the client and listen to what they want. My customers come from all different age groups and backgrounds.
“ I didn’t want to do women’s tailoring at all but then wives would come in with their husbands, and then there were women in business who didn’t just want the classic masculine business suit. There was more opportunity for a softer, fitted tailoring style. So I’d like to do a bit more for women now.”
Her first commission under her own title came for a 40th birthday suit. A customer of long-standing was having a Gatsby-themed party and wanted a full 1930s-style white tie and tails outfit.
“That was great to do. It was the classic set, with a white Marcella waistcoat. I put a double row of braid down the side seam of the trousers. He was very pleased with it.”
She is quietly confident of her prospects, despite the prevailing economic climate, and has a steady mind under that blonde bob. “This is such a nice place to start my business”, she said - but the next step in her career plan will undoubtedly be to have her own shop.