Chinese female tailor shines at Savile Row

By Bo Leung in London | | Updated: 2017-04-27 23:49

Quan Yingmei broke into the male-dominated tailoring trade on London's Savile Row when she became what is believed to be the first Chinese female master cutter to work in the home of luxury and bespoke tailoring.

Chinese female tailor shines at Savile Row

Quan Yingmei 

Working her way up from the bottom following studies at Central Saint Martins, she is now director of Welsh and Jeffries, a tailor to the Prince of Wales, at 20 Savile Row.

Quan said: “What I love about tailoring is the detail, your eyes have to act as a camera to capture everything. A few years ago, when I took the tube (London Underground) to work, I would observe the suits the men were wearing, looking at how their trousers and jackets were made and fitted, if the color was right and if it was bespoke or ready-to-wear."

Quan is from Northeast China and arrived in the United Kingdom in 2000 to study design at Central Saint Martins in London where she was introduced to tailoring.

She then underwent her training at three bespoke tailors; Kilgour, Tom Baker and Castle Tailors.

“My sights were firmly set on tailoring by then and I didn't want a path toward sales and design. I wanted to know how to actually make and fit a jacket from start to finish," she said.

“I left Savile Row and worked elsewhere in London. I started from scratch and learned about making patterns and canvas for about a year and a half but I felt I wasn't learning enough to get to where I wanted, so I returned to Savile Row."

Quan eventually settled at Welsh and Jefferies in 2009, but her journey as a master cutter wasn't without its challenges.

“Workers at Savile Row would have been there for 20 to 30 years and probably thought I wouldn't stay around for long," she said. “I had to build my confidence and learn a new culture, how to speak and greet people, and some thought I was too young."

Chinese female tailor shines at Savile Row

Quan Yingmei at Golden Shears Awards 2011 

But she proved herself with her professionalism and skills.

“While I gained respect from the trade, it took a while to get clients on my side but I have many customers now who completely trust me and my judgment," she said.

In 2011, Quan outshone all other competitors to win the Golden Shears Award, the Oscars of the tailoring world.

She said she likes to keep her suits traditional, but is also happy to add a contemporary twist to some of her creations.

“Some customers will have 20 to 30 suits and they ask me to choose a style for them. I like creating something new that makes them feel confident. I don't want them to open up their wardrobe and it be full of the same suits."

As Welsh and Jefferies celebrate its 100th anniversary, Quan said she would love to see more women entering the trade.

“Women have a different sense of style and can offer a newer perspective, which I think is great for business."


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