The Tailoring Academy
Quentin Felix left a job as a robotics engineer in Switzerland in 2018 to take up a level 5 apprenticeship in bespoke tailoring at The Tailoring Academy in Macclesfield and is now passing on his knowledge and experience to new budding tailors.
Prior to taking up the apprenticeship, Quentin studied engineering for six years, in both France and Germany to achieve a master’s degree, and worked for two-and-a-half years in Switzerland.
His interest in sewing started at an early age and he commandeered a sewing machine at home that no-one else in his family could use. He taught himself to use the machine, through a combination of technical patterns, online tutorials and trial and error before coming across Brita [Hirsch, founder of Hirsch Tailoring] on Instagram.
He met Brita in person in July 2017 for a two-week-long tailoring workshop, and she offered Quentin the opportunity to become an apprentice at Hirsch Tailoring. He was one of the first to take up the new level 5 bespoke Cutter and Tailor apprenticeship, which was developed by a group of tailoring employers alongside UKFT and the Savile Row Bespoke Association.
“This was the opportunity I was waiting for to try and change career,” says Quentin. “If you never try, then you never know. At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it but luckily I loved it.
“I ended up working on actual commissioned garment from day one and Brita trusted me to meet her high standards. I liked being in charge of the drafting of small features such as pockets flaps, patch pockets shapes or straps. It is a great feeling to see these details on the finished garments before sending them away. I love to make garments with my hands, from start to finish.”
Covid-19 raised a few complications to the final part of Quentin’s course, with teaching switching to an online format due to the lockdown and his end point assessment being postponed.
Brita says: “He was finally able to go through the assessment in November, which is demanding even at normal times. I am hugely proud to say he not only passed, but he did so with DISTINCTION! A gifted tailor and natural teacher, he is now joining me at the academy as my co-trainer going forward, which is a great outcome for both of us.”
“We started with a new cohort in September, having complete remodelled our workshop and taken on more space for enhanced safe distancing – so far it has been going well,” she says. “We see growing interest in the qualification despite, or perhaps because of the health crisis: traditional hand skills allowing people to fall back on themselves during difficult times, a feeling of being more in control. The Level 5, being a Higher Education (HE) provision, is increasingly seen as alternative to university study, which is currently widely limited to remote learning as students can’t get to workrooms and labs. Being only a small provider is sometimes an advantage!”
Quentin is now combining his two passions – creating garments and passing on his knowledge and experience to new students following in his footsteps, working alongside Brita as a tailor for Hirsch Tailoring, and assistant trainer for the Tailoring Academy.
He finds the transformation process of tailoring really rewarding.
“It comes in as a bolt of fabric and goes out as a finished garment,” he says. “It’s great to see something you have worked on bring joy to the customer – I love it when they say they want to go home wearing something you have created.
“Each commission is quite an adventure for both me and the customer. It’s a long process and as most of the work is done by hand, we are so close to the garment. One customer recently came back in for a repeat order and he was wearing a jacket we’d made for him, which felt really good to see. You feel attached to the garment even though it’s not yours.
“Having both parts to this role is something I wouldn’t be able to have in many places and I feel really grateful to be able to do that. Through the training, I love passing on something that I am passionate about.
“I came to the Tailoring Academy because I wanted to learn and the new students are here because they want to learn too. It’s not like maths where you have to learn it at school – no-one is making you do it, and it is great to interact with people who share your passion.”