Women of Brummell: cut from the same cloth

Despite its reputation for traditional men’s tailoring, Savile Row is no longer a man’s world. Brummell spoke with Molly Anderson of tailor Richard Anderson to discuss how things are changing

People 4 Mar 2024

Women of Brummell: cut from the same cloth

Can you tell us about your background and how you got into the tailoring business? 

Both of my parents are very creative; Mum is an artist and Dad is a tailor – they’re both from very different industries, but equally as inspiring. I knew I always wanted to be doing something creative, it’s in my blood. I had always been interested [in tailoring], so when the opportunity came up for me to join the business, I had to give it a shot. From there, my love for tailoring – more specifically, interest for developing women’s tailoring – grew the more I learned.

I started my career on Savile Row working with the front of house (FOH) team at Richard Anderson, pre-pandemic. I used my time front of house to hone-in on the Richard Anderson customer, their style, shopping habits and what they like when it comes to bespoke, under the tutelage of Brian Lishak. In addition to learning how to correctly fit and measure clients, I would strike and cut each suit in the house style from Richard’s patterns. This would go on to prepare me for my job role today.

You joined the company in 2019. What milestones have you achieved in this time?

Having started in the FOH team, I was able to observe so much from [brand co-founder] Brian Lishak, from sales technique and cloth knowledge to fitting etiquette, and when the opportunity arose to take on more responsibility and get my hands into the tailoring side of the business, and to learn how to cut, it was an opportunity I couldn’t resist. My father and I worked together through the pandemic and much of my cutting training was carried out at home on an old table in the garage before we were able to reopen again. From here, I have been learning pattern work with Richard, and helped design several new women’s bespoke pieces. Bespoke womenswear is a service Richard Anderson has provided expertly since opening in 2001, and when I joined, we saw an opportunity to bring a new perspective to the line, to evolve and grow the women’s bespoke offering while staying true to the house style that Richard developed.

From building close relationships with existing clients, I have been entrusted to lead the wider leg of the Richard Anderson trunk shows in the US and Japan, to crucially fit customers for their bespoke orders and showcase our latest pieces. Representing the brand on my own, on the other side of the world, was daunting at first, but after a successful first trip last year with many orders made, I could not wait to do it all again.

Savile Row tailors are known for being the best. What has given you the motivation to hone your skills to achieve this level of perfection?

I still have many years of training ahead before I reach my father’s level of expertise, but learning something new every day and realising your skills are slowly improving is so gratifying. Seeing how Richard works and his devotion to the brand, learning the skills required of a tailor as a basis, directly from him, motivates me to push myself day to day. On average, a bespoke suit takes 80 hours to perfect. Taking that journey with the client from the very first fitting, talking through their fabric options, the lining, pocket details and overall needs, and designing a piece for them that is totally unique, and seeing the finished result is so rewarding, especially after so many hours have been put into the garment’s creation.

The new Anni check tweeds
The new Anni check tweeds

What is a typical day like for you?

You never know what each day will bring on Savile Row. I will be at the shop as early as possible so Richard and I can go through the diary for the day before the madness starts. We make sure fittings and appointments are ready, tailors have work allocated, and despatches are ready to go before 9am. The day will inevitably throw us some curveballs, so we start militantly. The morning will consist of striking and cutting new bespoke orders, before trimming each job and putting them in hand. Richard will bring me into bespoke fittings that day so I can observe and make notes, and I will look after any made-to-measure and new ready-to-wear customers under his supervision. It is a lot of learning on the job, there is so little time during the day for formal lessons that you must observe fittings and listen to everything that is going on in the shop. All in good fun!

Tell us more about your Women’s Bespoke collection and the new Anni check tweeds.

The newest suit to be added to the collection of Women’s Bespoke is a three-piece set in the purple Anni check tweed, an exclusive cloth to Richard Anderson designed by Brian Lishak. Fun and unapologetic, the suit is my new favourite. Fuelled by the boldness of the purple check pattern, each piece is designed to be worn as separates if the full look is a little daunting, and the cloth weighs only about 11oz so is incredibly versatile.

The coat is cut with the classic RA high armhole and fitted side-body for a truly tailored garment, and features a larger notch lapel cut more to a man’s proportions than our previous designs to both show off the check and nod to Richard’s house men’s lapel style. Crescent pockets on the jacket feature as a point of difference, giving intrigue and a flattering shape. The single-breasted waistcoat is designed with a smart lapel and can be worn as a single piece with jeans or smart trousers, as well as with the suit for the woman who likes to change up her look. For the trouser, a plain front, high thick waist band, wide leg and turned up bottoms create a satisfying swing with movement for a comfortable but flattering silhouette.

The new Anni check tweeds are an ode to our previous exclusive cloths, the unusual hues in purples, pinks and yellows were created with a diamond weave and bold window-pane effect, with the intention for these to be suitable for menswear and womenswear alike. They were brought to life by one of our partner wool mills in Scotland and come in a vibrant yellow, rich cranberry, charcoal grey and, of course, the mauve.

What inspires you? 

Not only do I find my father and his work ethic incredibly inspiring, but so many of my brilliant colleagues and good friends in the industry are hugely inspirational. I have the privilege of working with established tailors and fantastic young talent, each who approach tailoring with grace, compassion, creativity; their love for the craft is so infectious and I hope to one day be as skilled as those I admire. I am also incredibly lucky to work in a shop that loves to be bold, is not afraid of colour and patterns, has a house style but is not afraid to push the rules and boundaries. I think my father has been a bit of a tailoring maverick in his career, and I hope to join him in that legacy in future designs.

Do you have any advice for embracing the risk of failure – and overcoming it when it does happen?

Starting from scratch in the business and being thrown in at the deep end was daunting but also an exciting prospect to take on such a new challenge. Along the way I can hold my hands up to say, did I get everything perfect straight away? Absolutely not, and I will continue to make mistakes while I learn, but to overcome those failures it is imperative to work through that discomfort and disappointment and keep working at it, honing the skill or skills you need to overcome the obstacles in your way. There is no point in giving up or blaming anyone else. The best advice I was given was to accept when you have failed, ask questions on how to improve and try not to take it too much to heart – something I still deal with every day. This is a very technical business, and we are only human.

The new Anni check tweeds
The new Anni check tweeds

Savile Row has historically been quite male dominated, often exclusively offering tailored clothing for men. How have you found working in the industry – have you faced any challenges along the way? 

Of course. I have an incredibly privileged position working for a company with literal family, and am therefore treated with profound respect and equality. However, I know this is not always the case and I have been shielded from many of the challenging experiences women face daily in the industry. You must work twice as hard as a woman on Savile Row to be seen as good enough because we are so outweighed, and many of the teaching methods are historically “old-school” and not fit at all for today’s climate. However, I do think it is going in an incredibly positive direction, if slowly. I know so many powerful women who have started their own businesses (Kathryn Sargent at Kathryn Sargent, Antonia Ede at Montague Ede, Deema Abi-Chahine at Deema-Abi-Chahine etc) and/or are head cutters in their own right (Nina Penlington at Edward Sexton etc.), and though once in a while a customer may not take you as seriously as the male salesman, or they assume you’re a secretary on the phone, you face each day with the support of the women around you and fabulous colleagues who appreciate your work such as I have at Richard Anderson.

You are on the board of Women in Tailoring, an organisation that champions women in the industry and fosters professional relationships. Why do you believe more women should get into this industry? 

We have come such a long way. The Row was once outwardly perceived as a gentlemen’s club, the breaking down of that barrier wouldn’t have been possible without the talented women working in the tailoring houses and those on the board with me (Lindsay Taylor, Su Thomas, Kathryn Sargent, Anda Rowland and Antonia Ede, etc), who since before my time have built a better understanding of women’s tailoring needs.

Working within a community of talented women is inspiring – seeing what we can achieve. Women in Tailoring enhances the community that we have built, with socials held every few months hosted on the Row. They are a chance for women to come together from across all aspects of the tailoring industry, with speakers to share experiences, discuss issues that are important and exclusive to us, and to also have fun and get to know one another. Women are no longer kept behind the scenes or encouraged to compete with one another.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Unfortunately, tailoring is very much based on the pursuit of perfection rather than perfection itself, so hiccups are inevitable. My best piece of advice is to not beat yourself up when problems arise. Rome was not built in a day.

What advice would you give to other women in male-dominated industries?

Work hard and be loud, make an impression and be unapologetic in your talent. It’s how change starts.

What’s next for Molly Anderson? 

Who knows! I hope to continue my apprenticeship with Richard Anderson and grow our selection of womenswear designs while travelling the world. You never know what the day will bring, so I will continue to take each day as it comes and enjoy the whirlwind that is Savile Row.