The old loft space was light, airy and perfectly compact. Somewhere Brita could craft beautiful suited garments with a lovely view of the Macclesfield hills. The new space is still light and it's still airy but this loft is anything but compact. It commands the top floor of an old Macclesfield mill and is no longer just occupied by Brita.
Back in 2016 we met Brita for the first time, we had been told about a female German tailor living in Macclesfield that used to make suits for Pavarotti, so we were straight over to find out more. Since we last met her, Brita has been incredibly busy. She has developed and produced her own British Merino wool after fully funding a kickstarter and eventually smashing her target by 500%. Watch the video here. She has set up a tailoring academy that in its first year received the Textile Society‘s 2018 Professional Development Award in recognition of delivering the highest level of tailoring training outside of Savile Row. She has taken on and is training up an apprentice and all the while continued to make bespoke suits for many lucky customers.
Brita welcomes us in to the academy, the vaulted ceiling opens the room up and and allows light to flood the space, the noise of the sewing machines a softly tick tack away in the background and a number of students are spread out on various desks. The space is laid out very open plan, each table is equipped with wheels so it can be easily reconfigured at any time. There are a number of mannequins dotted around with suits, jackets and coats draped over, all at varying stages. Each student is engrossed in their own work and surrounded by fabric books, pattern paper, tools and inspiration.
We sit down at a table next to the kitchen and with a view of the whole floor start to discuss the academy. Brita says “There is definitely a craft renaissance underway, people are rejecting the relentless consumerism and people up and down the country want to make things by hand again.” The numbers seem to agree with Brita as she is currently at capacity for this first intake of students. She goes on to say, “The Level 5 Diploma delivers the all important practical skills and is approved by the UK Fashion and Textiles Association (UKFT) as high quality and industry relevant. Students are now grant funded by CapitB Trust making it even more accessible.”
As well as being outside of London which is unique in itself, the Academy also delivers both the cutting and tailoring pathways of the Level 5 programme. Brita says, “Traditionally in Britain, apprentices receive training in either cutting or tailoring but not both. I totally disagree with this approach and decided early on that I would deliver both pathways to all trainees, and we are now the only training centre in the country to offer both. This training across both areas enables graduates to leave as fully rounded specialists.”
It’s brilliant to find someone with such natural talent and be able to guide him and pass on my skills is really exciting. He is really flourishing and impresses me everyday.
Quentin is currently working on a number of bespoke commissions. One which is a classic sports jacket that he is producing under the watchful eye of Brita for myself. It is cut from Brita’s own fabric, The Great Northern Cloth. It is woven from the only Merino wool grown in the UK and looks like a tweed, but has a super soft hand and, weighing in at just under 12oz, it is a medium weight, which works all year round in our weather.
As we leave it’s brilliant to see the meteoric rise that Brita has made from the attic room in her house to this unique space where she can share skills passed down through generations. It’s also brilliant to witness her thriving in a male dominated world, gaining awards and wrestling the attention away form the elitist London Savile Row houses.
You can find out more about The Tailoring Academy here
And read Brita’s original story here
And see the film for the Northern Cloth here