To call Caroline Andrew a trailblazer is not a hyperbole. Since graduating from the London College of Fashion, the bespoke tailor has made her mark on the heavily traditional and male-dominated industry in more ways than one. From being the first woman to take over a workshop on 11 Saint George Street in Mayfair—just off the legendary Savile Row—to being awarded “Bright Young Thing” by The Mayfair Times in 2020, Andrew is ready to transform the art of suit-making on her own terms.
With a focus on creating hand-crafted British suits for both men and women that merge classic techniques with minimalist design, Andrew has become one of the most sought-after tailors in the city. She’s spent the last decade training with and working alongside the neighbourhood’s master craftspeople, carefully honing and refining her skills to reach the top of the trade. As part of the small but growing group of women establishing a name for themselves in the profession, it hasn’t always been an easy journey. With relentless grit, big ambition and a deep passion for the craft, Andrew is working on paving the path for the next generation of tailors.
Caroline: Savile Row is a very traditional industry and traditional industries are male-dominated because women didn't really work a hundred years ago. It was very much an old boy's club. A lot of their clientele is very traditional. That's something that I wasn't really aware of because no one really tells you. After I finished university at the London College of Fashion, I started knocking on doors. There are women working in the tailoring industry but a lot of them are coat-makers and doing more of the sewing in the basements. I wanted to do cutting. I wanted to be client-facing. When I started, I couldn't get a paid job because of my gender and that was spelt out quite clearly to me. Still, those houses that I'd done apprenticeships with, don’t have women in the positions that I wanted. But I've managed to carve a really successful pathway for myself.Elle: You're in an industry that's all about craftsmanship and it's something that I really, really value. Do you feel that in an age where everything is fast, you have to educate your clients more about quality and craftsmanship? Or do you feel that the people that come to you to make a custom suit already believe in that?
Caroline: It totally depends. Most of my clients don't know that much about tailoring—it's quite intimidating. They don't choose to wear suits. They have to because they're lawyers or bankers, or they're going to a funeral or getting married. It's quite a daunting process. In the UK, I'm on Savile Row, and it's a very traditional, stuffy industry. When you come into the shop, it's like stepping into a time warp. There's pictures of Winston Churchill. It has this kind of this foosty, old English building smell because the shop's a hundred-years-old and not much has changed—but in a lovely kind of old bookshop kind of way.
Before clients come in, I always have a chat with them on the phone to break the ice and make sure I know a bit about them. It's such a bespoke process and everybody needs different levels of attention. They'll talk about their lifestyle. I'll choose colours and fabrics that are going to work for them. Then I measure them. It's such an intimate process. You really talk nitty-gritty about everything. Then I cut the patterns and the fabric out. I have coat makers and trouser makers who make the products. Sometimes people like to meet them and that's really nice. Everything's really local. There's such a community in the tailoring industry in London. If I'm stuck or if I need help with anything, I can always ask someone for help. It's good to keep people sweet and be pleasant. Pay your bills and be nice to work with because you never know who you might need to ask for help.Elle: What's been the most expensive lesson you've learned?
Caroline: When I was starting up, I was really desperate to get some PR and get into magazines. I thought that was the solution, that it would bring me business. I spent 750 pounds a month for three months on Tatler magazine, for a tiny little advert in the back of the magazine that did nothing for me. A couple of months ago, Tatler called me and they wanted to borrow a suit for a huge photoshoot, for the cover star. I gave it to them and it was in the magazine—that was amazing. That was free. I'm Scottish so I'm quite thrifty. I'm very careful with the business's money. The less money you can spend, the better, always, in every area of your business. That was a huge regret that I only learnt a couple of years later when I got something for free.
Caroline: On a good week, when I'm highly motivated, I would say boxing. Getting up and doing a 7 a.m. boxing class, it really sets me off for the day. I find that I'm so much more productive. I’ve tried juicing and meditation, and I know all these things would really set me off but that's totally not me. [My routine is more of a] five minutes extra lie-in and then jump out of bed doing a million things, running around, headless chicken until 10 p.m. It's all chaotic but boxing helps me.Elle: If you were to swap places and interview anyone in the world for Zvelle In Conversation, who would it be and why?
Caroline: I think it would be the Queen. She must have so much to say. I imagine she's a woman of few words but just the knowledge that she has...I'm sure in just five minutes with her, you'd just learn a lot. She's got grit and determination. She's a huge role model for all of us. Think of all the things that she went through. She really has changed the country.Elle: What does Walk How You Want mean to you?
Caroline: Walk How You Want to me means to carve your own path in life and create your own world. We should encourage everybody to carve their own paths and create their own worlds. Nothing is straightforward. There's often no paths created for us. You have to walk how you want and make your own way.
Zvelle shoes: Amelia Pump Black and Purple Potion and Mei Boots Black.