A tailoring business is seeing growing demand from female clients as well as attracting more work from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) community.
Leeds-based Hemingway Tailors was founded by master tailor Toby Luper in 2006. He previously ran the clothing business Executex with his late brother John.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Luper said: “We’re quite unusual because we make suits for both men and women and there aren’t many men’s tailors that make ladieswear as well.
“Our ladieswear has grown tremendously over the last year. It’s grown by over 55 per cent.”
The master tailor also sees scope for further growth.
He said: “I see a lot of growth in the ladieswear market. With more women coming into senior positions, they want to dress accordingly and appropriately.
“They find it very difficult to find suits that are both feminine yet practical for what they do.”
Tailoring for same-sex marriages has been another area of growth for Hemingway in recent years.
Mr Luper said: “We actively promote the fact that we make suits for the LGBTQ market as well.
“They have no different requirements but we make a lot of suits for same sex marriages.”
Mr Luper launched Hemingway Tailors after his brother was murdered in 2004, which prompted him to sell off the Executex business.
He said: “I was selling the business, not because I wanted to sell the business but because of what had happened. I still think about my brother every day.
“It took me a long time to adjust to what I was going to do with my life and how I was going to do it. I thought that I only really know two things and that’s tailoring and property.”
Back then the property industry was in a bad shape so Mr Luper opted to go into tailoring as he was comfortable with the craft.
It took the businessman some time to grow Hemingway. All his contacts previously were in the wholesale or retail section of tailoring.
However, over the past decade or so, he has grown the business and today Mr Luper has over 1,500 clients from across the world.
Mr Luper said: “My greatest challenge was to find the customers that I needed to build the business to scale.
“When you’re a manufacturer you’re trying to find customers that can give you reasonable sized orders to make it worthwhile.
“For a tailor it’s trying to find people that appreciate and can afford what you do. Those types of people are normally business people at a certain level.
“Those business people at a certain level, you can’t just cold call them. I had to do it through my network of people. Find ways of getting the right types of clients.”
Mr Luper, 65, is now looking to add a tailor or two as he plans to ease the workload and retire at some point in the future.
He said: “I would like to find somebody or a combination of people to come and join me and work with me for a period of time. Gradually taking over the business.
“My business is very difficult to sell because it’s a very personal business. My clients become my friends. It’s a very social business. Unless I find the right type of person that gets on with my current clientele it’s not going to work.”
Hemingway currently has one member of staff in London and three based in Leeds.
The firm provides both made to measure and fully bespoke garments. It buys all its fabric either from the UK or Italy.
Mr Luper said: “The best cloths are made in the UK and they’re world renowned.
“Huddersfield is a huge centre for top fabrics.”
Waistcoats strike the right note
The success of the England football team at the recent World Cup in Russia has seen demand for three piece suits increase, Toby Luper said.
England manager Gareth Southgate was often seen sporting a waistcoat during the tournament.
Mr Luper said that people tend to dress more casually nowadays in the office. However, it still provides Hemingway with opportunities.
“It’s more acceptable to now wear a jacket and trousers for work as opposed to a suit,” Mr Luper said.
He added: “If they wear jacket and trousers it’s the same as making a suit because they’re made using the same basis.”