The long road to Savile Row

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A one year Certificate Programme in Ultra Bespoke Tailoring, Pattern Drafting, Cutting and Fitting by the Savile Row Academy will be launched today in Port of Spain.

The Trinidad and Tobago Fashion Company Limited (FashionTT) alongside its parent company, the Trinidad and Tobago Creative Industries Company Limited (CreativeTT), has partnered with the MIC Institute of Technology and Savile Row Academy, to host a one-year Certificate Programme commencing March 2018. The programme will be facilitated by Professor Andrew Ramroop OBE, Founder of the Savile Row Academy, Master Tailor and Director of Maurice Sedwell, bespoke tailors of Savile Row.

This is the story of Andrew Ramroop.

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MAURICE Sedwell is a famous shop on a famous street in London that you can visit only by appointment.

The street – Savile Row – is where literary legends such as Jules Verne gave birth to his heroes, where British explorers strategized their travel and adventure at the Royal Geographical Society, and where the Beatles built a studio and recorded “Let it Be”.

It also came to be known as the “Golden Mile of Tailoring”, and it seemed to have guided Andrew Ramroop’s transatlantic journey from a gravel road in Tunapuna, Trinidad to this cobblestone thoroughfare.   

Back in 1970, dressed in a suit that he crafted and stitched himself, Ramroop walked along that street, where the cool weather reflected on the greyed out windows and the reception he would get from almost all the tenants.

The then 17 year old knocked on doors, perhaps more than two dozen times, asking with his hand-tailored suit that he wore, and one that he carried, if there was employment for him.

Whether it was his distinctive black curly hair, over-tanned Caribbean skin and strange accent, or that he had no schooling or experience on the art of bespoke tailoring, he was repeatedly turned away.

But at Huntsman and Sons, a company that possessed an established reputation for sartorial elegance, Ramroop’s broad smile and ambition gave him a chance and a seat behind a sewing machine to realise his dream.

High profile tailor Andrew Ramroop flashes his trademark broad smile.

He later enrolled in the London College of Fashion, where he completed his accreditation in two years.   

Maurice Sedwell, one of some 30 tailoring houses at Savile Row, hired him out of college. And by, 1988 Ramroop was sold the company by Sedwell and kept his name in Sedwell’s honour.

 The journey 

“Even at 17, I never thought that Trinidad was enough for me, with the limited resources at the time and the limited number of garments. I likened myself to a young athlete who dreamed of breaking records and creating history. I had aspired to be a master tailor, not just someone cutting from patters and making garments”, said Ramroop in a telephone interview with the Express, from his house in England.

A grey check Delta line suit sits among Andrew Ramroop’s creations.

Still, to him, his “home” is in a humble wooden structure in Tunapuna which he shared with his four brothers and a sister, and where his parents worked their fingers to the bone to provide food and clothing.

Ramroop considers his father as ”entrepreneurial”  as the elder sought to earn money from anything, coal mining to driving, to construction.

But the money was enough for only basic clothing, not the luxurious garments that he stitched in his mind.

At age nine, Ramroop took a pillow case of his mother’s and with her scissors, needle and thread he embarked on his lifelong adventure into tailoring with his first pair of trousers.

“We didn’t have much clothes; we used to run around ‘naked back’. I guess I just wanted at the time to make something for myself to wear”, he said.

Andrew Ramroop, second from right, is captured in a family photo with his mother (seated) and his siblings.

At 13, even though he had gotten into Hillview College in Tunapuna, he resisted his parents’ wishes of furthering his academic education.

“They reluctantly allowed me to go into tailoring and I was hired at Kissoonsingh’s Tailoring at Frederick Street in Port of Spain. There I learned to make jackets. For me, tailoring was like a child learning a new language – I learned quickly and eagerly”, said Ramroop.

On July 29, 1970 he boarded the Northern Star ship and undertook a ten-day journey to South Hampton, England, focused on a mission to succeed in my endeavours to be trained and work on Savile Row.

Trinidad-born British tailor Andrew Ramroop shakes the hand of former British prime minister David Cameron during a meeting of the top 100 black business leaders at 10 Downing Street, London, England.

Source: Trinidad Express http://www.trinidadexpress.com/20171114/features/the-long-road-to-savile-row

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