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The long road to Savile Row

Trinidad Express / A one year Certificate Programme in Ultra Bespoke Tailoring, Pattern Drafting, Cutting and Fitting by the Savile Row Academy will be launched on Wednesday 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.

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. “Before this journey the furthest I had travelled was from Tunapuna to Fyzabad. I had not even gone to Tobago and here I am, 5,000 miles away”, Ramroop said were his thoughts at the time.

“My primary purpose (in England) was to learn as much as possible and then to return home as a qualified tailor and start my own business in Port of Spain. The notion of staying 46 years did not enter my mind”.

“I am who I am because of my mother. My mother has been the most ardent supporter of my career. Her daily prayers, playing Jimmy Cliff music and always encouraging me was the pillar that supported me through the most challenging times”, he said.

Ramroop’s aspirations have materialised beyond his expectations, and he has dressed some of the most powerful people in the world in suits that where befitting of their character, lifestyle and personality.

Master tailor Andrew Ramroop, left, chats with fellow Trinidadian and master batsman Brian Lara, who is one of his clients. His expertise is arguably unmatched, but his awards and rewards speak volumes.

He was the recipient of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) from Queen Elizabeth II, the Chaconia Medal of Trinidad and Tobago, and was bestowed the honour of being the only tailor in history to be conferred ‘Professor for Distinction in the Field of Tailoring’ by the University of the Arts London. He founded the Savile Row Academy with Sedwell, offering “training to elite tailors of the future” according to its website.

His clientele, since he was a young tailor in the 80’s, attracted the likes of English Cabinet ministers, politicians and diplomats.

He has since had clients in 60 countries, such as sportsmen Brian Lara, Robin Van Persie and Mark Ramprakash, Hollywood entertainers Samuel Jackson, Tony Curtis, Ava Gardener and Kelly Rowland, former British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the late Prime Minister Patrick Manning.

Bespoke, as explained by Wikipedia  is derived from the verb “bespeak”, meaning to speak for something, in the specialised meaning “to give order for it to be made”. And the term bespoke in fashion is reserved for individually patterned and crafted men’s clothing, in contrast with mass-manufactured ready-to-wear items.

Ramroop has upped the ante on his garments and coined the term “Ultra Bespoke”.

A dapper-looking Samuel L. Jackson sports one of Andrew Ramroop’s creation. He said :“As a result of the common use of the word Bespoke I have adopted ‘Ultra Bespoke’ to distinguish my company’s service to our customers. Ultra Bespoke is individually designed, hand cut and hand tailored to the highest standard attainable. The Ultra Bespoke suit is cut and fitted in harmony with body shapes for style, elegance and comfort”.

“I see myself as a person who has fought against the odds in what sometimes had been a very challenging atmosphere. My weapon has been my strict upbringing, discipline and perseverance in the face of adversities. If I were to leave a legacy it would be as an educator, trainer, sharer of my skills and experience to enable others to achieve excellence in the field of sartorial art and craft”, he said.

One of Andrew Ramroop’s exquisitely made hand-tailored suit that has earned him international recognition.  

 

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