We were always on the lookout for good tailors. I found that the best were Greek - they insisted on top wages but were worth every penny. At one time, in desperation, we actually attempted to bring two over from Greece. They wanted to come, I was happy to pay their fares and employ them, but the 'powers that be' wanted to be sure that they were not taking Englishmen's jobs.
"There are no English tailors" I screamed, but in their great wisdom they insisted on canvassing the opinion of a third party. The third party? - the Clothing Union! Some days later an official arrived from the union.
"I will be happy to employ English tailors" I offered brightly - "send them along"!
Telling me what I already knew, he replied that there were none (this was proving easy!).
"So you have no objection to my bringing tailors over from Greece"? "None whatsoever" was his reply… "but we will expect your work rooms to employ only union employees".
Stalemate had been reached - all my staff already earned double the union rates! None of us wanted union involvement so the search continued…
Soon after this, Gerald came onto the scene. Here, at last, was a trained English tailor. He brought with him an impressive array of diplomas and joined us on a two-week trial basis. For the first week he helped out the tailors I already had, who reported back to me that he was absolutely useless! Possibly there was some colour prejudice (Gerald was from Africa), but I was still impressed by those diplomas, so I gave him another chance and set him up in a small room to see what he could really do. I gave him an order from a customer who wanted a simple jacket. This would have taken my other tailors, possibly, a day to make . . .
What I hadn't taken into account is that, at a college, one is never taught about viability and, more importantly, the essential ingredient of speed. If a student takes a term to make a jacket, that's fine, but in the real world that's twelve weeks! A West End tailor needed to earn at least £500 per week. Multiply that by twelve and it's easy to see that Gerald just didn't fit the bill. The customer returned some ten days later and the jacket wasn't even cut! Gerald was sent on his way, upset and of the opinion that he'd been badly treated. One thing he had learned at college though, was the power of the factory inspector…. a simple phone call and revenge was his!
A week later I spotted a tall, slim man, (no doubt feeling quite uncomfortable), standing in the doorway. His navy suit and briefcase told us that he was from either the Inland Revenue or Customs and Excise. Wrong - he was the 'factory inspector'! I was proud of my work rooms - every tailor had the latest 'Brother Flat' machine and I had dear old 'Eva' cleaning up the mess that they always made. I even had 'Ajax' cleaning the yard and toilets on a daily basis. 'Eva' and 'Ajax' were, I guess, street beggars who were happy to have the employment.