Amongst the high streets and modern centres of Leeds shopping, there remain traditional trades which have a long history here. For over a century, the skill of tailoring has excelled in the city, and whilst trends have seen the once thriving industry diminish, there are talented tailors who are showing why sartorial style still has a place in modern Leeds and beyond.
Nestled in a suitably elegant spot at the County Arcade is a notable tailoring business who have a history of their own which has developed into a handsome success. Carl Stuart Tailors’ origins began in 1929 as an Ossett-based tailoring business under a different name. In 1963, Walter Grimes, one of the most influential and talented tailors in Yorkshire – and perhaps the whole of the UK – took over the company. Never one to pursue the limelight, Walter took the unusual decision of naming the company after one of his closest friends, Carl Stuart – and that is how Carl Stuart Tailors was born.
Perhaps surprisingly, it is their insistence on retaining the original ethos and process of locality and quality that has allowed Carl Stuart to stand out and succeed today. Emily White explains; “We are one of the few remaining tailoring businesses in the UK that does not outsource any part of the process outside of the UK. In fact, everything is done in West Yorkshire. All construction and alterations are performed in our factory and shops in Leeds and Ossett.”
The process begins in Leeds, where an in-depth consultation covers everything from styling details to fabric selection. As Emily continues; “The intent is to make each piece unique to the customer and ensure the finished garment matches their vision. They want to look and feel good. We want the same.”
The customer is then measured to create a garment that will mould to their unique shape and size. Throughout the chain, traditional methods and personal skills are vital; “Our Made to Measure Specialist consults with our Pattern Cutters, Sewing Machinists and Garment Pressers. All of our cutting is done by hand to ensure accuracy and each piece of the garment is quality checked thoroughly” says Emily.
Whilst suits can be made ‘Straight to Finish’, taking the time of a ’First Basting’ ensures immaculate quality and impeccable fit. This means the garment is partially made, fitted, and then perfected with final alterations. The back and forth between the specialists in the Leeds shop and the tailoring experts in the Ossett factory creates a handmade, bespoke garment in the same skilled way as it would have been done decades ago.
As well as retaining a traditional process, Carl Stuart have embraced their local heritage to stay in their Yorkshire home; “Yorkshire is at the heart of everything we do” Emily enthuses. “We are extremely proud of our Yorkshire roots and endeavour to demonstrate this – from the cloth options that we carry, which given the water used in finishing the cloth gives them a distinctive handle from any other in the world, to offering some of Yorkshire’s finest beverages and refreshments in our shops.”
Conversely, this local approach has attracted clients from all over the globe. And their ongoing tailoring craft has built the brand a reputation for quality and excellence which has been repaid in loyalty. “Many of our customers have remained loyal to us throughout, and some team members have been with the company since its inception” Emily confirms.
Carl Stuart Tailors has evolved from a traditional tailoring shop for men to offering contemporary cuts and style options for both men and ladies. Emily explains that they have also moved with the times positively to be more environmentally conscious to produce their garments in the most responsible way possible. “Almost all of our raw materials are from local suppliers in a bid to minimise our carbon footprint and we use only the most eco-friendly components such as horn buttons instead of plastic and cotton or silk thread instead of polyester.”
Whilst they have modernised in sustainability, style and choice, it is comforting to know that Carl Stuart Tailors have no intention of changing the traditional Yorkshire tailoring that for 60 years has made them the perfect fit.