Discover the community space for LGBTQ+ tailors and their allies founded by Budd cutter, James Macauslan and tailor, Andrew Johnson. The group will be marching in Pride London this July, carrying both the Quailors banner and the LGBTQIA+ flag. Both have been exquisitely hand-sewn by the skilled members of the group, with cloths donated by industry partners.
Budd spent some time with James to learn more about the group.
When was Quailors founded and why?
We founded the group in 2020 and hosted our first event in 2021. It was supposed to be our first time marching at Pride, but due to the pandemic, Pride that year was cancelled. So, we ended up hosting Pride drinks instead.
What has surprised you most about the group initiative?
The support that we have received from everyone and the number of other LGBTQIA+ member that have been hiding away in the industry. Andrew and I half expected it to be just the two of us marching at Pride to begin with but were delighted to count two dozen of us instead.
Has the tailoring industry been behind the curve when it comes to acknowledging LGBTQ+ issues?
I believe that every generation has a fresh and updated outlook as we learn and progress as a society.
There was a period of about 20-30 years in the tailoring industry where people were not focusing on bringing young people into the trade. Realising that the tailors’ knowledge was not being passed down and that traditional skills could be lost, a big drive was made to bring fresh blood in.
This created a hard culture clash between one generation’s attitudes and ideals with the new young people who were several generations ahead. This led to a lot of young people uncomfortable and leaving the industry, seeing other routes to follow their passion. Consequently, the learning curve of acknowledging things like LGBTQIA+ issues took a lot longer than it would have if there had been a consistent influx of new generations.
What were your struggles before?
This is a hard one for me to put into words but is something that most LGBTQIA+ people will understand. You just feel “other” and without people around you that truly understand you it is hard to feel yourself in a place you spend a large part of your life.
The struggle was made a lot more real for my co-founder Andrew Johnson. After finally overcoming the long challenge to get his foot in the door, the tailor he was apprenticed to made it very clear that he "did not teach poofy here." Andrew instantly felt that to make it in the industry he felt so passionately about he had to go back into the closet and not let anyone know about his sexuality, closing himself off from properly socialising in the trade and limiting his opportunities to progress. This has been the main driving force for Quailors. We do not want anyone of any minority to feel they do not have a place here.
Your own story and background in the industry?
I started my career at Newham collage after a disheartening experience at fashion collage. This then led to a year’s internship at Huntsman on Savile Row that in turn let to an apprenticeship and role at Budd Shirtmakers. where I have spent over 10 years learning and practicing my craft.
Do you think members of the tailoring community still struggle with their identity when it comes to the trade?
I think every generation comes with its own development of identity and it always has. New progressions are always a struggle for the previous generation to come to terms with. These struggles get easier with exposure and education. As long as there is always a constant flow of young and diverse people coming into the industry there will always be something new, with people between generations helping those that do not understand it quite so well to learn. Making the struggle less and the progress more.
I believe there will be people out there struggling, but hopefully they can see that Quailors is a safe space for them to relax and be themselves until they are ready to do so in their place of work.
We’ve loved the recent series of Quailors videos that you and the team have produced. Can you elaborate on them?
We wanted to celebrate the achievements of our members, to extend the group’s voice and perspective beyond Andrew and myself. We are made up of a rich variety of very talented people in a great many areas of this trade, extending far beyond Savile Row. The interviews give members their own voice and is the best way to show the true side of this industry and celebrate the real pride we all have in ourselves and our trade. (View them via @quailors on Instagram)
What change needs to come about in the trade?
The trade has been super supportive of us. Companies we did not expect have reached out to support us. This is great sign that the trade is prepared to show its progressive side. There are still some milestones that I think we are a step away from, such as opening the trade to the trans community. Hors Sujet is a great charity devoted to trying to get trans apprentices into the industry but has yet to get one into Savile Row. I personally hope for a day when we see the first trans Head Cutter.
Ours may be a community that makes predominantly for men, but the trade has come on leaps and bounds in making for women, thanks to pioneers like Su Thomas, Kathryn Sargent, Nina Penlington, Caroline Andrews and Daisy Knatchbull. I cannot wait for Savile Row to be able to put away the idea of gender and make for the body shape rather than the identity.
Biggest highlights and milestones to date?
With every event we host and every Pride we work towards we get bigger and get more support. Each and every step we take feels like a milestone and fills me with so much pride.
Has anything surprised you?
Everything has surprised me. I don't think I would be so driven to carry this on and take this further if it didn't. It's become a real passion that fills me with so much pride and strengthens my love and dedication to the industry.
What are the highlights of this year’s Quailors’ Pride activity?
Last year we made history by bringing the centuries’ old trade to Pride for the first time and this year we will make history again by bringing Pride to the industry. We will be hosting a Pride celebration at The Deck on Savile Row (a street which is very much is the beating heart of tailoring) on Friday 30th of June from 5.30pm to 9pm. We will then march at London Pride the following day showing the industry’s true colours. We will conclude events with a post Pride celebration at The Windmill on Mill Street where they will be hosting us with a party in what we hope will be a great celebration of the diversity that the trade has to offer.
What other activities are there throughout the year?
We are still so young as a group and are very much finding our feet.
We plan on hosting regular socials about four times a year as well as Pride itself. How these events will look is yet to be seen. It is best to keep an eye on the Quailors Instagram to find out when and where.
How far does Quailors extend?
We have members from all over. Savile Row is our obvious focus point, but we have members in Jermyn Street, The Royal Opera House, fashion brands such and Alexander McQueen and film and period costumiers. I myself am based just a short way from the Row in the Piccadilly Arcade, however, Budd itself feels very much a part of the industry I so love. The group is certainly not exclusive to Savile Row and tailoring. We would love to extend our reach to all sorts of garment craft, knitwear, weaving, shoemaking etc.
How can people get involved?
Follow our Instagram and reach out to us there. We have a WhatsApp group which is a great way of staying in the loop on events and socials. Alternatively, pop by and introduce yourself.
Is everyone free to come and march with you?
We have 80 wristbands and still have some available spaces. Ideally these will be filled from people within the trade, but we do not mind how people identity as we are fully aware of how much allyship is important in creating a fully diverse fully equal world.
All photography by Luke Alland