Senior pattern cutter, Warehouse
What does your job involve?
Working closely with [womenswear chain] Warehouse’s designers, creating patterns for their designs or advising on specification measurements and construction techniques. I make all the blocks that go to our suppliers who do the greater number of our patterns, and then I do the new trends and styles requiring draping or more complex cuts. I make the draft by hand and then transfer it to [pattern-cutting software system] Lectra Modaris to complete the pattern. This enables me to email patterns wherever needed. Factories appreciate digital patterns as they all now work on computers. I’m also a visiting tutor at Ravensbourne College teaching degree-level pattern making.
The challenging ideas that all the wonderful young talent we have in this country presents me with is inspiring and keeps me on my toes.
What skills do you need?
Technical accuracy (which comes with practice) combined with a creative sensibility and critical eye. Pattern cutting is designing because it is where the proportions and shape of a garment are defined. It is also engineering – you need to be able to visualise the finished garment. So, besides the specifics of the craft, which include drawing ability and some maths, you need a disciplined methodology and attention to detail.
What do you like and dislike about your job?
It’s like making a sculpture for the body. It’s so rewarding to see someone walking down the street wearing one of our garments. The fact that someone has chosen and paid hard-earned money for something I’ve had a hand in creating is the best feeling.
How did you get to where you are today?
I began as a designer and pattern cutter in the 1970s. I was lucky to work within teams of pattern cutters and graders who were generous with their advice and knowledge and I learnt directly from them. I’ve worked for companies making uniforms, wedding dresses, designer and high street fashion as well as bespoke outfits for every size and shape. Each has demanded a different approach. I keep up to date by attending lectures, seminars and exhibitions.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Working with John Rocha on Virgin Atlantic pilot and cabin crew uniforms is definitely up there.
What is your ambition?
To write a technical book that catalogues what I’ve learnt over the years.
How do you intend to get there?
I need to clear some space in my busy life and knuckle down.
What three words sum you up?
Mercurial, exacting and optimistic.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Rummage in charity shops for interesting garments and unpick them to see how they were made, then take patterns from them to understand the shape. Take the lining out of a tuxedo and it will reveal all the hidden secrets of how to make a really good jacket. Try some origami. Work on your skills and become the best at what you do.
2011 Visiting tutor, Ravensbourne College
2002 Senior pattern cutter, Warehouse
1999 Technical manager, Wensum Clothing
1997 Technical manager, Whistles
1994 Pattern cutter, Pallant
1991 Visiting lecturer, London College of Fashion
1981 Technician, Kingston School of Fashion
1975 Designer/cutter, French Connection, Australia
1973 Diploma, fashion design, Medway College of Art