Words: Jemima Wilson
Tailoring has moved beyond the confines of the boardroom, and, while men have long been able to invest in quality and individually crafted garments made to last, now women have the opportunity, with a couturier who creates truly bespoke pieces.
Pip Howeson started her business as a bespoke tailor with a largely female clientele in 2012. She found that although women can go to Savile Row for a variation of a tailor’s house style, there are very few tailors making utterly bespoke coats or jackets especially for the female figure. ‘Many women have dressmakers, but it’s not the same as having a beautiful tailored jacket,’ Howeson says.
Howeson enjoys making garments for both men and women: notable clients include Stephen Fry and Hugh Bonneville, and she’s currently creating a jacket for a man who has one arm bigger than the other. However, her bespoke service aims to address the lack of high-quality, feminine tailoring available for women who want a garment that will last a lifetime. ‘Women wear coats for around four years on average, whereas men often inherit them,’ she explains. ‘Why can’t we have the same principles for women as we do for men?’
The daughter of a naval officer, Howeson grew up obsessed with uniforms: the way they were cut and how people could make them look their own. A keen horse rider, she attended agricultural college but it didn’t work out, so she entered the world of fashion. Her love of vintage riding habits inspired her to introduce the hacking jacket to Jack Wills in the company’s early stages, when she worked there with a team of around six people. ‘It was lots of fun,’ she recalls. ‘I loved the passion, and creating a lifestyle that made people happy.’
She moved on to work with Aubin & Wills, then with Selina Blow, an experience Howeson describes as ‘crazy, but amazing, as all her fabrics were sourced in England’. After that she worked with wedding dress designer David Fielden, but the style was too ‘floaty’ for Howeson, who likes the mathematical and structural elements required to construct a tailored garment.
After Howeson had a couple of commissions to make smoking jackets, her husband encouraged her to establish a bespoke tailoring business, and, through word of mouth, the requests were soon flooding in. She decided to pitch her business idea to a room of investors, and, while initially all five were keen, she entrusted Dragons’ Den’s Doug Richard and ex-advertising mogul Chris Ingram to give her the necessary funding.
Taking inspiration from designers such as Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta and Brunello Cucinelli, Howeson has a classic approach to design: without inflicting her vision on her clients, she knows intuitively what works for different body shapes. A signature feature that characterises her jackets are two seams that sit in the back, which draw the eye inwards to flatter any figure. A proud advocate of traditional British craftsmanship, Howeson handcrafts all her garments in England using only the finest British fabrics.
The beauty of bespoke is that anything is possible, and what Howeson finds most rewarding about her work is bringing out the confidence in her clients by creating armour that makes them look and feel invincible, no matter what the occasion. ‘Whether they are full-time mums or CEOs, they are very successful in whatever they do, but there are a lot of powerful people out there who don’t have a lot of confidence,’ she says.
Howeson relishes the more challenging requests, preferring to find unconventional solutions rather than simply suggesting more straightforward options – something that singles her out in the market. She currently works from her home in Islington, but is set to open a new studio in Chelsea this autumn.