Before Shane Airoll became a bespoke trouser-maker on Savile Row—a central London street famous for its tailoring of men’s clothing—he was a banking and finance lawyer. Airoll switched careers in 2008, learning the trade under master tailor Shamim Karn at the storied firm of Gieves & Hawkes. Three years later, Airoll became the head trouser-maker at Huntsman, a Savile Row institution that has been making suits for high-profile clientele—including royalty and celebrities—since 1849. Today, he is considered one of the best trouser-makers on the Row and took time to chat with us about his passion.
Q: How did you get into the world of bespoke tailoring on Savile Row?
It came about by chance—an acquaintance of mine was friends with a Savile Row tailor and I asked to meet him.
Q: Did you go to school to learn the trade?
I learned on the job and trained at Gieves & Hawkes on Savile Row. They weren’t in a position to offer me a full apprenticeship, so I worked part-time to support myself and spent all my free time learning the trade.
Q: How does it feel to be part of a storied trade?
I feel a responsibility to pass on the knowledge I have and to keep it as pure as possible. [Karn] taught me very traditional methods and I want to pass those on to the next generation of tailors.
Q: What goes into trouser tailoring and how long does it take?
There’s a lot of handwork that goes into the construction. For example, all of the internal construction of the trousers is sewn in by hand, like the pocket bags, the hooks and bars, and buttonholes. From start to finish, it can take anywhere between 12 to 20 hours.
Q: Is there a material you prefer to work with?
I enjoy working with heavier-weight cloths, like flannel. The end result comes out nicely. I always try to achieve a natural shape that compliments the customer’s unique figure.
Q: Where do you look for inspiration?
I like the [style of the] 1940s to 1960s era—the high-waisted trousers, the wide leg, the glamorous look. I find a lot of my inspiration online now—on Pinterest and Instagram.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of being a tailor on Savile Row?
Teaching apprentices is a highlight. I’ve taught students who had never worked on Savile Row before and I’m proud to see them working on [the Row] and being very successful.
Shane Airoll’s picks for London shops you need to visit
For high-quality, unique shoes: J. FitzPatrick Footwear
This shop specializes in men’s shoes, paying close attention to intricate details like triple-row stitching.
For clothing tailored specifically for women: Katherine Maylin
Ladies can visit Katherine Maylin, a tailor on Savile Row with more than 20 years of experience, for a cut-to-fit suit.
For one-of-a-kind hats: Rosie Olivia
Rosie Olivia is a milliner who designs and hand-makes hats in a variety of fine materials, decorated with different luxurious accessories.
[This story appears in the June 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]