Friday Five – Interview with Young Ho Kwon from Accademia Alta Sartoria Europea
Master tailor Young Ho Kwon is on a one-man mission to bring bespoke tailoring to the public of South Korea. Travelling the world to perfect his skills, he has now settled in Seoul and founded the Accademia Alta Sartoria Europea (AASE); a British and Italian bespoke tailoring academy.
How did you come into the tailoring industry?
When I was 16 years old I was training to become a body builder, and later I joined the South Korean marine for 5 years. At the time it was terribly hard for me to find nice clothes that would fit perfectly because of my masculine body shape, so I started to order clothes for myself, which was my first introduction to the tailoring industry.
I found it a very special experience to wear garments that were created specifically for me, and realized I wanted to learn how to do it myself. After learning tailoring in my home country, South Korea, I took the leap and moved to Italy for several years, visiting Rome, Milan, Novara, Naples and Venice and more. I trained in Italian bespoke tailoring and worked as a jacket maker for several bespoke tailor shops. Then I moved to London to learn the British style bespoke tailoring at the famous Savile Row Academy.
What do you find the most rewarding about teaching your skills to others?
When I first began to learn about bespoke tailoring, it was a challenge; many tailors are very protective of their knowledge and skills, and often aren’t keen to share their techniques. As they get older I was worried that these skills wouldn’t get passed down to the next generation, which would be a real blow to the great tailoring techniques and tradition.
This is why I decided to open my own bespoke tailoring academy – I was keen to share what I had learned. It brings me joy to see students that are equally passionate, and I want to make sure that if they go off to start their own tailoring business then they will be qualified to do so. Whilst teaching in Trinidad, I was very surprised and heartened to see students were waiting outside of the building and practicing sewing on the floor even before the doors had opened.
What is the most memorable garment that you’ve ever made?
I clearly remember one jacket that I made, as it was a real learning experience for me. I made one single braced jacket before I left from South Korea to Italy. At the time, I was still a beginner tailor, and I brought this jacket to Italy to show to the Italian tailors. I thought it was rather good but they didn’t seem very impressed; they looked at it and told me that it was not in fact a bespoke jacket, but rather a made to measure jacket. This was when I learned the difference between the two and began my journey towards bespoke tailoring!
How important is it to have good tools in your workshop? What are the tailoring tools you can’t live without?
It is vital to allow a tailor to keep their concentration and pay attention to details for a long time every day. We need to be comfortable as we work, so our tools, equipment and even furniture make a huge difference. As a bespoke tailor, I take pride in the smallest details and so I always have to have high quality thimbles, needles, thread and shears.
I now supply EXO shears to all my students as they are the perfect size, weight and balance; lightweight enough to be comfortable even for a beginner, but with an extremely powerful cut. The handles work well for all hand sizes, and the bolt fixing allows them to stand by themselves on the table while I work, which makes them extremely convenient.
What is the most important thing that you hope your students will learn from your tailoring academy?
My goal is to educate my students in all aspects of tailoring until they can call themselves a true bespoke tailor – meaning that they can create entire bespoke garments by themselves. At some tailoring stores, each person has a specific role which feeds into their work flow of making garments; for example, there is a cutter who takes measurement and creates patterns, there are jacket and trousers makers, and there those who focus on the finishing processes such as top stitches and making buttonholes. However, I am training my students to become proficient in all these areas, so that they can consider themselves true masters of the art of bespoke tailoring.