How I Became a Bespoke Tailor
Updated: Mar 29
My name is Allan David, and I am a bespoke tailor in Calgary, AB. Firstly, I would like to welcome you to my website and blog. Thanks for visiting.
My journey toward bespoke tailoring isn't the typical narrative that comes to mind when people think of the tailors of old. I wasn't born into a long generational bloodline of master tailors with thimble and needle in hand. I didn't spend my childhood sweeping the shop floor while dad and grandad worked away. Instead, I grew up in the heartland of Northern British Columbia, where fashion takes a back seat to practical functionality. My hometown's diligent, honest and hardworking nature is at my core and has guided me toward bespoke tailoring. As a Boy Scout for most of my childhood, I spent much time outdoors and in the woods surrounding my hometown. In this way, I learned early on the importance of the usefulness of clothing. I would later develop my passion for well-made, functional, and fashionable clothing from this.
As a young man, my lifelong interest in clothing, as an expression of identity and an instrument of use, led me to explore menswear retail. For several years I worked at Dugger's Menswear in Halifax, N.S. There I was introduced more formally to menswear dress standards and sharpened my eye for quality and attention to detail. Retail was a fantastic introduction to the world of menswear. It intensified my interest in men's fashion and sparked a curiosity to explore further. That same curiosity eventually led me away from the sales environment and towards the art and craft of bespoke tailoring. Ultimately, I realized retail sales left an incomplete and limited understanding of menswear. I had to know more; I had to go further.
My introduction to the art and craft of bespoke tailoring was both humble and straightforward. I bought a used domestic singer sewing machine, some fabric, thread, and patterns, and I went to work. I began with the basics, teaching myself to sew on evenings and weekends. I was lucky enough to have several mentors who were skilled sewers and fashion designers. With their guidance and support, I gradually started to make clothing for myself. Little by little, project by project, what started as a hobby, my love for sewing and tailoring grew and became my primary focus in life and for my future.
I enrolled at Dalhousie University in their Costume Studies program to gain a more technical foundation in garment construction, with a focus on costume design and creation for theatre. I learned both historical and contemporary techniques of garment construction. Knowing the historical underpinnings of costume and dress led to a contextual understanding of modern menswear and fashion. It is essential to understand why we dress the way we do. The wonderful thing about the theatre is the diversity from one production to another, exposing one too many historical periods, styles and standards. In doing so, new challenges arise, different techniques are employed, and a complete understanding is established.
However, there is no educational equivalent to real-world experience, precisely what I got from my time with Desmond Merrion. I wanted to learn the art of tailoring from the very best, keeping in line with the English traditions of Savile Row, so I moved to the United Kingdom to work with Desmond. England was the ideal learning environment I hoped for. Working one-on-one alongside each other, I gained invaluable insights into the world of bespoke tailoring. Historically, tailors have guarded their "trade secrets," but not so with Desmond. He is passionately committed to preserving the art, craft and traditions of tailoring and teaching younger generations. Under Desmond's guidance as one of the few cut-and-make bespoke tailors, I honed my craft and skill in cutting and making suits and shirts.
After a decade of hard work and dedication, I have landed again on native soil and brought my love and passion for fine handcraft tailoring to Calgary, AB. Like many pursuits, there are no shortcuts to becoming a bespoke tailor, no hacks, cheats or easy wins. It requires commitment and perseverance.
- Allan David