Practical skills delivery is face-to-face by nature and heritage tailoring skills are what our students are joining us for. That’s why the closure of our workshop facilities as a consequence of the crisis surrounding coronavirus came as a real blow. Having to rapidly re-imagine the way we deliver our training, the fact that, so far, we had spent most of our time tailoring – rather than with the more conceptual parts of the qualification – turned out to be a blessing.
When the reality of the impending lockdown hit home around mid March, we wrapped up the few remaining tasks in a matter of days. Then everyone grabbed a number of indispensable tools and headed home; for some of our students that meant catching a last minute flight to a different country.
Setting up their own workshops and attending distance learning sessions to cover both, further practical and also the more conceptual parts of the Level 5 qualification, learners were able to continue their training. As one of only a handful of training providers in the country, we are delighted to say our students will complete their training as planned, by mid July.
I am pleased to have been invited, through our industry body, the UK Fashion and Textiles Association (UKFT), to advise, together with esteemed colleagues, the government on measures to safeguard the wellbeing of students, customers and staff in our sector. This means we have our finger directly on the pulse, working with the people who know best how to overcome adversity – the UK textile industry is famous for its resilience for a reason.
We will return to the workshop in September, when our new cohort starts their tailoring journey. If you have been to our studio, you know the unique atmosphere of the place: the quality of the light, the quiet vibe high up in the attic and the inspiration that comes with the textile heritage of the building. All of this utterly conducive, and crucial, to the deep, complete immersion in the delightful occupation that is our craft.
Part of our setup are our gorgeous, mobile work benches, custom-made for us by local craftsmen TLJ Welding. To make sure everyone learning with us can feel at ease, we have limited numbers for the upcoming academic year, so each student will have the use of their own work station and tools, with ample space for safe distancing.
We are blessed with space anyway, but are taking on additional room to allow for a one-way access system and relocation of all not training-related areas. Working with TLJ again, we are developing solutions to equip the academy to be as safe a learning environment as it possibly can be: using stainless steel, the company is building prototypes for foot operated dispensers, screen stands and clever contraptions hands-free opening of doors.
Knowing the quality but also the aesthetics of their work, the result will not only be reassuring from a safety point of view, but also immensely pleasing to the eye. Which kind of fits with what we are doing here.