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It has been an absolute pleasure judging the Golden Shears with all its history. It is a competition that truly brings out the very best in young craft tailoring
Merchant Taylors’ Company began as a loose organisation of tailors, connected through their shared trade and interests. Over the centuries, as with many Livery Companies, links to tailoring diminished.
In 1974, to re-establish some of those links with its foundational craft, Liveryman Robert Bright MBE, then-President of the Federation of Merchant Tailors, an association for the tailoring trade and, backed by the Company, set up the Golden Shears Competition. Robert also designed the trophy: a pair of traditional cutting shears mounted on a mahogany base. This represents the shears used by cutters and tailors along with the mahogany benches on which they work. This year, more than any other, the Golden Shears aims to support the best young talent in the industry.
The competition has evolved over the years; today awards go to the best trade apprentices and students producing fine tailoring. In addition to the coveted Golden Shears, two pairs of Silver Shears are awarded as second prize and to a Rising Star. It is a unique opportunity for tailoring apprentices and students from across the UK to demonstrate their skills and creative vision in a truly spectacular setting.
The competition runs biennially, with the next to be held this year. Traditionally, entries are submitted for two sets of judging: a technical and a styling. The technical judging is held at the Hall early in the competition year. The technical judges draw from the submissions around 25 entries to go forward to the Style Judging.
The Style Judging is a live catwalk event at Merchant Taylors’ Hall. The competition’s finalists watch as their creations make their way down the catwalk, worn by professional models, with the chance of winning one of the top three prizes.
The event is a staggering display of talent, skill, vision and organisation… While the catwalk delivers a calm collectedness, behind the scenes there is a flurry of activity as models prepare, marks are given and results from both stages of judging are totalled to reveal the winners. The Show Producer and Stylist are first to be informed so that the models are in the correct garments, in reverse order, before the announcements are made.
Judging day starts soon after dawn when the team assemble to work a full day examining and awards marks using their own skills and judgement. An examination of the design drawing and comparison with the cut pattern to check that the design is actually achievable. The pattern is checked for accuracy and then the garments checked against the pattern along with measurements and sizing by fitting onto a garment stand. In the 2019 competition over 70 entries were submitted and after technical judging 24 outfits were selected for the Finals at Merchant Taylors’ Hall.
The Golden Shears Competition not only supports those at the beginning of their careers, but it is often a means for many to convert training into flourishing careers with many going on to work in exciting areas of the industry or establishing their own companies.
“The Golden Shears is an opportunity to showcase your skills and yourselves; to create a piece that people will remember is part of the challenge! I used the prize money to start my business, Jorden Elizabeth Tailoring, aside from an ivy broach made to memorialise the event. The Golden Shears gave me the belief that I could succeed.” – Jorden Barratt, winner of the Silver Shears 2017
In 1998, the Golden Shears winner was Kathryn Sargent who went on to become the first female Head Cutter on Savile Row and subsequently has opened her own Bespoke Tailoring business in the West End. Kathryn has twice returned to the competition as a Technical Judge.
Ichiro Suzuki won the 2010 competition Silver Shears with his entry of an exquisite, frayed suit. Ichiro has gone on to a successful career in Paris.
I was totally rooted in British bespoke tailoring and at the same time, I was interested in twisting the norms and working in my vision of modern tailoring. The competition was the perfect stage where I was able to show the world what I was capable of, in terms of my tailoring skills and creative drive. Wining the Silver Shears gave me the self-confidence to develop my unique aesthetic. It also boosted my career; after the event, I began to sell my made-to-measure suits through one of the most sought-after department stores in Japan.
The competition, of course, could not be where it is today without the support of those from the fashion and tailoring industries who have volunteered their time and expertise to support the competition. Jodie Kidd and David Gandy have both supported the Golden Shears as ambassadors of the awards, and have seen it evolve over the past few years.
Past judges have always been drawn from a range of industry insiders and those from outside, balancing expertise with fresh ideas on creativity and craft. Raymond Blanc (a judge in 2013) shared his eye for intricacy and detail, while Aston Martin’s Director of Design, Merek Reichmann’s knowledge of design and engineering lent itself easily to identifying excellent craftmanship.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions bring challenges for this year’s competition. The Technical Judging team are ready to leap into action once restrictions are eased and it is safe for the process to commence and over 50 applicants have already prepared their submissions. It is the hope that the Golden Shears Awards Final will be held this summer.
The Golden Shears Competition is run with the support of Merchant Taylors’ Company and the CAPITB Trust and generously aided in recent years by the Pollen Estate, the Woolmen’s Company, Savile Row Bespoke and Chivas Regal. The competition also receives invaluable assistance from the London College of Fashion and The University of the Arts. This year the competition will be supported also by the Drapers’ Company. Many of the Cloth Merchants offer generous support in kind with fabric and trimmings, enabling them to access the best of products manufactured within the UK and Europe. The Committee leads the logistics of the operation, supported by the Company and Hall staff. The committee are: Chairman, Liveryman Simon Cundey; Founder and Deputy Chair, Liveryman Robert Bright MBE; Judging Chair, Liveryman Alan Cannon Jones; Co-Ordinator, Freeman Peter Macdonald, Freeman Jordon Barrett, and Ms Nina Penlington.