Words Kirk Truman
Portraits Dan Court
“I’ve got that thing… when I see something I pick it up quickly. I was very fast, I learnt the job fast…”
When walking out of my front door on Grafton Way, it doesn’t take my mind all that long to begin wondering just what each corner once was, and shall become in Fitzrovia. Warren Street and Fitzroy Square were once slums, with many of its buildings nearing disrepair and home to the used car trade in London; quite a different story today of course. Residents and transients alike; anybody who has come to know Fitzrovia well, will know that from here garments head to shops around the UK and even further afield. Spread from New Cavendish Street, to Berners Street, Great Titchfield Street and Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia’s Garment District still lives on to this day.
Buyers from brands all over London once bought garments and cloth here for stores throughout the UK. What was once considered London’s home of wholesale and fabrics has slowed in recent years, and spread further afield, though many stores still continue to this day, notably on Great Titchfield Street. In addition to this, behind closed doors, carefully hidden basements and 1st floors, a select number of alterations and tailoring studios continue to operate in an area, which in select corners has outgrown its traditions. Based at 66 Cleveland Street, Paul Kitsaros is one of the last tailors of his kind in Fitzrovia. Once the norm, tailors and alterations workshops in the neighbourhood were altering suits for the big names on Savile Row, from Henry Poole to Gieves & Hawkes on a daily basis.
He is a committed master of his trade; there is a barely a time in living memory that I haven’t walked past Paul’s studio a saw him at work. Stood on a wooden floor covered with thread and cuttings of fabric, Paul stands stitching buttons on to a newly commissioned jacket as he tells me of his life in tailoring. As I sit on a stool, Paul stands level with me at just over 5 feet tall with his cuffs rolled up to his elbows, his glasses balancing on the tip of nose whilst he stares with a piercing concentration at the garment laying on the desk in front of him. Originally from the north side of Cyprus, Paul first came to London during the 1960’s with his father where he first worked in Camden Town making trousers. “I became quite good, you know? I’ve got that thing… when I see something I pick it up quickly. I was very fast, I learnt the job fast” he says. “A lot of people said it to me in the early days, I was very quick to learn the trade. So I started out with trousers, and then began to learn more and more about the trade.” From alterations, to cutting and fitting, Paul eventually came to learn to ins and outs of the tailoring trade.
What started out in Camden Town, began to lead Paul on a journey through central London’s tailoring and alterations trade. Originally starting his own business in 1968 on D’Arblay Street, he later came to relocate to numerous locations throughout Soho from Berwick Street, to Rupert Street, Greek Street and eventually Fitzrovia in a career that has stretched over fifty years. “I landed here in Fitzrovia in 1998. In those days it was booming… it was full of tailors everywhere. I came here because I’d always wanted to have my own ground floor shop, it was the dream for me” he says. “I saw that the shop space was available after coming for dinner at the nearby restaurant, Vasis. I viewed the space, and I knew I wanted it. Its like a village here, and still is.”
Paul says his speciality has come to be bespoke suits, which he produces for an array of clients throughout Europe, and as far afield as the US. Though today as a workshop, Paul and his small team alter clothes for clients from Soho based tailor, Mark Powell, to the tailoring houses of Savile Row. Paul doesn’t allow his age to hold him back from his work, which he is so accustomed to and emotionally involved with. As I sit and watch him work, there is magic in his hands has he weaves a needle back and forth through the fabric. His work is common practice yes, though evermore uncommon in our neighbourhood, where Paul’s work once thrived amongst Fitzrovia’s rag trade. Bursting with energy, he is completely loveable in one light and perhaps an eccentric in another. Nonetheless, he is a master of his trade, and one of the last of a breed of tailors.