We chat to Master & Apprentice owner, Alexander Joey Hui, about the launch of his brand, the value of craftsmanship and how he hopes succeed without a Savile Row apprenticeship.
We visited this year’s Jacket Required show at The Old Truman Brewery a couple of weeks ago and met Alexander Joey Hui, designer, craftsman and owner of new brand Master & Apprentice. When we learnt that he hand-makes his garments in Newcastle using fabrics from British mills we had to stop for a chat…..
Alexander, can you tell us when you launched Master & Apprentice and what your background is?
I studied fashion at Northumbria University with a dream of being a Savile Row bespoke tailor. However, I was unable to move to London to pursue this dream, so I spent 12 months after graduating planning my own business, Master & Apprentice, which launched in January this year.
How easy has it been to get your the label off of the ground?
For the past 18 months I have been working non-stop on this project and the first 12 months were some of the most difficult times that I’ve ever experienced, I was working every waking hour uncertain whether or not I would receive the start-up loan that I needed. So when it happened I was in shock and speechless at the opportunity set before me.
Who are you hoping will stock your brand?
I received a great reaction from various buyers at the Jacket Required show but there is still follow up work to be done. I can’t share any details on who will be stocking my products, but my ideal retailers are those who share my passion and enthusiasm for craftsmanship and well-made products.
How you will manage the demand if the brand proves successful for you?
At the moment it is just me in my studio in Newcastle. I used my business start-up loan to make substantial investment in machines and I hand craft the waistcoats myself. I use fabrics woven in the UK, specifically from Dugdale Bros & Co in Huddersfield. I will look to expand by hiring additional help as the demand grows.
Waistcoats are obviously what you are all about but you also make aprons as well as the notebooks and some artwork. What else is in the pipeline for you and your product line?
Essentially the Master & Apprentice brand identity is my personal story. Since I was unable to pursue my dream and become a bespoke tailor, I risked it all so that I could still do what I love to do, which is making things. Yes I am all about waistcoats but really I am all about craftsmanship. I love everything that goes into the making of something from scratch- the patience, the dedication, the problem solving and of course there is no feeling quite like seeing all your hard work result in the finished product. I believe there is something very meaningful about this process of delayed gratification that everybody should experience.
I have many ambitious plans for the future but I don’t want to speak to soon and reveal these right now. My vision is to build a brand selling products that champion the value of craftsmanship – timeless, well-made and functional products.
How important to you is making your garments and sourcing material in the UK? And do you aim to continue doing so as the brand and the demand grows?
I would consider myself a menswear aficionado and during my university days I would start each morning by browsing the internet for news in the design and menswear world. As a result I have followed the journey of many brands in the UK and as they have all grown I have noticed their commitment to manufacturing in the UK fade. From a business perspective I can understand why because it is very expensive to produce in the UK, but from the perspective of a fan it left a bad taste in my mouth and I felt a little cheated.
One vital thing that I have learned from the process of setting up my own business is that I believe there is a solution to every problem. So to answer your question, yes it is very important to me that I make my garments and source my material in the UK and as the brand and demand grows I believe I can uphold this principle with an innovative business model and careful strategy.
And we hope that you do Alexander! Master & Apprentice is a great example of a UK start up business making some really wonderful pieces.
Find out more about them at www.masterandapprentice.co.uk