Samantha Fenwick is the joint Director and Founder of Morgan and Fenwick. The company specialises in bespoke British tailoring, handcrafted in Yorkshire with British cloth. After graduating with a first class honours degree in Fashion Design in 2016 Samantha went on to train as a cutter and was a finalist in the prestigious Golden Shears Tailoring competition 2019. After working together with Master Tailor Aras Barami they decided to start their own company and launched Morgan and Fenwick in 2019, the company celebrated its first anniversary in August 2020.
We caught up with Samantha to find out more and started by asking how her passion for tailoring began:
I’ve been designing clothing ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil, I have always had a love for fashion design and have been a creative person in all walks of life. So when it was time to go to university I knew that Fashion design was going to be my chosen subject. My passion for bespoke tailoring began during our second year tailoring project, I was enthralled by the history of tailoring and I fell in love with the way that a tailored garment can have such an effect on the way you perceive yourself. A well fitted stylish suit can make you feel powerful, confident, acknowledged - whether you are male or female. It is the ultimate battle armour of the modern world.
Image: Samanth Fenwick at work in Leeds
Is it important to be based in Yorkshire?
YES! It is very important to us that the brand is based in Yorkshire, it was the textile homeland for many years during the industrial revolution and the county is still rich in textiles if you look close enough. We love that there are cloth mills down the road from us, we can go to see the cloth being woven and finished. We believe it is very important to understand where your materials and trims are coming from and we are proud that everything we buy is from the UK and Europe. For us we feel that we are helping to bring the textile industry back home!
Image: Samantha Fenwick as a finalist at the Golden Shears Awards 2019
Could you tell us a little about your inspirations and process and what a typical day looks like for you?
Being a bespoke tailor we have to surrender to the vision of our customer (to some extent). As a designer I am always very keen to have my own creative input on their choice but some customers just know what they want! I am very inspired by the cloth, so a lot of the time I see or feel a new colour or design of fabric and I instantly create a new suit design in my head. Historical fashion influences me and I take a lot of inspiration from animals and other cultures too. Day to day life can be very mundane at times, as a business owner there is a lot of admin and finance elements to deal with but when I am in the studio cutting or designing it is the best feeling ever knowing that it’s for my own business.
Image: (left) Samantha at work and (right) Samantha's 2016 student show.
What did you do straight after finishing your course?
After I graduated from university I was very keen to jump straight into the fashion industry, I was on a massive high from graduating and possibly a bit naive to think I would land my dream job straight away. It was such a huge disappointment to have to move back in with my parents and work in hospitality but I kept up my momentum and decided to move back to Leeds after two months. Even when I was back my new ‘home’ town I still struggled to find a job in my industry but I carried on designing and making clothing for myself. I had my own little studio on Kirkstall road which kept me creative despite working 40 hours a week in a cafe. I got involved with the Leeds Rag fashion show 2016, Leeds international festival 2017, completed the princes trust enterprise business course and a short course at London college of Fashion in Fashion portfolio, design and development. Keeping myself involved in the fashion world definitely helped me land my first tailoring job in September 2017, I worked as a cutter for two years and it was this role that helped me realise I wanted to work for myself. I was working so hard and I was so passionate about my craft, however sometimes it felt hollow. Now, I get all the glory and I feel proud when I talk about my work, yes it is a lot of hard work but the reward is so much greater.
What do you remember the most about your studies at Leeds Arts University?
I will always remember every moment of my third year - the tears and tantrums. Battling with cloth and never being able to find that perfect shade of Navy - but it was all worth it in the end. My end of year show in particular was a highlight for me, it was at the corn exchange and was the accumulation of 3 years of hard work. The day of the show I received an email for a job interview on Savile Row (even though I didn’t get it) I was surrounded by all my friends and family and to top it all off I won the ‘Best collection’ award. It’s still one of my favourite moments in my life so far. I remember speaking to my tutor and thanking her for all of her support, she told me I should be so proud of what I had achieved and this is what I loved the most about studying at Leeds Arts University, our class was small so we were like a family and we had so much support from our tutors and from each other.
Image: Samanth Fenwick at work in Leeds
Do you have any tips or advice for current students or recent graduates wanting to work in your field?
It’s very simple but always be a good person to others. I have had so much support from people I’ve met in the industry whilst setting up this business. Just from being myself, working hard and helping others when they need it. I believe in good karma, if you put happiness and support out there into the world you will receive it back when you need it. Always say yes to the opportunities you are given but also don’t sell yourself short - it’s very important to work hard for the things you want in life but know the limits of what you're willing to do to get ahead.
Any plans for the future?
Aras and I are constantly coming up with ideas to improve what we do, we are forever learning and developing as tailors/ cutters and as business owners. We would really like to expand into a retail store in the centre of Leeds and I would love to design a ready to wear collection as another option to our fully bespoke garments. Keep an eye out for us, Morgan & Fenwick are going to be a national empire one day!