When ambling around one of the many trade shows we find ourselves at, this one in the mass expanse of The Truman Brewery, we spotted an exceedingly well-dressed chap standing tall and proud next to a rack of enticing garments. Upon closer inspection and a good chin-wag we discover that indeed the garments, waistcoats & aprons to be precise, are as well-made as they looked from afar. We also find out the well-dressed chap is Alexander Hui, owner, designer & maker of Master & Apprentice. We recently caught up with Alexander, away from the hustle of the aforementioned trade show, to find out more about his recently launched business.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what prompted you to set up Master & Apprentice?
My name is Alexander Joey Hui and I’m a craftsman based in Newcastle making fine casual waistcoats. The hands-on making of things is what I enjoy the most so I set up Master & Apprentice as a way for me to do what I love and earn a living at the same time.
Originally my dream was to relocate to London and become a bespoke tailor on Savile Row but unfortunately I just didn’t have the resources to pursue this, so when I found out about the opportunity to apply for a start-up loan I decided that setting up my own business was the right path for me to take.
What has it been like setting up your own business?
Setting up my business has been one of the most difficult and yet one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
There are a lot of mind games when it comes to chasing after a dream and during the process I would sometimes doubt myself. But whatever adversity I encountered my principle was and still is always to work hard, be brave and continue creating. This meant that every morning I would make myself wake up early with a readiness to tackle a list of tasks to complete for the day ahead.
So after 12 to 18 months of dedication I finally launched the business in January 2016. The feeling was too marvelous for words.
You source your fabrics from British mills – why is this important to you? And what do you look for in the fabric you use?
When I started my business I believed it was important to be consistent and set myself principles to adhere to, otherwise when the confusion of today’s clothing industry overwhelms me with its demands, I might lose sight of my identity and make decisions that would lead to the ruin of my brand.
Sourcing fabrics from British mills is one of those principles so it is very important to me to stick to this because it is a part of the Master & Apprentice identity.
My first collection is made from 100% 10oz cotton from Dugdale Bros & Co. They are suppliers of luxury cloth and fabric to bespoke tailors throughout the world. They also supply those on Savile Row so I thought it was a great idea to use their fabrics. Their quality is brilliant!
Why aprons and waistcoats? What influenced your design in creating these items?
When I design my products my main inspirations are traditional tailoring and functionality, and the waistcoat is the epitome of these. Being a sleeveless garment it gives the wearer freedom when on the move, while still maintaining a dressed up style for those all important meetings.
My intention is to make my clothes for the modern gentleman, someone who spends more time doing rather than talking, and someone who prefers the versatility of the middle ground as opposed to a formal suit. My waistcoats work well with an unstructured jacket, a button down shirt and chinos.
Why aprons? Craftsmanship is another core value of Master & Apprentice therefore I wanted to make an apron to show this (the apron protects the craftsman and carries the tools of their craft) however I approached the design of it in my own way by replacing the typical neck strap with a notch lapel collar. This design is called The Tailor’s Apron and it is an emblem of traditional tailoring with functionality.
You are based in Newcastle. Tell us a bit about the creative community there.
I think the nature of starting a business means that you have very little time for anything else, so I do feel a little out of touch with the creative community here in Newcastle, however from what I can gather in the little spare time I do have is that Newcastle has a small but thriving scene, there are many design agencies and fine artists here but in the future I would love to see more craftspeople start their own businesses. People making things by hand is what inspires me the most.
If you could design an item of clothing for anyone, who would it be?
When I first started telling people about starting a clothing business I would get this a lot, they’d say to me that I should have a celebrity wear one of my waistcoats, and then I’d be successful. In my mind this bothered me and I really didn’t like the idea of resorting to gimmickry.
I started my business because I wanted to take a chance at doing something meaningful with my life so I believe that as long as I focus on making high quality products then the success will come in time.
If I could design an item of clothing for anyone it would simply be for those who appreciate craftsmanship.
What’s the future for Master & Apprentice?
In the future I would like to expand my product line and offer a complete menswear collection of well-crafted products for the modern gentleman – simple, timeless and functional tailoring for everyday life.
Interview by Morgan Hamilton-Griffin