Hemingway Tailors has been stylishly dressing its impressive global client portfolio since 2005 when Toby Luper made the decision to set up his own business with the aim of creating the ‘Savile Row Tailor of the North’.
However, Toby’s tailoring experience stretches back over 40 years and his family have been tailoring within Leeds for much longer.
Men’s tailoring has been the bedrock of the business for many years and although still widely recognised as men’s tailors, the introduction of ladies tailoring a few years ago means that Hemingway now has men and women both sides of the Atlantic sharply dressed in Hemingway tailored suits.
Why and how did you start your business?
Toby’s tailoring family heritage dates back over 100 years ago when his Grandfather Isaac (Ike) Black worked as a master tailor in one of
Toby started his own business after “flunking out” of Law School at the age of 19, selling his father’s and other’s redundant stock from a small rented warehouse by the river in Leeds. By the age of 23, he had built the business to several warehouses dotted around the country “piling it high and selling it cheap” from Sheffield to Glasgow when he sold the business.
He was then summarily commanded to go and work with his father and late brother John, who had joined the family business many years before, after the death of his uncle, Norman (Black). However, he acquired a taste for tailoring at a much younger age whilst helping in his father’s factory at weekends and during the school holidays.
It wasn’t all big business for the tenacious tailor, as his father greeted him on his first day at work (3 days after selling his own business) with a broom and an instruction to sweep the warehouse floor. The idea was that in time, when Toby’s staff were doing any job within the factory, they would know that their boss had done this too.
This strong work ethic and be prepared to roll up his sleeves was a family trait and one that would see the company prosper for decades to come. Now trading under the brand name Hemingway, Toby has combined the traditions and work ethic of his family with individuality and commitment to customer service that his clients experience today.
Toby’s father sadly passed away in August 2003 and six months thereafter, his late brother was murdered in a robbery at his home back in February 2004. This tragic event was the catalyst that spurred Toby on to start his own tailoring business and with such a family history in tailoring, it seemed only natural for him to follow this path but, instead of making clothes for some of the top brands in the World as, the family had done previously, he wanted to create a garment that was going to be recognised as, one of the best handmade garments made but, only for individuals NOT retailers or wholesalers. So, off he went and found individuals who were prepared to pay for the skills he’d acquired in the family business.
What has been the biggest success factors?
Having unquestioning support from my wife to whom, I owe I huge debt of gratitude, in helping support me though the most difficult trading period the World has ever seen.
Branching out from our beginnings only offering our client base our Fully Bespoke Tailoring and Shirt Service to then offer a younger and more aspiring number of people, both male & female, our Made to Measure tailoring service.
Embracing the new online business model, without compromising our core business, with accessories and soon to come our ready to wear tailoring under the “TOBY LUPER SIGNATURE COLLECTION”
From a standing start in 2005 to now, Hemingway have over 2000 individuals Worldwide who have experienced the “TOBY FACTOR” and he still loves every day that he works!
What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company?
- Finding cost effective ways to reach clients both in the UK and further afield in such a crowded and ultra-competitive marketplace without compromising our core values.
- Finding the “best in class” people to work with.
- Dealing with burdensome regulations and unnecessary bureaucratic “red-tape”.
Final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
- To only work with people, you TRUST!
- To find exemplary suppliers and then be loyal to them as, your suppliers are as valuable as, good clients.
- To be true to one’s beliefs and never compromise on quality.
- To always offer true value for money & exemplary service to your customers…the money will always follow.
- To be able to find the right people, better than yourself at the appropriate time, to assist you in achieving your goals and aspirations. Treat them fairly and give them your trust, by allowing them the free reign to get on with things.
- To be able to recognise trends and opportunities.
- To be able to recognise when to change before you must.