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A tiny tailoring business which has brought the style of Savile Row to Hull is now settling back into the day job of smart suits and special occasion finery after hitting the headlines nationally with its production of PPE.

Cock of the Walk in Grimston Street, Hull, turned out nearly 3,000 gowns for hospitals, care homes and dental surgeries in and around Hull after HullBID introduced owner Gill Long to Hull North MP Dame Diana Johnson, who in turn put the business in touch with Hull Royal Infirmary.

The business makes the official apparel for High Sheriffs of the East Riding and they’re the first port of call for outfits for new brethren at Trinity House, but the bread and butter is the man, and occasionally woman, in the street who have done well for themselves.

Gill said: “Our customer is the working class northerner done good. They want to mark success with a suit and they want a tailor who makes them feel at ease. We have very wealthy customers who work in London and are from a northern background.”

After opening in Salford ten years ago and then working from a back room at Poorboy Boutique in Princes Quay, Gill has had her own shop in Hull for six years, the only one of its kind in the north, and definitely a hidden gem.

The NHS projects showcased the expertise of Gill’s international workforce, coupled with a commitment to hard work and the organisational skills which enabled them to deliver under intense pressure.

Gill said: “We have learned a lot from looking at the rest of the world as their lockdowns ended. There’s a big tailoring market in Italy, Spain and France and we have seen some good practice, which we follow, and some not so good, which we don’t. We gain confidence when we see that people in those countries are managing to make it work.”

With the emergency orders fulfilled and the lockdown eased, Gill found the traditional tailoring methods helped the business adapt to the restrictions around reopening.

Gill said: “For fittings people have to wear masks and use hand sanitiser but we don’t engage face to face, we speak through the reflection of the mirror while the fittings are going on. The room is fully ventilated and we limit each outfit fitting to 15 minutes.

“A lot of the things our industry has been doing for hundreds of years seem to be the solutions to the current problems. We don’t have a shop full of people working side by side, nothing is mass produced and we don’t share tools. Everybody has their own machine which is their responsibility. We don’t have people trying on different clothes. One garment is for one customer.

“We don’t have to quarantine clothing. In Spain tailors have been steaming clothes after a fitting and we can do that here because we have multiple irons. Fittings are by appointment only anyway and for most of the week they are for one person, but we allow couples in on a Friday and Saturday.”

The future is about gradual and modest expansion, with Gill planning the resumption soon of monthly visits to her Savile Row office and to Manchester, where rising demand has encouraged thoughts of opening an office, showroom or second workshop.

International orders come from the Caribbean, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dubai, Ireland, Norway, Qatar and Switzerland.

Gill said: “Doing the work for the NHS made us realise that it’s a good job these skills still exist in this format because we were able to help the NHS in a way that people who sell suits can’t. We demonstrated the clear value of these skills and we need to keep people trained and employed.”