Featured on Forbes Magazine’s ‘30 under 30 2017’ list, Phoebe Gormley (12) the founder and owner of Gormley & Gamble recalls the journey that has led her from Kilburn Road to Savile Row.
Phoebe’s creative childhood spent making things with her very hands-on mum ironically didn’t feature sewing as an activity. This revelation came during her ﬁrst class with Textiles teacher Wendy Greaves.
“I remember very clearly the ﬁrst lesson where I learned to sew. I loved the speed with which you could create something. And if it goes wrong, you just unpick and try again.”
The space and equipment provided by Oakham – “We were able to use Berninas – the Rolls Royce of sewing machines” – together with encouragement from Wendy allowed Phoebe to explore this newfound passion in greater depth.
“As a teenage girl who wants new clothes all the time, I started experimenting with dressmaking. I used whatever fabrics I could get my hands on to create new clothes. During the holidays I would wake up in the morning and try to make an outﬁt before my friends came around.” She was soon making clothes for the same friends.
Phoebe’s direction after leaving Oakham was split between her desire to study Fashion and Costume Design and pursue her interest in Economics and Marketing. She chose to study Costume Design at Nottingham Trent University but found it a disappointing and frustrating experience.
“After the freedom of school, I suddenly felt that I was being treated like a child again – returning to the basics of sewing seemed like a backward step.”
Having done internships at companies on Savile Row and Jermyn Street whilst at School, and enjoyed immensely “being on the shop ﬂoor, meeting clients and helping them ﬁnd something that suited their body shape”, Phoebe put a business plan to her parents. She would invest the £9,000 of tuition fees for her ﬁnal year at university and start her own company. Her aim was to tailor exclusively for women; something that hadn’t been done before as women are traditionally considered to be too ﬁckle to want investment pieces.
“I moved to London, started operating from a start-up co-working office, and found some amazing suppliers. My ﬁrst client, the Chief Executive of Virgin Money, commissioned me to make 12 suits and I made back my tuition fee investment on the ﬁrst job.”
This gave Phoebe the conﬁdence to continue and with press coverage and more commissions, she gradually built up the business, and outgrew the city office. She was offered space in a Savile Row store and after that, “things went into the stratosphere”.
Now with a staff of six and rapidly growing customer base, Phoebe reﬂects on the amazing experience that is running her own tailoring business.
“I am so proud of being part of Savile Row and keeping the British tradition of ﬁne tailoring alive. Clothing is not frivolous; it can be inspirational. There have been hard times along the way and it is sometimes difficult to have responsibility for six dependents but I get to meet some amazing people every day and that is reward itself. No two days are ever the same.”
What does she consider to be the secret behind her success? “I am interested in ﬁnding out who my clients are; how they see themselves and how they are likely to wear my clothes. From there I can help them to ﬁnd a style that suits them and help them to dress impeccably.”
Phoebe’s advice to would-be entrepreneurs: “Conﬁdence is key. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room or the most academically qualiﬁed but you need to be independent. By all means take advice but don’t constantly seek someone else’s approval and assurance. Be brave and believe in yourself.”