Harold Rose has been working in the clothing industry for more than 50 years. He became Managing Director of Alexander Rose Ltd in 1972, taking over the company his father had founded just after the Second World War.
From a small factory just behind the Grand Theatre in Leeds, the business had spread to three sites across West Yorkshire. The market for made-to-measure was particularly strong: Alexander Rose supplied nearly 40,000 suits per year to more than 350 retailers.
Harold sold the factories in the 1980s and went on to run a corporate clothing company, supplying tailored uniforms for public-facing staff at hotels, travel companies and more.
For the last 20 years, however, he has returned to his roots in made-to-measure tailoring, travelling across Europe to conduct fittings with clients who value British luxury, quality and craftsmanship. His company still bears his father’s name, celebrating the brand’s heritage.
“I’m one of the last veterans of the old Leeds clothing industry,” Harold smiles. “I’ve been in clothing all my life, and I still enjoy the thrill of fitting people in beautiful clothes.”
Demand for tailoring has been seriously impacted by the global pandemic, as working from home has become commonplace and events such as weddings and races have been postponed. But while faced with a unique set of challenges, Harold believes his experience left him well-positioned to innovate as he adapts to these new conditions.
The new Alex Rose website offers a custom jacket fitting service, where clients can input their measurements and select from a range of personalisations.
From the number of buttons to the position of pockets and embroidered monograms, almost every aspect of an Alex Rose jacket can be customised to the wearer using the digital interface – including a selection of fabrics from West Yorkshire’s world-renowned heritage mills.
To maintain the personal connection that comes with a visiting tailor, Harold offers style and fitting consultations over Zoom. That relationship, he says, is part of the appeal of a made-to-measure service.
“Some websites allow you to input your measurements, but there is no personal connection,” says Harold. “I wanted to be able to get the right fit digitally at the same time as giving clients an opportunity to buy into the heritage and tradition that come with British materials and tailoring.”
Avoiding travel restrictions while meeting demand from global customers, Harold has seen an increase in his international contact list in markets such as Russia, Scandinavia, the USA and Japan. At the same time, he has found a new route to market that offers a wealth of opportunities.
“I’ve realised now how much time you actually lose as a visiting tailor!” he laughs. “You can spend hours travelling to London and then waiting between appointments. It’s labour intensive and there’s only so much you can do with your day.
“This model of working completely online has freed up so much of my time that I now have scope to grow, without the massive overheads that can be a barrier for any business.”
As the new service grows Harold plans to expand the website, sharing his knowledge and experience through videos on topics from the history of tailoring to how to dress for a promotion.
Each year he mentors a student from a Leeds college or university and is passionate about using his skills to support the future of Yorkshire’s clothing industry.
He hopes that embracing lean, made-to-order, digitally-enabled, customisable tailoring will help to futureproof the business through the pandemic and beyond.
“Experience breeds resilience,” he says, “and you learn to adapt as the industry shifts around you. I’ve always believed in and had hope for the future, and I hope that with this new venture I’ll be able to ride out the storm.”