Head up Park Street in central Bristol and you will walk past a local institution.
Situated discretely on the 2nd and 3rd storey above a jewellers near the foot of the hill sits Territo Tailoring, a father and son business which has been crafting bespoke suits since 1967.
Originally from Sicily, Gioacchino Territo relocated to Bristol in the 1960s to make a name for himself.
Jack, as he is more commonly known, learnt the trade from his uncles, all of which were tailors, sewing buttons and delivering suits from the age of six in the coastal village of Ribera.
By the age of 13 he’d advanced to making coats and when he arrived in the UK as a 20 year old he had already accumulated many years of experience.
Son, Mike, 37, having always been in and around the business, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, progressing rapidly under his tutelage and developing a reputation as a talented tailor in his own right.
Walk up the stairs alongside a hand painted mural, the heritage is immediately visible. Stacks of fabric, old machinery and half stitched suit jackets still in progress combine to tell a story of craftsmanship not commonly seen in a world of fast fashion.
Yet, despite expertise and customer base that has built up over the course of decades, the business hasn’t been immune from the challenges of the pandemic.
“You can’t do a suit fitting from two metres away so certain tasks became impossible for a while,” says Mike.
“Online consultations replaced fittings until they were allowed again and when they did resume all the safety measures necessarily in place made it a challenge.”
In some ways, however, the forced interruption offered the room to breathe and has contributed to an upturn in demand.
The imposed closure provided an opportunity to pause and reflect, using the time available to future proof the business, update the website and build a greater profile on social media.
They have been able to recruit a fourth member of staff, Kerry Woolacott joining Yana Zhekova, via Saville Row, and the Territos to assist with the increased workload.
Unlike most tailors, the team craft everything from scratch at the shop. Measuring, draughting and assembly all take place at the Park Street premises.
Asked why prospective customers should order from a tailor as opposed to buying off the rack, Mike Territo points to the longevity of a handmade suit.
He said: “It’s important to us that our suits are made to last- we had a customer come in who bought a jacket from us 30 years ago that he still wears to this day”.
He also alludes to the personalised nature of having a suit made: “Tailors have always been a place where you can come and build a rapport, much like a barber. It’s important that we retain that sense of community”.
At almost 77 years of age, Jack has no interest in leaving the trade behind. It’s a way of life. He says: “If I retired, I’d only get bored. Having a few days off is fine but then I don’t know what to do with myself. “
With many age crafts in decline it becomes increasingly important that traditional practices such as made to measure tailoring evolve to overcome any future obstacles.
Ready to face those challenges, expect to see Territo suits gracing the streets of Bristol and beyond for years to come.
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