Eloquent, eccentric and exceptionally talented, the bright-eyed and mightily moustached Eion Todd is one the last few remaining traditional pattern-cutters in the world. His talent, honed over a 50-year career spanning all corners of the globe, has led him to a quiet place in North London where he spends some of his evenings hand-crafting beautiful dresses for the Little Black Dress Collection.
Now in his 60s, Eion is carrying on a 400-year-old tradition in the fashion industry that could soon be lost forever. The learned art of pinning, shaping and cutting garments by eye is gradually being replaced by technically limited computer programmes, and with it much of the creativity and quality once synonymous with British fashion.
While our formerly thriving textiles industry (which employed more than 3 million people in its ‘70s heyday) has almost entirely decamped abroad, local knowledge is paramount for quality. "When I was working in Bombay, it took three months to get an A-line skirt approved. They didn't understand it because saris don't have seams,” says Eion.
Watching him work is an inspiration, and he tells his story with the same flair as his scissors gliding through the fabric on his table. "Anyone can sketch a design on card, it's the pattern-cutter that gives a garment life,” says Eion. He starts by pinning Calico cloth around a dummy to create the dress shape. He then moves to the table where he uses his trained eye to finesse and refine before transferring it back to the dummy. This happens three or four times. "When I'm happy with the pattern I transfer it to cardboard, and finally fabric, to create a beautiful dress that fits to perfection. No computer can compete with that.”
Since being taught the trade by the fashion's elite Saville Row tailors, Eion has breathed life into everything from furs and brassieres to men's suits and glamorous gowns. A lecturer himself at Central St Martins for many years, his work was exhibited at the acclaimed Cour Carrée du Louvre in Paris, and his clients have included singer Bing Crosby, opera singer Renée Fleming and even Princess Diana.
Now retired, Eion continues to cut for pleasure. So for a few hours each week, he does what he loves best and takes his scissors to paper for Little Black Dress. "It gets me out of the house, I share some food and conversation with old friends. It keeps me sane,” he says. And thank God. Because Eion is continuing to keep the creativity, quality and heritage of British fashion alive to this day.
Shop our expertly, Eion-tailored, Little Black Dress Collection here.