For those of us who don’t necessarily conform to a gender binary, a wedding invite dropping through the letterbox can produce an excitement closely followed by the dread of what to wear. Often resulting in a mismatch of ill-fitting blazers and trousers or a dress that just doesn’t feel right, it can make what should be a fun day of celebration into a drag we can’t wait to finish.
Spotting a real gap in the market, Katie Fitz was approached by some friends. A lesbian couple who are soon to tie the knot, her mates were at a loss as to what they’d wear on their special day. The couple found themselves restricted by the binary options of the high street, neither feeling comfortable or represented by the traditional garb. Katie told me, “That kind of service is something that absolutely should exist but doesn’t yet. I’m a tailor and I can make anything – I don’t care what shape people are, their gender or anything, I just want to make great clothes that fit people perfectly!”
We met up to discuss this one afternoon, which got me to thinking about what I’d wear to my brother’s upcoming wedding. I’ve shied away from dresses for some time now, feeling like a fish out of water in them, and I’ve never been satisfied by the boxy shape of men’s suits.
If there’s anyone to trust with the task of creating bespoke garments for special occasions, it’s Katie. She launched Fitz & Friends this year but has been tailoring since she was 16. Her impressive resume includes an apprenticeship with a local costume maker, which led to a stint in the film industry. Katie told me, “some of my work is in Mary Poppins Returns and Mary Queen of Scots, and I worked on Guardians of the Galaxy,” which helped her really nail her craft. Fitz & Friends, though, goes back to a local market, based in Ditchling and is Sussex through and through. It’s a small, local startup, but Katie has big ambitions.
They’re even partnering with local favourites Gender Free World Clothing. Still in its early stages, Katie tells me, “we’re starting a joint made to order waistcoat service, where customers can pick from one of their sizes and choose their cloth and pocket options. I’ll make their custom-made waistcoat which will arrive six weeks later.” There’s been a huge demand for this kind of service in Brighton for years, so it’s exciting to learn we’ll be able to pop into GFW to satisfy this want. There will even be a Fitz & Friends suit in the GFW store, so you can see Katie’s work in person.
It’s clear Fitz & Friends will grow and create quite a following. Sustainability is at the top of Katie’s priorities, as she is passionate about making clothing people will treasure. In the same vein, “I make suits with the capacity to be altered. I think throwaway fashion is a tragedy, so it’s important to me to make the suits alterable. I’m hoping I can encourage people to love their clothes a bit better and value them more. If you’re getting a suit made for you, you can wear it again and again, even if it’s for your wedding. It’s so much better to invest in something you can reuse.” Next on the list is to source more green suppliers for the company. They’re already using a lot of linen, which is made from flax – a material with a much better environmental impact than cotton. Plus, using best of breed British cloth houses is helping reduce Fitz & Friends’ carbon footprint.
If you’re interested in Fitz & Friends’ services, the process couldn’t be simpler. Katie says anyone interested in commissioning their own garments can expect their own unique patterns and a no-obligation policy.
“The first thing to do is call or email me about what you’re looking for. We can have a conversation, then you can book a time to visit and look through the fabric samples – we tend to only use really established British cloth makers. I’ll walk you through all the different styles we do. I’d then take your measurements. It’s no obligations, so you can go home and think about it. When I’ve put the suit into production it’s usually about four weeks. When it’s ready, we’ll have a fitting to make sure it fits your body perfectly, then perhaps some alterations if necessary. Then your suit is ready!”