‘Being in control is important’
2007-05-17 15:44:37 -
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In the latest instalment of Metro Eireann’s Meet The Boss, SANDY HAZEL speaks to Jude Hughes, tailor and proprietor of Rapid Alterations in DublinJude Hughes was born in Dublin. He was brought up by nuns at various institutions including the Sisters of St Vincent de Paul in St Philomena’s Stillorgan and the Navan Road. 

But it was while at a Christian Brothers industrial school that Hughes was first given the choice of trades to learn that would set him on his path for life. Hughes was offered farming, shoemaking carpentry or tailoring – he chose tailoring. 

At the time, training in tailoring involved hand sewing, button holes, fell stitching, machine sewing and, eventually, full garment making. Hughes developed his skills, and furthered his trade at the Institute of Tailoring and Textiles in Parnell Square, where he learned pattern cutting and did the City and Guilds exams. Following this, and after gaining some valuable experience at Gerry Devereux – considered one of the top handcraft tailors in Ireland at the time – Hughes felt it was time to branch out on his own. 

“I was doing some specialist hand tailoring, private work,” he says. “It was big business back then as people got new suits made for all special occasions. [But] readymade clothing became more available and cheaper in the early eighties and the bespoke trade died off very quickly.”

Hughes noticed that big firms were closing and smaller ones were changing their trade from making from scratch to altering. For Hughes, it was a case of adapt or die: “I considered the change and took it on board. I got a premises and started the alteration and repair business.” Hughes has not looked back since. 

He recalls the early days of his business: “When I had taken the decision to start up it was going well until I had a situation in my first premises where I got notice to move. This was a shock as I hadn’t even been there two years and I had also taken out a mortgage on a house. I felt as though the rug had been pulled from under my feet.

“But in a way it was a blessing as, out of the blue, I found out about a much better location [where Hughes is presently located, at 71 Middle Abbey street]. It is very busy and I got a good lease. My earlier experience had made me wary and so I negotiated a proper lease.” 

His workshop, Rapid Alterations, deals in alterations and repairs, turning up trousers, letting out waistbands and taking in the legs for that current look of ‘skinny jeans’. Hughes never advertises his business apart from a sign outside: “I just put that sign outside the workshop and people just started coming in, it’s a great location.”

What Hughes enjoys most about running his own business is the personal relationships with customers and the control he has over his own life. “My customers have become friends over the years,” he says. “Sometimes they will sit and chat. They are nearly sure I won’t let them down. 

“It’s amazing how many times I hear ‘I have to catch a plane in an hour and I really need that tux’ – I don’t always believe them. I love meeting people and have had a fantastic cross section of people in here. The change in Dublin has been huge. All nationalities now.” 

Hughes employs one lady part-time to help with the workload. “I had another guy who retired only recently at the age of 92. He came to me looking for a bit of work when he was 74! He’d still be here but his eyesight is starting to let him down.” 

Away from the business, Hughes is a big tennis fan. He also ran the last Dublin City Marathon, raising funds for his friend Regina O’Connor’s memorial fund.

What advice does he have for potential business people? “Put in the hours. It’s hard and it doesn’t suit everybody, but being in control is important. If you work for someone else you are limited and you cannot thrive.”

A quote above Hughes’ sewing machine reads:
‘The customer is the most important visitor on our premises
He is not dependent on us
We are dependent on him
He is not an interruption on our work
He is the purpose of it
He is not an outsider on our business
He is a part of it
We are not doing him a favour by serving him
He is doing us a favour by giving us
An opportunity to do so.’
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