I first came in to contact with Ana Rodriguez, the super-stylish shirt maker from Léon in Northern Spain, shortly after she’d launched her first major collaboration with Andy Jordan of Made in Chelsea fame. I was approached by her PR at the time, who had rounded up a selection of London’s prominent sartorial influencers to offer bespoke shirting via her new company Santamaria Shirt Makers. This was quite a bit before her showroom in London’s Notting Hill had even come to fruition. Everything was conducted online, using measurements from an existing shirt I felt fitted me best, entering all the relevant details in to an online form that was sent through cyberspace to the company’s factory in Calle Londres (has a certain ring to it-ed) in Madrid. 2 weeks later, and the hand-made Camisa was all mine.
I chose a blue ticking stripe button-down shirt in a soft 100% Italian cotton yarn, which Santamaria kindly agreed to personalise with my Sartorialee insignia (see inset below). To say I was thrilled with the resulting shirt is an understatement. I’m delighted to report that Ana has gone one step further this year by launching a 3D shirt designer that’s embedded in to her website , to achieve an unrivalled virtual fit, a world first in shirt making.
I caught up with Ana over a cortado in her Ossington Street studio recently to delve a little deeper in to what inspired her to launch a shirt making business here in the UK.
Sartorialee: Tell me about your family’s connections with the shirt making business…
Ana Rodriguez: My father Ramon Santamaria has more than 50 years experience in tailoring. He started when he was 15 years old as an apprentice at one of Madrid’s most famous tailors and has won numerous awards during his illustrious career. He oversees the production of the shirts and is figurehead of the company. Everything we do must match his exacting standards as he has his name on the brand. Our logo is his signature. My mother has run a successful shirting fabric importing business for over 20 years and oversees the production in Spain.
S: Was it always certain you were going to end up in shirtmaking too?
AR: Not really, I studied Psychology at university and did a Masters in HR
Management. I worked for Merryll Lynch Bank of America HR department before deciding to change my career and get into fashion, because this was my passion really. Prior to starting Santamaria I was working as a Product Developer for Burberry.
S: How much of a challenge is it to start a business in a foreign country?
AR: It’s always a challenge to start a business no matter where you are – even more so when it’s a foreign country. But I’ve been living in London for 10 years now and consider it home. I feel really comfortable here and know how everything works.
S: What qualifications do you need to be a shirtmaker?
AR: You definitely need to understand fabrics, fittings and the production process. Having my parents working in the same business for so many years has really helped. They are my mentors. My previous experience as product developer at Jigsaw and Burberry has also been invaluable in establishing my new career.
S: You are very sartorially savvy yourself. When did you first get in to clothes and who were your influences along the way?
AR: I’ve always been in to clothes from a very young age. My parents would tell me to wear a particular outfit, and I would be in floods of tears because it didn’t match and I wouldn’t want to wear it. I think it’s in the blood coming from a family that works in fashion. I definitely enjoy dressing nicely. I don’t really follow trends. I just wear what I think suits me. I always look for well-made unique pieces that I can wear for many years to come. I hate fast fashion. I love wearing vintage clothes that my father made in the 70s. They are perfect even now.
S: You began your business initially online but have recently opened a store
in London’s Notting Hill. Talk me through the pros and cons of both and
how they help each other.
AR: We started selling online but soon realised what people really wanted was to get measured in person and receive expert advice. Opening our store in Notting Hill was the best idea.
S: What are the most important considerations for someone new to your brand when ordering a shirt for the first time?
AR: You are in good hands. We have extensive experience in shirt making and we know what we are doing. We offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee so there is nothing to worry about.
S: What’s the strangest (style) request you’ve had from a client so far?
AR: We receive ‘special’ requests quite often. We’re really flexible and this is what people like about us. Anything is possible. If the client wants something
different we’ll do our best to accommodate it.
I definitely enjoy dressing nicely. I don’t really follow trends. I just wear what I think suits me. I always look for well-made unique pieces that I can wear for many years to come
Santamaria Shirt makers, 55A Ossington St, London W2 4LY | Order your handmade shirt here using the 3D Shirt Designer: santamariashirtmakers.com
Next up in my Women in Menswear series: Kimberley Megan, Under Cutter at Huntsman Savile Row