Life & Culture

The Jewish family stitching for the King

The Kashkets are making thousands of uniforms for the coronation at their Tottenham factory


A family of Jewish tailors will see their work feature heavily in King Charles III’s coronation procession — and on the King himself.

Their firm, Kashket & Partners, is the main supplier of ceremonial outfits for Britain’s armed forces. It also has a special history with the royal family.

Chief executive Russell Kashket created the uniform worn by Prince William at his wedding.

Now new BBC documentary Coronation Tailors: Fit for a King will take the cameras into the Tottenham factory where items for the King — secret until the day itself — as well as 6,000 other uniforms are being made for the coronation by the firm’s small army of tailors.

Kashket is a Yiddish word for cap and the family’s history in clothing goes back more than a century to patriarch Alfred Kashket, a milliner to Tsar Nicholas II who fled Russia when the Bolsheviks took power. Alfred started working as a tailor in Savile Row, specialising in military uniforms.

When the firm he worked for went under, he decided to set up his own. His son, Bernard, now 87, eventually took over.

Bernard is semi-retired but comes in to work at the factory every Friday. His older son Russell is the official CEO and younger son Marlon is the embroidery specialist. Both are happiest working as tailors, says Russell’s son Nathan, the face of the enterprise.

“My dad is the decision-maker but he’ll turn his hand to anything,” says Nathan. “If the floor needs to be swept, he’ll do it.

“If there is a cutter missing, he’ll do the cutting. We all believe that being family we need to show that we are happy to do any job in the factory.”

Every uniform has 23 individual elements taking 34 hours of tailoring and embroidery. Each garment is pressed and ironed up to 60 times and there is a 40-point check list that it has to pass before being allowed to leave the factory.

The Kashket group also owns military metalware firm Firmin & Sons, which makes everything from buttons to helmets. It is the oldest manufacturing company in the UK. Set up in 1655, in the days of Oliver Cromwell, it has served every King and Queen since.

Now, every button and piece of metal with an ER in it has to be replaced with a CR. The company had to create 60 “dies” (casts) of different shapes and sizes for the CR crest — all had to be approved by the King.

All the soldiers taking part in the coronation parade will have their buttons changed — the rest will follow.

About 320 people work across Kashket & Partners, and the company creates 50,000 uniforms a year.

There was, as you might imagine, plenty of debate about whether to let the cameras in at this crucial time, when everything was even more stressful than usual.

“We’ve got our day-to-day business going on too but obviously the coronation takes priority over everything else,” says Cheryl, wife of CEO Russell.

“There is nothing more important than what is going on. It is very exciting and we realise how fortunate we are to be a part of history.

To be involved in such a thing is phenomenal but it does surprise us that people are so interested in our part in it.

“There were a lot of heated discussions and disagreements about whether we should do the television show or not but we just really did it for the staff who are so proud of what we have all done. This is to acknowledge their part in it.”

‘Coronation Tailors: Fit for a King’ is on BBC2 next Wednesday (May 3) at 9pm

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