'I thought I'd end up a tramp or a millionaire'

Gresham Blake is a bespoke tailor based in Brighton and London, whose celebrity fans include singer Jay Kay, Norman Cook and Zoë Ball

What did you want to be as a child?

A fireman or an astronaut.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

Either a tramp or a millionaire.

When did you decide on fashion?

I never thought about it until I was 23, but it should have been obvious because I could sew, I was interested in clothes, and I was good at geometry – pattern-cutting is basically geometry. But I left school at 16, worked for an insurance company, then just hung about because I didn't know what to do. At 24, I took an art foundation course at Brighton University and decided to do fashion.

You then did a fashion degree – was it worth it?

Yes, because it included a year in industry. I worked at Marks & Spencer doing formal- wear design; it focused me and showed me how to market my skills.

How did you set up your own business?

At university I made suits for friends, and one of them knew Jay Kay, so I told him, "Ring him up and tell him I want to make him a suit and then use his name in the press". Jay Kay was really good about it. After university, I walked up and down the streets of Brighton asking shops if they had a room to rent. Eventually I found one, and it felt like a very big step.

Was it a big risk?

It was a big commitment. I knew that if I didn't get three jobs a week I couldn't pay the rent. Opening a store in Bond Street in 2000 was another big commitment, this time involving tens of thousands of pounds.

Do you consider yourself successful?

I'm happy and I've got money, but I still plan to expand the business countrywide and beyond.

Any interview tips?

Do your research. I can't stand it when I say to someone, "What do you think of our website?", and they haven't even looked at it! You need to be interested in the business, speak clearly and look presentable.

And your CV tips?

It should be short and precise – don't dress it up or try to make it look surreal; all I want to know is what you're good at.

How do I get to be where you are?

Learn the basics and develop your skills base. While still at university I asked people if I could work with them for free, and worked with an alteration tailor and a military tailor. You have to find different avenues.

What motivates you?

I have a dread of being really old and not having put my all into life.

Who are your heroes?

Paul Smith, because he's so innovative.

What's the best perk of your job?

I get cheap fabrics and good deals, so my wardrobe is great!