Standing tall: the Jermyn Street tailor giving support to injured soldiersBetween 2006 and 2014, the Ministry of Defence calculates that 616 British soldiers were VSI – very seriously injured – in Afghanistan. At least 160 service personnel have had amputations while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since the turn of the new century. To many of these men and women, Emma Willis MBE is nothing less than a fairy godmother.
Willis, a Jermyn Street shirt maker whose clients include Benedict Cumberbatch and Barack Obama, first had the idea of making bespoke shirts for wounded soldiers in 2008, after hearing a Radio 4 documentary on Headley Court, the military’s medical rehabilitation centre near Epsom, Surrey. “What really moved me was their lack of self-pity and their fear of leaving the forces,” Willis recalls. “I thought: ‘What can I do?’ Well, I make shirts, so I just saw it as going and giving a gift of gratitude, something small.”