The trials of being a tailor in Karachi

Saadia Qamar May 06, 2010

KARACHI: Tailors in Pakistan are the Rumpelstiltskins of our time, mysterious people who promise to spin fabric into elaborate outfits.

They are also reviled and revered, blackmailed, threatened and flattered. The complicated relationship between women and their tailors has not changed over the course of the years. Tailors promise to deliver their work on time while women weave excuses and anger into their requests. At crunch time - such as Ramadan - it remains an elusive dream for women to get clothes stitched in time.

Despite the increase in affordable ready-to-wear options, tailors remain popular. A recent poll conducted by The Express Tribune/Sybrid shows that 44 per cent of respondents in Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad prefer to go to the tailor, with 40 per cent choosing readymade outfits. Tailors are kept busy all season. Shehzad Ladies Tailors, a tailoring shop on Karachi’s Tariq Road, run by the man with the same name told The Express Tribune, “I stitch as many as 100 to 150 suits in a month.” I only have five employees who work full time.”

Shehzad believes that younger clients are far more aggressive. “I have worked as a tailor for many years, but the attitude of women has never changed in that time. They constantly create panic amongst tailors. “For example, due to an electricity short-circuit my old shop completely burned down last December. But women complained that they had given fabric to me which was also lost. And they behaved as usual - shouting and screaming from all corners. The new and younger customers were more aggressive.

To compensate for their loss, I had to stitch most of their clothes for free!” Tanveer, a tailor based in Gulistan-e-Jauhar told The Express Tribune that he could not meet deadlines. “I never get to stitch clothes on time, because stitching requires time. I have worked as a tailor for 15 years and once a woman harassed me to the extent that she threatened to get me ‘picked up’ for not stitching her clothes on time. “During the Eid season, I tell my clients to go to retail stores for their clothes; because I only stitch for my very old clients.”

Tanveer says it has now become a habit for him to deliver stitched outfits after the promised date, but with constant taunts from his clients, he tries to meet orders in time. Muhammad Aslam, a tailor in Gulshan-e-Iqbal says, “When I promise my client that I will give the suit on time, the promise remains a promise but sometimes I manage to give it, a day late at the most.

The electricity crisis is the main hurdle in our work.” He added that he does not come in for much harassment. “Women do get angry for not giving their stitched clothes on time, but most are decent enough not to verbally abuse us. People do not take us for granted any more. They now ask us to fulfill their requests on time.”