Clothes add to your personality, tell a little bit of yourself and instil a sense of confidence. But most importantly, the dresses that made your friends gasp in admiration are the works of an individual with whom you enjoy a love-hate relationship. That someone is your tailor-and in the current situation, someone who is struggle to provide Eid clothes for his or her family due to the price hike.
The individuals who are tasked with adorning us on all occasions, whether it is Eid, a wedding or a special family occasion, hardly earning enough to afford new clothes for their own children on Eid. According to tailors in the twin cities, rising inflation has eaten away as much as half of their income.
Tailoring, it seems, is a profession marked by class distinction. There are tailors for the lower class, the middle class and the upper class, and each niche has its own share of problems. Yet they all sing the same mantra; high inflation, decreasing customers and rising electricity bills.
Kulsoom Khan, 19, and Zainab Khan, have been stitching clothes for the past 5-6 years after learning from their mother, who adopted the profession after her husband passed away a few years back.
“Last year, we were able to stitch clothes for ourselves on Eid, but this year, we have to save up for our education expenses,” Kulsoom told The Express Tribune. She is a final year BSc student.
Kulsoom said there has been a 30 to 40 per cent decline in customers, and even the ones who are getting clothes stitched are reluctant to pay full price. There has been a phenomenal increase in tailoring costs since last year, the major part of which is in paying electricity bills, she added.
Lower middle and middle class
Naseer Ahmed, 40, has been a tailor for the past 16 years. Based in Azizabad Rawalpindi, financial troubles are worrying him as well, “Last year, I had three outfits made for each of my three children, this year, managing even one is difficult”, he said.
Ahmed is of the view that the decline is prevalent for middle class tailors. He stated that stitching prices have doubled due to the cost of electricity, but customers are not willing to pay extra. He stated that rates increased from Rs300-350, and that there is less work than last year. Ahmed used to be up working till midnight and open right after Sehri, but this year, he would be done for the day by 10:30pm.
Upper and upper middle class
Shah Hussain, a tailor in F-7 and Nadir in F-10 told a slightly different tale. According to them ‘upper-class tailors’ have a different dilemma as compared to ‘middle-class tailors’ and ‘home-run-businesses’; they said price hikes hardly affected the affluent. They explained that their business was suffering due to the increasing trend of buying stitched clothes, as they have become more reasonably priced and save on time as well, as compared to unstitched clothes.
These tailors claimed that their sales have declined as well, despite being based in ‘elite’ sectors and having a more affluent consumer base. As more of the base goes to boutiques, Nadir cannot afford to go to his village for Eid. “Transport fares are so high that I feel it’s better to save the money for my children,” he said.
Muhammad Iqbal Chughtai, a tailor who has been working in Aabapara since 1980, said one reason behind the low number of customers was that it is mid-season now. He was hopeful that business would pick up when the weather cools and winter is approaching.
“The tailoring business is still expanding. When I started work in Aabpara 31 years back, there were only 12 shops. Today, there are about 70 to 80, and every tailor has healthy business,” he said. He said the rates are not fixed for tailors anywhere in the twin cities and are normally the clearest indicator of the different class of customers.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2011.