The highs and lows of being a tailor

From complicated relationships, to peak season rush and financial woes – tailors see it all.

Momina Sibtain August 02, 2012


A woman in Pakistan has a myriad of relationships that she tends to; from the more orthodox and delicate relationship with her mother-in-law to the rather unorthodox, but “complicated” relationship she has with her tailor.

One may be able to make do without a meaningful, fulfilling romantic relationship but it is almost impossible to walk down the streets of a metropolitan city without a steady and reliable tailor. The emotional and physical turmoil one goes through with their tailor is beyond the comprehension of any man.

Almost every season is now a busy one for tailors; if it isn’t wedding season then it is Eid and if it isn’t Eid, then the season is changing and new clothes need to be made as soon as possible. A perplexing time comes upon the tailoring world when the markets empty out during the first half of Ramazan.

The Express Tribune ventures out into Liberty Market, Lahore, to see how the tailors are doing during the holy month of fasting. The market is relatively empty on a Monday afternoon in the hot month of July. An elderly tailor who runs a small shop in the basement of the market, Umar Farooq, flicks his cigarette as a customer walks in. Here is a snippet of the conversation between the tailor and his client:

Client: Hello, are my clothes ready?

Tailor: No, there has been no electricity.

Client: This is ridiculous, I gave you the clothes three weeks ago –  what have you been doing?

Sighing heavily, Farooq repeats his rehearsed monologue: “In the past eight hours, we have only had electricity for 45 minutes. How do you expect us to work if there is going to be no power? Our workmen are running away because it is too hot and humid to work.”

As if she hasn’t heard a word he said, the client raises her voice a little, throws a tantrum and storms out. Farooq confesses that this is a daily occurrence because nothing can be done about the power outage problem and the frustration on both ends is building. “The UPS costs us about Rs25,000 to Rs30,000 a year to maintain,” he adds, highlighting the challenge and increasing cost of running his shop.

One would expect the market to be bustling with Eid shoppers, but another tailor, Mohammed Saeed, paints a different picture. “No one wants to get clothes made during the monsoon season because the weather is changing and people generally do not come to us.” Saeed has been in business since 1971 and claims that every year Ramazan is quiet in the beginning with the last 10 days being unbearably hectic with the Eid rush.

“We are bogged down with so many orders, I have no idea how all the Eid orders will get ready in time,” says one of the workers at Maharaja Tailors. “I feel inflation has brought the spirits of the public down and it has been a slow month.” From complicated relationships to financial woes, the tailoring world is definitely more complex than it seems.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2012.


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