A Tale of Tailors

Desingers at work...

Hamid (in backrow) is a young, talkative, but hard working man in his late 20s. He is tailor by profession. I also give him my clothes. The only problem here is that he’s not exactly very professional. He’s hardworking, diligent, and sincere to his work even, but it’s just that his concentration span is so limited, its just altogether erases his ability to gain 100% customer satisfaction (if there is such a thing, Hamid would probably argue otherwise). But this is something of a plague that is present, to varying extents, more or less, in all of Karachi’s tailors.

Actually, if you think of it that way, lack of professionalism is plague that is present in all kinds of professions through out this country of ours, not just Karachi or in just the tailoring business, but since I’m talking about tailoring, for the moment, I’ll stick to that.

Many women in this city, along with a fair share of men, rely on these “Master Sahibs” for a cost effective alternative to ready made, pre-stitched clothing. While there are advantages of forming links with these tailors, they don’t come without sufficient headaches. On the face, you have the freedom to personalize your style, pick and chose, follow a new trend, bring back an old one, be outrageous, or be conservative, be whatever you want. One the face all of this is blessing.

But unfortunately, that’s how deep it goes. When you look beyond the face value, personalization has its own drawbacks, or may I should call them hurdles instead. Though most darzis out there will claim they can adapt just about any kind of design from a designer label you point them to from a fashion magazine, and they do, I’m sure try their best, but their tries are a bit like Shahid Afridi’s innings. The either hit-or-miss.

'Master Sahib' and his dukanIf he pulls it off, bravo, you’ll look quite the part, but God forbid if he doesn’t, you might as well consider you dress as good as non-existing, unless of course, you have an invitation to a fancy-dress party anytime soon. From making the shalwar out of the kameez and the kameez out of the shalwar material, to mix and matching materials from two different dresses, to even stitching with the wrong client’s measurements altogether – no blunder, how matter big or small, is beyond Karachi’s tailors. And if you think I’m finicky, let me tell you that am I’m actually infamous for being “style impassive”. But you can’t really wear something that’s not your size, or make you looks like a clown, now can you?

If some how you’re lucky enough to not have a tailor effected by the “I wrote all the measurements down properly, but then lost the paper” syndrome, you’ll invariably have a tailor that resides perpetually in “Baji-tayyar-nahin-huay” land (to use fellow metroblogger Fatima’s apt terminology). For an entire city that is fashionably late in every sphere of life, the unpunctuality of Karachi’s tailors is hardly surprising, but their array of excuses make an interesting reading nevertheless.

In the summers, its all the KESC’s fault, in the winter, it is the wedding season (‘kaam bohat hai baji’), at any other random time of the year, he may fall sick, or suddenly have to go to the gaaoon, or best of all, he may simply forget. Even when you tell a tailor very strictly and strongly that you need a dress by a certain date, never underestimate his ability to forget. I’m quite a forgetful person my self, but Hamid’s capacity to casually forget is one that eludes me, though I suspect if I possessed it, along with a his emotional black mailing skills, I’d be quite a master at skipping homework assignments at school and college.

Yes, emotional black mailing. For it is stories like this, this, this and this, which remind me time and again, that for all the unprofessional stitching Hamid and a few of his fellow tailors ever do, they’re at large, still another of Karachi’s compromised laborers, an indispensable, yet over-worked, underpaid and un-recognized part of a growing fashion industry.

Kiran TailorsHamid is married, and lives with his brother, who has a family of his own, in a nearby locality. They both have their separate shops, but they’re on rent, and they have other “larke” they have employed too. I cannot guess how much his monthly income will be, but I can only presume, that for some one who works on average 10 hours a day, six days a week, and crucially, in a cramped, congested little shop, having to bear listening to unsatisfied, shouting, sometimes downright screaming women, all day long, that he does not have life as easy as I have the luxury of having it.

Yet despite that, every time I go to him, he greets me with a smile. He’ll exchange salam, ask your haal chaal, clear up his table and get all ready to patiently listen to your rants. And admit it, sometimes they really are rants, aren’t they? My dad has never been able to comprehend how one inch here or there can “ruin” a dress, and how it can be worth altering the dress three times until it is perfect, and consequently making twice as many trips to the darzi in the process. May be he’s right, may be, just may be, us women, are a tiny bit obsessed.

I don’t know why I find Hamid’s patience in the face of his customer’s seemingly never ending demands striking; after all such manners are the norm for customer care services in any profession, but there’s something unique here, which I can’t really put to words. In an email group discussion on darzis before I penned down this post, MB jokingly responded to my complains of darzis’ un-professionalism by pointing out how they didn’t “posses BBA or MBA” degrees. Perhaps he is right too.

For a moment I compared how a qualified professional would respond to his customers if he was forced to work in testing conditions like most tailors in this city do. Cliche stringed, jaded sentences of call centre operators and tired, plastic smiled pasted faces of bank accountants suddenly started picturing in my mind on one hand, and that vibrant, ever-willing, energetic smile of Hamid’s, that he greets me with every time without fail, on the other. I’m never quite satisfied with either’s performance fully, but I know now who I should respect more.

Long live Hamid, long live Karachi’s tailors.

26 Comments so far

  1. AH (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 5:25 am

    I am a big fan of Karachi’s tailors. They sew things quickly and professionally. Is there a lack of professionalism in the city among some tailors? Yes. But this is true of any profession in any city. No profession is without its un-professionals. Which is what makes us value our professional and competent tailors.


  2. KhiTorPitt (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 7:27 am

    @Zainub, I admit that you write superbly well, but yaar tum likhti buhat ho :).

    I know these tailors are really hard working, especially during the month of Ramadan and shadi season they works a lot, but the men’s tailor they becharay dont earn that much as the ready made shalwar kameez are comparatively cheaper.

    I have a question, only girls could answer this, I have no intention to offend anybody, last time when I was in Khi I have seen girls wearing kameez with a very long chalk (I am not sure but I think thats what they call) I think you gals must have understood what I am saying.

    So my question was, like who introduce these kind of fashions ??? doesnt looks good, some of the girls they do pardah on the other hand some doesnt but I think they should not wear these kind of kameez.


  3. Kamran (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 10:41 am

    Lucky you are in Pakistan where poor guys don’t know their rights. you could be sured for putting this on the net with the poor guy’s name and face on the net like this


  4. Kamran (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 10:42 am

    Lucky you are in Pakistan where poor guys don’t know their rights. you could be sured for putting this on the net with the poor guy’s name and face on the net like this


  5. Kamran (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 10:43 am

    Lucky you are in Pakistan where poor guys don’t know their rights. you could be sured for putting this on the net with the poor guy’s name and face on the net like this


  6. Kamran (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 10:44 am

    Lucky you are in Pakistan where poor guys don’t know their rights. you could be sured for putting this on the net with the poor guy’s name and face on the net like this


  7. Kamran (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 11:26 am

    Sorry for multiple posting.


  8. udass (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 11:39 am

    itna lamba blog …….. uffff
    though i like the comparison tailors vs. shahid afridi


  9. MB (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 12:03 pm

    When it comes to kapray, darzi & all that , meri bolti bund hojati hai . . lolzz

    Excellent post Zainub
    How about some info for males on darzi?


  10. Keep Walking! (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

    Gulf, gulf and gulf! All the time, I hear this s**t from every other girl. Any comments/suggestions/ideas on male tailors pls??

    Keep writing!


  11. Zainub (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

    The second image in this post is a gents tailor, if you follow the link to its Flickr page you’ll get some more info. He’s called Master Liaqat Hussain Qadri, and works in the same building as Hamid. There are male tailors in Gulf/Metro too, I think, though I wouldn’t know for sure, because I hardly ever visit Gulf my self.

    KhiTorPitt,

    I don’t think tailors have a hand in introducing any new fashion trends, they’re involved more in the popularization of existing trends. Again, I’m fairly unqualified to comment on this subject, but I would think the trend setters are the media/celebrities/designers.

    Kamran,

    I’m not sure why you think I’d be sued for writing this. When I took Hamid’s photos I told him I was planning to write about him. And there’s nothing here which I don’t normally tell him.


  12. Kamran (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

    Zainub

    Telling him and telling the world are two totally different things. However, I did not know that you had his consent and in this case, I oppologize.


  13. cyrum (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 7:16 pm

    Zainub Ji

    Kuch Khof Allah ka bhi karo, yeah blog ladies tailor promo blog tou nahi hai ?


  14. SELF (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 7:22 pm

    Zainub, keep trying until you get the tailor you like. Why stuck with one?


  15. Zainub (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 7:50 pm

    Cyrum,

    This is a blog about Karachi, anything Karachi centric has a place on it, be it ladies tailors, or gents hairdressers.

    Self,

    Why stick with one? Cause its pain to teach your style to a new tailor each time.


  16. Salman A. (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 9:22 pm

    I have noticed that women have been spending too much on clothes than men and then on top of that, they talk of Women’s Rights and stuff! This is really weird, right? This don’t make sense to me since I believe in equality between men and women. Also, most of these clothes become useless and get wasted much before they actually wear out. The reason being some women tend to develop this emotional attachment with their outfits and then they sort of keep them in their closets for ever. I suggest once you out size a kurta successfully, you should look for a “slim” candidate, usually a sister or a cousin, who could utilize it.


  17. pkhan (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 12:55 am

    @ Zainub
    You did not say any thing about the stiching charges, and turn over time, I believe atleast 85%of the ladies get their clothes stiched from a tailor and some of these tailors have generations of tailoring business,and they make real good money.
    Good post no politics involve.


  18. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 1:57 am


    Why stick with one? Cause its pain to teach your style to a new tailor each time.

    Thank God we gents don’t suffer for different styles of Shalwar Kameez. JO Bawa Adam k zamana k chala arha hay bus use me onch neech kardi aur eid ka kapray tayyar ;D


  19. Zainub (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 2:06 am

    Off topic comments are as good as spam and are strictly now allowed, I’ve just deleted one of them, and will continue to so in future with any comment not related to Karachi’s tailors or tailoring in general in future also. Please be careful.


  20. Lucifer (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 3:21 am

    Why do you need tailors? Look at the shapeless blobs of cloth you people wear all the time…extra large nightsuits I call them. Is that the best your tailors can produce? Just take large bags of cotton and cut holes for the arms and legs, and there you have it…

    Why don’t sensible people wear decent clothes like shirts and pants? As for the women, they could be wearing saris, which is the original female ‘native’ dress of this region (South Asia). The shalwar-kameez nonsense belongs to Afghanistan. Once size fits all!


  21. Balma (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 3:37 am

    I second your comment about Sari, My only durkhwaast, Only good looking ones are allowed to wear saaris, not so good looking ones please stick to Shalvar Qameezes:-)

    I remember during stupid Zia’s time, they propogated in media that Sari is a hindu dress and shalvar qameez is musalmaan. I guess, clothes had religion too in those days.
    And, Zulmat-ul-HAq’s chamchaas forgot what Sikh women were wearing! right…Shalvaar Qameeeeez!

    thanks to Zia, our girls now don’t even know how to tie a Sari. Kis qadr afsose dee gal hae!

    I propose Shalvaar Qameez should be banned in Pakistan, esp for men. All male darzees making shalvar qameez should be sent for continuing education /retraining. No no, men don’t have to wear loongees :-), but shalvaar qameez looks quite unprofessional.
    If you really have to wear Kurta, and who can blame men in Karachi’s heat, put it on top of nicely tailored pants or may be, just may be, nicely tailored straight leg pajamas. Shalvar should be banned for both men and women.


  22. Zainub (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 4:14 am

    Lucifer/Balma,

    In case it hasn’t dawned on you yet, the world doesn’t revolve around what you think or what you want, people are free to wear whatever they want. If people like to wear baggy clothes, they will, they don’t need your approval.

    PS: As promised, I have deleted another off topic comment. Hope it sends the message.


  23. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

    s/suggest/share :D


  24. Balma (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 9:12 pm

    Bhai Adnan,
    What is so wrong about asking if Karachi women should go to male darzees in Karachi?

    Also, your objection on Lucifer’s comment on male darzees taking female measurements, I think you should direct it to Lucifer. He did get bit naughty there.

    But, my question is more fundamental. Are women even allowed to go to see ghair mard….darzi or no darzi? Measurement or no measurement. Lot of people in Karachi are claiming now that women should not even seek education unless it is deeni taaleem, due to intereaction with ghair mards (I am really tryig hard to not use naamehram, becuase then I will get axed).

    I agree with your ghazvat etc example, but that was not the point.

    Also, you brought up editor sahiba’s cricket blog. If that is not off the topic for this blog, then may I remind everyone that Asrar Ahmed has claimed that watching cricket is bad for women’s ikhlaq? Didn’t he say in 80’s that the act of a man licking and rubbing his cricket ball on his thighs can lead to increase in the shehvaani jazbaat of women and therefore is unislamic?

    Btw, I have not used words like Farhat Hashmi, NaMehram, and not refered to the editor directly in this post, so hopefully it won’t be axed.

    Oh boy, young young laRkiyaa’n ub dictator bun rahee hai’n. And then we wonder why we get stuck with Budnazir and Mushy type dictators.
    dosray kaa nuktaa-e-nazar sunnay kee taaqat nahi’n hum logo’n may.


  25. Balma (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 9:21 pm

    *Zainub wrote:
    people are free to wear whatever they want. If people like to wear baggy clothes, they will, they don’t need your approval.

    ****** my comment

    Actually, this is not true. People are not free to wear whatever they want in Pakistan. Can a man wear shorts and go buy tomatos in Karachi?
    Men in Pakistan don’t have enough aazaadi to wear what they like. Can a women wear skirt and go buy machhlee?

    So, people are not free to wear whatever they want in Pakistan.

    Will this post be deleted too, editor sahiba?


  26. Lucifer (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

    I agree that people are not free to wear what they like. I remember when I was young (not that long ago) when my brother and I would wear shorts to go play squash. We were hitching rides on Main Sharah-e-Faisal when a minibus stopped mid-way and all the guys stared at us. And our legs wern’t even shaved. That’s the first time I realized how women must feel when men ogle at them. It wasn’t that bad…



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