As the festive season packed with lots of weddings you have to attend approaches, looking your best will keep you in good stead at these events which usually turn out to be re-unions and networking opportunities. What better season than this to have a tailor you can trust in your arsenal.
There are countless stories on the difficulties of finding a reliable tailor; it’s gotten to a point where jokes, memes and all sorts of mockery material can be found online and on social media about these tailors. You probably have one tailor horror story or two of your own and it is widely accepted that a tailor will let you down, at some point probably with the ‘busy’ excuse. To be honest, I’m not sure which other profession apart from politics has been ridiculed more than tailors.
In fairness, there is an abundance of good tailors in the country and these jokes are not for every tailor, we do have professional tailors, but reliable tailors who meet deadlines with little or no excuses and an integrity to uphold are seemingly scarce. Like any business where you have to provide a service or product, if your potential customers don’t trust the service/product provider then your chances of a sustainable business/profession is slim.
We seem to have settled for less because it’s now accepted as the norm and most people stay with their current tailors because they don’t want to undergo the process of finding a better one. Guess what? You’re in luck today because this article will equip you with the know-how on spotting and retaining a good tailor.
Step 1: Ask around
It’s a good idea to ask either people you know or people you meet. The firsthand experience these people will have has more value than what any review on a website like tailorsdirect.ng will tell you. A lot of really good and professional tailors don’t have profiles online yet but I really hope this changes and everyone recognises the visibility you give yourself and your service if you can be found online. You’ll have people around you that always seem to be wearing an attention grabbing nicely made outfit – it looks sharp and the finishing looks clean and structured. You don’t have to know the person; you can strike up a conversation about where you can get something similar done. From my experience, people find this flattering and will be happy to share information on whom or where they had it made.
Step 2: Visit the tailor/store
I’d have said give the tailor a call first and ask questions only a good tailor would be able to answer with detail but that isn’t a very good idea, not in Nigeria anyway because you know most of the time they’ll tell you they can do whatever it is you want even if they can’t. See Sir Richards meme above. The hustling spirit of a Nigerian won’t let them loose out on an opportunity like that even if they’ll mess up the job.
Instead of an initial phone interview, pay the tailor a visit with one of your favourite clothing as a benchmark of what you expect from him/her. Have a look around their workplace, are there other clients clothes lying around on the floor? Are you happy with your garment lying on the floor? Really creative people are usually not the most organised but a clean work place is a telling sign of attention to detail, good presentation and professionalism. These signs are important because one of the biggest complaints you’ll hear about Nigerian tailors is how they never have the garment ready on time and how unprofessional they can be to a paying customer.
Step 3: Test their temperament
A tailor you plan to work with for years ahead has to be someone with the right amount of temperament to allow for effective communication and building a professional relationship. A personal relationship is not required at the start, this will automatically develop over time if you decide to go ahead and stick with the tailor.
Examine their temperament by asking to fix a zipper or stitch a small torn hole on your garment. For a professional tailor, this will be like any other tailoring task that you have decided to bring to them instead of taking it to any other tailor. Like the saying goes, if you can’t trust someone with small things, you can’t really trust them with big things. Due to the work ethics of a good tailor or any other profession, this small task is an opportunity to acquire a customer for life and they’ll do and say all the right things to let you know they appreciate you bringing this opportunity to them.
Step 4: Inspect their work
Request to have a close look at previous work they’ve done; this might seem fussy but a good tailor will understand why you need to do this, regardless, they should be proud of their work. On the other hand, a tailor not so confident of their work will visually have a negative body language. Insist anyway and ensure to look at their finishing; look for structure and tidiness in finishing at the edges and if they leave loose threads.
Step 5: Test-run their skills
Don’t make the mistake of giving them one of your precious garments for this test run. Horror tailor stories are all over the Nigerian cyber space talking about how a new-found tailor ruined an expensive piece of clothing. The test run garment should be one you wouldn’t loose sleep over if it got ruined. A good tailor should be able to see how the whole garment comes together (for instance; how the shoulders on your shirt can be adjusted by taking in the rise where the seam is on your shoulder bone; this helps the sleeve length and not forgetting to move your cuff buttons so that your shirt cuffs are more comfortable; or how to alter the fabric of your jacket to get rid of those wrinkles that occur at the top of your back if the jacket doesn’t drape properly on your body) and they’ll likely recommend further alterations.
Step 6: Read their body language and let your gut do the rest
When I said a good tailor will likely recommend further alterations, well, there’s a chance the garment doesn’t require further alterations and the tailor is only trying to squeeze more money out of you. This is where you should trust your gut instinct; observing their body language (not their words) will help you determine if you’re being hustled or if the tailor has your best interest at heart. A long-term thinking tailor will want to start the professional relationship on a foundation of trust. On the other hand, a tailor out to make a quick buck will look for ways to hustle you from the onset.
Step 7: Build a relationship
In building a relationship, talk with the tailor not at them. The tailor will get to learn your style preferences and how you like things done. Building trust is a two-way thing and you have to keep to your word and pay them on the mutually agreed date, not later.
In the words of Finis Farr, “Well dressed men know that nothing worth-while is ever outmoded, that a superb tailor’s work is ageless”. Having a tailor you can rely on is a powerful style weapon, the best dressed Nigerians can testify to this. Look for a tailor to work with long-term, allow them the time to understand your sense of style and expect the understanding to get better over time.