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Aug 4, 2008

Perfect fit. Not the bill

A tailor at work in the city.If you thought that only branded shirts and trousers were out of bounds because of high prices, you were wrong. Now, because of price rise, buying the fabric and getting it stitched is no more a tailor-made alternative for the cost-conscious. Sartorial taste in the middle-income group is undergoing some changes to combat the rising prices of fabric and the stitching charges. “There is a 40 per cent increase in the cost of all the materials used for stitching from January. This does not include the cost of the fabric for shirt or trouser,” says proprietor of Freelook Creations K. Hari.
Yet, his first floor tailor shop on Cross-Cut Road has a steady flow of customers. “Ready-made does not suit every one. And, my large clientele ensures that cost does not hit business,” he points out. But, there is a discernible change in the preference of material as a result of price rise, he says. Those who have a strong preference for a particular type of fabric manufactured by a high-end producer do not compromise on the material despite the price rise. They prefer a good fabric that they believe will fit them when stitched properly. So, they go in for costly material and do not mind high stitching charges also.

“But, the middle income customers are going in for more cotton-based trouser fabric instead of costly terry wool. They are trying to strike a balance between the costs of fabric and stitching. As they know that the tailoring charges cannot be brought down, these customers buy material that is cheaper than what they had been buying,” he explains. No one wants to compromise on the quality of stitching when it comes to trousers. So, they do not mind the high stitching charge.

A good shirt cloth costs Rs. 350 or even more and the one for a trouser Rs. 550 to Rs. 600. Along with tailoring charges, the total cost works out to Rs. 1,500. The rise in the cost of material prepares the customers for higher tailoring charges also. And, the result is that a sizeable section that constitutes middle income customers has shifted to cheaper, though good, material. While established large-scale tailors are able to manage the situation, the smaller ones will be in a tight situation. The reason is that only very few tailor shops can convince people on the need to increase the charges.
Tailors in areas such as Pappanaickenpudur and Vadavalli say that customer flow is hit if charges are increased. But, the shop rent has gone up and so has the cost of materials – from thread to hooks to zips. “It is a tough situation for even bigger establishments. I need to pay salaries to 38 workers and meet the 40 per cent rise in the cost of thread, zip, lining and inter-locking material and also the maintenance of electricity-powered machines,” says Mr. Hari. The rent on Cross-Cut Road is Rs. 35 a sq.ft. There has been a sharp rise recently and building owners attribute it to the increase in Property Tax. Though not as high, the city’s periphery too has witnessed a tax increase and this is impacting rent for commercial space. So, only the end-product – the shirt or the trouser – may be a perfect fit. Not the bill.

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