Updated: Oct 6, 2020
The hardest part of running a business is relying on others. The people who I've had the chance to connect with and who've pushed me to where I am, are incredible, complex, talented and often difficult to work with. At the very moment when I believed I found Dynasty's Holy Grail seamstress, the illusion crumbled. What started as a relationship full of potential, soured. Fast.
What happened? The first few pieces we collaborated on were exquisite. There were some details we needed to adjust, an extra pocket or two, a zipper, lining, nothing that couldn't be done. She was responsive, communicative and prompt. After two weeks with my mind full of designs and high hopes, something happened. Suddenly messages were left on read, phone calls unanswered. Deadlines kept on being pushed back. Instead of Friday night, it would be Saturday. Saturday came around, then Sunday morning was agreed on. Sunday morning comes and goes, with a new time settled: 1PM. 4PM and still nothing. Later than night, two pieces are delivered. The first, the fit is awkward and the lining is inside out. The second, the body is too short and the shoulders tight. Both are missing pockets and logos. Calls still go unanswered, messages aren't even read.
In my experience, working with tailors in Vietnam has proven to be finicky. Basic designs are done well enough, anything complex or made to fit a different body shape (one that isn't thin and proportioned like a mannequin) can result in disappointing and uninspiring pieces. Others outright lie to customers, like what happened to a good friend when we visited Hoi An.
Hoi An is known as a specialist city with a rich history in tailoring garments and handmade leather goods. My friend and I meandered through the cobbled streets, stopping to browse in stores that caught our eye. She became enamoured with a leather jacket and was told that they could make it for her in one day. Amazing, right? She picked the leather, the lining and paid in full. As soon as the payment went through, the saleswoman revealed that unfortunately they didn't have the leather she chose in stock, would she like this one instead? We're sorry, the lining you want isn't available either, can we interest you in this one?
Often the person you speak to in the store is not the tailor themselves. I wanted to get rid of the people in the middle and meet the tailor directly. Yet even then, complications can still arise. I remember first coming to Vietnam and wanting to make two shirts for work. The tailor lived on the same street as me and had nearly 40 years of experience. We'd meet often and chat about every topic under the sun and before I realised, a whole month had passed and I still hadn't received my shirts back. A whole nother month elapsed before I had my shirts, one that I still wear today and the other... meh.
Even tailors themselves know they are difficult to work with. It appears to be a running joke amongst tailors, those who work with them and their customers. So what to do?
Instead of finding Dynasty's Holy Grail tailor, why not become her? This city has an abundance of people who work in the textile industry, making, buying and selling clothes. A quick search on the interwebs revealed course after course on beginner's introduction to drawing up designs, cutting and sewing garments. The time has come. The time to keep growing and expanding my skill set. To keep pursuing my dreams and face setbacks head on. Bring it!