I seem to be surrounded by friends getting ready to tie the knot. It’s nice because I like hearing about the planning. Unfortunately, since they’re all in India I don’t get to be part of most of the discussions but that’s the price you pay for living abroad sigh.
Anyway, the other day one of the friends smsed to ask me for the number of Designer T, the guy who did my wedding dress, and it brought back all these memories. Now, some of you may be familiar with him because I’ve ranted before. But since many of you seem to enjoy the Blue Bride posts, let’s do a little recap of why Designer T annoyed (and apparently still does) me to high heaven.
First some background: Designer T is a much-in-demand person in the area of Bombay I live in. Around December, it’s quite hard to get him to do anything for you so I had to be introduced by my cousin’s wife. Before agreeing to take me on, he checked with her if I was fat. I could be amused about this because I wasn’t.
Also, Designer T (I should just shorted to DT, no?) likes to be known as a “designer”. Indeed, he does do some impressive looking sketches though the designs aren’t anything particularly innovative. He also does make suggestions about what will suit you which I guess is good. Though not particularly hard if the client is thin, which is why designers seem to favour “designing” for thin people.
Now to be fair to him: I delayed taking any decision on where to get my dress stitched because I was fast becoming disillusioned with the idea of the wedding. I just didn’t want to think about it. Finally, my mom pointed out that in the event that I did get married, I couldn’t possibly do so naked and since the wedding was slated for December, it was going to be impossible to find anyone to do the dress later. So I acquiesced.
Luckily, some years ago I had watched Sweet Home Alabama and I decided then that would be my wedding dress. However, while most brides-to-be would be spending the months (or even years) before their weddings fantasizing about theme and colour scheme, I was entirely clueless.
So, Designer T was faced with the unique prospect of a bride who was disinterested in her own wedding. I don’t think he had seen anything like it before. Finally, he asked me: “What colour do you like?” “Blue,” I replied promptly. And quickly added: “But I can’t have blue because my sister had blue the year before and my cousin who’s getting married two days before me is having blue.”
So we were back to square one. Of course this could prove to be a wonderful opportunity for Designer T who would have a blank slate to actually “design”. He grabbed it with both hands and suggested “teal and lime green”. I agreed!
Why I dislike him intensely:
1) He is disorganized. Yes, most creative people are. However, it’s only excusable if you’re super super creative in the league of, say, Yves Saint Laurent. If you’re at the average level of creativity then you better get a move on and deliver on time. I had actually avoided another designer I knew because I had heard how disorganized he was, how everything was delivered last minute after much panic. Getting fittings with Designer T involved calling many many times and giving him deadlines that were before the actual date I needed something.
2) There was no evidence of the teal and lime green confection till close to the last month. Now, I know I was being liberal going with this combination but I still wanted to see a sketch or a sample of what he would produce. Turned out he planned to dye the fabric. It was beginning to sound scary and I demanded a sample. None was in evidence. I ended up changing the whole colour scheme to fuschia pink, buying two skirts from Anokhi and asking him to make the blouses. He was not thrilled at this vote of no-confidence.
3) Since there would be a big party the day after the wedding, I asked Designer T to do a dress for me. I choose a dusty pink shade called ashes of roses. About a week before I was due to leave for Bangalore I hadn’t heard an inkling about that dress. At the end, it was clear he had forgotten about it. I went out and bought a dress from And. Designer T whipped up a dress overnight which turned out to be boring in design and the wrong colour. I refused to take it.
4) He was supposed to stitch me a sari blouse. I explained what I wanted and he did a sketch. What he produced was like a sports bra. In the end, my sister-in-law took me a similar “designer” in Bangalore, who from the scraps of the sari blouse piece left over from Designer T’s debacle stitched an awesome, if rather skimpy, blouse.
5) My veil, which he was supposed to do, ended up being essentially a piece of too-short net tacked on to a tiara (donated by my cousin from her October wedding).
6) Finally, when the wedding dress was produced it was decent but not a perfect fit. Admittedly, I lost a tonne of weight unexpectedly and he had to take it in. Also, I’m a bit of a perfectionist about tailored clothes because my mom used to stitch my clothes and agonise. So while I can make do with not-so-there fit in readymade clothes if I’m having something tailored, I expect perfection. Also, since Designer T was obviously less than talented in the design department, one would expect that at least the tailoring would be impeccable. My wedding dress was essentially a corset top and a skirt. A corset top needs to fit perfectly and mine didn’t. I ended up buying double-sided tape and sticking the neck to my chest.
That said, I am yet to come across a tailor in Bombay who does Western clothes well. I compare it to Shenzhen where one can get a perfectly stitched suit (jacket and trousers) having only been measured once. You go there, they measure you, you choose the fabric, pay and they courier the suit to Hong Kong. V has done this several times and the fit is perfect without even a single trial. The overall price depends on the material you choose but the stitching charges are reasonable.
Around Hong Kong too there are little shops where you can get stuff altered. Recently, the canopy of the gazebo on our roof tore and V took it to the tailor downstairs to fix. The man did a job that went well beyond the call of duty and the price we paid. Not only did he fix the tear but he secured all the Velcro fastenings as well.
It makes me wonder why Indians lack this attention to detail. One tends to excuse it on the grounds that they are badly paid. But the guys in Mainland China are cheap too. And the small shops in HK are not expensive, considering what it costs to rent a shop and live here. Regardless, when they undertake to do something they do a quality job. If they can’t do it or they can’t do it for the price you want it done, they say no.
I do think that people providing these services in India (or anywhere) should be paid better. For example, I think maids in India should be paid more. The problem is that even if they are paid more, I doubt that it will improve the quality of the work.
What is lacking seems to be pride in one’s work and a certain meticulousness that needs to be ingrained during childhood. I include myself here. Even the most anal Indians I know do not compare to the average Chinese when it comes to attention to detail.
It seems to me that Indians are good at being creative (a lot of the time this is about finding loopholes and shortcuts to get work done more quickly which could be a great asset if channeled properly) and we have the gift of the gab. This might be what makes us good at call centres and customer service or sales jobs, where we can essentially add the maska polish.
And it does appear that the jobs higher up in the value chain are exactly those that involve adding the polish without doing the hard work. So that’s good for us then.
But you still need someone to do that work right? It’s not enough just to have someone give you a frou-frou presentation of a dress. You still need the dress.