Tailors in Hong Kong
Hong Kong tailors have been a well-known feature of this world city on China’s doorstep.
But the tide has turned against many of the owners of these small shops which once made suits for famous folks around the world.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, TARA JOSEPH, SAYING:
Buttons for sale and many other items used in tailoring still on sale here in the Central district of Hong Kong but most of the tailoring shops are actually gone. Unofficial data suggests that there used to be a thousand tailoring shops in Hong Kong, but now less than half have survived.
Sifu Ying has been a tailor for 40 years – starting as an apprentice at age 15. Most of his colleagues at this workshop are of a similar vintage.
(SOUNDBITE) (Cantonese) TAILOR, SIFU YING, SAYING:
“Right now there are fewer young people joining this industry. In the past I’ve been approached by youngsters who are interested in learning tailoring, but apprenticeships don’t pay a salary, and working hours are relatively long.”
The tailoring industry here grew out of a tradition of making British military uniforms during colonial times.
Now fast fashion and a more casual approach to living has added pressure to the costs of tailoring.
Some shops have learned to adapt like here at Sam’s where customers customers are still lining up.
Sam’s son took the business over from his father – once catering to A-listers around the world. He now thrives by making suits for as little as 600 dollars and making annual whistle-stop tours to fit politicians on Capitol Hill .
Those who survive here use canny marketing skills and cutthroat prices.
But unless young tailors pick up the skills of the older generation, making suits and jackets for a demanding clientele may soon be a lost art.