Two weeks ago, on a Saturday morning, I decided to pay a visit to the Tailor Shop. The new premises in Montclair on Kenyon Howden road. I had made a brief stop during that week just to take a peak and also set up an appointment with the owner and head tailor, Vic Gobrie. This is definitely an upgrade from his other premises in Jacobs, especially, in terms of space. I almost didn't make it on the said Saturday because it looked like it was going to rain, as well as a light drizzle when I was preparing to go. When it was time to set off however, the overcast clouds, wind and drizzle had disipated somewhat. It was great to come to a fully operational Tailor Shop; not very busy which meant that Vic and I would get an opportunity to talk about his business and menswear in general.
Before delving into sartorial matters, let me first talk a little about the level of exceptional customer service one experiences at the The Tailor Shop. There's many more posts I will do about some of the work they've done for me and how they go the extra mile to satisfy my requests. I'll give you an example, there was a time I took a few shirts to have the sleeves elongated, taken in on the sides, etc, and there was a particular shirt, in red gingham, that needed to be slightly elongated at the sleeves. This was at the old premises in Jacobs, this shirt was with them for more than a month. When I decided to go and check if anything had been done they apologised and said no, because they were still trying to source the same red gingham material. I was very surprised at this, pleasantly; I then told them that I didn't mind even if they inserted a white cotton material, I was not that picky. This really impressed me about their professionalism and what they are willing to do for a customer.
Nothing has changed with the new premises. A little about my intemperance for confectionery. I have such an insatiable sweet tooth that I am surprised at my ability to control it. As soon as we came in (I went with two of my sister's-in-law), I introduced us and asked for Vic. When he came out, he was still a little busy with his staff at the back, he invited us to have some coffee and refreshments. We first declined simply because we are all engaged in somewhat healthy eating habits. This was the first day that the coffee shop was operational and every customer was treated to some eats. Even though I had just been to the gym earlier that morning, our reasons for not wanting to indulge were not entertained by Vic, or his wife, who is there to run the coffee shop. After more insistence from the husband and wife duo, we relented. I was offered a freshly baked scone and rooibos tea with no milk. My sisters' dug in; the whole nine, accompanied by some coffee and water. They were immensely impressed and intimated to me that they would be telling their father about the place.
This place is comodious, comfortable, welcoming and warm. The seating area has coffee tables, smattered with the appropriate reading material and soft seating.
Vic has been in the tailoring business for over 20 years. As tradition would have it he started in his uncle's tailoring business which was situated in Isipingo back in 1988. Around this time he dropped out of school at std 8 and decided to go into tailoring full time since he was learning at his uncle's place. A few years after that he and his brother took over his uncle's business which was in the Old Jadwat building. From there, he grew in experience and then the seed of starting his own tailoring business was sown.
When urban blight became pervasive and problematic, Vic decided to move the business to Jacobs; this was in 2001. The Tailor Shop was thus born. I asked him about the type of male customer he courts, attracts and does business with, and he said it is a cross section which is a dichotomy. The Jacobs branch, since it is situated in a industrial/ residential area, is frequented by industrialists, artisans, businessmen, blue collar workers and the residents. People who happen to be in the area because of business or those who are working and are on their lunch break or going home after work.
The new premises targets the same demographic albeit a different income group. Here you won't get the truckers, industrialists, artisans, as much as you get in Jacobs. There clientele is mostly young professionals who don't necessarily have time during the week but are free on a Saturday. Vic also stated that he likes the neighbourhood and that it feels relatively safe after three months of fully operating.
I had to ask Vic about the tension, hostility and uncertainty in the local textile industry and how the Chinese are effecting and affecting this situation. He said it literally boils down to the huge influx of inexpensive and cheaply made clothes, materials and fabrics in the country. This practice has a direct negative impact on job security in the textile industry because the labour that produces the same products locally is not needed since something is imported which costs a fraction of the locally produced product.
This was my first time taking an in-depth look at a tailor's shop and the goings on. So being exposed to myriad fabrics was an eye opener. I also got to see what a horse hair canvas looks like. The lining used on jackets to give them shape and structure.
Vic's initial design concept was based on the Savile Row tailor shop aesthetics. He wanted to capture and project that old, antique feel that is evident in Savile Row. Since this proved to be an enormous and elusive task he settled for a more classic design with modern touches such as a plasma screen and the coffee shop.
Cloth for suiting is sourced from mills in Johannesburg and India. Cloth also used to be sourced from a mill in Cape Town but due to competition in the textile industry it was closed down. Kirsch, Stein & Co has some of the popular fabrics and sells them at very low prices.
100% Wool fabric
Prince of Wales Check/ Glen Plaid
Mentions and recommendations in GQ magazine SA.
Mentions and recommendations in Men's Health SA.
Modern touches; a plasma screen.
Morning dress costumes designed for a local theatre production.
The Tailor Shop customer base is both national and international; he told me of two particular pastors, from Ladysmith and the UK, who make use of his services. On this particular day Vic was busy with customers that are preparing for the Durban July, which meant he is fully booked until after the first week of July. Then until August he will be attending to more orders that comprise wedding suits, suits for an all-male gospel group and business suits.
He asserts that he is not a fashion designer, therefore, he rarely does collections for fashion shows. Although there is also some ready to wear jackets and trousers in the shop, that is not the focus of the business. Those are for customers who come in and want something to go immediately; customers who don't have the luxury or time to have something custom made for them. The main focus of the Tailor Shop is made-to-measure and bespoke clothing for gents. Suits start at R2500 and in luxury fabrics such as cashmere prices top out at R5000.
The Tailor Shop has exceptionally friendly, empathetic and knowleageable staff who pay a lot of attention to customer service and satisfaction.
You can call them at 238 Kenyon Howden road, Montclair (031) 462-2222/ 141 Jacobs road, Jacobs (031) 465-7408.