The need for fitting clothes and latest fads in the fashion circles has created opportunities for people in Lilongwe, especially tailors. Most of the clothes that fill up the hangers in the flea markets have been retouched in an attempt to resize or redesign the original clothing.
One vendor who identifies himself as William Banda admits that they design and resize some clothes as a drive to add more value to the clothes.
“Some clothes come in very large sizes and they are hard to sell or we can see that this fabric on the shirt is good but the style is not, so we try to redesign it,” says Banda.
But what is more fascinating is the line of production which the retouching of the clothes takes.
Banda is among the vendors who specialises in reselling Kaunjika bought from other sellers in Lilongwe. However, he does not only get the masterpieces sometimes he finds that a certain clothing is not in line with the latest fashion trends. When that happens he takes it to the tailor’s shop. Most of the clothes that he picks do not exceed K1 000 per piece and they may be as cheap as K200
Upon entering the shade, Banda is greeted by the clattering sounds from sewing machines and humid air from the steam of coal ironing machines. The shed is full of tailors and people ironing clothes. He meets Manase Kabota a tailor who previously conducted his business from the shop verandas.
“The problem with operating from a veranda is that you can spend the whole day only to receive two or three customers but here there is always work so we are sure that we will go home with something,” said Kabota.
He says on a good day they walk home with more than K5 000 (about $12). From the tailoring business Kabota is able to support his family.
The tailors seem to understand well the concepts of marketing as they reward loyalty and amount of business they are given.
“We charge vendors K150 for shirt adjustment and 200 for trousers adjustment while ordinary people are charged K200 and K500 for shirt and trousers adjustment respectively because these vendors buy in bulk and they are regulars so we have developed a mutual relationship,” said Kabota.
The tailor said they have trained the regular vendors that come to get their clothes retouched how to cut clothes to ensure speed. The process does not end at Kabota who runs a straight machine, but goes further to another tailor with an over-locking machine.
Just two spots after Kabota’s is Omar Selemani who resides in Chipasula in the city is the one who is next on line in the retouching of the clothes.
“Overlock machines are responsible for cleaning up the loose ends just like the patterns in an original factory made clothing,” says Selemani.
He says he cannot remember the exact clothes he sews per day because he loses count as the clothes are numerous and he has never really taken an interest to count.
From Selemani the clothes go to the ironing boys. William Banda says the ironing is done to make sure that the clothes do not scream “I was retouched!”.
“Besides ironing also makes sure that the piece has a good shape and looks neat.
After ironing the clothes are placed on a hanger display ready for sale.
At this point, the clothing that was bought for K200 has been value added and could be sold for not less than K2 000.