Zahir Rahimtoola’s brainchild is ‘Stitch my Fabric,’ an online tailoring site. Here’s a look at whether it’ll take off
Don’t we all hate those no-good tailors; the perpetual trips made to their ateliers while they charge astronomical sums, delay delivery and eventually, snip our fabric into unflattering silhouettes? It’s enough to make one swear off unstitched fabric, veering instead towards the convenience of prêt.
Still, even as more and more ready-to-wear stores pop onto the horizon, unstitched fabric remains a mainstay in Pakistan. It’s easily apparent in the umpteen billboards that dot the landscape, in every season, come what may.
From lawn to mid-summer lawn to cambric to silk three-pieces – the many variations of the Pakistani figure, persistent marketing and a habitual predilection for bespoke clothing keeps those erstwhile tailors in business.
The CEO of Labels and E-COM has long been a proponent of online fashion retail, having launched his Labels’ e-store in 2012. The website was one of the first few fashion e-retail stores in the country, with many others following in its wake.Latching onto this dynamic and translating it into a surefire business plan is Zahir Rahimtoola, who has just launched ‘Stitch My Fabric’, an online stitching website. It’s a long overdue service which finally – and conclusively – eliminates the tailor and Zahir, who believes that the future of fashion retail spins on virtual wheels, has foreseen its need.
“I actually realized the need for an online stitching facility when, two years ago, we retailed Sania Maskatiya’s designs for Sapphire lawn,” explains Zahir. “Some of our customers from abroad bought the lawn online and asked us to stitch it and then have it delivered.
For two months, we retailed lawn online and had a considerable quantity of it stitched through our in-house tailoring facility. Customers living abroad don’t have access to affordable tailoring and even in Pakistan, many women have hectic schedules where they don’t have the time to fit in repetitive trips to the tailor. That’s wherestitchmyfabric.com comes in and makes life easier!”
The website allows customers to place their orders and subsequently, their fabric and sample size will be collected via a free pick-up and fashioned into the stitching style of their choice within five days. The finished, stitched garment along with the sample will then be delivered to the customer. It’s easy and utterly convenient and yet, it’s taken Zahir years in order to fine-tune the website and make it functional.
“We wanted to be very ready before we launched the website,” he says. “Ather Ul Islam, E-COM’s Chief Operating Officer, and I had to iron out every possible obstacle before we officially launched.”
Despite this, it may take some time for sitchmyfabric.com to win over customers.
Most aficionados of unstitched fabric are accustomed to making trips to tailors and tweaking their chosen fabric with detailings. Will women be able to put their faith in the unseen virtual tailor? And will they appreciate the silhouettes offered at Stitch My Fabric, which sensibly steer away from complicated designs and follow fundamental, commonly popular patterns?
“Back when I launched the Labels e-store, people laughed at me. I was told that the website would never work since women in Pakistan preferred to personally see an expensive design before purchasing it. Now, e-stores are the order of the day. Fostered by prompt service and a sincere desire to operate honestly, the Labels e-store is very successful. We plan to do the same with Stitch My Fabric.”“Even though the stitching styles are relatively basic, we offer a number of options. We have well-trained tailors who aren’t likely to create untidy, inaccurately-sized garments. Once women realize how expedient it is, they are bound to appreciate the website.”
There are some logistic limitations to the site. Fabric for orders placed within Pakistan can be picked up for free but customers from abroad have to either make the fabric available at a local address or purchase it online and have it delivered directly to Stitch My Fabric.
“I expect the site to do particularly well during lawn season when many women from outside Pakistan buy their lawn suits online. They can simply have their suits delivered to us and we will stitch them and then, courier it to them.”
Small-scale Facebook-based retailers have, in fact, been doing this for a long time now. Cyber shoppers living abroad buy unstitched lawn from them and pay an extra amount to have them stitched before delivery.
“I have institutionalized the process and added a level of accountability to it,” says Zahir.
“People know that we won’t swindle them in any way. That is something they can’t be sure of when they put their faith on a random online retailer. As a reliable, well-known brand we have to live up to our reputation. And we know that if we mess things up, social media won’t let us live it down. We’re being extra careful!”
Who knows? In another few years, many more may follow suit and launch online stitching facilities of their own. “By then, probably, I would have moved on to my next project,” smiles Zahir Rahimtoola.