I hope things are all well with all and you are on as finer form as I am. After a hectic festive period I am back with some exploits from China for the New Year.
Unfortunately, to what I’m sure will be an audible groan from the grand majority, the title this week is slightly misleading. I will, however, be speaking a little bit about my experience getting a suit for my birthday- which is frankly more exciting to me than you I’m in no doubt.
A bit of background to this is the fascinating ‘living room industries’ which appear in much of Southern-Asia. The type of thing that I mean is being able to have a lightning quick turnaround on specialist items such as bespoke suits and handcrafted jewelry. In fact, there are so many of these boutiques alongside the road that it seems that these are the people who really drive the average man’s economy, not the corporations. The network is as intriguing as it could be, as there seems to be no competition or mad scramble for custom, and the tricks which are commonly used by tourists to drive a hard bargain. It’s true that the price structure ranges, roughly in the following 4 categories: Native Chinese, Chinese Native with foreigners, Foreigners who speak Chinese, Foreigners who don’t speak the lingo. However, although it is more expensive, it’s not wildly different, which is quite a compliment to their overall integrity.
After learning that we needed t o buy an outfit for a work conference later in the month (not the worst piece of news considering we were to be given a small budget to help us out) we scuttled off to Changchun’s indoor kingdom of cloth, Bei Fang, to find some suitable attire (I’ll get my coat… or suit). After exploring this silk adorned shrine to the world’s best fabrics for over 20 minutes, we arrived at the front of an inconspicuous stall laden with roll after roll of the holder’s finest. Our Chinese colleagues got stuck into haggling with the owners, which seemed odd considering we hadn’t yet decided which and how much of each material we were to purchase. Those who follow the blog regularly know that me trying to work out these kind of things usually ends up in me needing to sit down with a glass of water to calm a dizzy head, so the question was left unasked and therefore unanswered.
A swarm of workers came out of nowhere to set about the 8 foreigners as if we were medical experiments rather than suave and seasoned gentlemen, just out to the tailors as one might be when one required new clothes. In their defense, they had gauged the situation perfectly. Now, I have never had the privilege of trotting off to a tailor so i didn’t really know what to expect, but I did feel a little uneasy…
Immediately the tape measure came out, the man moving about his business in an efficient manner, stopping only to readjust the trembling dead weight in front of him. Panic had set in with me, among the nerves, which was about the worst thing possible- leaving me in an unnatural pose twisting slightly to the left. When he reached my nether regions, all hell broke loose. With the tension getting to me, I chose to show a sign of solidarity with my new-found tailor friend’s intimate approach by boldly cupping him back. After a torrent of Chinese and some fairly expressive gestures, I realised that I had made a mistake, and was quickly ushered on to a beaming lady who kept calling me- Thin White Boy.
After a few more minutes of measuring I was ready to choose the material, style and colour of my suit. Better late than never, I suppose. It was then that the reality of how much labour had to be put in for my money. Including 5 full tailored suits and 7 tailored shirts we were asked to hand over £235. Pick up in 10 days and service with a smile…. That can’t be right, can it?
Tune in in a few days time to have a look…. I can’t wait- unless the nice gentleman took offence to my bonding offer and has made me look a right banana.
Have a great week!