I am writing about the fabric markets that have the attraction of designing and/or making your own products.  It is true that you can do both but be aware:

1)      Fabric markets are not tailors; they are sales people who have sales aids that are called tailors.  Really we are all tailors; it is taking your basic measurements.  For tops or jackets the measurements are: neck, shoulder, chest, waist, hip, front length, front chest, back, arm length and if it’s fitted they should also measure your bicep, forearm and wrist.   A tailor would also look at your body type and variances with our unique bodies.

2)      A style consultant is required to assess a person’s body type and personality, what really drive me nuts is when a foreigner is in Shanghai at the fabric markets and asks a sales person (tailor aka sales aid) a question about the style.   The individual they ask usually has never left China and has only seen pictures of other countries and is not in the business of style advice.

3)      Your fit is not their fit… In tailor markets there really is only one fit and it’s they’re fit… which I have noticed is never my fit.    I would call the fit a casual to classic fit, which is roomier with more allowance for error.  This is ok if this is the fit you desire.   For bottoms I noticed the standard rise on a men’s pant is 8.5 Chinese inches when I wear a 6.5 inch rise.  That is a huge difference in how high the pants will site on your hips.

4)      Measurements, did you know that there is a different measurement type in China Fabric markets?  This measurement is called Chinese inches which are different from North America inches.  Usually this measurement is used in smaller local factories, tailors, and sales offices.

  1. The great news is the Millimeters and Centimeters are the same and can be used a reference for measurement.  3.9 cm is equal to 1 Chinese inch (3.9cm), 10.5cm is equal to 3 Chinese Inches (3.5cm), and 34cm is equal to 10 Chinese inches (3.4cm).  67.4cm is equal to 20 inches (3.37cm).  134cm is equal to 40 Chinese inches (3.35cm).  So what we discover is there is no actual conversion type for cm or mm to Chinese inches.
  2. For traditional North America Inches to Chinese the measurements are, 13 1/8” (inches) is equal to 10 Chinese inches.  26 ¼” is equal to 20 Chinese inches.  39 3/8” is equal to 30 Chinese inches.   What we discover is there is 1.3125 North America Inches in a Chinese Inch.

5)      CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), if you go to a fabric market, you maybe purchasing based on price, if it is price motivated you may be using child labor.  The fabric shop will utilize a maker (individual/factory) based on price.  Since it is one, two or three units you are purchasing it is easy to give to an individual sewer who will take home to sew.  During this process she/he may have children who participate in making the garment.  But in that country this maybe normal practice and maybe better than having the child beg for money or sell products on the street.

I have heard many horror stories from the fabric markets, but then again I have friends who are happy with the quality and fit of their purchases from the fabric markets and return on a regular basis for similar types of products.  I also know in-experienced foreign tailors and online B2C e-commerce sites who use the fabric markets to make (manufacture) their products for overseas clients.  As a trained professional I can notice the poor workmanship and finishing but for some clients the quality will suffice for the price they paid.

Another option is to go to more expensive fabric sales, tailors, style consultants who have an independent office and specialize in garment manufacturing.   These specialized tailors may utilize actual sewing factories.  The price for a specialized quality product can be three to four times the price you will pay in the fabric markets but you usually get a better quality fabric, fit, finishing, trims, and experience.

I own a style consultation and custom tailor business called Jeffrey Living that is based in Shanghai, China. I have made tailored products for clients in Canada, USA, and Malaysia with hand selected fabrics from Italy, Japan and China.   I also hand-pick the trims and garment finishing.  I work with legit superior quality factories with a of age work force and proper working conditions.   I have worked in the fashion business and Asia for over 20 years.  This is what I do out of a mad passion for fashion.

You can see more of my products on Daft Shopping, http://www.daftshopping.com/?type=all&category=32 or on my Flickr page, http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreyliving/.  You can contact me directly about your needs or interests, my email is jeffreyliving@gmail.com.

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