Choosing your Couturier or Tailor


Does this sound like you? You fear not getting what you imagined, fear not knowing what to expect, fear not being able to communicate your ideas adequately, and fear hidden agendas. Probably the most common hurdle that new clients face is fear!

Choosing a couturier or tailor is normally very intimidating for those ‘testing the waters’ and can be disheartening to those of you who have gone through an unhappy incident. It is after all, a very personal experience, and should be positive and satisfying at every level.

Whether you haven’t been to a couturier before or have been disappointed, it is understandably daunting.  My advice would be not to take a giant leap of faith, but purposefully take the time to get to know a couturier (or tailor). Explore if it may be a good fit working together. This is most often done during a consultation, but not always. It may begin with a referral, or research into social media or Google, email, or simply a phone call.

Professional couturiers and tailors will have developed their businesses based on their training and experience. It also follows, statistically speaking, that craftspeople, artisans, and creative types build businesses according to their personal set of values.  That’s to say, how they want to live and work and how they view their world. Also, don’t just assess their design sketches.  Look deeper into the quality of materials they use, the ‘fit’ they view as ideally suited for their clients, and their finishing standards outside and inside garments.

Great customer service may certainly be important to everyone, but we all define it quite differently. Whatever the terms may be, it should be mutually satisfactory. Established clients will, of course, be well aware of their couturier or tailors’ open hours, time preference for taking phone calls, business terms and conditions. But, it won’t be obvious to you as a new comer. Therefore you should request this information.

Seasoned professionals will have started out many years ago; likely they will have relied upon traditional methods for marketing themselves. These ateliers will have quite literally developed by word of mouth. As a result, there was no need to put much thought into a flashy website, if they have one at all.

However, the younger generation of couturiers and tailors almost certainly have a better handle on marketing and social media, and most will have considerable information for you. This though in itself, does not at all equate to quality – nor guarantee – the results of their craftsmanship in any way.

It is extremely beneficial that you book a one on one consultation. Plus, view some of the couturier or tailor’s actual finished work to fill in the bigger picture. It is perfectly reasonable to discuss your expectations about what you want, but don’t expect a finished design sketch and cost estimate during the consultation.

Be open about what hope for, your reservations, and honest about what you can afford. Couturiers and tailors need to be convinced that they will be able to fulfill what you expect. That achieved, they’ll become quite willing and happy to take you step by step through the entire process, and keep you informed at every stage.

Consultations are charged for. Be conscious of the fact, as professionals they cannot afford to give time away for free, but they may charge a consultation fee which is later credited toward an actual commission from you. The more research you can do ahead of time will save you money on these consultations. A word of caution, free consultations will provide you with little of any value. In fact you may find a hidden agenda or come away from it feeling frustrated rather than satisfied.

Couturiers and tailors will only give you a cost estimate when they recognize you are serious about commissioning work from them, because everything they do is custom. There is no standard item to charge for, and so projects must be calculated individually, which takes time – valuable time. Often working on their own without the aid of assistants or receptionists, puts this time at a cost to themselves, for which they reasonably expect a return on.

Ultimately, it is still more productive and less stressful for everyone, if after meeting with or consulting a couturier or tailor, you decide he or she may not be the best match for you. Don’t give up; eventually you will connect with the right one. However it does take some time, but will be well worth the effort!

What exactly can you expect a couturier and tailor to do for you, and about trust, in another blog…

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