by Karen Alberg Grossman

According to many independent retailers, the most common conversation at industry gatherings these days is not about Artificial Intelligence or vendors discounting online or how to get men back in suits, but rather “Where do I find a professional tailor to replace my guy who’s retiring?”

Clearly, our industry should be lobbying Congress to facilitate legal immigration for trained tailors. But according to Pittsburgh immigration attorney Ellen Freeman (who’s been practicing immigration law for 24 years and has recently worked with Rubensteins in New Orleans to find tailors), this is not as simple as it sounds. For one thing, the U.S. has the most restrictive immigration laws in the world, last revised in 1965. Although there are trained tailors from abroad looking to work here, a pathway exists only for the green card process, which takes a minimum of two to three years. While other skilled professions qualify for the H-1B specialty occupation work visa, tailoring does not because college level preparation is not mandated.

In fact, The New York Times recently ran a feature about how Russians fleeing their homeland were starting over in other countries. They spoke to a 32-year-old tailor from Moscow who just opened a salon in Tbilisi, Georgia where he crafts bespoke suits. Ms. Freeman then tried to contact him but to no avail. “Our system does not allow us to bring in skilled craftsmen who, although not considered artists, are clearly well-trained, in-demand professionals. It’s frustrating: we need tailors in America just like we need doctors, hairdressers and auto mechanics—all shortage occupations. Regrettably, both parties of Congress had agreed to immigration reform in 2013 but Speaker Boehner refused to bring it to a vote. This is 10 years later…”

Despite obvious obstacles, menswear retailers should consider lobbying Congress for a long-overdue review of our outdated immigration laws. Those so inclined can contact the Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement. It’s chaired by Representative Tom McClintock (CA-05). At the very least, let’s start creating the change we hope to ultimately make happen.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this: Karen.Alberg@wainscotmedia.com (or leave comments, below).

Representative Tom McClintock can be reached at:

6320 Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Federal Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6216
Phone: (202) 225-3926

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko.


  1. Karen, You are spot on in that at our most recent meeting many of my fellow Forum members at informal gatherings spoke of the need we all face in that these last few years has brought an influx of customers updating their clothing wardrobes and having to endure unreasonable wait times. Too many units and too few tailors to professionally handle the workload.

  2. Karen… you’re exactly on point.

    Many years ago, I tried to bring in a tailor from Beirut and the paper work/ visa sponsoring/ and green card issues were massive. I tried for several years and couldn’t make it happen even though I offered to sponsor him. He ultimately moved to Toronto Canada. Their gain… our loss.
    Until the negativity around the word “Immigrant” is removed, I fear we will continue to lose workers who not only want to work, but who often possess skills not valued here.

  3. For years my fellow Threadwize members & I have voiced this concern, but were stumped at a solution. I alone have lost 2 longtime tailors to retirement just this year. In asking them about tapping young tailors in their homeland, what I learned, besides immigration road blocks, is the increased hesitancy to leave the “comfort zone” of the nest, especially if there’s doubt of a robust community that speaks their language. This challenge will only intensify in my opinion…lobbying is necessary but will take years…this will too, be here’s a thought: How about creating a greater source within the US via increased education at universities & trade schools?! We were fortunate to acquire 3 YOUNG! tailors that graduated with Fashion majors from local universities, and we’re hoping that one of them will accept the Head Tailor position soon – she’s been on our team for 3 years. Our senior tailors have had to mentor them on the fine art of Men’s tailoring, but these ladies are eager, fast learners.

  4. …and another thought: Tailors and Machine Operators should include both Male and Female talent. Some of my best operators over the years were men. This thought that women “sew” and men do the “tailoring” is dated.
    .. my 2 cents

  5. Has anyone on this thread looked for tailoring talent in the USA first? FIT’s Menswear Design program graduates trained tailors every year. Why look overseas when the talent is probably right downstairs?

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