PART 3: FILLING THE NEED FOR SKILLED TAILORS
Thanks to all our readers for the overwhelming response to last week’s editorial, “Let’s Expedite Immigration For Tailors.” While the prospect of tailors gaining legal entry into the U.S. via a Congressional update of our archaic immigration laws is a longshot (read yesterday’s op/ed by Jeffery Diduch), we still believe it’s worth a try.
Some other thoughts from our readers:
Phil Mauser from Daniels Men’s Store, of Morgantown, W.V., offers an innovative solution. “I’m a men’s store in a college town with a very good business. I’ve had great success moving tailors to my town. But I’ve gotten creative with it. I own three townhomes that I pay the mortgage and utilities on, that my tailors live in. They live rent-free—and I pay them a good wage (starting at $30/hr). I take really good care of them, and they’ve helped me recruit others. During busy season, I fly them in and put them in hotels for a week or so. I’d suggest other retailers get creative to lure qualified tailors to their store. I found mine by reverse searching on indeed.com, flying them to me for interviews, and seeing their work in person. I had started down the road of trying to bring in a tailor from another country, but the timetable was too long. I now have foreign tailors (two from Turkey, one from Egypt) who I’ve convinced to come work for me from big cities (Knoxville, Philly, NYC). There’s a younger guy in Turkey who I’m helping with paperwork, but as you know, the process is tedious and takes at least 18 months.”
Paul Rego, originally from Canada who now lives in Florida and has a long career in menswear (starting in his family’s men’s store, co-inventing a unique measuring system, working at Trinity and Trands USA), says this: “If you really want to dive into finding a solution to America’s tailoring shortage, start with immigration lawyers in the country you want to recruit from. Just like Canadian immigration lawyers found a ‘creative solution’ for me to come to the States to work with Chris Blowers on the Soft shirt collection, they’ll be the best place to find creative solutions for skilled tailors coming to the USA.”
Joe Sugar of Sugar’s Menswear Studio in Fayetteville, NC suggests that major department stores might try founding tailoring schools here in the States. Unless the laws change, instructors would be skilled tailors who are already here; students could be U.S. citizens if enough schools open to train enough tailors. Obviously, we need to either train our own tailors or change the immigration laws.
David Rubenstein is hoping to change the immigration laws, and just wrote to Tom McClintock, head of the immigration subcommittee in Congress. David encourages fellow retailers to join him in writing to McClintock or to the Congressperson of their choice on the “Immigration, Integrity, Security, and Enforcement” subcommittee (google it for names!). Says David, “The subcommittee sets the rules for allowing people to immigrate to the United States and oversees the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement department. We need to show this committee, through strength in numbers, how important easing U.S. entry for foreign tailors is to the future of our industry.” Here’s his letter:
Congressman Tom McClintock
6320 Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr.
Washington, DC 20516-6216
May 4, 2023
Dear Congressman McClintock,
My name is David Rubenstein. My family owns a fine retail men’s clothing store in New Orleans, Louisiana, named Rubensteins. From your official picture, I see you are a gentleman who likes to dress well and appreciates fine clothing. If you ever visit New Orleans, please come to our fine men’s store. But that’s not why I am writing you.
We’ve been in business for 99 years. I, and many friends in the men’s retail business, need help to survive in the future. There are no schools for tailors in the United States as they were banned many years ago because of the influence of the tailors’ union in the north to protect their jobs. We need to have fine tailors immigrate to the United States. Because immigration laws have not been revised since 1965, they are too restrictive for tailors from Europe, South America, and other parts of the world to enter the United States. We’ve contacted a few trained tailors who say they cannot get clearance because they are not “skilled artists.”
In fact, they are skilled and have spent many years perfecting their craft, as you can experience when you purchase a fine tailored suit. As an industry, we desperately need your help as menswear retailers are losing our older craftsmen as they retire or pass away.
If there is anything that I or my colleagues can do to help the committee revise the immigration laws, please call on us.
Photo, above, by Salvador Godoy.