Hong Kong News

Nonpartisan, Noncommercial, unconstrained.
Thursday, Feb 09, 2023

Hong Kong tailors livestream in pandemic survival fight

Hong Kong tailors livestream in pandemic survival fight

Assistants wielding multiple livestreaming mobile phones are now as crucial to Roshan Melwani's tailor shop as the measuring tapes, needles and fabrics that have made his Hong Kong family business so famous.
The Melwani family has dressed everyone from American presidents to aristocrats and celebrities over the decades.

But the pandemic nearly sunk them -- and many of Hong Kong's once thriving tailoring businesses have not survived.

Few places remained internationally cut-off during the coronavirus pandemic for as long as Hong Kong, a self-imposed isolation that the city's government has only begun to lift in the last two months.

As a result, Melwani's shop Sam's Tailors has been reliant on online sales for most of the last 2.5 years, long after rivals in Saville Row, Milan and New York reopened their doors.

"Understand that if I did not have 60 years of cash behind me, I could not operate," Melwani, a third-generation tailor, tells AFP as a frenetic day of video calls with customers and livestreams to showcase new designs gets underway.

"Pre-pandemic I had a minimum 20 people that I would work with per day, sometimes 40 people, up to six days a week."

Tim, a client in the United States, is the kind of customer that has helped keep Sam's Tailor afloat.

During the pandemic, he ordered an entire new wardrobe and now he's on the look-out for something more daring.

With the help of assistants broadcasting a dizzying array of choices over video call, Melwani steers Tim towards a burgundy three-piece with an inner lining featuring pin-up girls.

"Yeah, let's get to it," Tim says over the phone as assistants frantically jot down all the extra details in yellow notebooks.

Before the pandemic Hong Kong's tailors were a must-visit for many tourists thanks to their reputation for quality -- and their ability to turn a bespoke suit around as little as 24 hours.

The walls of Sam's Tailors are festooned with photos of famous patrons, from Bill Clinton, George Bush and Boris Johnson, to Bruno Mars, Russel Crowe and Meghan Markle.

The city's tailoring scene traces its origins back to Shanghai, which was renowned for its quality and craftmanship at the start of the twentieth century.

Many of those tailors relocated to Hong Kong in the aftermath of the Chinese Communist Party's civil war victory in 1949.

"People can get 10 suits in Hong Kong with the frequency they get one suit in Saville Row," Andy Chan, President of the Hong Kong Tailors Association, told AFP.

"This is why everybody came to Hong Kong to get a custom-made suit for them."

In recent years Hong Kong's tailoring industry has struggled against fast fashion and online sales. But the pandemic has been especially brutal.

Hong Kong went from welcoming 65 million people in 2018 to just 91,000 in 2021 at the height of the pandemic, when all overseas arrivals had to pay for hotel quarantine of up to three weeks.

"We estimate for these four years (2018-2021) we had over 40 percent of the tailors that shut down," Chan lamented.

Hong Kong only scrapped mandatory hotel quarantine in September, long after rival hubs like Singapore had reopened to the world.

Even after that the city was still restricting where tourists could go for the first three days after arriving as they waited for test results, a measure that was removed earlier this month.

Roshan Melwani says there are times he feels angry but he tries not to dwell.
"You think it doesn't hurt my father, all his years of saving money, all that cash gone?" he said.

"I don't have time to feel that hurt, I have to devote my time to taking us forward".

Related Articles

Hong Kong News
Today's news from Britain - 9th February 2023
China has declined the US's request for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to speak with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe after the US Air Force shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon, according to the Pentagon
The five largest oil companies in the West generated combined profits of nearly $200 billion in 2022, which has led to increased calls for governments to impose tougher windfall taxes
2 earthquakes in Turkey killed over 2,300 people
Powerful Earthquake Strikes Turkey and Syria, Killing More Than 1,300 People.
Turkish photographer Ugur Gallenkus portrays two different worlds within a single image. Brilliant work
Charlie Munger, calls for a ban on cryptocurrencies in the US, following China's lead
Hong Kong airlines taking bold action after the years of pandemic lockdown and travel restrictions, to make Hong Kong great again
EU found a way to use frozen Russian funds
First generation unopened iPhone set to fetch more than $50,000 at auction.
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
Chinese search giant Baidu to launch ChatGPT like AI chatbot.
What is ChatGPT?
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
China is opening up for foreign investors.
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
China's first population drop in six decades
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
China's foreign ministry branch in Hong Kong urges British gov't to stop the biased and double standards Hong Kong report
China relaxes 'red lines' on property sector borrowing in policy pivot
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
Japan prosecutors indict man for ex-PM Shinzo Abe murder
Vietnam removes two deputy PMs amid anti-corruption campaign
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
China’s recovery could add 1% to Australia’s GDP: JPMorgan 
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
China vows to strengthen financial support for enterprises: official
International medical experts speak out against COVID-19 restrictions on China
2 Billion People To Travel In China's "Great Migration" Over Next 40 Days
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
Flight constraints expected to weigh on China travel rebound
Billionaire Jack Ma relinquishes control of Ant Group
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
Teslas now over 40% cheaper in China than US
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
UK chaos: Hong Kong emigrants duped by false prospectus
China seeks course correction in US ties but will fight ‘all forms of hegemony’, top diplomat Wang Yi says
China will boost spending in 2023
African traders welcome end of China’s Covid travel curbs
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo