The market is as wide open as a walk-in closet in a sprawling McMansion
June 1, 2015 11:12 PM   Subscribe

George Zimmer Starts an 'Uber for Tailors' - David Gelles, NYT
"Mr. Zimmer, whose net worth has been estimated to be $150 million to $800 million, is the chairman and the financial force behind zTailors. Other people and wealthy families have contributed money to the start-up, he says, but no venture capitalists are involved, despite the Oakland, Calif., company’s proximity to Silicon Valley.

In recent months, zTailors has been in stealth mode, operating in several major cities around the country, and it already has 600 tailors signed up. The plan is to be operating in all 50 states by the end of the year, with more than 1,000 tailors."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (53 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
They should probably quit referring to new startups as "The Uber of X", as I have about the lowest possible opinion of Uber. I didn't like them before, when they just acted in general above the law and regulation, but it's when they subverted the legislature of Idaho to force Boise to allow them to operate (after Boise kicked them out) that it became rather personal.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:55 PM on June 1, 2015 [34 favorites]


Anyways, having read the article, I don't see how this is going to be very successful. The problem with tailoring isn't that people have a hard time traveling to the tailor or that people can't find them or are unaware of their existence, it's that it is generally unnecessary and is rather expensive. Having the tailors make house calls isn't going to make it cheaper - in fact, it should make it more expensive, because it'll waste a lot of the tailor's time. So I guess it might be nice for some fairly rich people, but that's a small market and a lot of them already have a tailor they use. As for everyone else, it'll just continue to be unnecessary and expensive.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:21 AM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


ZTailors takes a 35 percent fee from each purchase. Though that is steep, the company says that tailors will find it worthwhile given the higher volume of clothing they are altering.

The Uber of sweatshops, perhaps?

When I lived in NYC and in San Francisco, I would drop off my laundry at a local place. These kinds of places often do tailoring at a low price too. People were already taking their clothes there - to be washed - so it wasn't really an extra inconvenience. And yet, despite all that, the sewing machines in the corner always looked kind of dusty.

If something doesn't fit you, chances are its kind of old too and, for most people, an excuse to buy new clothing. If that suit cost you thousands, chances are you can easily afford a new updated suit that also cost thousands.

So, yeah, I don't see this working.
posted by vacapinta at 12:29 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


So this is about alterations, which makes much more sense than using a smartphone to call up a random tailor to make you a new piece of clothing. If it were possible to get clothes altered cheaply people could save a lot of money on clothing, and look better all the time, but this service isn't going to provide that.

Good for the seamstresses and tailors though if they can use the service to increase their clientele as needed (and with zTailors taking a 35% cut, there's a strong incentive to use it for that purpose only).
posted by ormon nekas at 12:29 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


No the problem with tailoring is that it's a mark of the rich (at a time when class consciousness is trending) and also that most tailors smell weird.

Anyone can make up reasons people don't go to tailors! It's fun and easy.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:39 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


wemayfreeze:...also that most tailors smell weird.

I'd like to introduce you to my new smartphone app, Febrezstr™. I like to think of it as Uber for Febreze. For a nominal fee, one of our associates will drench your home, pets, or Uber drivers/tailors with Febreze.

And if this proliferation of Ubers-for-something is getting overwhelming, just download Uberer™. It's like Uber for Ubers. This service lets you pay tech-savvy young people to use all of the other exciting services for you, so that you don't have to.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:57 AM on June 2, 2015 [21 favorites]


Huh. Am I the only person who kind of loves this idea? I already have to get a lot of clothes altered, because I made the terrible mistake of being a woman who isn't exactly proportionate. I take all my new pants and jackets to the alterations lady anyway, because they don't make clothes that fit my short arms and legs. Since I'm going to be getting stuff altered anyway, I would love to have someone come to my house, go through my closet with me, and figure out which of the clothes that I don't wear could be spiffed up with some creative alterations.

Come to think of it, though, I don't give a shit about the app. I just like the idea of a tailor who does house calls.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:03 AM on June 2, 2015 [20 favorites]


My wife takes things in for alterations all the time: some stalking suggests most of the negative comments here are from men. Oh, wait, on preview...
posted by alasdair at 1:09 AM on June 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


You know, those prices that they are quoting, less a 35% cut, are not fair. The tailor still either has to pay rent on a work space or fill their home with professional machines and projects, plus pay for travel, which they don't in ordinary circumstances. Those prices are already too low, and they'd be too low in Minneapolis, never mind fancier places. I actually used to know someone (we had a falling out, sadly) who does bespoke clothes, alterations and specialty work for the theater scene and vintage shops. Those prices they're quoting are way too low on the face of it.

Tailoring is skilled work. That dude with the huge suit wardrobe who paid $450 for a major refit of a bunch of suits? What a schmuck, or what a naif, unless the work is utter crap.

Now, tailoring actually seems like one of those services that could profit from some kind of network - it's really difficult to find a good tailor if you want anything fancier than very routine alterations. And unlike Uber and so on, it's not about leveraging the nooks and crannies of everyone's private life - most people can't tailor clothes - and it's not about leveraging unskilled labor like all that Washio kind of stuff. If it were a system without some kind of leach taking a 35% cut (that's huge!) and with reasonable prices, that would be okay. I mean, thirty five fucking percent. That's unbelievable.

So yeah, that bugs me. It also bugs me that people have wildly skewed ideas about what skilled labor costs. It's like the posts on the green where people want ethically sourced organic cotton dress clothes....but oh, it shouldn't cost too much. It's like, no, fair labor rates are expensive. That's not some kind of market failure, that's normal.

I was just looking into getting a winter coat copied because I'm hard to fit, and it's going to cost a million dollars. (Not literally, but a lot. More than a goodish new coat, and if I weren't such a difficult fit with difficult requirements, I wouldn't consider it. But the point is, I've been looking around at tailor work, and let me tell you - major alterations on a bunch of suits costs a lot more than $450 less 35%.)
posted by Frowner at 2:09 AM on June 2, 2015 [46 favorites]


You know, those prices that they are quoting, less a 35% cut, are not fair. The tailor still either has to pay rent on a work space or fill their home with professional machines and projects, plus pay for travel, which they don't in ordinary circumstances. Those prices are already too low, and they'd be too low in Minneapolis, never mind fancier places. I actually used to know someone (we had a falling out, sadly) who does bespoke clothes, alterations and specialty work for the theater scene and vintage shops. Those prices they're quoting are way too low on the face of it.

Hear hear. My issue isn't with the idea of alternations being bougie at all... it's that this is likely to be literally the uber of tailoring, paying starvation wages.

The tailor shop my mom always went to since i was a little kid closed because they couldn't pay the rent. Recently, i needed a jacket repaired and some stuff altered and realized every place i knew of closed. The only place still open that anyone i knew could recommend? Charged higher, but realistic prices and was supported by being in a solidly upper middle class to wealthy neighborhood.

I know quite a few people who make costumes, or have successful etsy craft businesses. Even a few who have parlayed it in to having an actual uppercase-B Business that stands on its own. All of them are relentlessly assaulted by retailers trying to fuck them over and pay them less than their time or even materials, underpriced copycats that are either made in china or selling below cost simply to destroy the market, and then this sneaks up.

It's depressing to think how many of the people i know finishing say, apparel design degrees or just with crafty experience(i know a lot of burners, performers, bla bla bla) would get roped in to this as a "part time" gig that just sucks the life out of them because they're under or unemployed right now. Some of the people i know are already getting fucked over repairing bags at $HIGH_END_OUTDOOR_SHOP where they charge the customers out the ass and pocket basically all of it, and this is going to make it even worse.

Every single alternative to this is going to say "why should we pay more than minimum wage, when we're paying more than them?"

Because yea, my main issue with uber currently is that they weasel dick their way around paying even minimum wage, even when you factor in the "ramp" to $15 minimum wage in Seattle. And how this looks to be structured, and honestly anything that would straight facedly call itself "the uber of X" makes me think that their goal is "extract as much value from each transaction as possible while churning as many as possible at the expense of the employ- i mean "contractors"".

Any negative reaction to the idea of tailoring is a red herring. The problem here is the bottom up destruction of the low end of the job market for anyone whose in any corner of skilled textile/garment work.
posted by emptythought at 3:02 AM on June 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


The [commercial] internet is basically about disintermediating (and thereby disrupting) supply chains. Successful disintermediaries then become rentiers, like Amazon (who basically impose a 30-70% sales tax on 80% of ebooks sold worldwide because they've become a near-monopoly).

Trad VC-backed start-ups looked for market sectors where the ratio of input capital to labour was non-linear—that is, areas which were currently non-automated, but where a little bit of automation could reap huge profits without requiring the investor to hire more people in proportion to the scale of their growing turnover.

Some sectors are inherently labour-intensive: you can't sell more burgers without hiring more hands to man the kitchen and serve the customers, you can't treat more patients without hiring more doctors. Other sectors are subject to automation, and you can up-scale without hiring more labour. It's this latter kind of business opportunity that venture capitalists are always on the lookout for ...

Uber isn't a taxi firm. Rather, they're about disrupting the taxi cab despatch business, itself a form of incumbency. (Here in Edinburgh, the licensed cabs typically rent a mobile terminal from a despatch firm; for about $500/month this gets them a steady stream of bookings, for example.) It also dumps the capital investment of cab ownership on the shoulders of the drivers, thereby leveraging someone else's money, and ducks and weaves around employment and insurance law, but that's just icing on the shit cake that is Uber. (Uber are slimy. Film at eleven.)

Now, zTailor; what I think they're about is actually offering a service to tailors which gives them access to a pool of customers they couldn't normally reach. To use a tailor normally you pack up your garments and schlep them round to a shop during opening hours. It's a pain, and requires you (the customer) to schedule time to do this. zTailor app-ifies the process and lets you allocate some dead, otherwise unused time for the job and offloads the running around and fetching and carrying on someone else, in return for a small fee.

Unlike taxis, tailor's shops can't cruise the streets looking for trade. The angle for the tailors here is that zTailor finds them a steady stream of customers when [if] they'd otherwise be idle.

What this is bad news for is mall or city retail estate management. If outfits like zTailor are successful, then a tailor can save lots of money by not bothering to operate a shop storefront and by working out of non-commercial premises or a cheap industrial unit somewhere.

And the follow-up question is: what is the long-term impact on our cities going to be like if services you formerly had to go somewhere to purchase (like tailoring) are now something you book to come to you?

I think this just accelerated the death of the strip mall by half an hour. And assuming there are no other associated drawbacks—if they're not actually evil and trying to screw the workers—I'd have to say: good luck, because strip malls are the eczema sores of urban development.
posted by cstross at 3:08 AM on June 2, 2015 [18 favorites]


Yellow Pages, the Uber of Everything.

A directory of stuff on a map is not why Uber succeeds.
posted by fistynuts at 3:18 AM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


How does zTailors' 35% cut compare with the franchise license overhead of older small scale retail operations, like a Subway shop?
posted by ardgedee at 3:41 AM on June 2, 2015


I have to imagine that if I ever used this service (highly unlikely), once I was happy with a job the tailor I'd found had done, I would simply get his / her phone number and call them directly for future work, thus cutting the app out entirely from any future profits. No?
posted by the bricabrac man at 3:46 AM on June 2, 2015 [13 favorites]


A recurring thought I keep having, with, admittedly no actual real workable implementation coming to mind, is that someone really needs to get on disrupting capitalism itself by inventing the "Uber for Unions", or hell, even "Uber for Sweden". I suppose something like that could be viewed as the starting point for the Distributed Republics in Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:59 AM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Mefi project: Uber, but for
posted by ardgedee at 4:11 AM on June 2, 2015


How does zTailors' 35% cut compare with the franchise license overhead of older small scale retail operations, like a Subway shop?
What is my financial obligation as a SUBWAY® franchisee?
Beyond the one time franchise fee of $15,000 you will be required to pay royalties to Doctor’s Associates Inc. of 8% on weekly gross sales. You will be required to pay an advertising fee to the Franchisee Advertising Fund (FAF) of 4.5% on weekly gross sales.
posted by Etrigan at 4:16 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Come to think of it, though, I don't give a shit about the app. I just like the idea of a tailor who does house calls.

I agree. I don't need an app at all, but a good tailor who made house calls is a service I would use. (I'm sure such a person exists in many places, but I've never seen an ad or heard of it.)

The Uberization aspect doesn't seem very positive, though with such a high fee I would assume the tailors would just use the app to meet new customers and then do the transactions separately to avoid the fees.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:59 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a member of a 357 year old trade guild, I object. We have pointy things, beware. You thought that finding a rogue pin in a new shirt was hurty …
posted by scruss at 5:07 AM on June 2, 2015 [12 favorites]



Some sectors are inherently labour-intensive: you can't sell more burgers without hiring more hands to man the kitchen and serve the customers, you can't treat more patients without hiring more doctors. Other sectors are subject to automation, and you can up-scale without hiring more labour. It's this latter kind of business opportunity that venture capitalists are always on the lookout for ...

Uber isn't a taxi firm. Rather, they're about disrupting the taxi cab despatch business, itself a form of incumbency.


Taxi service is entirely labor intensive, more riders means more drivers in a pretty linear fashion and you can't disintermediate the drivers from dispatch, especially in the "Wild West" world Uber wants to operate in i.e. one of the reason why taxi 'firms' exist is that it's far to easy to tell a lone cab operator that if you see them picking up fares they are going get their brake lines slashed. A gang or group of gangs will easily take over an Uber-ified taxi market, reducing Uber's margins to nothing.

But, that's the thing. Uber isn't a taxi-despatch disruptor, it isn't successful: it's a stock market scam. It's why they have to pretend to be a global business, why they have to pretend to have driver-less taxis just on the horizon. The margins on taxi-despatch are going to be low eventually and the market for taxis is going to remain niche, like tailoring.

zTailors won't be "successful," won't have tech fanboys orgasming over it's business model without the right 'made' VC men hyping it. Any fundamental business argument you could make about zTailors you could make about Uber, but this isn't about business it's about investment fraud and the investment world has already been taken over by gangs.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:15 AM on June 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Things Uber's business model actually makes sense for, but nobody is bothering with:
  • Tow trucks
  • Plumbers
  • Locksmiths
...and that's about it.
posted by schmod at 5:19 AM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Seems like most tailors would be better served partnering with by a young person with social media skills. They could pay them in tailoring.
posted by Scram at 5:30 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


The tailor shop my mom always went to since i was a little kid closed because they couldn't pay the rent. Recently, i needed a jacket repaired and some stuff altered and realized every place i knew of closed. The only place still open that anyone i knew could recommend? Charged higher, but realistic prices and was supported by being in a solidly upper middle class to wealthy neighborhood.
Huh, that's interesting. I live in a less fancy place than Minneapolis, and I clearly travel in much, much less fancy circles than you do, but I can name off the top of my head five people around here who do alterations. Three of them work out of storefronts, and two of them work out of their homes. The prices that article cites would be about average for the storefronts and high for the ones who work out of their homes. On the other hand, none of these people does "bespoke clothes, alterations and specialty work for the theater scene and vintage shops," and not all of them would have the skills to copy a coat.

It occurs to me that I could actually just ask one of the alterations ladies if she'd be willing to come over to my apartment and go through my closet with me if I were willing to compensate her for her time. One of them has a shop literally around the corner from me, so I don't think it would be too much of a pain to get here. I actually might think about doing that at some point!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:33 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


An Uber of tailors would be like an Uber where you hired a driver for your own car: you don't want whoever is convenient at the moment. You want somebody you trust, and have a relationship with.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 5:36 AM on June 2, 2015



Tow trucks
Plumbers
Locksmiths


notice how all of these "businesses" carry the strong scent of organized crime? Taxis too. There's a second element to why none of these business can "scale" in a "free market." There's too much money to be made for the service provider in essentially running an extortion racket. The plumber, the locksmith, the tow truck driver, the taxi driver each has a very localized monopoly on *your* business as long as they can keep other providers away from you.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:39 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's a tweet that will correctly predict the next 20 companies after zTailors:

‏@azizshamim May 4 "OH: SF tech culture is focused on solving one problem: What is my mother no longer doing for me?"

And if you want to know where the bottom lies, Here Comes the Airplane.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:44 AM on June 2, 2015 [21 favorites]


The [commercial] internet is basically about disintermediating (and thereby disrupting) supply chains. Successful disintermediaries then become rentiers, like Amazon (who basically impose a 30-70% sales tax on 80% of ebooks sold worldwide because they've become a near-monopoly).
Trad VC-backed start-ups looked for market sectors where the ratio of input capital to labour was non-linear—that is, areas which were currently non-automated, but where a little bit of automation could reap huge profits without requiring the investor to hire more people in proportion to the scale of their growing turnover.


All you have to do is listen to the This American Life episode where they are talking to Chris Sacca.

Over and over Chris essentially asks "What's your advantage?" which is finance for "How are you going to cheat?"
posted by srboisvert at 5:47 AM on June 2, 2015


It seems like being Uber-for-tow-trucks is a big part of AAA's business model these days.
posted by box at 5:51 AM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


It seems like being Uber-for-tow-trucks is a big part of AAA's business model these days.

Which is why everyone is talking about AAA's latest round of financing... maybe, AAA is in super secret double stealth mode.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:05 AM on June 2, 2015


What a nice confluence of Screw You. Women typically would like to find a tailor because women's clothing is poorly cut and sized. Watch out men, you can still buy shirts in neck sizes and short or tall, but the crappiness of S-M-L-XL sizing for men's shirts is creeping in. And screw tailors, a.k.a. seamstresses, often women working from home, charging not nearly enough.

Mostly, cabs are needed frequently, so once you've found a cab, you don't need to keep their number, you just keep the app. Needing tailoring is less frequent, and, having found a tailor, you're likely to keep their contact info and hire them individually. 35% of the 1st job as the cost of finding a tailor/ customer is less horrible.

I know someone who sews and recommended she offer a service of going to customers' homes, pinning and marking everything, then delivering a pile of wonderful, renewed clothing. Many women I know have a 'to be mended' stack. Would totally hire someone to do this.
posted by theora55 at 6:12 AM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


‏@azizshamim May 4 "OH: SF tech culture is focused on solving one problem: What is my mother no longer doing for me?"

My mom never was great at alterations - but I've married a mother-in-law who is terrific! Now that she's retiring from being a university professor, she can have a second career.
posted by jb at 6:24 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay, I will tell you how much this woman quoted me to copy a coat - $500. She has her own tiny storefront in a street that still supports some old school craft businesses, mostly run by Eastern European immigrants. Her work looks good to me and I'm thinking about it. I have some vintage dresses that I thrifted in the nineties that I can sell and I was going to seek out a good coat (new or used) anyway so it was partly in the budget. I could get a fancy coat made in China or Vietnam - good materials, decent quality, bad payment to the labor - for that kind of money. But I want a copy of my old coat with some specific improvements for bicycling, and I'm very wide in the shoulders for an AFAB person but not quite wide enough for a men's coat to work. So I'm thinking about it. Now, it's possible that I could get a cheaper quote elsewhere in town, but on those two occasions when I had something made elsewhere (some simple pants once, a couple of simple pullover shirts once) the prices were in line with this.

And this woman will keep all the money - obviously it's not pure profit or anything, but no one is taking 1/3 out either.

Some alterations really are in the $15 range - shortening pants legs is very quick if you're skilled. But again, that's without the 1/3 fee off the top and without the travel. Seriously, you're talking about not just taking 1/3 out for the app but also adding the cost of traveling to people's homes.

What this really is, is labor vulnerability. Everyone is so desperate that they're able to be victimized by robber barons like this guy.

This thread is really making me get more serious about my newish tentative resolution to save up for fair trade clothes whenever possible even though that is WAY more expensive. Maybe I really will get those dresses sold and see if I can't get that coat made, because fuck this app guy.
posted by Frowner at 6:27 AM on June 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Shepherd and I each got a pair of beloved boots resoled by a guy who does this all by hand--his shop is a teeny tiny one off of the downtown strip, wedged in between a clockmaker/watch repairer and a one-woman alteration shop--recently. He charged us nearly $100 dollars for it and I didn't balk because I mean, who gets shoes repaired anymore? These days most people chuck them and buy new ones because it's often cheaper. And I also liked that this guy, he was a youngish guy too, was passionate about his work, telling me in detail and showing me how he was going to fix my (and Shepherd's) boots. My husband briefly was like, "Holy shit that is a lot of money to repair my boots" but when he thought about how much the original sale price of said boots were compared to the repair, no contest that this was worth the money.

I am trying my best to save up my money to buy fair trade clothes because while Old Navy is super convenient (as well as many other clothing lines), I just feel guilty about contributing to someone's unpaid or vastly underpaid labour.

I want to like the zTailor idea--mostly because I'm with AndC in that I have a closet full of clothes I'd love to get refitted or fitted properly as I too have a problematic lady-shape--but appifying everything feels just as gross as slave labour.
posted by Kitteh at 6:39 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, the other thing is - keep your money in town! If 35% of your money is flying off to wherever the fuck, that's 35% that isn't circulating through your local economy and creating a multiplier effect.

I have to be much more strict with myself - I tend to buy lots of used stuff on eBay, which is still at least putting money in the pockets of individuals, but I could just say that I am going to concentrate on getting only a few fair trade things. Or I would love to have good relationship with a tailor and get a couple of shirts or a couple of pairs of pants made every year. That would eat up my entire clothing budget, of course, but if I were smart about it, it could work, given that I am starting with a working wardrobe now so I could just swap stuff in.
posted by Frowner at 6:48 AM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


One of the regrets of living in a small city (really just a big college-town) is the lack of these sorts of small businesses. In a large city there is enough demand that a haberdasher, tailor or cobbler can pay the bills on a storefront. Where I live, not so much.
posted by oddman at 6:49 AM on June 2, 2015


oddman, we're just a big college-town ourselves and given what I know of the extortionate rents for storefronts downtown, I have no idea how those three businesses I mentioned above make it.
posted by Kitteh at 6:53 AM on June 2, 2015


But the point is, I've been looking around at tailor work, and let me tell you - major alterations on a bunch of suits costs a lot more than $450 less 35%.)

No, they don't. They cost that much now, in major cities in the US, because most tailors need to have brand recognition and a brick and mortar location that costs an arm and a leg. When I had tailoring in Korea done, out of someone's house, it was extremely skilled labor and I got multiple suits created for roughly that price. It should not cost substantially more to alter clothing based on the original price of said clothing. It should not be harder to alter something that is expensive than it is to alter something that's inexpensive if you are already doing quality work.

I would hire the shit out of uber for tailors if they guarantee quality. I have a lot of shit right now I want to take to tailors, but I am dubious of 'we do dry cleaning, and also sew some stuff.' I think actually for some people it is 'I want to hire tailors but don't have time to go hunting around for them and driving out of the way with all my clothes.'
posted by corb at 6:58 AM on June 2, 2015


Wasn't George Zimmer fired from Men's Warehouse because he refused to back down on his policy of hiring felons because he believed in second chances? I've always respected him for that and it makes me wonder if that is an unspoken part of what is going on here, making work available for the unemployable. Maybe I'm just cutting him too much slack, though.
posted by charred husk at 7:01 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


When people say that something is Uber but for something else, they're basically saying that there's an app and you can order a service from a phone. Right?
posted by entropone at 7:12 AM on June 2, 2015


I want to hate this idea because I am not a fan of a) needless apps, b) anyone coming to my house, and c) a cost-cutting, pay-undercutting model, but I also have at lugged at least three pairs of pants through several states and across the country which are in desperate need of alterations which is kind of ridiculous, now that I think about it, so if you know any quality folks in LA who will take my money and hem my pants, let me know.


It should not be harder to alter something that is expensive than it is to alter something that's inexpensive if you are already doing quality work.

This I have to disagree with because oftentimes the very things that (should) make clothing more expensive are the aspects that make alterations more complex. Linings, different fabrics, built-in infrastructure, pockets, nicer fabric requiring different thread- as I understand it, these are all complicating factors. (Probably less true for something like hemming jeans of all price points though?)
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:21 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


‏@azizshamim May 4 "OH: SF tech culture is focused on solving one problem: What is my mother no longer doing for me?"

oh shit
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:03 AM on June 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Meanwhile the Uber of Uber is still making headlines in the business press.

This may be Uber's most controversial move yet
posted by bukvich at 8:43 AM on June 2, 2015


Wasn't George Zimmer fired from Men's Warehouse because he refused to back down on his policy of hiring felons because he believed in second chances? I've always respected him for that and it makes me wonder if that is an unspoken part of what is going on here, making work available for the unemployable. Maybe I'm just cutting him too much slack, though.

He's also been advocating lately for an increased minimum wage, which seems totally counter to what the piecemeal economy accomplishes, so maybe he's just not very internally consistent.
posted by jaguar at 9:00 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Watch out men, you can still buy shirts in neck sizes and short or tall, but the crappiness of S-M-L-XL sizing for men's shirts is creeping in

I can buy shirts that are correct in one dimension - the neck, the arms, or the chest. There exist not shirts which have two correct dimensions, and three is almost certainly a mathematical and physical impossibility.

If I buy a shirt with arms that are long enough, I can fit my wife and my dog inside the shirt with me. If I buy it so that the neck fits, the cuffs will end in the middle of my forearms somewhere, and the shoulder seams will be on my collarbones.

Don't get me started on pants. At least socks fit OK.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:01 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ugh and if I buy pants that fit around my stomach then they billow and whip about my sticklike legs like two maxi skirts

Man maybe it was better back when everyone had like three handmade outfits
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:08 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd be happy if I could find a reputable-looking tailor with advertised hours. The closest one to me is out of somebody's house, so I feel weird just going up and knocking when I don't know for sure they're open for business.

My attempts at hemming pajama pants for practice before tackling my work pants have not gone well, so I'm very interested in paying for the work (and I do know roughly how much skill/work goes into it). I might give this a try.
posted by asperity at 9:43 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I read this as "Uber for trailers" which would be a lot more useful to me. Rent one as a storage unit, or a little RV, or whatever, all for a couple bucks an hour.
posted by miyabo at 10:04 AM on June 2, 2015


> They cost that much now, in major cities in the US, because most tailors need to have brand recognition and a brick and mortar location that costs an arm and a leg. When I had tailoring in Korea done, out of someone's house, it was extremely skilled labor and I got multiple suits created for roughly that price. It should not cost substantially more to alter clothing based on the original price of said clothing. It should not be harder to alter something that is expensive than it is to alter something that's inexpensive if you are already doing quality work.

Inexpensive clothing and high-quality clothing can both be difficult to alter, though for completely different reasons. Alternations aren't like "regular" sewing, it's just really labor-intensive work.

Brand recognition? A brick and mortar location that costs an arm and a leg? This utterly does not jibe with my experience. Brick and mortar tailors can be found adjacent to the fabric/garment district (if this exists in that particular city) and/or are modest storefronts within the residential neighborhoods they serve. Or are in the home. And as for "brand recognition," it's just word of mouth. There are the names well known to the wealthier high-society people. An the shops more known to the rest of us...some of which are full-on professional tailors, and some of which are, yes, dry-cleaners who do alterations.
posted by desuetude at 10:40 AM on June 2, 2015


This particular service may or may not survive, but I think this model might find a place in the modern American psyche and economy by making it possible for an average American to have, in effect, servants.

The app is an interface that obscures things like low pay, crummy hours and long commutes. Customers don't have to find, interview, vet and pay people directly; it can be handled via the apps. If a customer has to pay someone in person, in cash, for the work they do, that customer may pause to wonder if the price they're paying is fair. By reducing opportunities for these kinds of human interactions, the apps also decrease the odds of customers experiencing this kind of discomfort. It decreases friction.

Bonus friction-remover: there may be high turnover in these kinds of positions, which means that customers don't have to worry about having the same people work for them more than a few times. This can remove the friction caused by the same kinds of thoughts that can occur during the payment process. The apps keep the pool of workers aerated, so to speak, so no one has to build rapport or grow concerned or feel uncomfortable.

This isn't a good thing, from a human standpoint. Maybe the best thing that could happen in the near future is for a big company to differentiate itself by offering "fair trade" ad hoc services. The higher prices would be a feature, not a liability. People would get the help they want, and they'd get to feel decent about it because they person they hire via their app would be getting a fair wage. Requiring 35% of the service fee from the workers doesn't seem like a great place to start.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 12:16 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


if you know any quality folks in LA who will take my money and hem my pants

Virtually any laundry does basic alterations like that. There are like 4 within walking distance of my place in Santa Monica.
posted by flaterik at 2:19 PM on June 2, 2015


Virtually any laundry does basic alterations like that.

Every time I've gone to a tailor/seamstress working out of either storefront or home, they've had a place for me to stand and try things on and mark everything up with chalk. I have never seen anything like that at a laundromat or dry cleaner, and so I feel no confidence in using them for alterations. How does it work?
posted by asperity at 3:55 PM on June 2, 2015


All of the ones I've been to have a curtain hiding somewhere or just had me come behind the counter.
posted by flaterik at 4:02 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, none of these people does "bespoke clothes, alterations and specialty work for the theater scene and vintage shops," and not all of them would have the skills to copy a coat.

None of these places were like that either. They were just little tiny storefronts like you describe, especially my favorite passed-down-family-knowledge one.

That one in particular literally got kicked out to become bathrooms for the adjacent businesses.

The only thing i can figure is that commercial rents are spiraling out of control in Seattle, which is supported by some of the fucking obscene numbers i've heard bandied about.

It seems to be hitting businesses like this hard and first, which makes me wonder how these sorts of places survive in say... SF, or manhattan, or something. Are there just no tiny alterations shops in those places except on the outskirts?
posted by emptythought at 12:41 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


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