A Passionate Plea to Fashion Designers…. Part 1
I know this is for a legal document but it also works for this post.
Image from: http://i2.wp.com/thebudgetnistablog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/cease-and-desist-stamp.png?w=389
SO we’ve been working on a project for a while now. Of course we know how every designer around here complains about tailors… or a lack of. So we decided to step in to fill the gap by sourcing machinists and pairing them with designers who need their services. It seems pretty easy right?! HA! If only! So far, it has been DI-FFI-CULT!
Yes we have had some success stories but goodness the bulk of it has been such a nightmare! Yes we know tailors can be funny and granted some of the machinists’ skills can be pretty questionable. Which is fine. We are not here to certify how perfect the person is. The designer is expected to make a decision based on the sample of work the person has done in our office and is also expected to run their own tests. But most importantly, the designer is expected to train the tailor to their standards and not just throw them on the job. After all, bankers will confirm that they all get retrained when they move from one bank to the other, no matter how experienced they are.
But THAT is not even the reason for this post. To be honest, I never really involve myself in how designers choose to pass across their values and mission statements to their staff.
My MAJOR issue is what I am about to list below which to be honest really breaks my heart whenever I get feedback from the machinists we send out. It really is unfair the awful things I have heard. Yes the general idea is that tailors are a nightmare to work it and yes I agree with you. But this post is not about that either because chances are they probably won’t read this post so why bother.
I am here to please please please PLEAD with you (whether or not you source machinists from us) to remember that your employees are people as well and deserve to be treated as such. The way you treat others is a reflection of the way your business will turn out at the end of the day and if you are facing challenges, perhaps it could be because of how you treat your staff… which always sometimes comes back to bite you in the face!
Here is JUST a snapshot of the complaints I have been getting from our machinists…
1. Do NOT book an appointment if you know you will not be available!
This is pretty much a standard these days. You tell us to send the tailor to you at a certain time and then saunter in 4 hours later without an apology. And rather than attending to them, you keep them waiting for another 2 hours or worse you tell them to come back the next day. Or worse, the person is sitting staring at you forming all busy and all and you still keep them waiting when you asked them to be there at that time in the first place. Why?! How would you feel if this happened to you?! We all complain about how we are being treated at Embassies and government parastatals and at the slightest opportunity, we turn around and do the exact same thing!
Biko nu! These people we are sending to you do not have the money to spend going up and down on fruitless journeys. Yes you may forget sometimes but the least you could do is offer a heart-felt apology and if you want them to return the next day, then give them the transport fare they wasted that day. How much can that possibly be?! It really is unfair!
2. Keep Your End of the Bargain!
If you have agreed to pay the a certain salary, please stick to it! Don’t change the terms while they are working for you simply because you can. And if you must change it, give them enough advance notice, warnings and evaluations and let them know the implications of their non-performance before you change the rules.
I have often heard of designers agreeing to a payment term and when the person starts work, they never keep up their end of the bargain. They promise all sorts of juicy terms and when the work starts, zilch is done! I mean how unfair is this?!
In fact, something just happened recently that I am yet to confirm and I am seriously hoping it is not true. And I say I am yet to confirm this because I have not yet spoken to the designer to understand what exactly is going on. But from my understanding, a paid position became a non-paying internship which eventually turned into the designer asking to be paid for the internship / apprenticeship. I have not yet spoken to the designer to confirm the correctness or otherwise but if it is true, all I can think of is:
a) that was not the basis on which I was contacted to help source for the person; and
b) what if the person had resigned a perfectly good job for the hope of better things to come and this happened?” You can’t go back to your job and now you are stuck with searching for a new one.
Like I said, I have not confirmed how true this but it has happened in the past so I need to address it.
Designers you cannot put up a policy in retrospect except you have given ENOUGH ample warnings. If the person is still not performing, then please ask her to leave. You can dissolve the particular contract and ask her to register for a training with you or pay for an apprenticeship. Then it becomes a separate transaction! But don’t mix one with the other simply because you think the person does not have a choice!
3. Be Fair when Negotiating Wages & Salaries.
Please do not offer wages, salaries and commissions that do not make sense to anyone including yourself just because it is beneficial to you. We do not involve ourselves in salary negotiations but please do not offer pittance to someone, especially when you know the person pretty much “travels” to your office. We try as much as we can to find job opportunities for tailors within their vicinity. We know things are tough for designers out there so we don’t expect them to pay oil company salaries. But when you tell us you don’t mind someone who does not live in the area and the tailor also does not mind, then please have a conscience and consider the fact that the person has to take transportation, has to feed, and still have something left over to at least tend to other responsibilities.
And in the unlikely event that we tell you what a tailor is expecting as a wage or a salary and you say okay, this suggests you are okay with it. Don’t tell us you are fine with it and ask us to send the person over and then offer them less than half of what the person is asking for like you’re “pricing” fish in the market. These are people with skills and can be quite insulting.
I would understand if after you have done a test, the person’s skills are not up to par then you can renegotiate after the person sees and can confirm their work is poor which we even do sometimes after they have done their test with us. But do not offer peanuts and expect them to deliver outfits fit for royalty because they will be disgruntled – and with good reason!
4. Be Patient With Them!
Yes I know this is a tough one to do but at some point, you need to be patient. Most of these machinists learnt with blackhead machines. The first interaction many of them may have had with electric machines would have been at ours during their test and we give them time to get used to the machines before they start their test. Please understand this before throwing them on industrial machines to work with. Chances are they will bungle simply because they are not used to it. Some of them have potential, you just need to be patient.
A wise person once told me “the good employees always leave for greener pastures. The ones with limited skills are the ones who will probably remain with you for a long time”. And that is very true! The staff I wanted to fire then turned out to be one of my greatest assets. It took us a while to get there but each day gets better.
5. Don’t Try to be Sneaky! We Always Find Out!
YES! This I must say is the worst!
Offering this service costs money! We spend a whole lot advertising on various platforms, searching for tailors and running huge telephone bills contacting tailors and designers and you cannot imagine what our petrol bill is like to run these tests. We sometimes even spend time with the machinists, getting them to familiarise themselves with the machines before they even start their test and we also have a dedicated staff for this service. So yes we do charge a token fee for our services which is a mere fraction of what we spend to bring you the service.
So you can imagine how very annoying it is when a designer agrees to our payment terms, calls us to say the tailor we sent her was not good and then goes behind our back to employ the tailor! Like seriously?! On top how much?! I cannot even think of a decent word to call this so I’ll just hold my peace. You can imagine how shocked I was and how burnt I felt when the tailor we called to “console” and assure we would find somewhere else she can work told us she had already started working there. The interesting thing was she told us she left because she did not like the lady’s attitude and was planning to call us to give us feedback on how she could no longer work there. Can you just imagine?!
All I can say is please please please do not contact us if you lack integrity! I like to think I am dealing with professionals and things like this just makes my stomach turn.
I can go on and on but I will stop here.
This is pre-employment. Please please please if you are guilty of any of these, please cease and desist. You are making our work incredibly difficult and these unnecessary issues are costing us a whole lot of money! If we want to make this work and you need the extra hands, then we both need to work together to make life easier for all th parties involved!
My next post will be directed at designers after they have employed the machinists, regardless of whether they were sourced from us or not.
Thank you for your patience. And apologies for my rant!
Meanwhile, I might as well use this opportunity to market these services. If you know anyone, who knows anyone, who knows anyone who loves to sew and needs a job, please contact us. You can also call our office lines. The details are on the left side of this page.