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Summer-Eid double whammy overwhelms dishdasha tailors

Expats over 60 leaving Kuwait compounding problem

By Shakir Reshamwala

KUWAIT: As Eid al-Fitr approaches, tailors in Kuwait are neck-deep in backlogged orders for dishdashas and are scrambling to deliver the traditional robes on time. Many tailoring shops in Kuwait City and other areas have affixed notices on their shopfronts saying no new orders are being accepted, sometimes for months ahead, leaving customers looking for new outfits increasingly frustrated. Dishdasha tailoring shops have been facing this situation for the last couple of years amid the repercussions of the COVID pandemic and an exodus of workers, but the situation has exacerbated this year due to a variety of additional factors.

“The summer season and Eid have converged this year, which has led to an unprecedented demand for new light-colored dishdashas,” a Pakistani tailoring shop owner in Sharq, who has been in this business for decades, told Kuwait Times. He said each customer orders seven to eight dishdashas at a time, despite every bespoke dishdasha costing around KD 15. So, a family can have orders of dozens of dishdashas on the books at a time, and with each of them custom-made, the process is time-consuming.

Notices are displayed at shops that no new orders will be accepted until after Eid.

“Many experienced tailors left during the pandemic, while others who reached the age of 60 also had to leave due to the exorbitant iqama renewal fees,” he lamented, calling for relaxing visa rules to facilitate the entry of new workers. Abu Khaled, a Kuwaiti customer, said people have to place their orders at least a month and a half before Eid, otherwise tailors will not accept them. He said there was a shortage of tailors even for winter dishdashas, adding he had extra robes tailored last summer for his future needs.

“Prices have also risen. Dishdashas now cost around KD 17 — KD 10 to 11 for the fabric and KD 6 for tailoring,” he pointed out. “This crisis happens every Eid, of finding a tailor who can get me a dishdasha on time. I went a week before Ramadan, but they told me it will only be ready two weeks after Eid. I finally found a tailor through wasta of a friend. He told me he can finish it in three days, otherwise I would not have gotten the dishdasha. I already had the material, but the tailoring cost me KD 9.5!” said Mohammed Hamada, a 27-year-old Kuwaiti.

“The reason for the problem is because expats over 60 are forced to leave the country. I hope the country has more compassion towards these workers. They should not be forced to leave if they want to serve the country. This will really benefit us as nationals more than expatriates,” he told Kuwait Times. Those looking for readymade dishdashas can also be out of luck finding the color, size and style of their choice, at the right price. “Even readymade dishdashas are in short supply. People made their purchases long before Eid,” said a veteran Indian tailor who runs a ready-to-wear dishdasha shop in Souq Mubarakiya.

He said the shortage of skilled workers has been roiling the dishdasha market for the past few years. Prices have also gone up due to the supply and labor crunch, he added. Omar Al-Mutairi, a 29-year-old Kuwaiti, said the last time he had a dishdasha stitched was last year. “I went to a number of tailors, but most of them have a sign on the door that says ‘Come after Eid’.

I still haven’t found a tailor, even though I have the fabric ready. This problem has been occurring for a while, but this time it has worsened. This is because of tailors over 60 who left, as most tailors are older in age. The authorities should open the door to bringing tailors back to resolve this issue — it is not that hard,” he contended.

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