Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
An on-demand tailoring service from the Men’s Warehouse founder adds to the litany of things you can do without leaving your house.
George Zimmer, the ousted founder of retail chain Men’s Warehouse, just announced a new way to become a stylish hermit: on-demand tailors who can zip over to your home or office and tweak ill-fitting garments.
His new project, zTailors, works like this: Customers use the website or app to request a house call from a tailor with at least five years of experience. After a complimentary fitting, altered clothes will be returned within a week.
More than 600 tailors are already on board. By the end of 2015, Zimmer hopes to have a nimble-fingered army 1,000 strong and operate in all 50 states. The company skims 35 percent off the top, but Zimmer told the New York Times that he feels that the endeavor will be very lucrative for tailors. Writes the Times:
Motivating Mr. Zimmer, in part, is a desire to help tailors. The average tailor makes about $38,000 a year, he said, adding that his company might be able to double that sum. At the same time, tailors are a highly fragmented work force, with no national chain offering a reliable and branded product.
In 2014, the mean annual wage for tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers was $29,170, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One zTailors employee quoted in the article estimates that he stands to make a six-figure income this year. (One of his first jobs through the service involved completely re-fitting 30 shirts for an $800 fee.) The latest estimate from the BLS counts 20,200 total tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers in the U.S.
Tailors are a foil to the fast-fashion movement, characterized by snagging trendy, often poorly constructed items that are quickly discarded. (These are usually the products of factories with low wages, long hours, and minimal attention to employee safety in countries such as Bangladesh, where 42 people were recently charged with murder following a factory collapse that killed 1,100 workers.) As Elizabeth Cline writes in Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion:
Americans are buying about 68 garments and 7 pairs of shoes per year, and clothing has gone from something very personal, locally-made and kept for years to a disposable good made in low-wage foreign factories in the span of a generation.
These in-person sewers are also an alternative to the made-to-measure ensembles peddled by e-commerce sites such as J. Hilburn or Indochino (which produces suits and shirts in Shanghai). These companies cut out the middleman—the retail store—and manufacture clothes based on body measurements you submit. But the hefty price tag—a linen button-down from J. Hilburn goes for $139—may make these services a less attractive option compared to adjusting a shirt you already own. zTailors’ alterations start at $10.
You can order and receive hair cuts, massages, manicures, and clothes from home. It’s safe to say that you’ll like the way you look clad in bespoke garments—even if you just wear them around the house, waiting for your Seamless delivery. (Though we can’t guarantee it.)