Four American navy pilots, back from a humanitarian mission to Bangladesh, walk into Lobo Tailors fondly called by its European clients as “Dubai's Savile Row''- London's famous bespoke tailors. Across the shop front is a message that proclaims: “Dressing People since 1978''.
Three hours inside the shop, tucked away in a Bur Dubai lane, and you begin to comprehend the nature of its clientele: An air traffic controller from Dubai Airport who is getting married back home in South Africa, a Liverpool-based finance manager from the ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind', a British Army captain, a Canadian consular officer, a retired Amsterdam banker, a German businessman, a private jet pilot, a hotel general manager, the president of the Khartoum Racing Club, a Lebanese woman from Carrefour, a Canadian public relations professional, an Irish law firm trainee and a turbaned Indian property company owner.
Lobo Tailors, launched by Indian national Mushtaq Shaikh, a former employee of the UAE Ministry of Finance and Industry, has put Dubai on the world sartorial map attracting clientele from around the globe without any advertising.
“Word of mouth is my way of publicity,'' confides the heavily-built Shaikh who delivers bespoke service for which he imports raw fabrics worth 300,000 Swiss francs (Dh1.06 million) from Europe every year.
Cricketers Ian Botham, ViV Richards and Imran Khan are among those who have patronised his shop.
Shaikh recalls how his friends prompted him to start a tailoring shop as there were no quality clothes establishments then. “I rented a shop on Dh10,000 annual rent paying from my pocket,'' he said.
Lobo's 8000 sq ft factory outlet near Dubai Airport churns out uniforms for 35 airlines around the world besides Dubai Duty Free, 13 government departments in the UAE, 51 hotels and 60 other entities spanning various sectors in emirates.
Lobo plans to open an additional factory outlet in Dubai Investment Park later this year, said Nadia and Minal, Shaikh's daughters who have recently been drafted into the business.
Benjamin, Sean, David and Todd who fly Black Hawk transport helicopters on humanitarian missions from a US Navy Ship, said friends back home had suggested that they visit Lobo Tailors as it offered quality products at reasonable prices.
Craig Allen, an ATC (air traffic controller) at Dubai Airport, said he chose Lobo Tailors on the advice of a friend. “I thought it was nice to have a properly made suit as I am getting married soon. I also brought my two best men Matt Naisby and Quintin Jeffreys during my first visit two and half weeks ago to Lobo and ordered suits for them, too,'' he said.
Mamoun Ahmad Makki, founder of Arab Centre for Communication and International Relations in Sudan and president of the Khartoum Racing Club, has been patronising Lobo since 1999.
“I pay 60 per cent of London prices but order double the number of clothes here. Lobo's quality is on par with London, Frankfurt and Munich dresses,'' he said.
Nancy, a Lebanese woman employed with Carrefour, has been ordering jackets and pants from Lobo for the past three years. “It's difficult to find decent women's clothing, especially suits in readymade garment outlets,'' she said.
Canadian Jane Meikle, a PR professional, strolls in to try on long shirts, blouses and jackets. The long-legged Ariene Mac from Ireland, a law firm trainee, says she has found just the right place to stitch trousers and skirts to match her height. “The charges are 15 to 20 per cent cheaper than Ireland and the UK,'' she adds.
German businessman Lother Hohmann said he has found perfect fits at Lobo.
“Making suits at home is very expensive,'' said retired Dutch banker V. Jaap on a stopover at Lobo Tailors to collect two jackets on his way to the Dubai airport.
Cooney Thomas, finance manager with ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind' in the UK, said friends in Liverpool had recommended Lobo. “In the UK, it costs me 600 to 700 pounds (Dh4, 377 - 5,106) to stitch a suit but here at Lobo's I can have two suits made for the same price,'' said Thomas.
Canadian consular officer Dennis O'Bryne said he has been ordering formals at Lobo's since November 2006 after a tip from a friend at the US Consulate.
Paul Rason, sales consultant in a real estate firm, said he was earlier buying suits and shirts off the peg in the UK and Italy but at Lobo's he has found good quality products at lower prices.