ABU DHABI: Indian expat M.V. Sivaraman, 71, claims he is the oldest tailor in Abu Dhabi, having spent 47 years in his craft in the UAE capital.
His shop, Dabster Gents Tailoring and Textiles, is located in the prime area of Madinat Zayed Mall, next to Lulu Hyper Market. His keen eye for detail and perfection has won him a large clientele across all nationalities. He was awarded the Best Tailor of 2014 by PingingU (an online lifestyle magazine).
“I came here in November 1971, and have witnessed the city grow into a thriving metropolis. I have seen big brands entering the market and influencing people’s fashion sense and style, but my clients keep coming back to me because I give them quality and finesse which they can’t find else where,” he said.
Piecing it together
Hailing from Thrissur district in Kerala, Sivaraman learned tailoring while he was in Grade X. But instead of pursuing his education, he left for Mumbai where he learned how to cut the patterns for suits and coats. A chance meeting with a friend there landed him a job in a small tailoring shop on Hamdan Street in Abu Dhabi.
The shop’s customers, mostly Europeans, would seek him out to make their tuxedos, three-piece suits and dinner jackets.
“I used to work with a heavy Singer sewing machine which was run with a foot pedal. I learned different styles by studying from books and analysing the photos of actors the customers brought as reference.”
In 1978, he opened his own shop, Abu Dhabi New Tailors, in the old Central Market. “The average cost of a suit – material and stitching – was about Dh750 then.” He fondly remembers clients like Londoner Robert James, for whom he made suits for more than 30 years. “James loved bright colours like yellow and red, and even had one made in the UAE flag colours. He left Abu Dhabi a few years back because of health reasons,” he said.
Once, an Arab youth shouted at him for making his coat too tight. Six month later the youth came back to apologise. “The young man had attended an interview wearing that coat and he got the job. He believed the coat brought him good luck. I was very touched by his gesture,” he said.
Sivaraman today specialises in business suits and bespoke jackets. The jackets cost around Dh950 apiece, while suits are priced between Dh1,500 and Dh2,500. He also makes Indian attire like sherwanis and Jodhpuri suits. “For men who prefer suits, there’s nothing like a tailored fitting. ”
Three years ago, he suffered a huge loss following a bad deal. “I changed the name of my shop and decided to work only with exclusive clients. I don’t bother much about competition. I am happy with whatever life has offered me and am not too keen on being very rich or popular,,” said Sivaraman.
For more information visit www.dabstertailors.com
The writer is an Abu Dhabi-based freelance journalist