I once had a skirt made in Mali. The fabric was a beautiful colorful local print that I really loved, so I was actually looking forward to wearing the skirt. However it soon became clear that the traditional wraparound skirt does not match my body shape. After a few days of lots of annoyances, walking around with mainly uncovered legs I gave up on it, leaving behind a happy local girl.
My travel companion being a lover of African cloth I too started to re-appreciate them. Visiting a beautiful market at the Mono riverside, I ended up buying three different kinds of cloth. Shirt, top, skirt or trousers, the options were endless.
Josefien who had bought a few cloths also, suggested we’d work with two different tailors. The one being an expert in the more traditional designs, the other being more of a fashion designer.
A beautiful lady, all smiles, welcomed us into her atelier. Her four apprentices, all lovely ladies, were working on their sewing skills, while she took our measures. It will be ready before your departure, she promised us with sparkling eyes.
A young man, lots of smiles too, is the next one to welcome us to his atelier. All his apprentices immediately stop working, to watch the show. No problem, he’ll be happy to make us some clothes and they’ll be ready before our departure.
‘Be here 8h clock sharp on Thursday morning and it’ll all be ready’, he promises with a huge smile, before he starts shaking hands and kissing.
We’re late on Wednesday evening, returning to Aklakou and the lovely lady has already closed her atelier for the day. When we ran into her on the evening market, she states there is no problem at all. A few minutes later we are taken to a neighbor’s house, where we can try our new clothes. They are just beautiful. A few small adjustments will be ready early next morning.
Happy with the result, and keeping in mind that the other tailor was highly recommended I have high expectations of the other clothes. What a bummer when we arrive shortly after 8 only to find out that the boss is nowhere to be seen. His apprentices are working on our clothes. The sizes are way too big, they are not what we had in mind and the finishing is on the level you could expect of an apprentice. Leaving the atelier, we have little hope for the final products.
Returning a few hours later – after having picked up our beautiful clothes with the lady, who had turned my leftover cloth into a beautiful shawl, the boss himself has arrived. He is very excited seeing us again. While our clothes are stuffed into little bags by his apprentices, he asks us to pay more than we had agreed upon.
‘So now you have to give me a present,’ he happily announces.
‘Give me some money so I can buy water,’ he adds, apparently forgetting that we just paid him more than we had agreed upon, for clothes that do not even meet our expectations.
We look at him in surprise and disbelieve, only to find out he is absolutely serious about it. Trying to get rid of his arms around our shoulders, while he is kissing us another time, we head for the door, leaving him behind, not even looking back.
I feel sorry for his apprentices, but we had a good laugh over it afterwards.
After another market visit I went back to the lovely lady to order a few more items