Wearing a jacket-styled coat with a scarf around her neck, Tadelu Getu, a thin 23 year-old was standing in one of the shops at Merkato that retails coats for the summer. This is one of many stores in that area that not only sells coats but also makes them.
People no longer just go to the stores to buy ready made summer coats. They can go the tailors and be measured for a custom-made coat. Tadelu learned from a friend about such tailors in Merkato; until then she did not even know that summer coats were made locally.
“I did not hesitate to come and visit because I had grown tired of buying imported summer coats from boutiques at high prices,” she said.
She stressed that she needs the coats during the rainy seasons. This need has created a market for Merkato’s tailors.
“Outside of the summer time, no one would even give coats a second look,” Lamesgen Helmneh, a 55-year old tailor said.
Lamesgen, who has been a tailor for the past 30 years, was in the middle of working on an order from a client, when Fortune met him. He started making summer coats only a few months ago, and the orders have been coming since then.
The main reason given by the customers in their preference of locally-made summer coats over the imported ones is the price difference. They state that the locally-made ones coots are cheaper than the imported ones by nearly half. The locally-made ones are sold for 400-600 Br based on their size and thickness, while the imported ones are sold at an average cost of between 1,000 and 1,500 Br.
Tadelu was not at Merkato for the price alone but also to get one that exactly fits her size, which is the problem with imported coats. One can also choose the colour and fabric.
“The imported summer coats have fixed sizes and one may not be lucky enough to find a size which fits well, especially for someone who has a short stature and is slim,” said Tadelu.
When clients enter into a tailor’s shop, they are offered a catalogue, where they can pick the style from the picture collections. The selected styles will be copied by the in-house designers, who also create original designs.
Mesele Admase, 26, works as designer at Yeworku Wuha Garments in Merkato. He tried out his legs at athletics before giving up and joining the tailoring business, which happens to be a family business. He was ready for the rains this year with five designs of his own, hice he developed in 15 days, he said.
The number of days that it takes to make a summer coat is different as compared to other articles of clothing as the material is different.
“Imported summer coats are expensive and some of them are inconvenient to be washed easily unless you take them to laundry centres. On the other hand the locally made summer coats are easy to wash and not costly to buy,” said another customer, Belaynesh Tessema, who had been sitting around Yework Wuha Garments.
The summer coat business, which is becoming very trendy, has created a new business for importers of fabrics even though the fabrics are only imported for the summer season. The fabric for the coats is imported from Dubai, Turkey and China.
Tinsaie Zeleke is one such importer at Merkato. He is pleased with the introduction of this business in the market but has a few disappointments.
“The summer coat fabrics have weight and take space when transported. With the increase of the weight of the fabrics, the charge is also high,” he says.
Some in the business of selling imported coats, however, seem unperturbed by the growing trend of making them locally.
Asni Fashion at Temenja Yaj on Sierra Leone St sells coats imported from Thailand, at 1,000 to 1,500 Br. Lidya Tsegay, a salesperson, displayed the various coats, arguing that they are of better quality than those made locally. She showed one made from 100pc cotton and another from 100pc wool. She compared them with another she said was made in Merkato. At Asni the locally made coats are sold for 750 Br to 900 Br.
“The difference rests in the quality of the fabrics, which also determines the price range of the summer coats,” She said. “Just like there are those that focus on the price of the products, there are also those that care more about the quality of the fabric that the products are made of.”
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