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‘It feels good to spend all day creating’

mumbai Updated: Feb 17, 2013 01:21 IST
Riddhi Doshi
Riddhi Doshi
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

In a narrow bylane in Sion, a 300-sq-ft garage-turned-workshop overflows with swatches of silk, satin and cotton. They spill from the drawers and shelves, lie heaped up on tables and chairs.

Amid the luxuriant chaos sit a harried mother and daughter, waiting for a special outfit to be worn at a family wedding that evening.

It is now the end of the annual peak season that begins with the wedding rush in November, followed by Navratri, Diwali and the Christmas and New Year party seasons.

Every day, during these months, about 25 customers pass through Suresh Tailors & Designers, ordering outfits, attending fittings or looking at designs for sari blouses and ghagras.

“All women are always in a hurry to get their outfits done,” mutters owner and garment designer Vinod Renukun-tla, 46. “Patience is a virtue one needs a lot of while dealing with my clients.”

Renukuntla designs each outfit produced here, and oversees the cutting, stitching and embroidery done by his team of three tailors and craftsmen and sundry freelancers.

A Class 11 dropout, he has been in the business for 30 years, having started out as a tailor’s apprentice under his father, Suresh.

Renukuntla starts his day at 8 am, with a bath and a prayer session in the two-bedroom Ghatkopar home that he shares with his wife, two school-going children and parents.

At 9.30 am, after a hot breakfast of tea and upma, poha or thepla prepared by his wife Jayshree, a homemaker, he rides his motorcycle to the 50-year-old family store. “We belong to the Darzi community, originally from Hyderabad,” says Renukuntla. “We have been tailors for five generations.”

Renukuntla starts his workday with a second prayer session. By 10.30 am, he is ready for his first clients. For the next three hours, Renukuntla works without a break, taking measurements, discussing designs, patterns and styles and allotting work to his tailors.

“My design philosophy centres on a balance between style and comfort,” he says, adding that his forte is necklines. “A beautifully crafted neckline can act as an accessory in itself, adding to the glamour of an outfit.”

Even more important than the neckline, adds Renukuntla, is the fitting, now his core specialty. “I get clients from across the eastern suburbs, because they know that my garments always fit perfectly,” he says

All this finesse takes time and effort and Renukuntla works an average of 11 hours a day, six days a week, to produce his 2,000 garments a year.

“I spend most of that time standing and that takes a terrible toll on my back and legs,” he says.

At 9 pm, he finally shuts shop and heads home for a quiet dinner and some precious family time.

“My business does not allow me to leave the city for more than three days at a time. My wife and children often complain about this,” says Renukuntla. “We can only vacation at nearby hill stations or, at most, in Hyderabad.”

Sundays, Renukuntla’s days off, are reserved strictly for family, with the entire clan heading out together in the evenings, usually for a movie and dinner.

“We don’t get much time together, but I love my work,” says Renukuntla. “It is always an amazing feeling to create a beautiful outfit out of a bundle of cloth.”

(This weekly feature explores the lives of those unseen Mumbaiites essential to your day)