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MONDAY MAN: Career a perfect fit


KIMBERLEY CUMMINS

MONDAY MAN: Career a perfect fit

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ANY TIME OF THE DAY OR AT NIGHT, Prince John can be seen seated at the window of his home in Station Hill, St Michael.

With the afternoon sun belting through the window and the noise from the traffic nearby, a NATION team found Prince John labouring away on his sewing machine, putting the final touches on one of his creations.

Christened Michael Bridgeman, Prince John is a tailor with almost 40 years’ experience.

Also affectionately known as Ras John, he wasn’t formally trained in the field. As a matter of fact, when he left St Matthew’s Mixed School, he didn’t even transition to secondary. Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely there are many others in Barbados who can sew as good, measure and pattern as exact, or alter clothes to fit clients as he can.

Prince John is not one to boast about his talent, but he was more than willing to share his story. It all began as a result of the death of his close friend and tailor “Shots”, who formerly lived in Deane’s Village, St Michael.

Prince John recalled that back in the 1970s, it was far cheaper to have clothes tailored than to purchase them ready-made, so upon Shots’ death, he searched for a new tailor. The then 20-year-old found someone but the clothes that person made didn’t fit quite as well as he had hoped. Very frustrated, one night he sat at home, deconstructed and reconstructed an old pants.

“I start from there, and never look back,” he said.

Working as a window-maker in a factory by day, Prince John continued for a few years making clothes solely for himself by night. But around 1980, he quit his job at the factory to do an apprenticeship with a man known as Dax from Bank Hall. He did this for two years.

“I went to him and then people start bringing clothes to me. I don’t profess that I know it all because you never stop learning, but I became pretty good.”

So good in fact, that this avid basketballer, and co-founder of the Station Hill Cavaliers, became very popular. And now his clientele includes people of all ages, sizes and social standing. He makes anything from school uniforms, to cocktail dresses, hats, panties, bathing suits, cushion covers and curtains. According to him, “anything you name, I can make it”.

While it would appear that others have come and since moved on from tailoring, the 58-year-old credits love for what he does as the reason for his longevity.

“Too much of the young people today feel it is quick fix . . . thinking they gine make a lot of money, even some of the ones coming out of the SJPP [Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic]. They do it for a time and then done away because if you looking for a quick fix, you can’t last long. It is something you really got to love because if you don’t love tailoring, you are not going to stick in it,” he explained.

“I had people bring a piece a material and you tek you time and mek all kinds of things, but they don’t come back, so that is why some people get out because they can’t handle that. It has happened to me already but I learned my lesson, so now there is a down payment on all clothes. Sometimes it [business] does be slow, sometimes it does be up, but I don’t complain. I make a living but you got to be patient. Patience is the key,” he added.

While most of his business is done during the back-to-school and Christmas season, Prince John won’t give up what he does for the world. In fact, he maintained the only time he would abandon tailoring was if he went blind or when he received a call from the Lord because, according to him, “there will always be a place for tailors”.

He added: “The ready-made clothes don’t bother me. People will still always want customised clothes; plus I am a man who does mek and sell too. Ready-made is not like tailor’s cut. It is one standard, almost like one size fits all, but if you want something to fit your own figure that is something totally different. 

“Most people even when they buy ready-made clothes, they still bring them to have fit to their size. Ready-made would got [sizes] 24, 26, 28 and that is that, but if you is 25, 27, 29 you can’t find nothing to fit you because if it isn’t too big, it too small; so I would still get a lot of work. So anybody feel that ready-made gine tek over got it wrong. There is still a place for tailors,” he proclaimed. (SDB Media)

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