Leather Jacket Redux

For those of you who followed my last trip to Bali two years ago, you know that I had a major adventure getting a custom-made leather jacket custom made for me in Ubud. Well, that tailor did a fantastic job and made me a sleek, sexy black leather jacket. I’ve been wearing it and enjoying it for two years. However, I’ve also gained weight in those two years, and the jacket, made from measurements taken when I was wearing a skimpy sun dress, really doesn’t fit me so well anymore. The pockets gap and it’s fine if it’s not zipped up, but if I want to zip it up, well…it’s kind of tight. So, I decided to get a different new leather jacket made on this trip—one that’s a little roomier. Also, I want it to have a red satin lining.

Last time, I knew I wanted a leather jacket, but I didn’t spend any time figuring out what I wanted it to look like. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I guess I wasn’t thinking at all. This time, I spent several hours cruising Pinterest and other sites finding just the perfect design. I had my daughter look over the half dozen choices I’d tabbed and she approved of this one. She is my personal fashion police.

I was going to be prepared.

So, here’s the first part of the story. When I was staying at the ashram, I took a walk and found this tailor shop. They were closed, so I went back the next day. Still closed. Finally, on the third try, I found the proprietor there and the front door open. His shop was full of mannikins, half-made suits, sewing supplies and a table filled with catalogs full of images of all kinds of clothing. The man’s English was pretty rudimentary, and my Indonesian is limited to things like, “thank you,” “good morning,” “good afternoon” and “good evening.”

But I had taken pictures of what I wanted, one shot with the jacket open in the front, one shot with it closed, and one shot of the back. The problem was getting the pictures to him, so he could forward them to the man who does the actual leather work. He wanted me to send the photographs to his wife through What’s App, but even after going next door and ordering a ginger/lime drink to use the Internet, we couldn’t get that to work. Her messages kept bouncing back to me. Finally, I sent the pictures to his email at home (he wasn’t really sure of the wifi address) and I hoped for the best.

We talked a little about price. I know something about the art of bargaining in Bali. It’s all based on creating a relationship with the shopkeeper. So, we chatted a lot, as well as we could. There’s this thing that happens here when you talk to someone who knows little English and you don’t speak Indonesian. There’s a lot of pretending to understand each other when really no communication occurs. For instance, you order food in a restaurant and you say you want ice or you don’t want ice, and the wait person nods and smiles and says yes, and then when you get what you ordered, it’s never what you asked for. I find this endearing. And it happened a lot with me and the man in the tailor shop. He kept saying he wanted me to draw what I wanted, and I kept saying I wanted it to look just like the images I’d showed him in the photographs. I also told him that I’d paid 2,000,000 rupiah for my first leather jacket that I bought two years ago—which was about $137 dollars (right…can you believe it? For a custom-made leather coat?). I was trying to set a base price for our interaction, though I knew I was willing to pay more for this one because it was a more complex design.

I left the shop with uncertainty as to whether I’d successfully sent him my digital images or whether he understood what I wanted. I knew, that if he was able to make it, the price negotiation would still be in our future. He told me to come back two days later–this morning at 10:30, which I did.

When I arrived, I realized right away that we had made no progress. He showed me a very simple sketch of a jacket somewhat similar to what I wanted, but with none of the details. He had received my images but hadn’t know what to do with them. And then he told me that his leather guy had neither wifi nor email. That’s when I realized this probably wasn’t going to work. My group arrives today, and I am going to be busy, with only the chance for a quick evening visit for a fitting and a quick final pick up. But of course, by now, we were friendly and chatting (sort of) and I had to tell him it wouldn’t work. I didn’t have confidence that he’d make what I wanted, and he was worried that I’d be an unhappy customer. So, we shook hands and then he offered me a ride back to my hotel. I happily hopped on the back of his motorbike and five minutes later, after savoring the pure joy of having the wind whip through my hair, I was back at the Lotus Bungalows.

I’m going to try to go back to the same shop in Ubud I used the last time—hopefully that tailor be open at a time when I can make it. We’ll see. I’ll keep you updated.

Pictures below of the jacket I want.

The tailor shop

The tailor shop #2

The tailor shop #3

The front of the coat I want.

Closed at the collar.

The back. Love that stitching.

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