Five questions with Base tailors

CFB Esquimalt tailors

Mina Purewal.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

After a hard day’s work, Mina and Sukhi Purewal say they are incredibly proud of their work.

The two sisters and their staff operate two tailor shops, their flagship retail store A&B Tailor Shop is located in the heart of downtown Victoria.

Their retail outlet at the Base, Mia’s Tailor Shop, is inside the CANEX building in Naden. It specializes in naval mess kits and provides alterations for Commissionaires, CFB Esquimalt Fire and Rescue, local police, firefighters and corrections officers, and even garment alterations to non-military clothing.

“Our shops bring customers the most experienced tailors in Victoria,” Mina says. “When other tailors turn away extraordinary jobs, we take on the challenge to make it possible. We have plenty of regular customers but also see new faces in our shops every day.”

The Purewals and their staff also work as contractors at the Base Logistics (BLog) Building in Dockyard, where they adjust and fit uniforms to the requirements of military personnel. They began working as contractors for BLog in January 2018 and purchased Mia’s Tailor Shop from founder Mia Larsen before her death in 2019.

Mina and Sukhi are the third generation of tailors from their family, with their grandmother starting in the trade back in 1935 in India. Their family moved to Vancouver in 1993. Mina and Sukhi have operated A&B Tailor Shop inside The Bay Centre (formally Eaton Centre) since 2001. Their work includes everything from tapering, custom-fitting and removing pleats to altering bridal and graduation dresses and replica clothing.

1. What are the qualities that make a good tailor?

Excellent hand-eye coordination and decades of experience make a good tailor. In the military, everything needs to be measured to the millimetre and precisely to regulation, but we have been doing this for years and know what we are doing.

2. What is the most noteworthy or weirdest alteration someone has requested?

We have done plenty of unconventional alterations, such as repairing an RCN diver’s suit that became ripped, working on an actor’s costumes and clothing for numerous movie sets and shows, and even designing and making a competition-winning dress from scratch.

3. What is something about your job that you wished more people realized?

Tailoring often needs a lot more work and time than people give it credit. Sometimes a simple patch needs the clothing to be entirely unstitched to begin the work.

4. What are some of the things that a tailor can or cannot do to clothing? 

There is plenty that can be done to clothing. Even without enough fabric, we can redesign and alter the clothing with creative methods to comply with the client’s request, whether by adding more fabric, making laces, or using the same fabric in different ways. While making loose clothing smaller is simple enough, expanding can sometimes be challenging.

5. Is your trade under threat these days, and if so -– what is impacting it in today’s world?

People no longer have an interest in sewing or becoming tailors, so the number of new tailors is getting smaller each year. We are unsure if our children will follow in our footsteps and take over the family business, but we support them in any decision they make. Ultimately, it’s great to see how much everyone at the Base appreciates our services and how friendly everyone is to us.

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