Andrew Durand: The Grandfather of Tailoring
By Andrea Louis
Andrew Durand of Elmshall made the life-altering decision to become a tailor at the modest age of 19 and has had no regrets since.
Speaking to The Sun, Durand disclosed: "I used to do construction but I wasn't born for that, I was born for something softer. Because when I reach a certain age I will not be able to do construction anymore. But with my profession right now I can go up to any age."
This master tailor began his journey with the late Stedman Patrick under whose watchful and practiced eye honed his skill in the basic elements before he was put onto a sewing machine, which he says is the best way to grow in the industry.
"Some people will tell you they want to do tailoring, but it is not as you come you go on a machine… I had to learn to base, hem, iron, and make a buttonhole by hand," he said. "Because if your sewing machine breaks down then you have to use your hand."
After seven years of Patrick's tutelage and guidance, young Durand decided to head out on his own and admits things were not easy at first.
"In 1980 I had a lot of challenges because when you just start you don't know people, you don't have customers," he said. "But because people know me because I worked with him [Patrick] a long time they started coming to me." With perseverance and determination, he was able to make a name for himself in Roseau and around the country.
"I sew for schools, ministers, policemen, prison officers, Music Lovers Band, Cadet Corps, just name them," he added. "I'm in the trade now for 48 years, they call me 'The Grandfather'."
Though busy with work, Durand wants to pay greater attention to training others, especially young people, to develop and grow as tailors and seamstresses.
"I am not getting younger, so I would like to train young people in doing that trade," he said. "Right now I'm the one doing all that work. I know a lot of tailors; they try it but they cannot succeed because those kind of work there is technique."
Durand had started a training session in Portsmouth with a seamstress from Martinique but it did not materialize quite as he had hoped. He firmly believes financing would make training easier.
"You have to get money for them because they themselves have bills to pay," he said. "That is why I know I cannot train people now, I cannot employ people now. I need people to work because I have a lot of work."
Financial assistance, which he says is the main challenge at this time, is also key because it will help small businesses, such as his, which are struggling during the pandemic.
"I know a lot of small businesses and they close down, especially after Hurricane Maria and COVID," he said. "COVID made it worse. Because what we were expecting was a little package but besides that, we would have to take a loan from the AID Bank at 1% interest. I applied for the loan myself and up to now I cannot get it so it's a challenge."
This 67-year-old tailor is committed to helping more people get involved in the trade so that the skill remains alive and well in Dominica.
"I don't know how long I going to live and before God calls me then I would like to see our people doing the same job which I am doing," Durand said. "I have heard the police have tried many tailors already to see if they could do it like me but they could not and they were thinking of ordering them in St. Lucia. Ordering would be more costly."
Durand says there is interest among young people to get involved in the sewing industry, but an enabling environment has to be created to see people thrive in this field.
In 2020, Durand received the Services Medal of Honour from the President of Dominica, His Excellency Charles Angelo Savarin during the Independence Day awards ceremony.