TRENDING 'Royal Tailor': The man behind the classic Sun Yat-sen suit

TRENDING

'Royal Tailor': The man behind the classic Sun Yat-sen suit

People's Daily app

16:00, November 09, 2018

Famous for making the Sun Yat-sen suit, sometimes called the Mao suit, Gao Liming is one of the best tailors in China. 

The suit has become one of the country's cultural icons since the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912. Gao's main customers are state leaders and diplomats, both domestic and foreign ones.

When Gao became an elevator operator in 1981, he knew absolutely nothing about tailoring.

At the company, he often saw Tian Atong, a legendary tailor who made Chairman Mao's burial suit.

When Gao became an elevator operator in 1981, he knew absolutely nothing about tailoring.

At the company, he often saw Tian Atong, a legendary tailor who made Chairman Mao's burial suit.

Unlike operating an elevator, garment producing pays on a piecework basis. As a total beginner, Gao could only work on the assembly line, gaining a much lower income. Nevertheless, he worked hard and learned from every opportunity he was given. His hard work paid off and he was selected as an apprentice to Tian in 1990. Step by step, he went from the most basic skills to the more advanced techniques of tailoring and designing.

Taking note of his speedy development, Tian often brought him along when making suits for national leaders.

"The first time I took the measurement for a government official, I couldn't stop my hands from shaking. So I had to try once again," says Gao.

In addition to the tailor's measuring tape, Gao also measures with his eyes: "We observe the customer's appearance, postures and wearing habits." With years of experience, he can quickly pick out the best pattern and fabric for each customer. 

The cuffs and the collar are crucial in the design of a decent suit. In designing for Chairman Mao, Tian made the collar wide and pointed, to fit his face shape. Gao also alters the suit's details according to the leader's appearance, the occasions he'll wear it for, and the climate of the country he's visiting.

For example, collars must be specially designed to stay put, taking into account the time leaders spend waving during a military parade. Double layers are adopted for the pockets to make the suit neat and smooth so that the lower hem stays still at all times.

Gao's work has also won favor from foreign officials. In 2012, the then president of Malta said he liked the look of the Mao suit worn by the Chinese ambassador to Malta. On receiving the task of making a suit for the president, Gao and his colleagues faced a problem: they couldn't take the president's measurements as he wasn't in China. They had to examine his photos and estimate his body measurements. To everyone's surprise, the suit that was delivered to the president fit perfectly. The ambassador of Russia, the ambassador of Sri Lanka and many other foreign officials also had their Mao suits tailored by Gao.

Since the 1990s, the company where Gao works began to receive orders from all sections of society. "Now that mechanized production has greatly improved our efficiency, we still need to alter the design manually under special circumstances." There was a customer whose legs were not symmetrical because of poliomyelitis. So Gao designed the two legs of the trousers separately. 

"The design and the production sections are separated. The working environment has also changed greatly," says Gao. But he insists in guiding the workshops, integrating design and production work. For him, tailoring is an old skill that he inherited from his master, and it's worth being passed on to the new generations of tailors. 

(Video: CGTN)


Terms of Service & Privacy Policy

We have updated our privacy policy to comply with the latest laws and regulations. The updated policy explains the mechanism of how we collect and treat your personal data. You can learn more about the rights you have by reading our terms of service. Please read them carefully. By clicking AGREE, you indicate that you have read and agreed to our privacy policies

Agree and continue