My friend, Uuganaa, whom I already interviewed, told me that she knew an interesting woman who makes beautiful clothes. Supposedly, people travel from Ulaanbaatar to have their clothes tailored by her. I went to the interview she set up to be translated by our friend, Zaya, excited to learn about the clothes the woman makes and wondering if my questions were any good. Little did I know that I was about to make a connection that was the first of its kind for me in Mongolia with the tailor. Let’s just say, my blog’s tagline, “Impressions of a Hungarian Midwestern girl,” really got its chance to shine during this interview. The tailor turned out to be Altantsetseg!
*All questions and answers were translated on the spot by the wonderful Batzaya and written down in paragraph form by me*
- What is your full name? What does it mean?
Altantsetseg. It means golden flower.
- What do you do?
I am a tailor technician. I own this salon.
- How long have you been a tailor?
First it was my hobby. I have been working as a tailor for over 30 years and working at stores I own for 24 years.
- What kinds of clothes do you make?
I used to only make European clothing styles. Five years ago, I started making Mongolian traditional clothes. Now I do both. Trends changed five years ago that people started wearing Mongolian clothes. Now in the last 2-3 years, Mongolians have been wearing more traditional clothes to work.
- What is your favorite part of making clothes?
Picking the perfect material for the perfect style because the product will be perfect. It’s hard to pick one thing as my favorite.
- Why do you like making clothes?
When I was little, I watched my mom make traditional clothes for the neighborhood for free and for kids. At that time, adults wore old clothes, but kids were growing, so they always needed new clothes. So I started helping my mom and liked it. Even though I couldn’t always do it, I watched all day.
- How have clothing styles changed since you’ve been a seamstress?
Every twenty or thirty years, the styles come back. The trends from the 1970s are coming back. The style is not exactly the same, but the features are similar. The styles are a little better now. In the 70s the shoulders were big, but now they aren’t.
- What is your favorite type of clothing to make?
I like to make Mongolian deel clothes now. Not the silk style, but the cotton material. The people are ordering these types of clothes. They wear small parts of clothes that are Mongolian styled, like European clothes with a Mongolian style collar.
- What else do you do in your free time?
Daily during my free time, I’m doing something with tailoring or studying about it. When I’m finally not busy, I like to go out to camp. I also use scraps to create artwork by pressing. Interns from the vocational school help. Not many Mongolians are interested in them. Sometimes people order them.
- What would you like people to know about Mongolia and/or Mongolians?
Mongolian kids and youth learn and understand things quickly. They are very creative even if they don’t know how to make something, they have creative ideas. I used to live in Hungary, so I can compare.
Mongolia is a beautiful country.
- Why did you live in Hungary?
When I worked in Mongolian sewing factory, I got a one-year training course in Budapest. The technology was so updated and different from Mongolia, and I liked it. After one year I came back to Mongolia. A few months later I went back to Budapest. An Italian man had a private tailoring school in Budapest, so I learned and worked while I was there. I lived there for 10 years.
- What are your goals and dreams for the future?
I want to have a training center. People are asking for help in practicing and learning tailoring, even students from the vocational school and from offices. Mongolians, especially women, multitask when they do office work and are at home. They’re sewing and working at home and baking, so they always want to learn about sewing, tailoring, and designing.
I ended up speaking to Altantsetseg in Hungarian for about 15 minutes after the interview. She hadn’t spoken Hungarian in about 10 years, so she said it was difficult for her to remember all her vocabulary, but I was extremely impressed. I’m planning on going back to speak to her in Hungarian in the future and to do another interview to find out more about her experience in my parents’ homeland.