On a street peppered with tailor shops, Dashnor Tailoring remains a hidden gem. Behind its nondescript storefront is Dashnor Begaj: a tailor with an awe-inspiring immigrant story and an impressive resume of celebrity clients. Growing up in the small Albanian town of Hekal, Dashnor was inspired by his mother, who was an uneducated but vastly skilled dressmaker. His early passion for tailoring was matched by his skill: In 1979, at the young age of sixteen, Dashnor was put in charge of the town’s tailor shop. Soon he was catering to the entire area’s clothing needs, be it for men, women or children. Despite being the only one in his high school graduating class to qualify for university, Dashnor decided to follow his heart: Instead of going to college, he accepted a spot at a prestigious tailoring institute in the city of Tirana.
Dashnor’s love for his craft became most evident when he was speaking about his time at tailoring school. He still has his notebook from those days, which he showed me excitedly; together, we flipped through pages upon pages of formulae and calculations, neatly scribbled instructions on how to cut cloth for different styles and bodies, and exhaustively labeled diagrams of sleeves, vests and dresses. Dashnor emphasized that tailoring is not merely an art, but also a very precise science. “Over there, everything was custom-made,” he said of his work as a tailor in Albania. “No alterations, like here.” People would bring him fabrics and he would design their clothes from scratch. He lamented that custom work, which was his passion, is now a dying art: “No one has the patience”.
In 1990, when the Soviet system collapsed, Dashnor left Hekal for the bigger city of Fier and opened his own tailor shop. While he thrived, his country was in political turmoil, and by 1997, Albania was on the brink of civil war. Like many others, Dashnor fled to Milan, Italy. “I was an immigrant, with family,” he shared, “so I had to work two jobs.”
When Dashnor was finally able to move to the U.S. in 1998, he was immediately welcomed into the high-end New York fashion world: He started out as a tailor at Brooks Brothers and then transitioned to Giorgio Armani, where he worked for eight years. Just as Dashnor was getting ready to open his own business, Tom Ford convinced him to head the tailoring division of his new boutique. Through Armani and Tom Ford, Dashnor had the opportunity to work personally with a variety of celebrities.
Of his decision, in 2009, to open his own tailoring business, Dashnor explained, “I spent two and a half years there, and then I said, ‘Tom, Ciao, because now I’m going to do my own thing.’” Though he continues to maintain a close friendship and professional relationship with Armani and Tom Ford and still services the high-profile clients with whom he has been working for years, he now pours his heart and soul into his cozy little tailoring shop on the Upper East Side. When I asked him why he decided to give up such an illustrious career, working with some of the biggest names in fashion, to go solo, he responded, “I’ve been successful since I was sixteen. Even when my country was in a huge crisis, I was doing great. So why should I be afraid here? I came to this country with the idea that I’m not going to work for somebody else.” More than his celebrity clientele, it is Dashnor’s unerring dedication, his humble pride in his immigrant journey, and his infinite love for his profession, that make him a world-class tailor.