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The right buttons

Kajal Parmar | Dharamshala |

When all his friends were looking for jobs after graduation, he chose to do something traditional. He decided to follow his father’s footsteps and took to the business of tailoring, but with a difference.

Two decades later, Jitendra Kaundal, 45, has made a name for himself because of his unique collection of buttons used on clothes at his shop  in Dharamshala, a small town in Himachal Pradesh.

“I followed my dream to do something innovative and I am happy with it,” said Kaundal.

His father was a renowned tailor in the area during the 1980’s. Initially, he aided his father’s business to get tips of the trade. In 1999, he started a full-fledged business of tailoring material along with a special collection of buttons from various countries like Japan, Nepal, Bhutan and Taiwan. As he moved on with his venture, he kept searching for newer and rare buttons across the country.

As Dharamshala is a tourist place and is thronged by foreigners coming to visit the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama’s abode nearby, Kaundal’s shop receives as many foreign customers as from the district and the state.

“Indians are not fond of designer buttons but foreigners are. Many foreigners visit my shop to get different buttons. Among Indians it is mostly the elite class who has interest in this,” he added. He has buttons of all shapes and sizes and the price  of a button varies from Rs 5 to Rs 100.

Ethnic buttons, eco-friendly wood buttons, coconut buttons, shell buttons, antique metal buttons, handmade buttons, clipping buttons and pearl buttons are among the top selling at his shop. The eco-friendly wooden buttons are also a great hit.

“Once I saw a news article of an American businessman who had established a button gallery and was earning a lot. It motivated me to go for this collection,” said Kaundal. He started his dream business with just Rs 5000 two decades back. His work is still not that profitable as the buttons sell only in winter. But he enjoys his job.

“The occupation of selling disparate varieties of buttons has satisfied my wish to be creative and more stylish compared to other tailors,” he said.

But Kaundal has tried to stretch out to help others too. Fascinated by the good sale of wooden buttons, Kaundal contacted some unemployed people of the area and gave them the idea of earning a quick buck by making wooden and handmade buttons. However, the idea could not take off due to unavailability of specific machines

Kaundal’s collection of buttons was even mentioned in some research work at Central University of Himachal Pradesh a few years back.