You’ve asked us on several occasions to review, for those on a budget, some of the best affordable tailoring options in Southeast Asia. When we say affordable, we speak of prices rarely heard of in Europe or the USA and of tailors often advertised in tourism magazines or even on TripAdvisor.
To be honest with you, the dream of buying real bespoke tailoring crafted in a few days for a few hundred dollars is just fantasy. At best you’ll end up, if you are lucky, with a decent MTM suit made of regular wool (whatever the label sewn on the bunch which can be fake)
In order to provide you with legit advice and to try to separate the wheat from the chaff, we strongly felt we needed to find a gentleman who really knew both the region and the tailoring world. Finally we are able to respond to your requests by publishing a text by our friend Ronald TA.
Saying that Ronald has a multi-culural profile is an understatement! Ronald attended the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, where he received his degree in Social Science, followed by Culinary School (obtaining Le Cordon Bleu!!).
He worked in the hospitality industry for years before deciding to leave Australia and return to his birth country of Indonesia to join the family business. He later started the YouTube “Channel Pills Lifestyle Reviews”, as a creative outlet.
As testimony to his link to South East Asian countries, Ronald was born in Indonesia, has a Vietnamese partner, family members in the Philippines and Thailand, as well as grandparents from Hong Kong and many friends from India. His business also takes him to Taiwan and Japan.
So sit back and enjoy this thorough review of a firsthand selection of affordable tailors in Southeast Asia.
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For a few decades, from east to west, we see a revival of sartorial culture, classic menswear, and classic elegance (with men in their 30s in the forefront of the movement).
The demand for good quality bespoke tailoring, which is easy on the wallet, could be at an all-time high, especially if you take into account the number of women now also in the workforce.
The price of a bespoke suit can be shocking for the newcomer, as legendary tailoring houses on Savile Row charge prices starting at around US$6000. Swaths of the world’s population would not even consider paying half that price.
Yet, little known to many menswear enthusiast, a decent quality suit can be crafted in India by tailors trained on Savile Row—-for a mere US$500.
More and more, Asia has developed a reputation for affordable tailoring, with numerous tourists and ex-patriots in various Southeast Asian countries seeking out tailors to commission a “bespoke suit”. However, only a small minority of those suits will turn out to be of decent quality. This result may be due to a variety of reasons…
Often the person commissioning the garment is looking for an affordable suit that will fit well. Yet, the majority of tailors in Asia do not possess the skills to create high quality bespoke suits, and the tailors who are able to do so often cannot remain in business without providing more affordable garments as an alternative, in order to grow their business. Unless a customer walks in and specifically requests a high quality bespoke suit, the customer will likely end up with an affordable-range suit.
If you decide that you want a high quality bespoke suit from Southeast Asia (SEA), you need to first understand, precisely, what you want to commission.
People often complain of a common phenomenon found throughout Asia: a particular store can decide to sell an identical bar of gold at twice the price of its neighboring store—while of course explaining that the price difference is due to their particular bar being “solid gold”, compared to all the others being gold-plated.
This scanario has created suspicion among consumers, causing them to wonder if a certain tailor is greedy because he charges more than his competitors? Are there real differences between two similar-looking suits, to justify a big price gap between the two?
Due to the need for such clarifications, I have written a guide to help you identify affordable yet good quality tailoring.
But first you may wonder, does the word ’bespoke’ mean the same thing in Asia as it does in other parts of the world? Are top quality suits available with high quality fabrics? What are you really getting when you commission a bespoke suit from Asia?
These are all important questions which this article will attempt to answer.
I consider a ‘bespoke suit’, in the truest sense, to be a suit made with a pattern unique to the client, and tailored to yield a garment crafted according to the individual morphology of the person who commissioned it.
The bespoke process requires that the client’s measurements be taken, the house cutter cut the pattern for the suit, the tailor(s) assemble the suit, and two or more fittings follow to fine tune the fit.
Made To Measure and off the rack suits rely on pre-cut template patterns which can be adjusted up or down, based on a client’s measurements.
Many people would say that a bespoke suit should also be constructed entirely by hand. Yet I don’t believe minimal machine work invalidates the “bespoke status”, but I do agree that a good quality bespoke suit should be constructed almost entirely by hand.
Now that we have determined what defines a quality bespoke suit, the biggest factor becomes the skill of the tailor, particularly during the cutting process. While I’m not qualified to discuss the intricacies of how fabric should be cut, in general a good cutter will ensure a well-fitted aesthetically-pleasing garment, while a bad cutter will craft a disastrous unwearable end product.
Unfortunately within SEA, there are several luxurious tailoring houses which employ both great and not so great cutters, which explains why results from the exact same tailoring house can be inconsistent. One customer can walk out of the atelier with an elegant, well-fitted suit, while another may leave wearing a funky double breasted jacket with a man-skirt.
If it’s true that a quality bespoke suit should be made (almost) entirely by hand, even so, made-by-hand is pointless without skillful tailors to do the sewing!
I believe hand crafting is vital for the collar, armhole, chest and lapels. Less important, in my opinion, are hand sewn buttonholes and hand stitching on the canvas before it is attached to the suit, i.e., if using a machine for these purposes will reduce the overall price.
Another major factor related to quality is canvas, which provides structure to the suit. Canvassed suits will have a piece of cloth (canvas) between the inner and outer layer of the fabric to help provide shape to the garment.
A high quality suit will have a natural canvas material with horse hair and avoid synthetic materials such as polyester. For a structured shoulder, cotton wading is preferred over foam padding.
Consider whether there is “fusing”, or gluing of the canvas directly onto the suit (in order to create a quick and affordable garment).
A fused suit will have various disadvantages, for example the inner canvas of a fused suit creates an insulating effect which makes the suit less breathable and less comfortable to wear. The overall look of a fused suit will be stiffer and less malleable, and oftentimes not flattering as the wearer moves. Many fused suits are made with low quality glue which may come apart after some period of time, creating a bubbling effect on the suit’s surface.
Due to all these disadvantages, well tailored suits should have a full floating canvas made from high quality material infused with horse hair which is meticulously hand stitched onto the suit. As a quick test, put your hands on the suits at the shop your are visiting, and see if you can detect whether the material inside the suit (the canvas) is glued or not. Many times you can detect whether there is loose material (preferred) or glued material inside the jacket, based on a commonsense tactile assessment.
Still, the disadvantage of a full floating canvass suit is its high price. To cut cost, some tailors offer what’s called a half canvassed suit.
A half canvassed suit will have a floating canvass for the top half of the suit to ensure an aesthetically pleasing look and provide comfort to the wearer, and utilize a fused canvas for the less important lower half of the suit. In theory, a half canvased suit can provide the wearer with a luxurious garment at a more affordable price with few disadvantages. The price difference between a half and full canvased suits varies from country to country (but to my surprise in some countries the price differences can be quite negligible).
I feel that a high quality bespoke suit should be at least half canvassed, yet I think a full floating canvassed suit is the optimal choice.
The third option is the unstructured suit. Unstructured suits are crafted without the use of an inner canvas. It takes a great amount of skill to be able to create a suit, shape it, and fit it properly onto a person without the use of a canvas, typically so pivotal within the whole tailoring process. The unstructured (non-canvassed) suit was first invented by Italians tailors, but unfortunately, within SEA it is difficult to find a tailor capable of crafting an unstructured suit. The exception is Japan, who seems to have tailors capable of crafting unstructured suits, but outside of Japan, I would be cautious. It’s hard enough to find tailors who are capable of making full floating canvass suits, let alone unstructured suits.
In summary a good quality bespoke suit should be a well cut, well fitted, and well-constructed suit, with preferably a full floating canvas suit with fabric of decent quality.
In terms of fabric, I don’t believe a good suit requires the most luxurious cloth imported straight from Europe, and I respect tailors who are constantly on the lookout for more affordable sources of good quality fabrics.
BEGINNING THE SEARCH
How does one begin the search for tailors who are able to make a quality suit at affordable prices within SEA?
Although not easy, it is possible!
To begin, avoid establishments who specialize in crafting “express suits in three days”, or similar gimmicks.
Instead look for tailoring establishments who:
* make a custom pattern for every client,
* can construct a full floating canvas, a half canvas, or have experience with unconstructed suits,
* can communicate well (for transparency) so you may discuss every aspect of your suit together.* verify the tailor’s experience/confidence level with the fabric you want to select. Most qualified tailors within SEA work with multiple types of wool, but may be inexperienced with linen (ironically).
Capable bespoke tailors are a minority in Asia, with only a handful of such talent available within SEA countries. And rare are those tailors who craft for ladies.
I have compiled a bespoke suiting price guide for several countries for an overall picture of what you may find in SEA. I’ve excluded Japan from the guide since the country is simply an outlier within SEA. Indeed, bespoke tailors in Japan can provide outstanding quality bespoke at steep prices, yet the point of this guide is to explore excellent tailoring at very affordable prices.
The following estimated “average prices” for each country reflect the starting prices for a 2-piece full floating canvass suit made of pure wool.
In order of region:
South Korea US$1.000
Hong Kong US$1.500
Same list, in order of pricing:
South Korea US$1.000
Hong Kong US$1.500
In terms of fabric, suppliers within SEA will sometimes offer special deals such as three suits for the price of two. Holland & Sherry is quite proactive with these sort of deals. Keep a lookout for any significant bargains of this kind.
Some SEA countries will have many tailors and tailoring houses to select from, while places like Singapore and the Philippines may be limited in selection (besides high level salons who work with traveling bespoke tailors from France or Italy). Also, certain countries will have a larger concentration of Italian-style tailors, while in other countries, British-style tailors dominate.
I have taken into account these factors in this review to help as many people as possible, including those of you from Europe and America who want to commission a more affordable bespoke suit, expatriates working within various SEA countries, and various people within SEA or neighboring countries seeking to commission a bespoke suit.
A few quirks to note:
* Most tailoring houses within SEA won’t have ‘house styles’ and prefer to focus on meeting the client’s request.
* Most tailors won’t wear a suit themselves or wear an inexpensive suit, as they tend to live frugally. One should not judge an Asian tailor by the clothes he / she wears.
* The person conducting the consultation and taking measurements may not be the person who creates the pattern and cuts the fabric for you (this is typically a made-to-measure practice, not a bespoke practice). This point is a significant factor that can lead to disastrous results. Any cutter/tailor worth his salt knows the importance of being familiar with the physique of the client!
* Most tailoring establishments will produce half canvass suits; so, if you want a fully canvased suit, you need to specify this request during the consultation.
* In Europe, the first fitting may be confusing to you—especially when the tailor rips the sleeve off your suit coat! This is done because the first fitting will typically be a ‘basted fitting’ with various elements of the suit held loosely together by light stitching. Mistakes are noted and then the suit can be taken apart quite easily and corrected….In SEA however, the first fitting may bypass the basted fitting stage and provide you with a suit that already has sleeves attached and shoulders lightly padded, but without buttons attached. One of the most unfortunate aspects I have found in SEA bespoke tailoring is the tendency for tailors to simply stand back during the fitting process, and wait for the client to identify flaws or issues themselves! This can be an incredibly difficult task for most people.
I have been fortunate enough to be able to explore bespoke tailoring within Indonesia and Vietnam, and will discuss in relative depth for both countries. I hope to also explore bespoke tailoring within other SEA countries in the future to expand and refine this guide.
I will attempt to provide guidance for tailors within each SEA country, but please keep in mind that I’m merely attempting to steer you in the right direction. You will still need to engage in a thorough discussion with your chosen tailors in order to ensure the best final outcome.
I located two noteworthy tailoring establishments in Indonesia: Laxmi Tailors and Brillington & Bothers Tailoring House—both located within Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta.
There are probably more than these two tailoring establishments capable of creating good quality bespoke suits, however at the moment, I’ve only discovered these two which rise to the occasion for inclusion.
Laxmi Tailors was founded by M. N. Advani when he migrated from India to Indonesia in 1947. Two years later, in 1949, Mr Advani, together with his son G. M. Advani, opened the first ever Laxmi Tailors shop in Pecenongan (Jakarta).
To this day the store remains as the flagship, although there are five other Laxmi Tailors ateliers within and nearby Jakarta—but all work is done from within the Pecenongan location.
Whilst classic menswear is the staple of the business, Laxmi also provides a wide range of tailoring services, from traditional Indonesian formal wear (Batik shirts) to various forms of ladies tailoring (professional wear, coats, and even dresses). I’m proud to have a tailoring house within Jakarta that provides such extensive ladies’ tailoring.
I’d describe the Laxmi style as closest to Northern Italian. The overall cut is definitely Italian, but features which are usually present on Italian suits could be missing unless you request them specifically. The standard armhole cut is not particularly high, but can be made higher upon request.
While Laxmi is not able able to craft unstructured suits, they are able to make functional sleeve buttons and Neapolitan features such as kissing sleeve buttons (but are unable to make them both kissing and functional at the same time!).
The shoulder style is soft but lightly padded and the atelier is able to make Spalla Camicia and Con Rollino Italian shoulders. Laxmi claims to also craft British style suits, but I have no experience with this type of crafting. Finally, they use viscose fabric lining for their suits.
A feature of this tailoring house, which I value, is their ability to source a variety of fabrics, instead of only the most luxurious and expensive cloth imported from Europe. I am a linen addict and have been very satisfied with the linen collection—a great range of affordable to more luxurious linen with interesting colors and patterns.
The wool collection will also satisfy most, starting from affordable Australian pure wool to great European brands like Vitale Barberis Canonico to more luxurious brands like Loro Piana and Holland & Sherry. For shirts they have an extensive fabric collection, more so than many other tailoring houses in the country, because of Laxmi’s ability to source fabric from India.
As for shirts, they have a good collection of Egyptian cotton from brands such as Soktas, a Turkish based fabrics company, and can get fabrics from Soktas manufactured in India to provide luxurious yet more affordable Egyptian cotton shirts.
Commissioning a suit from Laxmi requires 3-4 weeks for completion. Both the staff and the owner are fluent in English and in some forms of the Indian language. I highly recommend you visit the head office at Pecenongan for a consultation with the general manager Rahul, who typically will be there to go through style options, using an iPad to provide reference pictures. I highly advise you to have a good idea of the type of suit you would like to commission and to bring along some photos for reference. Rahul also is attentive enough to ask for details, like the type of canvas you prefer.
After you decide on what to commission, a tailor will take your measurements. Unfortunately the tailor taking your measurements might not be the same person who will cut your suit. I noticed the tailor taking my measurements did so quite loosely and didn’t use any tool to measure my inseam, however the end result turned out to be very satisfactory. After your measurements have been taken, your choice of fabric will be ordered. Once received, your pattern will be created and your fabric cut on the premises. The cutter will actually do the cutting in front of the store. Various tailors will then construct the suit and once ready for fitting, the consultant and a tailor will accompany you to take note of any adjustments required. From my experience, the staff at Laxmi Tailors has a genuine desire to provide clients with the best final product, and as long as you have the time, they will keep making necessary adjustments.
The first bespoke suit I commissioned here was a 2-piece fully canvassed blue suit with pure wool fabric from the John Ford brand. The whole process went smoothly and it took around three weeks to reach the first fitting stage.
Laxmi bypasses the basted fitting stage and provides a suit with sleeves attached, lightly padded shoulders, with no buttons attached. During my first fitting, we decided to adjust the tapering around my waist to provide a more subtle silhouette and then to reduce sleeve length. I did not see any major issues whatsoever during the first fitting. They basically got the trousers right on the first attempt. I was very pleased with the overall cut and soft look of the suit and with the size of the lapels. I was also very happy with the range of motion in the arm area and the overall comfort.
During the second fitting, the suit was pretty much completed. The shoulders were fully padded and I was pleased with how the shoulders turned out. The sleeve length was still a touch too long, but since this was my first bespoke suit I decided to be conservative, since I knew it was possible to shorten the sleeves in the future. I deliberately commissioned a simple and discreet style and didn’t ask for any detailing such as pick stitching, hand stitched button holes, Milanese button holes, nor pleated pants. The end result was a relatively well cut, well fitting, simple, and hopefully elegant suit.
The second bespoke suit I commissioned turned into a significantly more complicated process compared to the first time.
By this time, I’d become a linen addict and commissioned my first ever linen suit. I picked out a very interesting color which is hard to describe—brown with specks of metallic blue. I felt that for this particular color, the suit needed to be double breasted and so asked for my first ever double breasted bespoke suit. I knew that I wanted high armholes, a Spalla Camicia shoulder, a Milanese buttonhole on the lapel and trousers with side adjusters (no belt loops). I waited around three weeks for the first fitting.
During the first fitting it was clear that there had been miscommunications leading up to this stage. First, the pants were a decent fit but the trousers were of a standard make with belt loops. The armhole cut was not high, the shoulders were not spalla camicia (instead quite heavily padded).
Thankfully all of these mistakes were corrected by the second fitting with the trousers boasting an impressive and very functional side adjuster system.
The armhole cut had been raised, greatly improving my range of arm motion and the shoulders had been converted into the spalla camicia shoulder style.
It was at this stage when I realized how thin and light this particular type of linen was (as a more affordable linen). The cloth felt as if it didn’t have adequate density for a properly crafted suit. In hindsight I probably would have selected a higher grade linen.
Further, the shoulders kept developing divots every time I put on the suit and this issue took several attempts to remedy.
After a few retries, the tailor was finally able complete the suit. The fit was slightly loose to account for shrinkage. After a trip to the dry cleaners (for the linen), the garment shrunk as predicted and I was pleased with the overall fit and look of the suit. It’s an amazing feeling to see an original design come to life. The suit is extremely comfortable to wear and the breathability of the fabric is perfect for SEA climate.
Later, I commissioned several bespoke shirts which required choosing and ordering the fabric and returning for the shirt. I returned in about 2 weeks for the first fitting. The first shirt order is usually the hardest, and initially I wasn’t impressed with the overall cut. The 2nd and 3rd shirts turned out much better, but with an additional fitting required each time.
BRILLINGTON & BROTHERS
Brillington & Brothers is a (very) new tailoring house established in 2010 within Jakarta.
However, even within their short history of operation, they’ve managed to develop a stellar reputation for bespoke tailoring within the Indonesian community.
One look through their instagram page, (@be_brillington) reveals multiple works of well crafted suits. They are very focused on Neapolitan style tailoring—and this may be the only tailoring house within the country who claims to be capable of crafting unstructured suits.
Unfortunately, I have found them to be inaccessible at times, possibly due to their small scale, young age, and number of commissions as a result of their growing reputation. Commissioning a suit from them requires around 3-4 months to complete. While this wait time is common practice in Europe, it is pretty much unheard of within SEA where high quality suits can be crafted within a week, although more typically takes 6-8 weeks!
I found it practically impossible to contact them via the phone. The line is almost always busy and it took several attempts before being able to establish communication via email. Their store is located within an area where traffic is a serious issue, and due to their odd opening hour of 1pm, there is practically no way to beat the traffic to arrive at that time.
All these factors have prevented me visiting for consultation, thus I’ve been unable to commission anything in order to have an indication of the quality of their work. Despite all this I find it important to include them within the guide in order for people to explore for themselves options and possibilities with this extremely promising tailoring establishment.
Vietnam has developed a reputation for being the home to numerous tailors who are able to craft quick and affordable custom clothing.
A city called Hoi An has become very popular with international tourists for the numerous tailors available and their ability to craft various custom clothing for both men and women. As a side note, I have also been informed that Hoi An might the best place for bespoke shoe making in all of Vietnam.
In terms of high quality bespoke suit tailoring however, Hoi An might not be the optimal place to visit, as the city of Ho Chi Minh (HCM) is steadily developing a reputation for more reliable results.
On my last trip to HCM, however, I visited five bespoke tailoring establishments, from the humble to the more posh. Yet at the end of my trip, my interest was piqued with only two of the five establishments:
Binh Tailor is one of the best Master Tailors still operating within Vietnam.
Over the years, Binh worked at several reputable tailoring houses within Vietnam. He has, for decades, been the hands behind big brands within the Vietnamese sartorial industry, and has at last opened his own establishment. I highly recommend Binh as a first stop for high quality bespoke tailoring. Note that Binh’s workshop is one of the few houses in HCM who also offers ladies tailoring.
Binh still does the cutting himself as well as a portion of the tailoring work. He is able to craft a fully canvassed suits at incredible speed and can typically complete such a suit in just over one week. His house style is mainly British, with more structure and padding compared to an Italian style; and, if you prefer a higher armhole, you can simply request it. Binh is able to craft unstructured suits, but I have yet to see any examples. He uses pure silk fabric as lining for his suits.
Binh himself is not very fluent in English but has an assistant who is, and so you need not worry about communication issues. Both Binh and his assistant will conduct the consultation. He will take your measurements and do the actual cutting of the fabric. This continuity of the tailor’s participation helps ensure the best final outcome and is a rare treat within SEA bespoke tailoring.
Binh is working to grow his reputation, and operates out of a barebones environment. The atelier fabric options are limited compared to more posh tailoring houses, yet prices are quite affordable at the moment, where a pure wool 2-piece full canvass bespoke suit can be commissioned starting from under US$400! Things may change in a couple of years, but at the moment I believe there are fantastic bargains to be had here.
I wanted to commission a shirt for myself and a shirt and trouser for my partner. But unfortunately, Binh did not have a good selection of linen and I suspect he might not be as comfortable working with linen as much as he is with other materials.
I selecting a linen and cotton blend fabric for my shirts and a pure wool fabric for my partner’s trouser. I provided a picture of Sonya Glyn Nicholson as a reference for what I wanted to commission for my partner and all three items of clothing were to be completed within four days! My expectations were high and I was excited to get an idea of his cutting and tailoring abilities, especially in regard to ladies tailoring.
After four days, we returned for our fitting. I did not require any adjustments for my shirt. I felt that the cut was amazing and superior to Laxmi Tailors. The fit was loose and comfortable and since this was a linen shirt (which I requested for shrinkage after washing). My partner’s shirt also turned out amazingly well and I couldn’t have been more impressed with the cut. The shirt needed to be tidied at certain places but it only took a day to do so. The trouser was truly a sight to behold with multiple tailors later commenting on how impressed they were, as we went around visiting multiple workshops later that day. The trouser also required minor adjustments during the fitting but once again, only required a day. Binh was proactive during the entire fitting process, continuously assessing for any further needed adjustments.
Unfortunately, my partner’s shirt shrank significantly after washing and became unwearable. It was later taken back to Binh and the problem was addressed after several days. Fortunately my shirt remained in tact and very wearable after washing. At this stage I couldn’t be more impressed with Binh’s work and decided to commission another pure wool trouser with a beltless mechanism for myself. Binh once again got it right the first time around. Very impressive indeed.
In summary, Binh should be your first stop for bespoke tailoring within Vietnam. I have great confidence in his cutting ability and look forward to commissioning more from him in the future. Do not let the barebones look of his current workshop dishearten you, and make sure you have a thorough conversation with him and his assistant, including pictures for reference.
For many years, H&D Tailor has been operating from the New World Hotel, a luxurious 5 star hotel at the heart of HCM. Unfortunately, the hotel is currently undergoing renovations, and therefore at least until June of 2019, H & D will be located at the founder’s / Master Tailor’s residence within District 7 of HCM…quite a distance from most of the city, but the trip could certainly be worth it. I can already say that I highly recommend this establishment to become your second visit in the area for trustworthy bespoke tailoring.
H&D Tailor founder Mr Ta Quoc Hung is one of the greatest living Master Tailors within Vietnam, with more than 40 years of experience in the industry.
To address my linen fetish, this establishment is one of the very few within Vietnam comfortable enough to work with linen. In fact, they are quite proud of their cloth collection, and over the years have made great efforts to acquire linen of different colors and creative patterns. Their wool collection is also luxurious with fabric crafted from established mills like Loro Piana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Holland & Sherry and the likes.
A suit commission from H & D Tailor requires 2-3 weeks to complete while shirts take around 1-2 weeks. I am pleased to hear that their starting price for a 2-piece full floating canvass suit with pure wool fabric is within the US$500 range. Their style is mainly British but they have over the years attempted to soften the look and lighten the padding to yield a softer shoulder. They are also able to make unstructured suits and showed me a just-crafted beautiful unstructured linen jacket.
H & D often receives requests for unstructured suits from neighboring SEA countries, since such crafting is a rare skill to possess within the region. Unfortunately they do not provide ladies tailoring services as of now. They use viscous fabric to line their suits.
Once you have booked an appointment for a consultation Mr. Hung’s daughter will conduct the consultation. She is fluent in English and has begun to apprentice with her father. Mr. Hung will also be there during the consultation to ensure the best possible outcome, while taking measurements and afterwards, cutting the suit. Since the completion of my suit, he now shares the cutting responsibilities with his apprentice, but personally oversees all work done in the shop.
I had initially planned to commission a shirt but unfortunately, due to a rare storm affecting HCM at the moment, I was forced to delay my consultation.
I feel confident in recommending this establishment for you to consider for your bespoke tailoring needs.
Cao Minh is a posh bespoke tailoring establishment, with two impressive stores within HCM, and one store within Hanoi.
The head office in located within the Binh Thanh district in HCM, and is also where the workshop is located.
Commissioning a suit from Cao Minh requires 2-e weeks to complete, while shirts will take up to 2 weeks. The starting price for a 2-piece full floating canvas suit in pure wool also has the “posh price” of US$1,300.
The style is mainly British with padded and defined shoulders. The atelier is also able to craft unstructured suits; however, based on the examples I saw, I advise you to look elsewhere for soft tailoring. They use Bemberg cupro fabric to line their suits.
I scheduled a consultation at the head office and was impressed with how luxurious the establishment was—with excellent service provided by the consultant who spoke a solid English. The experience improved further as I viewed a selection of luxurious fabrics imported from Europe and surprisingly…a selection of Irish linen! I was delighted also to see a collection of more affordable linen for shirts, wonderful fabrics despite their affordability.
The consultant wore nice linen trousers, of which he sung high praise, and so my weakness for linen immediately compelled me to commission a pair like his—except with side adjusters, one front pleat, a single-break in the pant leg length, with slightly wider trouser legs.
Next, a tailor took my measurements in a meticulous manner. He used an inseam tool and a sample jacket to fine-tune overall measurements. I asked for a fitting in five days, to which they complied.
During the first fitting, the trouser length was too short and did not have a single break. The pants were too tight across the waist and there were puffing issues when I sat. The fabric was not ironed enough to look for other issues. The tailors appeared uninterested, and seemed reluctant to conduct the needed adjustments—even for a 15 minute effort to adjust the tightness around my waist!. At this stage I noticed the pleats were opening up. Again the tailors were reluctant to change anything, and said a good ironing would solve the issue. My appetite for further analysis soured, and at this point I wanted to leave, and did just that after a waist adjustment and a “good ironing”.
While wearing my trousers that day, the pleats created a pronounced square right in front of my groin and the puffing that occurred each time I sat annoyed my partner, whose father was a tailor and had taught her such puffing is the signal of a low-level tailor. Later that evening, we returned the trousers to Cao Minh for the various corrections and my partner agreed to follow-up, as I had to travel.
Eventually my trousers looked and fit better, although the pleats still look a bit awkward. In the end, after all the efforts I made, I’m not inclined to go back.
Sir tailor is yet another posh bespoke tailoring establishment—and the first establishment I visited during my time in Vietnam.
I decided to visit here first in search of Italian style bespoke tailors within HCM. Sir Tailor has stores within HCM and Hanoi with all work done at their head office/workshop within HCM.
Commissioning a suit requires 3-4 weeks to complete. The starting price for a 2-piece pure wool, full floating canvas suit is around US$1.300. They can craft both British and Italian style suits, but Italian style is definitely their forte.
Sir Tailor is proud of their reputation for making great soft Italian style jackets, and I particularly liked the look of their trouser side adjusters.
I booked a consultation at the head office and one of the founders consulted with me. He was fluent in English, yet I found it difficult to understand and communicate with him.
Being the first Vietnamese tailor I visited, I became dumbfounded by the consultants attitude towards linen, and more so when he proclaimed that only linen jackets (and not trousers) could be crafted there. When I asked what he would recommend for a breathable fabric in a heated SEA climate, he simply answered…”wool”.
I also noted an emphasis on luxurious fabrics, and I sensed there would no bargains to be found here. Thus, my intuition led me to leave and not commission anything at this time.
I’m basically providing an honorable mention to this establishment because it is one of the few that provides ladies tailoring services. This establishment has three stores within HCM, two within Hanoi, and one within Da Nang. I did not get a chance to find out where their head office/workshop is located.
Commissioning a suit from them will typically require 2-3 weeks to complete. The starting price for a pure wool 2 piece full floating canvass suit is around US$500. Their style is Pseudo British with lighter padding compared to the traditional British style. I didn’t get a chance to find out what kind of fabric they use to line their suits.
I visited one of their stores within District 1 of HCM and while the tailors didn’t speak much English, there was a young gentleman there who provided consultations for English-speaking foreigners. I intend to explore further upon my return to HCM.
Singapore is a developed country, but also a very small one. It is a country I visit frequently, and so after some steady research, I can say with ease that there is one tailoring establishment in Singapore which rises above the others as a bespoke tailoring establishment:
In Singaporean bespoke tailoring, over time, one man has risen above the others in ability and reputation–former president of the Singaporean Master Tailors Association, Thomas Wong, who began his career at the age of 16 as an apprentice at a modest tailoring shop. After years of building a stellar reputation, Mr. Wong opened his own workshop, baptized ‘The Prestigious’, inside a shopping center in Singapore.
After 13 years of operation, Mr. Wong and the Prestigious attained legendary status, yet was forced to relocate when the shopping center underwent renovation. The Prestigious subsequently relocated to an area called Boat Quay, with the relocation creating an opportunity for Mr. Wong to establish an improved workshop with all crafting done in-house by a dedicated and talented team of apprentices.
Mr. Wong is adamant about not taking shortcuts and has developed a 240-step process to craft suit jackets, a process which is observed even today. He is also adamant about passing on his skills to the younger generation and is very active in teaching courses and allowing apprentices to practice their skillsin his workshop, under keen supervision. Thus, The Prestigious accommodate a wide range of styles (even if Mr. Wong built his business crafting traditional British suits) which he and his apprentices are able to craft with ease, including softer looking suits with slightly structured or soft Italian shoulders.
A suit requires 6-8 weeks to complete. The starting price for a pure wool 2-piece full floating canvass suit is around US$1,100. Viscose or Bemberg cupro fabric is used to line suits.
Singapore is an English speaking country, so effective communication is a given. I plan to visit this establishment in the near future to provide further reporting.
During the quest to research affordable tailoring within as many SEA countries as possible, I found (to date) only one true bespoke tailoring establishment in the Philippines—a very capable tailoring house in the central business district of Manilla.
Even if founded in the early 2000s, Tino’s founder and Master Tailor, Napoleon Arienza, already possessed decades of former experience (including working for Brioni in Penne, Italy).
Napoleon delivers true bespoke tailoring. He takes the client’s measurements, drafts the patterns, and does the cutting. The majority of suit construction is done by hand, with hand sewn buttonholes, pick stitching, and the like.
The style is from the soft, less constructed Neapolitan school (although Tino delivers its own special construction details for the shoulder). The atelier crafts both structured and unstructured garments.
Commissioning a suit requires 5-6 weeks to complete, and from what I’ve witnessed, there will be a basted fitting.
Starting price for a pure wool 2-piece full floating canvass suit is around US$900. Bemberg cupro fabric is used for the suit lining.
Thailand has developed an excellent tourism industry, attracting numerous international tourists, who return to their home country sporting Thai-made custom suits.
I knew Thailand was a popular destination for affordable custom suits, whilst studying in University more than a decade ago. Thus, I expected to find an abundance of high quality bespoke tailoring establishments within the country. To my surprise, such establishments seem to be a rarity—with budget ultra-fast (within 24 hours) “tailoring” dominating the scene. Yet, unlike houses of Vietnam and Indonesia, in Thailand, there is indeed a significant price difference between half canvassed and full canvassed suits.
Through a lot of research, I found two establishments with a reputation for quality bespoke tailoring within Bangkok:
Narin Couture was established in 1997, and to this day is still recognized as the best tailoring establishment in Thailand. Founded by Mr. Narin after having completed his education in France, his atelier is known to provide a flexible range of tailoring services with the ability to craft British, French, or Italian style suits and provide ladies tailoring as well.
Commissioning a suit from Narin requires 2-4 weeks to complete, with what appears to be a basted fitting included. The starting price for a pure wool 2-piece full floating canvass suit is around US$1.300.
Website : narin-couture.com
TAILOR ON TEN
Tailor On Ten was estabshed in 2010, by a couple of Canadian entrepreneurs. With a focus on crafting quality half canvassed suits, you’ll find a strong collection of fabrics here, ranging from famous European brands such as Holland & Sherry, Dormeuil, Loro Piana, and even Harris Tweed. All work is done in the workshop by in-house tailors.
The style is Brittish and jackets are produced using standard and hybrid materials, with horse hair infused canvas for the chest piece and soft and lightweight quality interlining. Shoulder padding is made from cotton wadding and Bemberg cupro fabric is used for the lining inside the suits.
From what I understand, commissioning a suit from Tailor on Ten can be completed within a week, with a basted fitting. The starting price for a pure wool 2-piece half canvass suit is around US$570. There is an excellent website containing useful information about the establishment and services they provide.
Malaysia has quite a thriving bespoke tailoring industry with multiple renowned bespoke tailors within the capital of Kuala Lumpur (KL) and the nearby city of Petaling Jaya (PJ). There is an impressive mix between seasoned master tailors, as well as young promising ones. I found four particularly interesting tailoring establishments located within the capital of KL and the city of PJ.
AH LOKE TAILOR
Ah Loke Tailor is run by master tailor Loke Kwong Yeun, and was founded by his late father. The tailoring house earned its renown by becoming the only tailor in KL capable of crafting jodhpur pants for polo players—and the establishment has continued operating to the great praise of clients for more than 60 years.
The style is British, and commissioning a full canvas suit can take more than 3 months to complete. Unfortunately being a 60+ year old master tailor, like many from his generation, Mr. Kwong does not have a strong social media presence. Fans of his work have managed to create a Facebook and Instagram account on his behalf and have uploaded some examples of his work.
+60 3-2692 4206 (Phone)
Lord’s Tailor is one of the most renowned bespoke tailoring establishments within Malaysia and has developed a reputation for being a tailor to the stars. From world famous shoe maker Jimmy Choo, to more recently providing the wardrobe for the cast of the Hollywood’s hit “Crazy Rich Asians”, the atelier also offers limited ladies tailoring.
Lord’s can craft both British and Italian style suits, though I feel the British is the stronger choice. They have a nice collection of quality fabrics from famous European brands, including rare breathable fabrics such as seersucker cotton, which they suggest as the ideal fabric for the Malaysian climate.
Commissioning a suit will take 4-6 weeks to complete with a starting price for a pure wool 2-piece full floating canvass suit at around US$1.300.
BESPOKE IAN CHANG
Ian’s talent became apparent at an early stage in his career, and he had the good fortune of being offered an internship by Maurice Sedwell on Savile Row. This invaluable experience helped give Ian the knowhow to offer a true bespoke experience to clients in his three locations within Malaysia, Australia, and Hong Kong.
Mr. Chang is capable of crafting British and Italian style suits. I don’t have experience with the establishment, but sense it is definitely one to consider for a quality bespoke suit.
JEREMY TOK TAILOR
I have included this Tailoring establishment due to its young, experimental, and edgy nature. Jeremy Tok graduated as a mechanical engineer from a German University, completing an internship with Airbus GmbH in Hamburg. Yet, Jeremy eventually gravitated towards tailoring as a profession, and has operated as a full time bespoke tailor since 2012.
Jeremy is capable of crafting British, French, and Italian style suits. A look through his Instagram reveals a fresh approach towards crafting suits. Commissioning a suit will take about 4-6 weeks to complete, and there will be a basted fitting. The starting price for a pure wool 2-piece full floating canvass suit is around US$1.200.
Wherever you may be in the world, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter an Indian tailor. Needless to say, there are numerous tailors of varying quality available within India. One tailoring establishment however, has risen above the rest in my opinion, to attain legendary status.
VAISH AT RIVOLI
Vaish At Rivoli was established in 1940 by O.P Vaish, and is now run by his son Ashok Vaish and grandson Sachin Vaish.
Both O.P and Ashok Vaish graduated from “The Tailor & Cutter Academy” on Savile Row. Yet, Sachin was unable to take the same path, since these schools no longer existed on the Row. He did however apprentice on Savile Row and then later with Brioni in Italy.
Vaish At Rivoli creates a true bespoke suit with an all-natural full floating canvas. They have a solid collection of luxurious fabrics from all over Europe. Their tailoring style is British and a pure wool 2-piece full floating canvass suit is around US$500.
Commissioning a suit will take 4-6 weeks to complete, and there will be a basted fitting. For international clients, they attempt to hasten the fitting process, and will complete the suit later for final shipment overseas.
While the Taiwanese tailoring industry once boasted close to 4,000 tailors in 2005, only around 200 tailors could still be found in Taiwan by the year 2015.
In the past, it became commonplace for Taiwanese residents to go to Hong Kong for bespoke tailoring, as the sartorial culture seemed to wane in the country.
Yet, in 2014, Brian Shih started a phenomenon known as “The Suit Walk”, in order to re-amp the sartorial culture in Taiwan. Around 150 people showed up the first year—with most attendees being 35 or younger. Fast forward to The Suit Walk in 2018, which has become one of the most important fashion events within the country, and is covered by GQ, attracting multiple international sponsors such as CERRUTI 1881, Polo Ralph Lauren, Hennesy, and the likes.
From what I understand, it’s (way) more affordable to obtain bespoke clothing within Taiwan compared to Hong Kong. A cost of US$800 seems to be a fair indicator of a starting price for a pure wool 2-piece full canvas suit. Taiwan is also an exciting scene for ladies tailoring, with numerous ladies showing up in suits during The Suit Walk, along with a significant number of young aspiring female tailors. Unfortunately the language barrier prevented me from exploring in depth, the various tailoring establishments within Taiwan but I’m sure it’s worth a closer look.
To my knowledge, Hong Kong was the first Asian country to become a favorite alternative to Savile Row. Despite this status, there doesn’t seem to be an abundance of quality local bespoke tailors within Hong Kong today.
The majority of tailors are focused on selling suits to be completed within a mere few days time, to accommodate the short stays of foreign clients. Some long-standing tailoring establishments within Hong Kong has managed to build up a decent reputation as quality bespoke tailors, however this reputation is blemished by unsatisfied customers, with examples of shockingly poor craftsmanship from supposedly respectable establishments.
Commissioning a bespoke suit from a so-called “true bespoke tailoring establishment” within Hong Kong, will cost US$1.500 – US$2.000 starting. A suit can take up 8 weeks or less to complete, depending on the establishment. Lower-end tailors may craft only British style suits, while the self proclaimed higher-end tailors offer both British and Italian style suits. Most all houses will be prepared to consult with you in English.
You might have noticed by now that I haven’t named any establishments in Hong Kong. I feel uncomfortable doing so because Hong Kong is a place which I have come to understand with relative nuance, since I have grandparents and relatives from the city.
My recommendation is to avoid bespoke in Hong Kong if possible (unless you can afford the trunk-shows of the most famous European bespoke tailors atThe Armoury or the Attire House). If you insist on pursuing the Hong Kong alternative, then I recommend seeking a high end, long standing bespoke tailoring establishment and being a very discerning customer. Know what you want and have pictures ready for reference—and make sure all your preferences have been noted. Be meticulous during the first fitting stages (I wish you the best of luck!).
The South Korean capital of Seoul is an impressive and fast paced city.
Once there was an old tailoring street named “Sogong-dong” where a large number of tailors operated out of—yet the street’s popularity was later eclipsed by the “Itaewon” area. Even more recently, it is the “Gangnam” area which has risen to become the mecca of fashion and bespoke tailoring in South Korea. Through my research I discovered two establishments of repute.
I stumbled upon Tailorable via Korean media, who was pointing out the establishment’s success within Itaewon. I believe the tailoring house has since relocated to a different location though, while still retaining their excellent reputation within the South Korean bespoke tailoring industry.
Founded in 2007, by Ho Been Kwak, Tailorable offers two types of bespoke tailoring for gentlemen under their WINE & BLUE Label.
The WINE label represents the premium crafting option, with 95 percent hand sewn construction…including quality canvas, and more luxurious fabrics used to construct suits, with the utmost attention to details.
The BLUE Label has 80 percent hand sewn construction and is completed within a shorter time frame.
The style is a hybrid of soft Italian tailoring combined with the clean lines of classic British tailoring.
The starting price for the BLUE Label is around US$1.000, while the WINE label will be around US$2.250. All work is conducted at the workshop within the Hannam district of Seoul. A consultant is available who is fluent in English, and the house also provides a limited range of ladies tailoring services.
SEGI has been operating since the 1970s and established their reputation within Sogong-dong before relocating to the Gangnam area.
This tailoring house is committed to providing quality bespoke ailoring services, but commands a relatively high price–likely due to more than 95% of their suits being sewn by hand.
After measurements are taken, a pattern will be created and then the fabric will be cut. There will be a basted fitting, and all button holes will be sewn by hand. Commissioning a suit from SEGI takes about 4-5 weeks with a starting price of around $1.800 for a pure wool 2-piece canvassed suit. They are capable of crafting both British and Italian style garments.
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I hope this guide has given you a rare first glimpse into the the world of Southeast Asian tailoring, and renders a fair overall picture of the state of bespoke tailoring within SEA. It is also my desire that my work will aid those of you who are looking for a more affordable alternative to high quality bespoke tailoring. I wish you all the best!
Ronald TA for Parisian Gentleman