Thursday, December 25, 2008

Southeast Asian tailors: A visit to Hong Kong, Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh City

Asian tailors can be a good option and value - assuming you are local to them (or they visit your city regularly) and you are comfortable with a high level of directed involvement and oversight in the bespoke process.

Hong Kong

In my recent trip to Asia, my first stop was Hong Kong. I visited two tailors, A-Man Hing Cheong and Tux & Collars. A-Man had a nice selection of British fabrics (John Hardy among others). I chatted with a fellow named Norman and, partially ignoring my own advice above, I ended up ordering a tweed jacket made up in a 16oz gunclub from the John Hardy Alsport book - in the broader interests of sartorial research of course.

I also attempted to visit Tux and Collars, whose head cutter purportedly trained in Naples. When I visited the address in the Pacific House across from Harvey Nichols, the store was shuttered and had either moved or closed. According to the lobby security guard, they had moved out a couple of months before my visit. But unfortunately he did not have a forwarding address or other contact details.

Vietnam

Vietnam is quickly moving forward in becoming a global textile and apparel player. In 2008, Vietnam's garment and textile industry is expected to hit $9.5B in exports and employ some 2 million people according to Vietnam News (10/01/08). The Vietnam Garment and Textile Association expects to be in the top 5 globally by 2015-20. The US is the top importer of Vietnamese garments and textiles, followed by the European Union, Japan and Russia.

Dung Tailor

In Vietnam, I visited a couple of tailors: Dung (pronounced yung) Tailor in Ho Chi Minh City and Duc Tailor in Hanoi. Dung has been in business since 1985 and appears to be a genuine bench tailor. Shirts range from 25 to 45 USD and take two weeks. Suits go from 160 to 500 USD and take roughly 3 weeks. Incidentally, the concierge at the Park Hyatt Saigon recommended a couple of tailors, Cao Minh and Dung.

Duc Tailor

Up north in Hanoi, I visited Duc Tailor just north of Hoan Kiem lake. When I walked in, I saw a fitter making marks on a customer's basted jacket (no sleeves, just the body) and a cutter nearby marking and cutting cloth without a pattern (a technique known as "rock of eye"). He traced out the pattern with chalk directly on the cloth and then cut the cloth. The suits appear to be canvassed based on the basted jacket I saw.

Duc Tailor fitting and cutting

There were four shelves of in-stock suitings arranged by price): $500, $400, $300 and $200. The selvedges appear to be of Italian origin. One selvedge read Garavino which I am not familiar with but I also saw a Dormeuil Amadeus book. Suits take 2-3 days. Pants have a price range depending on cloth: $50, $70, $100 and $120. Shirts start at $25.

Given the tropical climate and limited time, I decided to order a casual shirt short-sleeved shirt, which would be ready at 6pm the same day. I ordered a band collar linen shirt and initially sketched a picture of the band collar. But then I spotted a copy of the spring 2008 issue of Menswear magazine on one of the shelves and found a picture of the collar style I was looking for.

As the cutter took my measurements, he recognized I was wearing a custom shirt (made by Freddy Vandecasteele) and asked if he should just copy the measurements which he did (chest, abdomen, waist and shirt length). I requested small adjustments to the sleeve length, overall length of the shirt body and band collar height.

The area just south of Duc tailor is a busy retail area for RTW sandals and shoes as well as luggage and backpacks (Cau Go and Lo Su/Hang Dou streets).

Additional links
- Styleforum thread on Vietnamese tailors
- Styleforum thread on Hoi An tailors (Vietnam)
- Styleforum thread on tailors in Hong Kong and Vietnam
- Lonely Planet thread on Bangkok tailors
- Styleforum thread on Singapore tailors - Iris Tailor (Lucky Plaza)
- Styleforum thread on Malaysian tailors
- Styleforum threads on Hong Kong tailors and a comparison between A-Man Hing Cheong and WW Chan
- Styleforum thread on Japanese tailors
- Styleforum thread on Korean tailors (Seoul)

Updated 11/24/09

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

FYI the proprietor of Tux&Collar shuttered the business to pursue other endeavors.

Anonymous said...

Please post photos, thank you. Any reason why you did not visit W.W. Chan?

Great job with the blog.

What's the word with your book?

sleevehead said...

Thanks for the info on Tux & Collar. I'll try to take pictures of my fitting and post an update on the A-Man jacket.

Ah, the book. I'm working on the proposal and then need to shop it around to agents. This will be a multi-year effort I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

I would love to head to Saville row and have a bespoke suit made. But unfortunately I am short on the funds. I will however be heading to Asia this summer. I was wondering if you had the choice of going anywhere in Asia (including the Indian sub continent) to have a "bespoke" suit made where would you go? I was also wondering where you might head if you were looking to get the most bang for your buck. I'll be doing quite a bit of travelling and would like to purchase 1 "bespoke" suit in the 500.00 usd range and several other tailor made in the 100 - 200 usd range.

sleevehead said...

Budget here is the limiting factor. At 500 USD the level of tailoring will not be at the highest level found in Hong Kong. At lower price points, the risk increases as well. You need to be ready to show/tell what you want in terms of cut and cloth. If you don't know what you want, you may or may not be happy with the end result.

If you're not sure what you want, a reasonable alternative is sticking with RTW. This is especially true if you know you fit a certain maker well. You can find for example a Brooks Bros Golden Fleece suit (fully canvassed) on sale for $600-700.

On the other hand if you're comfortable with the risk and your ability to communicate what you want, you can check out the Vietnamese tailors I mentioned. At 500 USD, I would try Dung, Duc or Lam (in Hanoi).

I have a related comment here: https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=10106099&postID=8099166449761665108

LIZ A said...

We had clothes made at Duc in Vietnam and was very impressed. In fact we would like to get more shirts made, do you happen to have their email address or contact info?

Thanks.

sleevehead said...

Below is the contact information for Duc Tailor and Dung:

Duc
73 Nguyen Huu Huan
Hoan Kiem - Hanoi
Tel 04 824 2910
Mobile 090 328 6366
Email: tailor-duc@hn.vnn.vn

Dung
221 Le Thanh Ton
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel 829 6778
Mobile 090 395 4546
Email dungtailor@hcm.vnn.vn

Anonymous said...

Any photos of the A-Man jacket (s)?

Thanks.

sleevehead said...

Very good timing - I just got back from Hong Kong and will be posting a picture and write-up shortly.

In the meantime you can see pictures at this Styleforum thread on A-Man Hing Cheong:

http://www.styleforum.net/showthread.php?t=119112

Anonymous said...

When you are having shirts made by Dung, make sure to request the collar stiffeners to be removable. In the default version they sow them in, so they can not be removed for washing and ironing. You might want to bring a sample stiffener. I also noticed that they tend to make the shirts a bit wide and short for my liking. If you like your shirts long with the slim european fit make sure to tell them. Personally I did not like the buttons they used. You might want to check those out first. Aside from all that the shirts were great and the prices very fair. Quality is good and they ship to Europe (30$ I think) and the US. You can also ask them to send you fabric samples if you want to (re)order.

sleevehead said...

Excellent, thanks for the tips.

grace said...

Hi Sleevehead,

Wonder if you know of any well known tailors in Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi that tailor cheongsums?

rgds,
Grace

grace said...

Hi Sleevehead,

Wonder if you know of any well known tailors in Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi that tailor cheongsums?

rgds,
Grace

Anonymous said...

Dung were great. My only problem now is after 3 years of same suits - time for a new one.

Anyone got an email address for Dung?

sleevehead said...

Grace,

There are quite a few tailors who do both men and women's clothes in Ho Chi Minh City. I visited a tailor in HCMC called Lam Couture, which looked promising. You might to want to ask if they can do cheongsams:

158C Dong Khoi Str,
District 1, HCMC
Email: lamtailor@vnn.vn
Tel: (84) 8 824 8291

sleevehead said...

Sure, I listed Dung's contact info and email address in my April 09 comment above.

Laura K said...

Sleevehead,
My husband and I are trying to find wholesale tailors in either Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, or Indonesia. We are starting a business and will be selling dresses in the US, so the tailors will receive steady work from us. Do you have any advice on how to find tailors that aren't set up for the casual tourist? Also, which country do you think would be the best for our business? Any other advice you could share would be appreciated!! Thanks for your help (:

sleevehead said...

Laura, thanks for visiting my blog and my apologies for the late response. Things have been busy! Where to go depends on what you are looking for.

My guess is you'll find the lowest cost in Cambodia and Vietnam but more effort to partner due to language and other barriers. Thailand might be easier from a business/language/legal perspective.

As for finding the right tailor for your business, I think that requires actually visiting the country and speaking with tailors and workshops. My blog posts should be a good start and then you can just ask for referrals for more options.

Anyway, I hope that helps and good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for these insights on tailors in VN. Would you know if Duc in Hanoi is still around, or might you have any new information on Hanoi tailors? I myself am leaving next week (with some lovely grey wool flannel purchased in Rome) and would love to get some suits made.

Superb job with this blog.

sleevehead said...

Thanks, I believe Duc is still around, or at least I have heard nothing to the contrary. If you're heading to Hanoi they're located pretty centrally so it should be easy to check out once you're there.

Baudrillard said...

Hey,

thank you very much for the valuable information. I am not so much of an expert when it comes to getting suits made by a tailor. I will pass in HCMC and stay for about two weeks which is supposedly not enough for taking a suit home from dung straight away. Will there be fittings incurring in two weeks, or will a "first version" of the suit take longer than two weeks?

Thanks,
Baudrillard

sleevehead said...

Thanks for visiting. When I visited, Dung said completed suits would take 3 weeks. This would almost most likely mean that you would get at least one fitting within 2 weeks. However, best to confirm this prior to visiting or right after you arrive.

Anonymous said...

Hey,
i went to Dung two weeks ago and ordered four shirts and a suit. Concerning the shirts i gave him a shirt to copy from with some slight changes. I think thats the safest way and they turned out very good.

For the suit i chose a vitale barberis canonico for testing. He calculates on a basis of 3,3m. VBC is priced at 2,5m dong a m, Dormeuil 3,7m, Scabal, Marzoni, are also on stock as well as cheaper fabrics priced between 700k and 1m. The price for the workmanship went slightly up to about ca. 80-90€.

The shirts were ready after two weeks, as was a first version of the suit for a fitting. The final suit will take another two weeks. I was very satisfied with the first version of my suit

Sending it to Europe now costs USD 80 (with DHL) which is a lot but they ll "take care" of everything...

I also visited the shoemaker mentioned in this blog Tran Quoc Lan. The shop was closed twice when i went passed and by chance i have seen it open one day. I picked up two pairs of suedes which seem to be of a decent quality.

Furthermore, I went to Lam Tailors. Their english skills are slightly better compared to Dung. it seems that their services are widely used also by embassy staff (like at Dung) and mostly by foreigners. Tried Lam for a two piece woman suit (available from 300USD, VBC and others at 400USD) and was quite satisfied. Their customers include also Laura and George W. Bush ( a letter from the white house proudly features in her shop). I asked also about men's suits which are starting at USD500. They are half canvassed.

Lam -like Dung- keeps measurements if you wish to reorder (you just need to chose your fabric there or send quite detailled information)) Concerning Lam, they send for approx. 30USD a kg.

best wishes,
Baudrillard

Anonymous said...

I travelled to Vietnam from Singapore for a holiday. Prior to arriving I researched and emailed a few tailors about making a traditional 3-piece morning suit, I spent a lot of time explaining the fabrics I wanted, the style and my stature to help with the quote. I was responded to by Kien from Cao Minh who quoted USD$500-1000. I explained to him that my budget was USD$500, he responded that it should be fine but I would need to go for a lower grade of wool and it might be slightly more that USD$500.

When I got to HCMC Kien arranged for me to see Khuyen at their Dong Khoi shop, she had me choose some fabrics. I chose and she quoted about USD$800 for 2-pieces. I explained my budget and she got out some cheap 50% man made fibre materials and quote USD$650 for 2-pieces.

I left furious. The Cao Minh tactic is obviously to say what you want to hear to get you through the doors then try and upsell hard. I went to Dung tailor that evening and found all the fabrics I wanted and was treated with respect.

Do not waste your time at Cao Minh, they are serious rip-off merchants and time-wasters!

Joe Vo said...

Hi, thanks a lot for the info. May I ask that is the price for the shirt fabric included?

sleevehead said...

Hi Joe,

I posted the shirt prices for Dung and Duc in my original post above. However, that was several years ago so I'm not able to confirm if they've changed.