Made to Measure
Like most of you, I have to wear a suit to the office. Not every day, but it would no doubt be seen as some sort of faux pas if I were to rock up to client meetings in a pair of boardies. I took the view some time ago that if you had to wear a suit, then you may as well make sure you look the part and that you are supposed to be telling Mr CEO or Mr Chairman what to do with themselves, rather than resemble a trainee without a clue.
The choices are simple in most parts of the world, pick a shop in your price point and try to select something that has you nearer to James Bond than a second rate premier league footballer on a night out in the suburbs. That is however outside of Hong Kong. Often touted as the last word in sartorial execution this side of Saville Row, especially in under 48 hours, Hong Kong is home to a plethora of tailors.
I should stop at this point to provide a caveat to those who have not started to venture down the bespoke route; beware the cost of starting to focus on the details…. Like all good things that modern man has been allowed to start to enjoy with what disposable cash is left after the tax man, rent and potentially family, when you start to look, touch, feel and appreciate, you only want better next time. (As applies to watches, wine and a whole lot more….)
My experience in this arena is relatively limited, and no doubt you will have each have found your preferred establishment. When looking for the first lucky recipient of my bespoke order I did a little perusing of the interweb, and as you probably will have done too, it’s all pretty limited and the concept of a website appears to have passed them all by.
Top of my mind was the simple topic of cost. My take on this now is that each house has their own cost-per-suit on to which they add the cost of fabric. So if you are it have the greatest cloth, it would seem a bit pointless having it butchered by a tailor that charges least for production to save the total bill. I’m quite sure that as you pay more, you do get a better finish, but you do have to remember that the overheads of rent in the Mandarin Oriental mall are likely to be higher than a basement room just off Queens Road. My advice here is pay what you would normally on a suit off the peg and add 25-50% for the first time to see if you like the results. If you try and get a suit for less than you can buy for something mass produced, don’t be surprised if you don’t like the results.
For me, I opted to spend around HK$8,000 on my suit and it was from Tai Pan Row in the IFC. Part of my choice was that I wanted something that was made of good cloth, but also from a reasonably respectable firm. I no doubt overpaid for the address, but being able to nip out to a fitting during the work day was a big bonus.
After the dirty dealings around cost were out of the way, it was quickly on to the flexibility over the design that I could enjoy. Initially there seems to be a multitude of choices from buttons, stitching, lining and drop that would start to take over. However, I did start to feel that this was all a bit identikit to help the tailor chose which print to use rather than actually help me get the result I wanted, not to mention that a distinct lack of Cantonese doesn’t help get the finer points of style across. That said, I was very happy with the results and service so would recommend them, though I will probably replace some suits with off the peg and have a couple of bespoke that cost a little more, but I am lucky that 42R from the high street tends to fit well.
In terms of communicating with the tailor, I have to speak up about The Armoury here. They do only use W.W. Chan in TST, who you can go to yourself; however the gents in the Pedder Building are excellent at getting those points on style into your suit and preventing some of that deflationary feeling. A mention of a shirt fitter here; Cuffs in Causeway Bay. I like their approach and the cost appears to be below the quality of the product by HK standards.
I could bleat on for literally hours about my preferences for suits, cloths and finishes, but this is a personal choice. If you have found a great tailor in HK, let us all know. I will leave you with my thoughts on the topic and some places that’s would recommend.
- Go to tailors that have been recommended, even if on the net
- Don’t go for any lucky dip/combo offers or to anywhere with a hawker on the street
- Look around the net for some pictures of gents in suits that you like (Anything Daniel Craig wears in the last 2 bond films by Tom Ford is a good starter)
- Balance the cost of the cloth with the cost of workmanship
- Be pushy on the customisation and fit even if not asked as an option
- Take a friend to a later fitting to let you know how it fits
- Check the finished product for quality
- Admit to yourself that you will not be going back to off the peg until you move out of HK