How To Get Clothes Made In Asia
I recently returned from a trip to Vietnam, where I had a bespoke wardrobe made for less than $100. And here’s a confession: it wasn’t my first time.
Since then, I’ve received a surprising number of emails from people also considering a trip to Asia—must be because it’s one of the few places still relatively cheap in the face of the weak dollar—and wondering how to go about getting their own custom clothes made. In case you’re one of them, here are a few pieces of advice:
1. By far the best—and cheapest—place to have that three-piece suit whipped up is Hoi An, Vietnam. You can fly into Danang International Airport and pick up a taxi (for around $13) for the half-hour journey to the Seamstress Capital Of The World. Another alternative—and one a little easier to reach? Bangkok. Head for Rambuttri Road in the city center and you’ll have to fight the tailors off with a stick.
2. Shop around for a good deal before you commit to anything–most tailors have the same patterns and quality is fairly standard, especially in places like Hoi An. Bargain as far as you feel comfortable with, but remember to always keep it good-natured, and be prepared to agree on a reasonable middle ground.
3. Bring clothes with you that you already like and ask to have them copied. Failing that, bring pictures of pieces you want made. Most tailors have catalogs and magazines in their stores, which you can use as a last-ditch resource; remember, too, that bringing current fashion magazines you’re willing to leave behind can often knock a few bucks off the price.
4. Once you find a place you like, try and go with a bulk-shopping mentality; get most of your stuff made in one place, and you’ll both build a rapport with the store-owner, and probably be able to get a small discount on your stash as well.
5. Most tailors work incredibly fast; you’ll be measured immediately and then told to come back the next day. The most important thing to bear in mind is that this isn’t your final garment—it’s merely a first fitting. The tailor will expect you to have some issue with the piece, and will be prepared to make it longer, shorter, tighter or more fitted according to your direction. Be patient, trust that the tailor will make your adjustments properly, and know that nine and three quarter times out of ten, you’ll come back the next day to find a perfect piece.
6. Once you’ve agreed upon a price, never pay more than the deposit (roughly a third to half of the final cost); paying the entire amount up front is risky. In Vietnam, you’ll have the choice of paying in U.S. dollars or Vietnamese dong; many shops accept credit cards as well (though be warned that this can be awfully dangerous for your willpower!)
7. Take a few cards of a tailor you’ve had a positive experience with and pass them on to friends; competition is stiff, and they’ll appreciate you stumping for them. Keep one in your own Rolodex too–most tailors will keep all your measurements on file for at least a few years, so the next time you need a custom-made business suit, you’ll know exactly who to email. (My personal recommendation? Minh Loan Tailor Shop, 47 Hoang Dieu Street in Hoi An, Vietnam. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell them the British girl with five new button-down shirts sent you.)