Liebling and I make a trip to the tailor in Hong Kong.
“Ma’am, I also make clothing for ladies. I can make you dress, shirt, anything you like.” Roger, the tailor, propositions me with a smile and slight head bobble, his words softened by a mild Indian accent.
I signal no with a nod of the head. Truth be told, I hadn’t thought to get anything made. We are here for Liebling, who has commissioned Roger to make him two suits and four shirts. Days before, Liebling put in an order, and today, we are here for the first fitting.
Hong Kong may not be as popular as Vietnam or Thailand amongst travellers looking to get clothes custom made on the cheap, but there is a thriving industry here, immediately visible as you walk the streets of Kowloon peninsula. All along Nathan Road, touts, mostly from India, try to lure you into the bespoke tailor shops that line the street. Another enclave of tailors exists on the strip of Nathan Road near Jordan metro station, which is where we find ourselves presently.
Liebling, working in finance, is always in need of a good suit. At 6 foot 2 and a half inches tall, having his suits custom made is often imperative. Years ago, the first time we lived in Hong Kong, he happened upon Manhattan Tailors, and by extension, Roger. Ever since, Liebling has been a dutiful customer, citing Roger’s stitching prowess and fair prices.
The shop is tidy and quiet, with rows of fabric stacked neatly along the walls. Roger says he does ladies’ clothes, but this is clearly a man’s domain: the mannequin busts are all male, and I am aghast at the range of slate grey, pinstriped navy, and chocolate brown fabric that dominate the store. All men’s suit colours.
Roger and a colleague fuss over Liebling as he begins his fashion show. Liebling strips down to his boxers right in the center of the shop, in that careless way that men who have no inhibitions or body issues are wont to do. One by one he pulls on Roger’s creations. The men eye and assess, discuss waist size and inseam, pant rise and button type.
Liebling shrugs on one of his suit jackets and faces me.
He looks Ken doll perfect, except for one thing.
“The sleeves are too short,” I offer.
But my lone criticism is shushed into submission. I am told by both Liebling and Roger that having the cuffs of the shirt peek out from under the suit jacket is the mark of a finely tailored suit. I concede. This is a realm in which I have no experience, so I go back to silently observing and snapping pictures of the shop.
Finally, rumination over, Liebling reaches for his wallet and pays the balance of his bill. He tells me later that if one drives a hard bargain it is possible to get a suit and two shirts custom made for $1500 Hong Kong dollars, or less than $200 USD. He’s paying more than double for his haul of two suits and four shirts, but says that it’s worth it for the quality.
I steal a glance before he puts back on the shorts and t-shirt he came to Manhattan Tailor in. Liebling looks at once sharp, corporate, and dashing; whatever the price, he looks good. Roger’s work is winning in my book.
So when, on our way out, Roger repeats that he also makes clothes for ladies and would be happy to help me with my bespoke needs, I pause, smile… and tell him that I’ll think about it.
Have you ever gotten clothes custom made? Where?
Unit E, Ground Floor, Mercantile House
186 Nathan Road (MTR Jordan Exit No. D), Hong Kong
(852) 2302 0728