Hong Kong: A trip to the tailor

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.

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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Liebling shrugs on one of his suit jackets and faces me.

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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.

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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?

Manhattan Tailors

Unit E, Ground Floor, Mercantile House

186 Nathan Road (MTR Jordan Exit No. D), Hong Kong

(852) 2302 0728

 

21 Comments

  • Catalina says:

    Getting a dress done to your measurements is great!! Look at the styles that you want and then pick a fabric that you like. I always chose crepe for the fitted dresses. Nothing to clingy. Jackets and pencil skirts can look really good. I’m sure that anything can be done. I used to get my dresses done for parties when I was growing up in Colombia. A few of my friends got their wedding dresses done and they looked amazing. I would probably still have my dresses custom made for parties if I still lived there. What I get when I travel are bathing suits made to measurements with hand made details. I usually take some of my favorite old ones as a sample. The ones that fit my body the best and they can start from there. If you have a favorite pair of pants or shirt/dress that would be a great start for roger.

  • Kuesoom says:

    Had a couple made in China, and unfortunately once I got back to NYC, they did not measure up to my other suits so was gifted away to a friend. 😉 I might need to try Manhattan Tailors, next time I’m in HK.

    Your comment about the sleeves….funny!

  • Quiana says:

    I’ve always been curious about custom suits in Asia and have told my husband who’s 6’8″ to even consider going to Chinatown here in NYC. He cannot shop at conventional stores. We’ll definitely have to look into it. TFS this experience (and I can totally relate about the sleeves issue!).

  • Aimee says:

    When I was living in Thailand and spending the weekend in Cha-Am I considered it, actually living in Bangkok there’s so many great places to get custom pieces made. On my next go round I’ll definitely consider it.

  • SnarkyNomad says:

    I was with my grandfather in Hong Kong and his tailor, whom he had been visiting for…I don’t know, decades, maybe, came to the hotel to make some custom clothes for everyone. $30 for a custom-made dress shirt. It was great. And what’s weird is that custom clothes used to be the only clothes, but mass production has now made custom tailoring into a luxury. But that just makes those deals even better.

  • Nicole says:

    It’s hard to find a good AND fair tailor in Hong Kong but when you do keep them!

    My ‘guy’ (haha) is Danny at Miro Carpini (http://www.mirocarpini.com/index1.html).
    He’s recently moved to Podium Plaza, behind the K11 shopping centre, in Tsim Sha Tsui East.
    I find he can be a little more expensive but my family have been seeing him since I was 4-years-old and the quality is just superb.

  • J says:

    I had my Nigerian wedding and reception dresses custom made. It was nice to know that it was made especially for me. $200 or even $400 for 2 suits and 4 shirts is A STEAL!!! Hubby works in PR and he spends upwards of $1,500 USD just about every 3-4 months on suits! I always get on him about it but he says he is often on TV and working with the media so he gets a lot of wear from the suits in that time.

    I would be curious to see what Roger makes for women. Would you commission a suit or dress?

  • sprite says:

    He does look dashing, nothing like a man in a well tailored suit.
    If the prices were good I would have been tempted to make a simple shift dress or maybe a skirt, just to see if they are as good with female clothing. Nothing too complex, mind! Hopefully he had more exciting fabric tucked away somewhere;)

  • I have had a blouse and some shorts made in Cambodia. The whole process is so much fun, but I always feel so nervous before I go and pick the clothes up, in case they look horrible.

  • Melissa says:

    I had two outfits made in Senegal in 2008. They were nice and well made pieces but I don’t wear them often today. I’d love to get more clothes made then you know it is perfectly fit to your body, I can’t imagine what the cost would be in London but I’m sure ridiculously expensive.

  • Sally says:

    I’ve never had clothes made for me at a tailor, but it’s always been an experience I wanted to try. Looks like Hong Kong is a good place to do it! …one day, haha.

  • Custom tailor shirts are comfortable to wear because of its design. It is made of by mapping all our body area , so it reflects our style.

  • We missed out on getting clothes made while we were in Hong Kong. Instead we got a suit and 4 dresses made in Hoi An, Vietnam. They did and amazing job and for about 1/5 the price you would pay in the US!

  • Pak Yin says:

    Hello Ms. Raymond, very good um website you have here.

  • Georgina says:

    I had quite a haul made in Vietnam and Thailand. My tips are (a) if you have an existing item that you LOVE, get them to copy it in different colours and fabrics or show them pictures of styles that you like (b) the cheapest offer. is not always the best. As your friend noted, it is generally worth it to pay a bit more – the fabrics, cut and service tend to be of a higher standard.

  • james85 says:

    I truly like your blog, the way you write and subject you covered are simply amazing. I know how tough it can be to get the visitors involved. I have made the decision to include your blog to my blog list.

    Custom made suit

  • Xena says:

    I’ve had a few suits made for me when I was in Thailand, but someone mentioned getting them from Hong Kong and I think that I’ll do that next time.

  • Ben says:

    It’s crazy how many people have problems with these tailors. I can tell you that I loved Sam’s and I bought 2 suits when I was in HK in 2008 and 3 more in 2012 from Sam’s. That being said, I had the same bad experience when I was in Hong Kong with tailors ripping me off. Good news, not all are bad. I wrote about my experience here: http://benpinkhasik.wix.com/prince-fashion-hk

  • larissa says:

    I so badly want to try this. It would be so fun to have a dress made just for me. I am sure my so would enjoy the experience just as much, especially as he loves dressing in suits and ties! Thanks so much for sharing, wonderful post as always!

  • Hey ONEIKA,

    I really loved the way you share your experience through your blog and its really true that nothing completes the experience like handmade shirts cut from the finest fabrics.
    The experience you shared is the most valuable one for me and even i would like to try one from this place.

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