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Having a suit made in Hong Kong

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We are visiting Hong Kong next weekend and would like to try and have suits made for male and female. We arrive Thur night 8 pm and leave Mon at 10:30. Is this enough time to have a suit made? Any recommendations for tailors? websites? Is it expensive or should we just go to Macy's at home?

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    One of the most importrant factors in having a good experience with custom tailoring is to have enough fittings. Frankly, I think you would be hard-pressed to get good suits made in such a short time. There will be places that will tell you they will make you a dozen shirts and a suit in 24 hours - but the clothing will look like it.

    I consider three fittings to be the absolute minimum for custom clothing.

    Custom tailoring is not cheap. And while custom tailoring used to be a relative bargain in Hong Kong, that is no longer true. I've had beautiful clothing made there, it certainly is not less expensive than off the rack in the US, but then, what you get is custom made for you.

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    This is a very frequently asked question. Below is my "blurb" on Hong Kong tailors which I give to all friends and family who visit, and have posted on this board numerous times. For you, I would add that as you are staying in Causeway Bay, you have to add some travel time to the very short time you already have in Hong Kong, as most tailors are located in the Nathan Road area of Kowloon (where most of the tourists are). There are of course exceptions: there are excellent, but not cheap, tailors in the Prince’s Building in Central if you want to try those. This shopping centre is across the street from the Mandarin Hotel. I have seen, but know nothing about, tailors in the Causeway Bay area, whether you want to try any in that neighborhood is up to you. Your hotel may have a recco, but I am not sure that is the best way to go. You might also want to check the website for the Hong Kong tourist board to see if they have reccos. Finally you may want to check the latest edition of Suzy Gresham's book Born to Shop Hong Kong to see if she has reccos.

    My “blurb” is as follows:

    IMO and experience, for suits or dresses, you need at least one fitting, better with two. For shirts, you need at least one fitting. So if you are visiting for only a few days, make sure your tailor is the first stop on your itinerary. If time if very short, you can opt to have a final fitting on your last day, and if any alternations need to be made have the garment shipped to you at home after they have completed them; this really only works in alterations are quite minor, but is a possibility. Note that if the garment is shipped home, and you are a US citizen, you would not be permitted to include it in you duty-free exemption (i.e. the US$800 exemption only applies to goods you actually bring back with you), and you may have to pay duty on it if the post office elected to question the shipment.

    Do some comparison shopping for ready-made clothes before you leave home so you know whether what you are being offered is a bargain. For tailors in Hong Kong, you will get what you pay for. The days of very cheap one-day tailors are gone, despite what the guys handing out brochures at the Star Ferry will tell you. I think for men's shirts and maybe very simple women's shirts and skirts they are probably a good deal. Otherwise, you are going to pay about the same as off-the-rack at home. However, to me the advantage of a tailor is be able to choose the fabric and the design, using a very good quality fabric or a luxury fabric like cashmere and getting a custom fit. If you want a suit in a good-quality fabric that fits you very well, flatters you, and is made well, this is the place to get it – it just will not be cheap.

    If you want seriously cheap tailoring, you need to go over the border into Shenzhen in mainland China. However, quality is quite poor in my opinion, and you need a Chinese visa which will cost US$100 thereby somewhat negating the cheap tailoring. If the following places are on your itinerary, you can probably find cheaper tailors there: Bangkok, Ho Chi Min City, possibly Beijing, although in Beijing I think you will find quality to be poor and you will be told you are buying silk when in fact you are getting polyester unless you can really tell the difference. (It is very much caveat emptor in the PRC. I assume everything is fake and pay accordingly.)

    Tips on using tailors:

    It is advisable to make an appointment, esp with better tailors. You won't be rushed or pushed aside for other people coming in. In my experience, they all speak English; it would be most unusual to find a tailor catering to Western tourists who does not. The level of English in Hong Kong is generally excellent.

    You can bring a piece of clothing you like to have it copied. They will not take the item apart to copy it. They may not even keep it, and may only take a brief look at it and take some measurements.

    Tailors can copy from a picture; however they need front, back and side views; esp if it is a dress with a low back or similar feature. If you don't have pictures from all sides, be prepared to describe features that are not included in a photograph. If the picture is of a dress by a well-known designer, then just a frontal photo should be OK, they should be familiar with it (or have copied it for someone else.) You can choose to use a different fabric if you like, but do consider their recommendations as to how different fabrics will hang and wear, etc.

    Some tailors require that you purchase fabric from them, others have a selection but will also work with fabrics that you bring in, but will charge you a bit more for labour than if you used their fabric. Maxwell's only allows you to use their fabric to the best of my knowledge, the others below will all either use their fabric or you can bring in your own. I have listed some suggestions on where to buy fabric in Hong Kong.

    Some tailors will have a posted price list, but you can bargain, esp if you are ordering a large number of pieces. Custom work and copying from pictures or your existing clothing will cost you more than using one of their designs.

    Some tailors I can recommend are:

    Maxwell's Clothiers Ltd.
    7A Han Hing Mansion
    38-40 Hankow Road
    Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
    website: maxwellsclothiers.com
    e-mail: maxwell@maxwellsclothiers.com
    tel 852-2366-6705
    fax: 852-2366-6658

    This is a long-established tailor in Hong Kong. I have used them in the past, and many of my friends use them as well. They are in Kowloon, sort of behind the Peninsula Hotel. Maxwell's is located in the Nathan Road area of Kowloon, where you will find a ton of tailors. There is a map on their website showing their location. You have to buy fabric from them, but they have an astonishing selection. They will keep your measurements and you can order from them on-line in the future. I would make an appointment with them.

    William Cheng & Son
    8/F, 38 Hankow Road
    Kowloon, Hong Kong
    Tel: 852 2739 7888

    This is a tailor which I have not used, but a friend of mine has used a few times as he felt Maxwell’s was getting too expensive. I have seen the suits he made, and think they are very good. These tailors about at least a third cheaper than Maxwell’s. They are also in the TST area near the Peninsula. I don't know if an appointment is necessary, but it wouldn't hurt.

    Margaret Court Tailoress
    Flat G, 8th Floor
    Block A Winner Building
    27-37 D'Aguilar Street
    Central Hong Kong
    tel: 852-2525-5596
    fax: 852-2537-0898
    e-mail: mc@margaret-court.com.hk

    I have used her for a few cocktail dresses and about half a dozen pantsuits and have been very pleased. Her shop, on the upper floor of an office/apartment building is in the middle of the Lan Kwai Fong bar and restaurant area, so is convenient. She does primiarily women's clothing, but will do men as well. She has a very casual shop and staff so don’t be put off by the mess of her shop, she does good work. She has a good selection of fabrics, she will also work with fabric that you bring in yourself. She is closed on Sundays. I would call ahead the day you want to go and fix a time to stop in. My personal opinion is that you do not have time for Margaret’s work and she would not agree to make anything for you in that short a time.

    Fashion Altering Company
    Shop 215
    2nd Floor
    Melbourne Plaza
    33 Queen’s Road, Central
    Tel: 2868-1713

    These ladies have done alterations for me for about the last 10 years and have recently copied a few items for me, most of which I liked, one of which I was a bit disappointed with They charged about US$70 a piece for the work, not including materials. I think they would be very good a copying an existing item you have, but am not so confident about them designing items from fcratch. The shop is in Central, quite near the Pedder Building and the bottom of Lan Kwai Fong. They do not have anything in the way of materials, so you should bring your own, or go to Western Market first and buy materials (see below.) They are closed on Sundays. No appointment is necessary.

    Fabrics

    For fabrics, IMO the best place to go in Hong Kong are (i) Western Market and (ii) Chinese Arts and Crafts. Western Market is just west of Central on Hong Kong Island and has about a dozen fabric stalls, see one I have used, below. Shanghai Tang in the Pedder Building in Central also has silk, it is fairly expensive, take a look at http://www.shanghaitang.com/shanghaitang/index.jsp. For Chinese Arts and Crafts, there are various locations around town, the one near the Star Ferry pier on the Kowloon side has a pretty large selection of silk and cotton fabric. Go to http://www.chineseartsandcrafts.com.hk. Another place which probably carries fabric is Yee Hwa Chinese Products Emporium, they are like a down-scale version of Chinese Arts and Crafts. They have various locations in town, their biggest shop is in Kowloon right on Nathan Road, go to http://www.yuehwa.com/yh/english/hkallstore/p2_2k4.html for locations. Both are open every day.

    A textile shop in Western Market to try is:

    Yau Fat Textile Company
    Shop 105&106 Western Market
    323 Des Veoux Road Central
    Tel: 2850-5169

    They are open every day I believe, but call ahead for Sundays to make sure. This stall is about the second stall on the right as you come up the stairs/escalators. The woman in the shop I have generally dealt with is Rowena, but there a Chinese gentleman there who is quite knowledgeable as well. They have a very very big selection of material. Silk and wool run about HK$280-250 a meter (roughly $35-44 a yard), not sure how that compares to US prices


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    It seems almost superfluous to add to the comprehensive advice above, but a couple of weeks ago I was introduced by a Hong Kong native friend to a tailor just off Nathan Road called Simpson Sim. I don't have my detailed notes of our conversation to hand at the moment but while he would prefer more time I believe he said he could make suits with two fittings in the time period you have. I was impressed with the work I saw and the prices, and am delighted with a made-to-measure heavy wool coat I purchased, as well as with the quality of some other minor tailoring work I had done.

    I cannot claim any real expertise in this area, but based on my experience this time and what I saw of the shirt and suit-making I will certainly have some suits made next time I'm passing through Hong Kong. The advice to check prices of off-the-peg and fitted work before you leave home is very wise, and this should be regarded as essential.

    Mr. Sin's work is all done within Hong Kong, whereas there are tailors that simply send all the work across the border, telephoning the measurements over there. Prices are also all-inclusive, unlike those of the pestering (mostly Indian) tailors on the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, whom you will want to avoid.

    As suggested above you will need to make an appointment to be sure of getting things done in time. See:

    http://www.simpsonsintailor.com.hk/

    Peter N-H

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    For more information about William Cheng & Son. I have written an in depth blod entry about my experience buying custom tailored suits there. If you are planning on having suits made in Hong Kong, you should definitely check this out:
    http://bkarmstrong.blogspot.com/2010/11/bespoke-for-first-time-my-hong-kong.html

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