Visiting a Tailor in Hong Kong? Be Specific
HONG KONG — Think of a major city, and you often think of a business. In London, it’s the pub; in Tokyo, the sushi restaurant, and so on.
In Hong Kong, it’s the tailor’s shop, home to a magician with cloth who can take your measurements one morning and produce a finished suit the next day. It sounds like a stereotype, but this city of about 7.4 million has hundreds of such businesses, supported by legions of tailors and seamstresses toiling away in drab industrial workrooms tucked into out-of-the-way neighborhoods or across the border in mainland China.
Residents here are used to visitors who ask for tailor recommendations, along with suggestions for the best dim sum and xiaolongbao (soup dumpling) and how to avoid waiting in lines for the Peak Tram. The usual advice begins with two points to be considered well before starting the hunt for the right shop.
First, what do you want in the finished garment? In detail.
On their own, Hong Kong tailors will produce a standard version of any piece of clothing. That kind of mass-market mind-set has enabled many shops to develop robust e-tail operations and global customer networks, with measurements and fabric selections determined during scheduled visits to major cities and garments made and dispatched from Hong Kong.
But if you want specific features — topstitching, a watch pocket in trousers or channels for shirt collar stays — you have to say so when you place the order.
Another possibility: Bring a favorite garment to be copied. (And that’s what will be produced: an exact copy.)
Second, consider your travel schedule. Many tailors can, indeed, produce a suit overnight — or will measure you just before you dash to the airport train, then send the finished garment by express delivery. But having at least one fitting, and preferably two, will produce a much better result. So maybe it’s worth skipping the Big Buddha on Lantau Island if you don’t have a lot of time.
Once you’re ready to find a tailor, many concierges (even if you’re not staying in his or her hotel) will be happy to make recommendations. Or search online for “Hong Kong tailors” and scroll through the scores of blog posts, horror stories and even a few tales of praise.
One common warning: Ignore the men who try to hand you a tailor’s leaflet as you exit the Star Ferry terminal in Kowloon. Most of those operations are low-end businesses with second-rate fabrics and poor quality control.
Thinking about the quality of garment you want may help you narrow your choices.
Central, the cluster of glass-and-metal skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island, is the city’s traditional finance and banking neighborhood, so tailors there primarily cater to executives who want classic styles in top-end suiting materials from Ermenegildo Zegna, Loro Piana, Dormeuil or one of the many heritage woolen brands in Britain. Most customers are men; women can get coats, pantsuits, and jacket and skirt combinations, but they are likely to lack the kind of fashion-forward styling seen on the runways in Paris or Milan.
中环是香港岛上很多玻璃和金属摩天大楼的汇聚之地，是该市传统的金融和银行区，因此这里的裁缝主要面向希望穿着经典款式的高管，他们要求使用杰尼亚(Ermenegildo Zegna)、诺悠翩雅(Loro Piana)、多美(Dormeuil)品牌或英国羊毛老字号的顶级西装面料。大多数客户都是男性；女士可以定制大衣、长裤套装，以及西装裙的组合，但是他们可能不会有巴黎或米兰T台上那种以时尚为重的风格。
Several tailors in Tsim Sha Tsui, commonly called TST, the shopping and entertainment center at the tip of the Kowloon peninsula, also serve executive tastes, but many in this tourist haven also have a broad range of lower-end fabrics.
Fabric is a good indicator of price. A suit made from top-quality materials, which will pack with little wrinkling and keep its shape over time, is likely to cost from $1,500 to more than $3,000. Moderately priced fabrics will result in lower-priced garments. But, regardless of what someone on the internet says, a $300 suit that will fit perfectly, wear like a dream and last for decades is a fantasy.
Suzie Wong might have known such a tailor, although that 1960s styling would be awfully dated these days.