So. A lot of people come to Hoi An to get themselves a nice suite made, or you know update their wardrobe with a whole lot of tailor made clothes. Or they come thinking they won’t be getting anything made, but that nice persistent lady on a bike just happened to lead them to her tailor shop, and they just thought well it’s only $30…And it is the thing to do. A few escape un-initiated. That’s their loss.
We had a gamut of things made in Hoi An, from men’s dress shoes, to women’s coat, and everything in between – most of purchases we are pleased with, a few not so much.
My most important takeaway – if you don’t like what you got, most likely it’s not the shop, it’s you. As a customer you have quite a bit of work to do! If you waltz in and say I want the dress that you have on the mannequin out front, tailor made for my body – they can do that well. If you come in with a picture from a glossy ad and say: “I want that,” you better do your research. And if you show up, describe your favorite pants that you left back home, and expect to get a replica, well. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.**By the way – we did all of these things.
So live and learn. Or read blogs. The following is that what I would think about as you prepare for the world of Hoi An tailors:
* Give yourself three days minimum for clothes. Two fittings for alterations, third and final fitting for pick up. I found that I needed more time than that for a few things – yes, I had extra fittings – five, six however many it takes to get those pants to look good. If you have more time all the better: Hoi An is a charming town, with a fabulous beach, a week will fly by.
* Start early in the morning and finish in late afternoon / evening. In between swim at the pool / beach / have a lemonade / explore Hoi An. Most shops don’t have AC. They are also surprisingly less busy during cooler times than in midday. And, you will have the undivided attention of sales staff, which is very important to get all those details right.
* Start by visiting a few shops – say that you are shopping around looking at quality of the work and type of fabric that the shop has. List the items that you are thinking about making. Ask to see their selection of fabric for those items. For example for a suit or a winter coat you might not find what you are looking for in terms of quality and print– if so, move on. No need to go through catalog pictures.
A note on fabric selection – shops are chock full of choices, but if you want the latest dress in J Crew catalog, they
probably won’t have that type of material, or the print, anywhere in Hoi An. Consider bringing your own fabric from home if you want a replica, not an interpretation of your dream item. And specifically on trench coats — at the time when we were there, none of the Hoi An shops stocked heavy-duty, waterproof fabric that I was looking for. Same goes for actual jean material and polyester for workout clothing.
* Inspect a few of the readymade items to see the stitching quality, fit, length of sleeves, zipper selection, etc.
* Come well prepared. You have three choices: 1) pick something out at the store and ask for same thing, maybe with different pattern or some other details, 2) pick something out of their catalog or bring a picture from a magazine, 3) describe what you want with words, from memory. First one is relatively easy, the other two are harder. In those cases, you must know exactly what you want, you must know how to describe the item as well (see below). The sales assistant is not a magician, nor a mind reader – she can’t get in your head and see your dream purse. Moreover – she won’t be making your item, someone else – who is not present in the shop – will. It’s a game of broken telephone, made all the more fun by the fact that English is their SECOND language. So be patient, and explain, explain, explain.
PLACE AN ORDER
* Walk the sales assistant through your item regardless of whether they are making a replica from one they have in the shop, or just your words. Specify every last detail: zippers, stitching, buttons, lining, pocket style. What color buttons? Zippers – metal? or plastic? Also, all the same zippers or different ones? What color? (Believe it or not, I got a purse with three different zippers – some metal, some plastic, and in different colors, the first time I came to pick up my order). How long is the strap on your bag? Is the strap made from leather? What color is the stitching? Do you want your pants lined? How about the pockets? Hidden buttons on the dress shirt? Should stitching match the item’s color, or contrast?
* Give yourself plenty of time in the store. Don’t place an order 20 minutes before you have to meet your husband somewhere. You need the time to chose fabric, and talk through all the details (as per above).
* If you have the time, order one or two pieces and then depending on how you like the items / working with the shop – place more orders or go elsewhere. I had a pair of pants made and it took four fittings before I liked what I saw. Then I ordered more.
* Be pushy. Every tailor we visited told us that the items they made looked nice on us from the get-go. Sometimes it was true, sometimes it was a boldface lie. It’s just what they say. Don’t get upset, just point out what you want changed, and what you don’t like. Remember you are paying to get clothes made to measure to your figure – that’s included in the cost.
* Be friendly. If you stick with one shop for your orders, chances are you’ll form a connection with the sales staff. Our ladies at Da Phuong Shop #50 – where we placed the largest order – invited us to lunch and fed us Cau Lao, the famous Hoi An dish. Sergey showed them a few apps on the smart phone to make their business easier. We became facebook friends. It was nice. )
Stay tuned for Hoi An Tailor Shop Guide – Part II – we’ll give a little fashion show with items we picked up in Hoi An from four different shops.