The Hoi An tailors

4 03 2010

We are now on our way to the city of Hue – home to the emperors and kings of the past – so we are back on the trip route, check on the right hand side of the blog.  Hoi An is behind us and we hope that all the clothes are on their way Hanoi-Paris-Reykjavík and will be waiting for us when we arrive at home on the first of May.

Below are some advice to those that might be going to Hoi An and what they can learn from our experience but first I’ll tell you what we got.

I ended up getting two suits, one in silk and one in cashmere wool, three cotton shirts and one silk to match the suit and one sport jacket (Thong Phi).  All that added up to just over $300 – the price I would pay for cheapest suit and shirt in H&M in Europe.  I was extremely happy with all of my items as all of them turned out great.  I just hope that the quality turns out to be as good and the clothes will last a while.

Elínborg got four dresses, a white cotton shirt and classic black trousers made.  She got one really sexy black cocktail dress that we both love :)  Very nicely fitted and the quality was decent after asking the tailor to fix a couple of things.

There was a gray everyday jersey dress with a hood.  The dress looked really nice but she had to have them redo some of the stitching so we’ll see how that one lasts.

The third was a yellow satin dress that turned out nicely, Elínborg is though thinking about shortening it back home but we’ll see.

The last dress was a silk gown that she found in a celeb magazine worn by the cheerleader in heroes.  That one didn’t turn out quite the way it was in the magazine so Elínborg isn’t happy with that one.  Maybe it looks better when she is all blinged up back home – I hope so.  On top of the dresses she got some classic black trousers and white shirt.  Both fitted perfectly and looked very nice.

Below is a review of the tailors that we used and advice to those that want to go to Hoi An and have some clothes made.  I hope this can be of some help.

  • Yaly (Tran Phu 47) – The best tailor we tried for sure.  Very professional and well managed.  The sales girls didn’t seem as enthusiastic to sell you stuff but they are very professional and give good advice on the whole process.  Quality is extremely important to Yaly and clothes are not shipped out unless everything is perfect.  They might be more expensive than some others but when we really dug into it we found them on the same level as most of the better ones
  • Phuoc An (Le Loi St. 6) – A very good tailor with very good quality.  I was extremely happy with my suite but unfortunately Elínborg was not happy with her dress.  The sales girls didn’t give her good advice on material but in the end we had no complains about the quality or the service.  We found them a bit too pricy but maybe we were just bummed that the dress didn’t turn out well.
  • Thong Phi (Le Loi St. 28) – A decent tailor all in all.  They were quite cheap and did quite well.  Everything fitted nicely but the quality and the finishing was lacking.  If you want things a bit cheaper we could recommend them but remember that by going cheaper you get less
  • Thu Linh I (Tran Phu 34) –  A decent tailor as well.  The sales girls there was very nice and Elínborg did one dress there for $20 and it turned out exactly as expected with a decent quality.  The only complain that we have is they over promised a bit on time so we had to come back in an hour but that can always happen.

So what did we learn from the whole process?  There are certainly a few things that we would address differently if we come again to Hoi An and also a few things that worked well for us.  Below are a couple of points:

  • Take your time – measuring cloths can be a lengthy process so don’t allot too little time.  If you want top quality it can take at least 3-4 days.  The more expensive ones take more time and in turn produce better quality.
  • Don’t tell them when you leave so that you can be in charge of controlling the process – not them.  You set deadlines, otherwise some of them might count on you being in a hurry at the end and forget or simply don’t have the time to make more changes or check the quality.
  • Negotiate the prices, ask around to know the going rate.  Asking the locals at your hotel might be a good idea.  There were mostly fixed prices at Yaly but still I got $35 off a suit by talking to different sales girls – they also have different branches so check there.
  • Ask for prices of cheaper materials, you might like them just as much or even better.
  • Better to sacrifice material quality than workmanship.  There is no fun in having a fancy silk dress that doesn’t hang together.
  • Be really precise in what you want both in the beginning and also during the later fitting sessions.  If you want to change something, even if it is different from what you had initially asked for, just ask them – there is no harm in asking.

We ended up dealing with four different tailors and my garments ended all out being great but Elínborg’s dresses were of varying quality.  If we were to repeat the process we would order everything through Yaly – no doubt.  They might cost a bit more than some of the others but you definitely also receive more in better service, better advice and a better end product.  The extra money is well worth it!

If any opinions change after we get home and start wearing the clothes I’ll update this post and let you guys know.

If you have any comments, questions or remarks – don’t hesitate to shoot.  English, German or Icelandic is fine :)

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UPDATE:  Now I’ve been at home for a while and have used all the clothes that I bought so I thought an update on the quality and usability could be helpful for people that are planning to have something made in Hoi An.

I can’t remember if I wrote about the shipping on the blog but we had everything shipped from Yaly.  The postman came there and took care of everything for us.  All the clothes arrived in perfect condition, everything was neatly packed and looked good when we came home.

So I’ve used some of the items that I bought quite a lot but others less.  The only complain I can really make regarding quality is the quality of the material in my black suite.  I though I was buying a good quality wool but when I compare them with my other suites it is obvious that the quality is not quite the same – not bad but not great either.

I’ve used my sport-jacket and my shirts a lot and everything has been just great, no loose stitching or a signs of poor workmanship.  I’ve used the silk suite a couple of times and it looks great, I use the jacket more and it’s really cool with jeans.  Same goes for the black suite, I’ve used it a few times and the jacket is also very cool with jeans.

My only regret now is not having more clothes done, especially casual everyday clothes like the sport-jacket.  If I would work in a suite all days I would also have liked to have a couple of plain and versatile suites made from the highest quality wool .  The suites that I had made are more for special occasions.

As for my wife, she has used the gray and the black dress quite a lot and is very happy with those.  The other two have not been used so far but I’m sure the yellow one will be used given the right occasion next summer – it’s perfect for a summer wedding or something like that.

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Hoi An sights

3 03 2010

Between fittings at the tailor shops we have tried to see the sights here in Hoi An.  As I said before this is a cozy little town with a lot of old houses that have been nicely restored.  The Old Town is a protected area so there are no new buildings there and the atmosphere is quite special.  There are both traditional old houses on display as well as museums, pagodas and assembly halls. 

We have been into a few of the old houses and even though nothing is quite spectacular, everything is very cozy and nice.  There is one thing worth mentioning that puts a big mark on the houses here.  Hoi An is build next to a big river so every year during the rainy season, there is a flood and the river grows enormously.  Therefore every house is on two floors so that people can move all the furniture and other stuff from the ground floor up to the second.  In most years the flood is modest and might not even get into the houses but in others the flood can be as much as two meters high up in the the houses on the river bank.

One evening we were eating at this restaurant when we were approached by a man called Mr. Phong.  He told us that he organized tours to his village that was near by and handed us a big book with references and great reviews from people that had joined him at the village.  We decided to visit him the following day.  In short the visit was fantastic!  It was great to see visit a proper Vietnamese village, even though he said that his village was above average in wealth, and to be able to talk to a local.  He went through the Vietnamese war from a Vietnamese perspective, talked about communism, he educated us on the religions of Vietnam and told us about the daily lives in the village.  All fascinating stuff to us

We went with him to a couple of families in the neighborhood and to the market and the looked at all produce of the village: tobacco, moonshine, fruits, vegetables, herbs, rice, pigs and so on.  When we got back to his house his wife had prepared a great big lunch for us including tuna in tomato paste, shrimp spring rolls, fried morning glory, melon soup and rice of course.  We would highly recommend Mr. Phong’s tour to anyone visiting Hoi An.

Mr. Phong’s full name is Nguyen Ba Phong and he can be reached at Quang Than Restaurant on the corner where Le Soi Street meets the river every evening between 18:00 and 21:00 if anyone is interested or by email at nguyenbaphongvn@gmail.com.  The whole tour, including lunch, was only $,10 if we got us to the village at our own cost, otherwise $15.

In the next blog I’ll tell you about the results from our visits to the tailors.





Hoi An – the tailoring capital

1 03 2010

Of two days of soaking up the sun in Nha Trang we took the night bus to Hoi An.  Hoi An is a really cute little town that is mostly famous for all the tailors that live and work in Hoi An.  We have heard that there are somewhere between 300 and 500 tailors here and you can’t really turn without hitting one of the many stores selling custom made or made to order clothes.  Most of the clothes are just copied from the celeb magazines or from department store catalogs.  As a spin-off there is also big shoe making industry developing in Hoi An that copies shoes for the customers.

We arrived just after six o’clock yesterday morning and wasted no time.  We quickly found our selves a hotel room close to the charming old town by the river and after a small breakfast we went on the lookout for tailor-made clothes.  We had done some research online regarding what we wanted but were complete novices on price and the quality of fabric and workmanship.  So we visited somewhere between twenty and thirty stores, all selling similar stuff from similar catalogs but the price varied greatly.  I was offered woolen suits with silk lining anywhere from $45 to $200 and dresses were available from $20 to $200 or more.  Now we had a big problem of where to go.

After lunch we did a bit of online research, reading reviews on Lonely Planet and from customers that had gone to Hoi An before – and now we felt ready to start negotiating.  Five hours later – after a lot of deciding, negotiating, fabric choosing, measuring and deposit paying – we stood with orders from four different tailors.  I bought a silk suite and a shirt from Yaly Couture ($120), another suit and shirt from Phuoc An Cloth Shop ($135) and a (Icelandic) summer jacket from Thong Phi ($40).  Elínborg bought three dresses, one silk dress from Phuoc An Cloth Shop ($60), one jersey dress from Thong Phi ($30) and one silk-satin from Thu Linh I ($20).

We are set for a second fitting for all the clothes today and are very excited to see how it all went.  Two of the firms seemed very professional and we are not worried about their part, more just excited to see how everything turned out, but the other two are more of a question mark.  I’ll keep you updated on how it all goes in the end but it is not uncommon that it takes two to four fittings to get everything exactly the way one wants it.

We have not seen any shoemaker that seems to be able to produce quality shoes that are worth the risk.  It seems just a better option to go to a shoe store and buy mass-produces shoes – at least here in Hoi An – but this could all change if we see something exciting.

Do you have any stories of tailor-made clothes?  Stories of horrible impulse buys?