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?