Welcome to our 2008 YLF Hong Kong extravaganza! Birthday celebrations recently took us back to the world capital of stylish streetwear and we have lots to share. This is the first in a series of blog entries that we will do over the next couple of weeks.
Copying garments or having them custom-made is popular in Hong Kong. After growing up in the city and working with garment manufacturers in the heart of its rag trade, it’s odd that I had never done this before. While we were living in Hong Kong my late mother had all her frocks, suits and maternity wear custom-made. I remember her tailor visiting our home several times a season. They had a great relationship and understood each other perfectly, despite the fact that they had to communicate using sign language and broken English.
On our recent trip to Hong Kong I wanted to experience custom tailoring for myself. There are literally hundreds of tailors to choose from, but we eventually decided to try world renowned Sam’s Tailor in Tsim Sha Tsui. Sam’s has been in business for decades and has made suiting and formal attire for people like Bill Clinton, Kate Moss, Nelson Mandela and David Bowie. My goal was to base new garments on two of my existing pieces: I wanted to duplicate a retro H&M jacket in a better-end fabric, and I wanted to capture the exquisite fit of my classic Anne Fontaine button down shirt.
The tiny shop front is located on lively Nathan Road. It was bustling with tourists, at least ten attentive staff members and endless rolls of stacked fabric. The floor was filled with people being measured, picking fabric, fitting clothing and negotiating prices. Sam himself, who’s real name is Manu Melwani, was very charming.
Even though I was trying to capture the fit of existing garments, I too was re-measured after selecting my fabrics and agreeing on a price. Service was fast and I was in and out in twenty minutes. My first fitting for both items was scheduled for the next day. I was excited and a little apprehensive.
My new, fully lined jacket turned out beautifully. I was impressed with the speed and skill of the tailor. I chose a wool blend “Chanel-esque” false plain basket weave fabrication in black and cream. The fabric is a similar weight and texture to the original H&M jacket and this turned out to be a key ingredient in the success of the process. After a minor center-back waist adjustment, it was perfect. The monogrammed inside label is a nice touch.
Based on this experience I think that using a good Hong Kong tailor to reproduce the fit of an existing garment is fairly flop proof if you stay true to the style detailing and the fabrication of the original. Things go horribly wrong as soon as you get too clever. I found this out the hard way with a failed attempt to replicate the fit of my favourite Anne Fontaine shirt. More about that in part two tomorrow.