Monday, December 24, 2012

An interview with an old tailor

An interview with an old tailor
This was shared to me by a friend - a video interview of an old tailor and his experience. Rather interesting and speaks of a generation who has honed their skills in an honourable tradition of tailoring - a skill and profession that is gradually going the way of the dinosaurs in Singapore. RESPECT for the tailors.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Personal Experience with Modern Tailor

Review of Modern Tailor
This is a very detailed testimonial from a friend who have tried out Modern Tailor. Though it is quite long, I have decided to keep it in its current form so as to provide the juicy nitty gritty details that will be insightful. Will be useful for those who are curious about online tailoring. Enjoy!

Experience: I've placed 3-4 orders of 2 shirts each last year and paid slightly under US$100 per order.

Modern Tailor offers close to 2000 fabrics to choose from to tailor a shirt. They carry 100% cotton fabrics, along with fabrics that are a blend of cotton and polyester.

Pricing starts from US$39.99, excluding delivery. However, they do offer new customers to order one of 3 fabrics for US$19.99. excluding delivery, to try out their service. Also, if you buy 2 or more shirts, they will include a free tie and/or cufflinks and/or fabric swatch, depending on the number of shirts you buy.

They also have different fabrics on sale every week, and also sales on special occassions such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. The fabrics on sale can be discounted by as much as 40%. Also, the weekly sales do not just include the cheaper fabrics. Modern Tailor do occasionally put the more expensive fabrics (US$200 and above) on sale at deeply discounted prices.

The ordering process - choosing your design
Their website is easy to use, and very user-friendly. When you place an order, you start by choosing the fabric that you want, and it will take you through the process of choosing your collars, buttons etc.

If you'd like a specific customisation but they do not have the option in the ordering process, you can input what you'd like into the comments box at the end of the ordering process.

Upon receipt of your order, their customer service will contact you to firm up the details of the customisation that you're after, and also ask you if you have any pictures that can provide them reference (I've never actually tried this, but a lot of people on Styleforum were really impressed by this).

The ordering process - taking your measurements
Once you've done the above, you'd be prompted to input your measurements, which will be saved as a profile in your account for use in future orders. Modern Tailor provides a measurement guide on how to take the various measurements.

You have a choice of submitting your body measurements, or submit measurements from a shirt that you already have. They also give the option of sending the shirt to them for them to copy the measurements from, which would then be sent back to you along with your new Modern Tailor shirts.

Standard production and delivery is within 3 weeks of placing the order. Modern Tailor offers expedite production and expedite delivery where your shirt will be delivered to you in 8 business days. Note that expedite production and expedite shipping are separate. Meaning you can have standard production with expedited shipping or vice versa also. I've only had experience with standard production and delivery.

All but one of my orders came slightly over 2 weeks from my order. The last order came at exactly 3 weeks.

However, delivery can be expensive. Standard delivery is US$10 each for the first 2 shirts, and US$8 each for any subsequent shirts. Hence, there really isn't much incentive to consolidate your orders into 1 shipment. I would rather order 1-2 shirts at a go to ensure you get the measurements correct so that you can make adjustments for later orders.

Also, while standard shipping offers tracking, their shipping partner's website wasn't working when I placed my orders, and I could not track my orders. Modern Tailor has now introduced Air Mail (sans tracking) for US$7 per shirt (I have no experience with this).

Customer service
Customer service is excellent. They do not have a contact number to call, but they reply emails promptly. My emails to them were replied in hours, sometimes minutes. Also, their customer service will answer your questions clearly, unlike having model answers for a certain type of question.

Quality assurance
Modern Tailor publishes their tolerance for error on their website, such as for the collars and cuffs, the product has to be within 0.5cm of total circumference. If any of the measurements on the finished product is not within the allowance, you can take photos of the product and a measuring tape to show the difference and send it to their customer service. If the measurements on the finished product is indeed off, Modern Tailor will offer to either remake your order for you free of charge, or give you a voucher code for 20% off on your next order. They do not require you to mail back the "botched" shirts. One of my orders was slightly outside the allowance and I had the shirts remade. The other orders had no issues with them.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mid-market tailors: Bringing tailoring to the masses

Mid-market tailors: Bringing tailoring to the masses

Oxford Tailor
Situated in One Raffles Place, known previously as OUB Centre, Oxford is helmed by Alex who have been running the business for more than a decade. The Raffles Place office crowd is his main clientele and his shop is always busy with customers, a testimony to his popularity. Prices start at S$80.

Located in Peninsular Plaza, Personality is run by a mother-and-daughter team that has managed to secure a following among the young working adults. Reviews have however been mixed, perhaps because the high volumes make it hard to control quality. Prices start at $70.

Men's Tradition
Also in Peninsular Plaza, Men's Tradition has similarly garnered a following among the young working adult. Located next to the escalator, the storefront is highly visible. Reviews again are mixed, with some reviews on a popular local forum making allegations of salesmanship overshadowing quality. Prices start at S$70.

Sze Sze Tailor
Popular with undergraduates, the shop is located at #02-12 Hong Lim Complex. The shop has been in business for decades and have built a certain reputation. Prices start at S$70

A new kid on the block, Marcella was started in 2010. Aggressive with low priced promotions during their initial entry into the industry, pricing has now reverted back to the S$70+ range for their basic tailoring options. The brand has also since expanded across Singapore with outlets at Harbourfront, Cathay, Marina Square and Tampines and into other product ranges such as accessories.

Production is done out of China.

Located in Wilkie Edge, off Selegie Road, Reizo is also another relatively new entrant into the tailoring space. Adopting a slow and steady approach, the brand has slowly grown its following with quality work. Prices start at S$70+.

Maximizing the paycheck: Discount tailors

Maximizing the paycheck: Discount tailors

Grand City
Located at 52 Ubi Ave 3, #04-38, Grand City operates out of an industrial building. Pricing is one of the lowest in Singapore at S$50. As a subcontractor for a number of tailor shops, the quality is generally not an issue.

Lai En
Located at Block 2, Defu Lane 10, #02-531, Lai En is similarly a subcontractor for a number of tailor shops. Nearest MRT will be Kovan. Quality is acceptable and prices start at S$60.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shopping with the rich - Upscale tailors

Shopping with the rich

Upscale Tailors
Upscale tailors offer premium service at premium prices and can be found in the city area and the business district. The shops carry higher quality fabric generally and prices for shirts will normally cost close to S$150.

Located at both Boat Quay and TripleOne Somerset, Clothesmith was set up in 2008, specialising in custom-made menswear and image consulting. New customers will typically go through a detailed profile analysis and recommendations will be made on that basis.

One of the oldest, if not the oldest, tailoring brand in Singapore, CYC has built a strong following across the years. Most famous for being the provider of shirts to ministers of Singapore's parliament. Relatively convenient locations with multiple shops in both the city and business district.

Located in Tanglin Mall, Justmen's has a strong clientele base, including some of the top honcos in Singapore.

Located in Far East Plaza, Kingsmen is affiliated to Justmen's through blood ties. The positioning for Kingsmen is similarly high-end but caters to a younger crowd, thanks to the involvement of the younger third generation in the business.

Raffles Tailor
Located in Marina Bay Financial Centre, Raffles Tailor has an international clientele and a long list of awards to showcase its expertise and workmanship. The shop is well staffed and you would be able to get quite personalised attention on most times of the day.

Located in Millenia Walk and Chevron House, Rossi as a brand is Italian inspired and holds a wide range of European fabric. Anedoctelly, some Rossi clients actually fly in just to tailor with Rossi. Workmanship could however be improved, in my view. 

* The writer is looking to hear from readers on their experience with these tailors and will like to include the feedback in an update of this post or subsequent posts. So please pen your thoughts in the comment box below!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

7 ways to get those fitting clothes!

7 ways to get those fitting clothes!

#1: Leave it to the experts  Go tailor!
The most convenient option is to go visit a conventional tailor shop. There are four major tailoring hubs in Singapore

- CBD area: Raffles Place, Tanjong Pagar (One Raffles Place, Boat Quay, Int'l Plaza, etc)
- Peninsular Plaza
- Chinatown (Pearl Centre, People's Park Complex, People's Park Centre, etc)
- General Orchard area (e.g. Orchard Tower, Orchard Plaza, Far East Plaza, etc).

Most shops in Peninsular Plaza and the Chinatown area cater to the mass market with relatively affordable pricing. On the other hand, the shops in CBD may be slightly more expensive but offer greater convenience to the office crowd in the vicnity.

The shops in the general Orchard area caters primarily to the tourist crowd, promising turnaround of 24 - 72 hours. As with all tourist places across the world, the prices vary from client to client. Those who are keen to hone their bargaining skills can try their luck there.

#2: Straight to the source  Go direct
The unspoken secret in the industry is that most of the shops outsourced their production to a few major production centres. These centres are found in industrial estates. Examples include Grand City and Lai En which are found in Ubi and Defu Lane respectively.

Price conscious consumers can get a lower pricing at these places. The trade off, however, is that the locations tend to be less accessible. Making multiple trips can be very time consuming and the cost of your time and travelling may offset the price savings.

#3: Room service Door-to-door tailoring service
Door to door tailoring service offers the highest level of convenience and personalised service. If going direct is on the extreme end of inconvenience, door-to-door tailoring service offered by a few niche providers, is on the other end of the spectrum.

White Label and Black Label (two different firms) offer such personalised, door to door service. Meeting with the tailors are typically on an appointment-basis only.

#4: DIY  Online tailoring
There are a number of online tailoring sites where you can get your tailoring fix without leaving your seat. More popular names include Modern Tailor, IndoChino and Blank Label.

These sites tend to have their production based out of China and Thailand, which allow them to offer lower prices to consumers.

The lower price is also achieved by "outsourcing" the "measurement taking" to consumers like you and I. Though clear instructions are given, there is the risk that you may take the measurements wrongly and end up with clothes that do not fit. Thankfully, there is often a return policy, though making returns still remain a hassle.

#5: Make it fit  Alteration
For those who have a near-average body shape (average as decided by clothing brands), it is possible to get a better deal by buying clothes off the rack and altering it to fit your body shape. Clothing brands which offer an Asian cut includes Uniqlo and G2000.

However, note that certain things can't be altered or are too costly to do so. This include areas like the collar and the shoulder. Hence, always get the collar and shoulder right, as the other areas are more alterable.

If you have multiple parts which require altering, it is probably going to be a more costly affair than tailoring it from scratch. It is also possible that the shirt is sewn in a way that makes it hard to alter. As such, don't assume that all clothes are alterable or are cost effective for alteration.

#6: BYOF  Bring your own fabric
For those who are more adventurous, you can go source for your own fabric in fabric centres such as People's Park Complex and Textile Centre. You can then bring the fabric to a local tailor shop or at a at-home seamstress to sew it up.

The advantage is that you are not restricted by the fabric selection found in any one given shop and it is a rather creative process for those who enjoy the thrill of putting something together from nothing. However, the cost savings is likely to be minimal.

#7: Tailoring Tourism – Go overseas
There a number of places where you can get a cheap tailoring fix overseas. Major destinations are China (e.g. Shanghai), Thailand and Vietnam. Prices are significantly lower by at least 30%.

However, lower prices come at a cost. For instance, you have to schedule your trip around the tailoring as you will have to make 2 to 3 trips back to get the clothes done right. If you are in a rush for time, you may not have sufficient chance to make the necessary alterations and thus end up with clothes you would not wear. Lastly, the fabric is generally of lower quality.

5 things to consider when choosing your tailor

5 things to consider when choosing your tailor
#1: Pricing pay for a mix of convenience, service, workmanship and fabric
Overall, what you pay for is a mix of convenience, service/advice, workmanship quality and fabric selection.

A price conscious consumer can get his/her tailoring fix from factories found in industrial estates. However, to get the lower price, he/she trades away rather important intangibles such as service and convenience that one might get at a conventional tailor shop.
#2: Convenience  don't ignore its importance
A key difference between the different available options is convenience.

Tailoring is a rather time-consuming process. If you are unlucky, you would need 3, 4 trips to the tailor before you get it right. Hence, the cost of your time and the cost of travelling could easily outweigh any price savings.

The importance of convenience cannot be overstated. Imagine having to travel to an industrial estate like Ubi, not once, not twice but three or four times – a time consuming process to say the least.
#3: Advice/Personalised Service strike a balance between price and service
Value for money is key. Striking a balance between price and service/advice is important.

Personalised service and advice is pretty much thrown out of the window if you go get your fix from the factories. Their low price strategy is often reliant on achieving high volumes, which mean lesser attention for each customer.

Those seeking more personalized service can get that in traditional tailor shops. $80 - $100 is a rather reasonable price for good advice, in my view. You don’t necessarily need to pay a king's ransom (e.g. S$150) for good advice.
#4: Quality of workmanship  focus on quality control of tailor 
The unspoken secret in the industry is that most of the shops outsourced their production to a few major production centres, with some sending work to seamstresses who work at home.

I would imagine that the initial reaction to outsourcing is negative and perceived to be of lower quality. However, I beg to differ.

The crux of the matter is quality control. It is the responsibility of the tailor to ensure that the product comes out right. This is regardless of whether it is done in-house or outsourced. Tailors who pay attention to details, (and you can feel/see when interacting with them), tend to be better at QC.

#5: Fabric Selection don't worry about choice but worry about misrepresentation
Don't worry about choice. Most shops have at least 300 well differentiated fabrics to choose from. Those looking for more options can go to fabric centres such as People's Park and Textile Centre to source for their own fabric and bring it to any tailor shop or at-home seamstress for it to be sewn.

For those looking to pamper themselves, the higher priced shops, especially the more established ones, tend to offer better fabrics (European imports) which may not be available at your mid-market tailors.

For the price conscious, be aware that low prices may sometimes be achieved by offering lower quality fabric such as 100% polyester type being misrepresented as 100% cotton. Your clothes might come cheap but you won't find yourself wearing it much.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rules of Engagement: 10 DON’Ts

Rules of Engagement: 10 DON’Ts
There are 10 DON'Ts in engaging with your tailor. Know this well and it will aid you in good stead for the rest of your tailoring life.

#1: Golden rule – Don’t think your tailor is a mind reader
It is ALWAYS better to bring a sample of a fitting shirt/pants on your first visit. Tailoring is an art, not a science. Even the most experienced tailor can't read your mind on the exact fit you like.

#2: Choosing a tailor – Don’t be a scrooge
Advice, in my view, is something worth paying a premium for. You don’t want to save a few bucks but end up with a fugly shirt that you won’t wear. It doesn't mean you have to pay S$150 to get good advice. But if you don’t pay, you won’t be getting any. Value for money is key.

#3: Expectations of tailor – Don’t accept mediocrity
A top-notch tailor should be able to entertain the bulk of your requests and also explain why it isn't a good idea for you, in my view. If you are paying, your requests should be entertained, as long as it is do-able (not everything is) and reasonable.

#4: Expectations of you – Don’t be an ***hole
You have to play your part too - be nice and not nit-pick to the nth degree! Tailors are skilled professionals, after having clocked countless hours picking up the trade, and they deserve respect for their work.

#5: Customization – Don’t believe in free lunches
Common sense dictates that the more customization you add (e.g. contrast collar), the harder it is to do and the more it would cost. There's no free lunch in the world. If it doesn't cost more, that means the tailor may be short-changing you in other areas to make up for the higher cost.

#6: Placing orders – Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
The safest strategy is to start with one item, so as to try out the quality without spending too much. Don’t tailor all your shirts from 1 shop right from the get-go if it is your first interaction with them.

#6: Delivery time – Don't rush the job
Give your tailor more time. Some tailors might promise you a 24 - 72hr turnaround time. Though doable, the problem is that quality might be compromised. Delivery time of 2 - 3 weeks is the norm.

#8: Price negotiation – Don’t think bulk purchase = group purchase
If you order in bulk (e.g. 5 items), you will typically be eligible for a bulk discount. But group buying - e.g. 5 people buying 1 piece each - would not typically get you any as it doesn't make the tailor's work easier. However, if you are purchasing in group of >30, a lower price should be negotiable.

#9: Getting measured – Don’t be unnatural
When getting measured, stand at ease. Do not deliberately puff your chest out or hold your breath. That is unless you can stand wearing clothes based on those sets of measurement for the whole day.

#10: Alteration – Don’t accept a lousy product
If it is not what you want, ask for it to be altered. It is your right. If they don’t, you can choose to walk away. You may have to forgo your deposit, though you should always try to get it back.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

About this Guide

About this Guide
Unlike the fashion brands that fill the malls of Singapore, there are few brand names in Singapore's tailoring space. Finding someone reliable is not exactly easy. This site is meant to to solve that problem by showcasing the more credible names in the marketplace.

The guide is a summary of my research and experience in the tailoring industry. I have explored the various alternatives and have even tried my hand in the tailoring business . I hope that my experience will be helpful in your quest for better looking, better fitting clothes.

My story
I started my adventure in the tailoring space 2 years ago.

Not an average S/M/L fit as dictated by the fashion brands of the world, I discovered tailoring as a feasible alternative. Not only does it cut short the tedious shopping process - trying to find something that both fits and looks nice - it is affordable as well.

As an ever-curious and enterprising individual, I got myself acquinted with various parties across the supply chain in Singapore.

And as the story goes, I eventually ventured into the business - a door-to-door tailoring service serving both friends and friends of friends.

My journey has been fruitful and has now brought me to write this guide which I will like to share with those who are i) new to tailoring, ii) looking for alternative tailors.