Must-read Earlier Installments:
- Singapore, Cathay, and Qantas First Class.. Some of the Best Meals of My Life, and a Tour of Hyatts in Bangkok, Singapore, and Sydney
- Inside the New Oneworld Lounge at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal
- Cathay Pacific First Class, Los Angeles – Hong Kong
- Cathay Pacific “The Wing” First Class Lounge, Hong Kong
- Cathay Pacific Business Class, Hong Kong – Bangkok
- Grand Hyatt Bangkok: Suite, Club Lounge, and Facilities
- Thai Molecular Gastronomy at Sra Bua in Bangkok
I love getting custom-made suits done in Southeast Asia. I’ve done it multiple times in Thailand. Labor is cheap, skill level is high, and competition is intense.
That translates into a great opportunity for consumers. But it isn’t as good an opportunity that many think it is.
- Tailor shops will make clothes for you in whatever time you have. But if you don’t have 4-5 days you probably aren’t really getting custom-made. Suits aren’t being properly made for you in a day.
- Suits are cheap but they aren’t dirt cheap if you want quality. Don’t buy a suit with shirt and tie thrown in for $99. It’s going to be a $99 suit, and more or less wastes your time getting it and the opportunity foregone for something better. Expect to pay for quality — while labor is cheap, good materials won’t necessarily be.
I’d expect to pay ~ $350 – $550 for a good quality suit in Thailand. Hong Kong will be more expensive.
On this trip I decided to try a shop I hadn’t been to, Empire Tailors at 124-126 Sukhumvit Between Soi 4 – 6 near the Nana Skytrain station.
<--more Continue reading to see how the process works, what to expect to pay, and what you want from the tailor..-->The biggest challenge is knowing where to go, whom to trust. Most of us aren’t experts in suits. And you can’t always trust recommendations — you don’t know who is writing online most of the time, the online review could be out of date, a hotel concierge could be getting something in return for the recommendation.
Empire is one of the more recommended tailors in Bangkok along with Tailor on Ten and Raja’s Fashions, but I hadn’t been. They’re also one of the pricier tailors — you can expect to pay 2500 baht for a shirt (!) and US$440 – $650 for a suit.
They have three tiers of fabrics that determine price. That’s the differentiator, since labor is going to be similar and you’re paying for the quality of the fabric (you don’t necessarily want the most expensive).
That also means you can expect more or less the same quality across the board. And they certainly do hand-stitching for their finish. But at $440 or even $650 you’re not getting the equivalent of a $5000 suit. You’re going to get a suit that would be a lot more expensive, but not 5x or 10x.
I went in for a first fitting on the first full day I was in Bangkok. That’s the opportunity to learn their pricing, th esee their materials, and get a feel for whether the shop is going to push a sale on you or work with you to understand your preferences and what you’re looking for.
Some shops are also big on negotiations. In addition to being expensive, Empire is pretty much fixed-price. I didn’t hear anyone haggling. In contrast, the last place I used in Phuket brought out a calculator and started playing with numbers, so I took the calculator and played with numbers too. We were just dueling back and forth with the calculator until we had a deal. They weren’t playing that game.
I was confident I’d get good quality, get good value for the money here compared to what I’d pay at home, but I wasn’t getting the very best price in town.
I picked out material for a couple of suits, and also for a sport jacket. I had them make an extra pair of pants for each of the two suits. And I also had them make a few shirts.
They took my measurements, and then had me come back about six hours later for the next fitting where I tried on the skeleton of the jackets and where they had one shirt already. For the shirt they had nailed it. The jacket needed adjustment.
I came in the next day and then two more evenings after that, tweaking things each time along the way until we had things perfect.
They took a 50% deposit with the first fitting, and then I paid the balance with my last fitting. Since there were still a minor changes to make I had them deliver the clothes to my hotel rather than coming back for them.
I liked the shirts I had made enough that I emailed them two ship me a few more. Like most tailor shops they’ll keep measurements on file and be able to replicate what they’ve done for you already.