April 30, 2011

Perfect Little Shirt

TFS

Over a year ago I came across the perfect white/ivory silk shirt that I couldn't stop thinking about. I have been endlessly searching for something similar ever since. The shirt drapes over the body ever so slightly. It's blousy, but not baggy. There is something about a silk shirt that is refined and sensual. Most importantly, the fabric is a heavy weight that allows for discrete coverage. My searches for silk shirts always ended in disappointment. 

The silk shirt offerings are always too sheer, too shiny or laden with awkward pockets. So rather than settle (I never settle), I saved this picture in my inspiration folder. Upon confirming my travel plans to Hong Kong my mind quickly turned (to be honest it raced) to having this shirt custom made. No trip to Hong Kong is complete without having a few bespoke items made. Hong Kong is known for having many of the world's best tailors. If you have ever owned a custom-made garment, you understand the joy of clothes crafted to fit your every measurement. Having arrived in Hong Kong on a Friday evening I was ready to hit the ground Monday morning. 

Soong Salon De Mode came highly recommended within the industry as an established tailor skilled at crafting garments from a picture. En route to Soong Salon De Mode I passed countless "24-hour tailors" and shop owners asking if I wanted a dress, suit or the shoes I was wearing copied. I was determined to find Soong Salon De Mode. I was instantly put at ease by Philip Cheng, who runs the business and gave me copies of Gap Press to read. I examined the craftsmanship of items awaiting pickup and could see that Philip and his team are talented. I also made sure to confirm that one tailor would be working with me throughout the entire process. For consistency purposes it is best if one tailor oversees the entire process. There were a couple of completed jackets that could have passed for Chanel. Confident that Philip could design my shirt I pulled out a copy of my inspiration image and explained my requirements. We talked about how I envisioned the sleeve, cuff and bottom of the shirt, fit and the weight of the fabric. Philip made a quick sketch of what my shirt would look like. We then turned our attention to fabric. We pulled all of the silk fabric in stock and decided on a heavy momme weight. The hardest decision I had to make was deciding upon the right color white or ivory. There were just so many different shades to consider.



It was then time for my measurements. Meticulous measuring is the mark of superior craftsmanship. We scheduled my first fitting for Wednesday morning. Two days later at my fitting I got a preview of my shirt. One side of the shirt was completed. I tried on the shirt to confirm that the length allowed me to wear it tucked in or out, the shoulders fit and sleeve length was perfect. Philip and his assistant carefully took many measurements again.  The delivery date for my shirts (I had more than one made) was set for Friday pending everything going well at my second fitting. Two fittings was more than sufficient. This shirt is PERFECTION. My shoulders are narrow and pointy, which Philip explained made getting the shoulders to fit perfectly an arduous task. The shirt is sporty with a touch of old Hollywood glamour. A feminine and elegant alternative to my more traditional button downs. My measurements, fabric swatches, sketches and inspiration image are saved under my customer record. Ordering another shirt is as simple as sending an email. 



What was most impressive was the craftsmanship, workmanship and sheer pride that everyone at Soong Salon De Mode has in their work. Tailors in Hong Kong are classically trained and best known for men's tailoring and garments with structure. Pictures just don't do this shirt justice. I would highly recommend a visit to Soong Salon De Mode. If you live in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago or New York, then you are in luck. Philip and Jack Chui are on a business tour during the month of May. Please email me if you are interested in scheduling an appointment. 



A FEW TAILORING TIPS:

* You get what you pay for. Assume that workmanship and fabric will match the price. As soon as you arrive in Hong Kong, visit established tailors and compare craftsmanship and price. 

* Be decisive about what you want. Bring samples- a favorite piece of clothing (I also had two of my favorite pairs of pants copied), sketches or photos. The clearer your  vision, the simpler the entire process will be. Hong Kong is best known for menswear or classic structured garments. Straying from this aesthetic could lead to disappointment. 

* Ask if the work is bespoke (made from scratch) or made-to-measure (based on existing patterns but handmade according to your measurements.

* Carefully consider fabrics. For me this was the most time consuming aspect of the process. You're getting a great deal on the workmanship, so it is worth it to consider splurging on a luxe fabric. Examine fabric on a large scale, as small swatches can be deceiving. When having an item copied, always choose a fabric similar to the original. 

* Be patient while your measurements are being taken. Try to stand as you normally would for the most accurate measurements.

* Be prepared to place a deposit on your piece. Your receipt should detail price, fabric (it should include a swatch), style, fitting schedule and production schedule.  

* There should be at least two fittings. The first for major alterations. Subsequent fittings are for small adjustments. That being said, you shouldn't settle for anything short of PERFECTION. Keep sending your item back until it is right. Bring the proper undergarments, shoes, etc to your fitting, so your tailor can get a true sense of how things will fit. Scrutinize every detail.

* Give your tailor at least a week turnaround time. 

* Enjoy the collaboration process.

27 comments:

  1. I'm so jealous of you! I miss Hong Kong.

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  2. What a gorgeous shirt! I totally see what you mean - getting things custom-made is one of the pleasures of living in India too.

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  3. Great post! Thanks for the info.
    I'm getting a black miniskirt handmade. I have my first fitting tomorrow! I'm very curious to see the result. ;)

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  4. Joy- Are you planning a trip any time soon? You should!

    Ammu- Thank you! I have heard wonderful things about the craftsmanship of custom made clothing in India. I would love to see pictures of garments you have had custom-made.

    Heart in a cage- Thank you! Let me know how your fitting goes. A black miniskirt is such a versatile item. It makes so much sense to have it custom-made. I've been looking for one to replace a Theory one that I wore to death.

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  5. This is a great review of the custom tailor process. There are tailors all through China who do a great job. It seems like the majority of tailors in smaller cities specialize in qipaos--which, though glamorized by Wong Kar Wai films, are really not my cup of tea. It would be really interesting to get something custom made while abroad, though I'm wary of buying clothes abroad. A lot of times, the lack of AC and the climate makes a certain type of clothing seem attractive but then you get back to the States and realize silk doesn't keep you warm enough in sub arctic office cubicles. I find that I always buy one or two light pieces in China, but never wear them in America with all the air conditioning!

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  6. 0000- Thank you! I would highly recommend having clothing custom made in Hong Kong. The tailors I worked with were use to taking on very important commissions from all over the world. I had a fun time stealing a peek at the customer records;)

    Hong Kong is really heavily air conditioned, so I found that both of the tailors I worked with were very skilled when it came to selecting fabrics that could work in a variety of seasons. That being said, I already had my mind set on a high momme weight that provides warmth against the freezing AC. I came into the custom tailor process with specific numbers in mind with respect to the grade of silk. The quality of the fabric is the most important part.

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  7. so jealous! i was in Singapore recently but alas no time to visit tailors. that shirt really is amazing, you lucky thing.

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  8. I mostly just get sari blouses custom made, but have had the occasional dress or top copied. One of the wonderful aspects of life here is the access to designers, since there are so many talented young designers, who will customise clothing for you, without your having to pay anything over retail prices. I have had Indian cowl trousers made at a wonderful store in Bombay - Bombay Electric. And got a stunning skirt at another shop, Bungalow Eight, which the designer kindly agreed to shorten so it fit better. It spoils you, especially when so many stores in the west balk at making any alteration beyond hemming trousers.

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  9. La Fille mal Gardée- Thank you for the compliment. You are too funny! I hope you had a great time in Singapore. Fitting in a visit to the tailor can when away can be tricky.

    Ammu- Sari blouses sound beautiful. In my experience having items that I wear constantly copied is so worthwhile. It's great that you have access to young designers. It makes me happy to see organizations like the CFDA supporting young design talent. That's amazing that designers will customize clothing for you without adding a hefty charge. You're exactly right- custom clothing spoils you. In the west anything other than hemming is a big operation.

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  10. I've always found the sheer number of tailors in HK too bewildering to try, so your post is great help. I had that exact same picture saved as well - I know exactly what you mean by awkward pockets; I would prefer none at all. I also hate shirts that too sheer - some days are too hot for layering tanks underneath.

    In the end, I bought a Sykes Silk one in the end that was exactly what I wanted in fit, but I was disappointed in the quality - I bought it online. It wouldn't have been worth its original price but I got at 50% off.

    In any case, your shirt looks great!

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  11. Lin- Thanks! The number of tailors in HK is overwhelming. There is also a great disparity in the quality. The next time you are in HK email me and I will send you a list of really good tailors.

    That's very disappointing that your Sykes shirt didn't work out. I feel like I've tried all the likely sources, but nothing fulfilled all of my requirements.

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  12. Amazing!! What is the pricing like?

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  13. Anonymous- Thank you! Very good question. Prices vary drastically. My shirts ended up being a little over $200 USD per shirt. The fabric that I selected was expensive. I received a discount for placing more than one order. Soong Salon De Mode is on the higher side price wise.

    In NY I would have been looking at spending 3-4 times this. Also, I wouldn't have gotten the detail or craftsmanship- the billowy sleeves or the pleats.

    I had pants copied at another tailor shop that specializes in copying clothing you already have. This tailor was priced on the moderate-high side for HK. The pants ended up being 107 USD a pair, which was such a steal considering what I paid for the originals.

    Does this help? Please feel free to email me if you're planing a trip and need suggestions:)

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  14. What a fabulous post! I plan to visit my sister next year in Hong Kong and get a few uniforms made. Your suggestions are very helpful. I've always wanted an Isabel Marant boucle jacket but find the quality of her clothes rather cheap, especially for what she's charging! Now you've inspired me to find an image of my dream jacket to have copied with the best quality fabric and craftsmanship.

    Thanks for the tips!

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  15. Wendy Wong- Thank you. It will be really nice to visit your sister and have a few garments made. There are a few items that I would like to have made when Philip comes to New York- mainly a pair of black Crepe de chine shorts and linen pants that are properly lined.

    I love the look of the Isabel Marant boucle jacket. I love anything boucle! Fabrics and craftsmanship are so important. One would think that there would be more of a correlation between quality and price, but there are so many designers selling really poorly made garments at astronomical prices. Not to mention the fact that we all have purchased items that weren't exactly right. There truly is nothing like having an item made specifically for you. It would be amazing to have a boucle jacket made.

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  16. I wish custom clothing was more accessible to me. I can find a capable seamstress well enough, but then comes the issue of sourcing the fabrics. Your blouse looks lovely, and ou the idea of custom boucle jackets has me salivating.

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  17. Prêt à Porter P- I hear you. Custom clothing is such an indulgence. Not to mention sourcing the fabrics- that's the hardest part, but so worth it when you travel.

    I'm loving the blouses I had made. It was raining and chilly all week, but I loved it because it was perfect weather for a long sleeved blouse.

    Now I have custom boucle jackets in my head. Boucle is one of my favorite fabrics, but I'm particular about how it starts to get "fuzzy" for lack of a better word. If I could take the design of a jacket I like, but with a higher quality fabric that would be perfection.

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  18. Thanks so much for sharing! Your blouse is lovely. Hope you don't mind me asking, but what was the silk grade of your blouse? I'm clueless when it comes to silk grading!

    p.s: LOVE your Blog!

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  19. I am seriously looking for some custom trousers BUT I can' go to HK for that, can't afford it for now.
    Do you know by any chance any tips or bits of informations about good "on mone tailors" to copy some trousers I already own? I wouldn't like to make any mistake especially as I am looking for the best solution, not a failure of a trouser.
    Many thanks for your answer if any.

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  20. Anonymous- Thank you! There's a great article here on silk grading here- http://www.linartdesigns.com/linartdesignsfashion/id69.html

    I ended up going with a 16 mm weight. It's a nice weight that can be worn throughout the year. I also liked that it wasn't too sheer, but still draped really beautifully.

    All of the silks that I saw at my tailor were really excellent quality regardless of weight.

    eveange66- Might I ask where you are located? Depending on where you are I may have suggestions.

    When in doubt I recommend inquiring about tailors and cobblers at a reputable department store near you. They should be able to refer you to someone talented.

    Copying an item shouldn't be terribly difficult. I would recommend that you copy the trousers in a similar fabric of the same weight. I also find that having a tailor who takes extremely precise measurements is half the battle. They really should take a lot of measurements to ensure you have the perfect fit.

    Please feel free to reach out to me via email.

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  21. Thanks for sharing this Lindsay, I've bookmarked this for when I'm next in Hong Kong!

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    1. Vanisha @ Vanishas Life In...Australia- You should definitely try them when you're in Hong Kong. So sweet, humble and talented. I'm hoping to stopover in Hong Kong in February on my way back from the South Pacific.

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  22. Thank you so much for this post. It's a gorgeous blouse!

    I'm going to HK next week and am would like to get some shirts copied. Would it be possible to get the details of the tailor you went to who did your trousers? Many thanks!

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    1. Teresa Green- Thanks Teresa!

      Have a lovely time in Hong Kong! I LOVE Soong Salon De Mode and Ying Tai for tailoring. Both work with such gorgeous fabrics and are so talented.

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  23. I've been looking for a place to get silk blouses custom made. I have this post bookmarked for when I visit HK!

    Thanks for writing up your experience with Soong Salon De Mode!

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    1. Tailor Made- I'm so happy that you found this post useful.

      I adore silk blouses and find them indispensable in my wardrobe. Soong Salon De Mode is one of my favorite tailors to work with, they are so good at listening to what you want. i hope you have the opportunity to work with them too.

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    2. I can't believe I commented on this over a year ago! I'm actually headed to HK in December and would love to get your recommendations on where to get things custom made. Expect an email inquiry soon!

      Thanks in advance!

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