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.