September 20-25, 2016
Arriving in Hoi An
An easy $40 flight from Ho Chi Minh City and an affordable $16 private car was all it took for us to arrive at our lovely homestay in Hoi An. Our enormous room was outfitted with a king bed, kitchenette, large seating area, and our own balcony overlooking a beautiful rice field--All for only $30/nt. We had initially planned on only 4 nights but after our first two days were eaten up by tailor shopping we tacked on an additional night.
Our guesthouse stocked our room with water and fruit for us to enjoy. The included breakfast was fabulous and they even provided us with free bikes during our stay.
Finding the Perfect Tailor in Hoi An
Back in 2009 I had a suit tailored for me here in Hoi An. The suit has served me well and has resulted in me getting dozens of compliments. I've worn it to weddings and dozens of job interviews. Now that I'm back in Hoi An, a bit older, a bit wiser, and a bit more 'well-off' my plan was to stock up on custom clothing once again. I did not, however, expect to spend 2 days looking for a tailor. Looking online you'll quickly read many personal accounts of traveler's experiences here in Hoi An. Over the last 8 years, since I was last in Hoi An, the number of tailors has swelled by over 300% (the latest source I read stated that there are more than 700 cloth shops). Tourism has brought with it higher prices and lower quality. However there are still some shops that offer very high quality tailoring.
It's important to do your research before setting foot into any tailor's shop. Figure out what you want and your budget. Do you care if the quality if not perfect. For the vast majority of people shopping here in Hoi An any of the tailors will suffice. However if you're itching for a perfect suit with full horse-hair canvas, blanket stitching, and all the other bells-and-whistles then it's up to you to ask the right questions.
I'll try to make a VERY long story much shorter: We went to the top 4 places (according to a a verity of of sources), Kimmy, A Dong, Yaly Coutaure, and Be Be. These 4 are well-known and very well-oiled machines. All 4 have their own in-house tailors. Expect to have your own personal consultant help you through your entire purchase. You will be given a stack of style books and some even provide you with iPads filled with their own designs. Although Yaly Coutaure is considered above all the rest, and priced accordingly, I found that all 4 shops to be comparable in quality and price. A Dong may have been a bit more expensive but it was probably because of their high quality fabric offerings. I had 1 sports coat made at Kimmy but the fabrics I liked for my suits were too expensive ($250/per) so I looked elsewhere for my other tailoring needs. However all shops quoted me that the typical range of suits was between $140 and $180. I have a feeling that they only offer a couple fabrics at this price range and once the customer is in the door the 'actual' prices creep up on you. My cashmere/wool sports coat set me back $115.
Some of the tailors will hold onto your measurements so that you can order more clothing online at a later date. I paid the deposit and then immediately scheduled 3 follow-up fitting appointments.
We also looked around at some cheaper shops that offered suits as low as $50, but most fell in the range of $70-$100.
With the help of some internet research I came across a Tailor called "Peace Tailor". It only had a fifth of the reviews as Kimmy, but it had a smaller proportion of of low reviews. However, with a rating of #4 of on Trip Advisor and after 4 visits to Peace Tailor I was set on using them for the remainder of my tailoring needs. During my first visit they made a point to point out the quality of their work-they use horse hair canvases--not the cheaper bonding techniques employed by many cheaper shops. Su, our lovely sales assistant, was a complete angel and went out of her way to make our experience perfect! You can read my attached TripAdvisor review below:
We ended up with:
- 2 x Suits (cashmere/wool navy + linen/cotton gray summer)
- 1 x Tweed Blazer (leather patches and leather accents)
- 13 x Shirts
- 4 x Chinos
- 3 x Cashmere/Wool Trousers
- 3 x Long Wool Coats
- 1 x Tweed Female Coat
- 2 x Silk Ties (gratis)
After a bulk order discount Su quoted we we negotiated a little to get the clothing a bit cheaper. After each fitting I was so amazed by the quality and how well the clothing fit that I kept ordering new clothes. On the last day I ordered an additional 7 shirts, 1 wool pea coat, and 1 pair of chinos. They will be ready 8 hours later. Wow! Between the $115 spent on the sports coat at Kimmy, the $1,070 spent at Peace Tailor, the 3% credit card fees, and the $130 seam mail + insurance we paid $1,370.
We rode our bikes in the city as well as on the outskirts of town through rice paddies. We saw women raking out mounds of rice as the heat of the sun dried it out. The central market was much less authentic than my previous trip, 8 years prior, and prices for fruit were 3 times what they should have been. The French influence very very prominent in the architecture and voluminous bakeries scattered around town.
Our lasting memories will surely be the conversations we had with Su, our tailor. We learned about how she only gets 2 days off a month and puts in 12-13 hour days, despite her having 2 young children at home. It appears that many women of Hoi An are the bread-makers of the family.