I just returned from a trip to Thailand. My itinerary included a few days in Hua Hin and three nights in Bangkok.
This is about the day when I wanted to explore what types of suits can be made these days in Bangkok.
My adventure started with a Google search of the available options in Bangkok. The result was awesome. It seems that there are thousands of men’s tailors there. As I was staying in Sukumvit Soi 11, I decided to visit a few establishments in the vicinity.
I found a tailor near my hotel claiming to be a bespoke tailor and according to their website makes only half-canvas and full-canvas suits and they categorically mentioned that they don’t offer “fused-only” suits. I was very encouraged because we at Dapper also claim to be a bespoke tailor and our product range is also limited to half, and full canvas suits and no fused-only offerings. We found that this tailoring house has two outlets in Sukumvit. We selected the one closest to our hotel and it was within walking distance. Upon arriving we found (my son was also with me) two sales person at the shop. I asked them if they made full-canvas suits. In reply they started to fumble and it appeared to me that they did not know about suit canvassing. One of the sales person suggested that I should visit their main branch which was a few blocks away. On our way to the second outlet we found another “bespoke” tailor. We entered the shop again there were greeted two sales persons. Three/four clients at various stages of the ordering process was also there. I asked the sales person, what they meant by the term “bespoke” in the name of the shop. One sales person immediately explained that “bespoke” meant “custom”. Next, I asked him if their bespoke suits were full-canvas. He immediately answered, “yes, Of course.” When I wanted to see a bespoke suit made by them, they produced a suit that was hanging in a rack. Upon inspection, I found that it was a 100% fused suit. When I pointed out that the suit was 100% fused, the sales person vehemently protested and claimed that I was wrong and the suit was indeed full-canvas. At this stage I lost my temper a bit and commented, “don’t bullshit me.” Immediately I realized that the person I was talking to had no idea about canvas suit construction. When these exchanges were taking place, one of the customers—most likely from a East European country by his complexion and English—ventured to explain to me that a good suit needs woolen fabric and the lining is also important. The gentleman had no idea about suit construction but probably due to the brown color of my skin assumed he knew much better than me about suits! Anyway, I found no reason to respond to him and left the shop after thanking them. We proceeded to the second outlet of the first shop we visited. We arrived there after a while.
This was a larger shop with three sales people manning it. The eldest looked knowledgeable and we started a conversation. I wanted to know if they had a full-canvas suit offering. A sample suit was promptly produced. One side of the suit displayed the internal construction and indeed it was full-canvas. But I immediately realized that it for display purpose only because when I wanted to see a “real” suit, they could only show me fused-only suits. After a little prodding they confessed that there was no demand for “full-canvas” suits and they only made fused-only suits.
I had a secondary objective in visiting the tailoring houses. I wanted to know from where in Bangkok I could source horn buttons. I currently buy horn, leather, bone, mother of pearl, etc., button from Singapore and wanted to know if I could also get a second source in Bangkok. I was told that they actually did not know because they simply “ordered from their supplier” the required buttons. At this point I realized that these Tailoring Shops are all fake—they don’t have any workshop for making the suits and all the actual tailoring jobs are outsourced to third parties.
When I wanted to get introduced to the owner of the tailoring house, I was informed that he was visiting his customers in Europe in a process what is popularly known as “Trunk-show.”
Though with such a small sample it is probably not fair to make any comment about the tailoring standard in Thailand but remembering an adage in my mother tongue Bangla (Bengali) which says, “one need to test only a single grain of rice to know if all the rice in the pot has cooked,” it may be safe to comment that it’s very easy to get distracted by high-sounding vacuous terms such as bespoke and custom for the uninitiated.
I suspect the term “bespoke” is now a cliché having lost its original sartorial meaning.
(Note: I did not visit Narin Couture, which I understand is the only real bespoke tailor in Bangkok.)