Usually when people talk about bespoke suits, Europe, especially England, Italy and sometimes France are the first to come up in conversation. Some might mention the few bespoke tailors left in the US and then finally, last but not least, Hong Kong is infamous among many tourists for its “bespoke” suits. For some reason, the former Crown Colony managed to establish itself as a bespoke destination.
During my last extended trip to China, I had to find out whether this was simply a myth or a substantiated claim, and hence I stayed several days in Hong Kong.
The city – or better yet metropolis – is really fascinating! The mix of western culture and Chinese influences especially makes for a very exciting environment.
The following article is dedicated entirely to bespoke (custom) tailoring in Hong Kong. While I was visiting the city, I had the chance to visit several tailors in their shops and I was also able to talk in depth to quite a few of them. As a veteran of bespoke clothing market, I was able to get an idea of the general level of bespoke tailoring in Hong Kong.
Basically, the tailors I visited all belonged to one of two categories. On the one hand, there are many tailors who acquire their clientele on the street and advertise quick turnaround times for little money. I would also rate tailors with a showroom in hotels in this category.
Hands down, there must be hundreds, maybe thousands, of tailors of that kind in Hong Kong and most of the time, the prices are so low that you cannot expect a true, handmade bespoke quality garment.
On the other hand, there is W.W. Chan – a bespoke tailor shop that definitely focuses on the premium market in Hong Kong.
The History of WW Chan
WW Chan graduated from The Shanghai Cutting and Tailoring College with first honors in 1943. In Shanghai, Chinese tailors created a unique style incorporating elements from British, American, Japanese and other countries. This later became known as the Red Gang, of which WW Chan belonged. In 1948 WW Chan moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong where he worked as a tailor. In 1982 his son Peter Chan took over the business, and ever since 2003 Patrick Chu is the general manager of WW Chan.
W.W. CHAN & SONS TAILOR LTD. – the Bespoke Tailor in Hong Kong
The difference between W.W. Chan and the other bespoke tailors becomes obvious when looking at their client acquisition. The bespoke tailoring shop on Nathan Road is unimposing. You cannot see any ads on the outside and passing tourists are not stalked by a sales person who offers “authentic bespoke suits”. Only when you enter Burlington House and walk down the aisle can you see a small, unpretentious sign that guides you to W.W. Chan’s bespoke tailor shop.
Once you step inside the door, it almost feels like you are in a different world all of a sudden. After I was greeted friendly and discreetly, I was guided to the Salon, with its sophisticated Mahogany shelves full of cloth from the likes of Scabal, Loro Piana, Holland & Sherry, and Zegna, among others.
Every cloth is authentic and as far as I could tell, they only offered the best fabrics from the best European weavers and mills. After I asked the friendly sales person a number of in depth questions, he recognized immediately that it was better for me to talk to someone else. Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to Mr. Patrick Wa Miu Chu, the general manager of W.W. Chan.
In perfect English, he answered my questions and explained to me the details of a W.W. Chan bespoke garment.
The Details of a W.W. Chan Bespoke Suit
First, at WW Chan the customer is king and as such, it is the utmost goal to fulfill the clients wishes. Second, they only use the high quality inputs and only tailor the best fabrics from Italy and Great Britain.
WW Chan’s House Style includes a small amount of shoulder padding, as well as a soft and clean bespoke look. The chest canvas is padded by machine whereas the lapels are padded entirely by hand while the area around the shoulder is reinforced. Overall, the level of workmanship is absolutely comparable to many European tailors.
Every suit, every sportscoat, every topcoat etc. is (mostly) handtailored on the premises. Moreover,W.W. Chan offers bespoke shirts which are also sewn in their tailor shop using Albini cloth and other comparable qualities.
In comparison to the level of bespoke craftsmanship at W.W. Chan, many Hong Kong tailors simply take the customer’s measurements and forward them to a large production facility in mainland China, where a (semi)industrial suit is produced. Once it is done, it is sent back to Hong Kong, where only minor adjustments will be made.
At WW Chan, each client receives his individual paper pattern, the fabric is cut by hand, the canvas is mostly hand-padded, the pick stitching is very neat and the horn buttons are of good quality. Apart from that, a WW Chan suits fulfills all the requirements of a true bespoke suit.
The final workmanship is definitely on par with most bespoke garments of European origins. For Americans or Europeans, WW Chan’s prices are rather attractive though for Hong Kong, they are definitely at the upper end of the price scale.
The Price & Availability of W.W. Chan Bespoke Garments
A two piece W.W. Chan bespoke suit tailored from high quality Zegna fabric will set you back about HK$ 12,000 (about $1,550). This is considerably less expensive than a bespoke garment from an American tailor or from Savile Row, but it obviously includes the need to travel to Hong Kong. Please bear in mind, that WW Chan does not work with the customer’s own fabric but considering there are probably thousands of fabrics available, I am positive you will find something you like.
A bespoke suit from some of the lower end tailor shops begins at HK$ 500. Obviously, there is a huge difference between a true bespoke garment and a imitator-bespoke –suit, so don’t fool yourself – good quality has its price.
It usually takes WW Chan about 9 days to tailor a suit – including fittings. If you are considering a bespoke suit from WW Chan while in Hong Kong, you should give yourself at least that much time. While 9 days is an extremely fast turnaround time for a bespoke garment, many street tailor shops will offer tourists a new garment within 24h. But this is not the kind of customer WW Chan is aiming for.
Other than the shop in Hong Kong, WW Chan is available at the Armoury Haberdashery and recently WW Chann opened a store in Shanghai. If you cannot travel to Asia, they also offer tours to the US as well as to London on a regular basis. You will find the exact dates on their website under Tours (in the top right corner). Of course, it will take not just days but months to receive a new bespoke suit that way – but that is still good for a travelling tailor.
I can wholeheartedly recommend W.W. Chan to anybody who would like to get a bespoke suit made in Hong Kong. After visiting numerous tailors in Hong Kong, I know that W.W. Chan was, to me, the only tailor I would ever order a suit from in Hong Kong.
Photo Credit: The Armoury Haberdashery
Addresses:W.W. Chan & Sons Tailor Ltd. – Hong Kong
Mr. Patrick, Wa Miu CHU
94 Nathan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong
A2, 2/F Burlington House
Business hours: Monday to Saturday (9:00am – 6:00pm)
__________________________________________W.W. Chan – Portman Shop – Shanghai
Suite 528, 5/F., West Tower Shanghai Centre,
1376 Nanjing Road West, 200040, China
Fax : 86-21-6289-8683
Business hours: Monday to Sunday (09:00am – 08:00pm)
__________________________________________W.W. Chan – The Armoury – Hong Kong
Pedder Building (3rd Floor)
12 Pedder Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel.: 852-2804-6991 307
Business hours: Monday to Saturday (11:00am – 8:00pm); Sunday (12:00pm – 4:00pm)