What do Prince Charles, Jeb Bush, Pavarotti, and David Bowie have in common?
They’ve all purchased Hong Kong suits. Once known as a mecca of artisanal tailoring, with a reputation for quality and expertise rivaling that of Savile Row, Hong Kong has long been viewed as a paradise for exquisite handmade suits. Many a businessman has booked a suite at the Peninsula Hong Kong for a few extra days to acquire a new piece for their wardrobe while conducting business in Kowloon. The top tailors in Hong Kong earn—and deserve—fierce loyalty from their repeat customers.
However, lured by the promise of inexpensive suits and quick turnaround, tourists flock to the tailor-lined streets of Tsim Sha Tsui in droves—and the suiting market has boomed to accommodate them. The once-respectable tailoring industry in this area has been flooded with merchants who use aggressive sales tactics and produce poor-quality goods. Hong Kong’s many tailoring districts are on the verge of becoming billion-dollar tourist traps.
If you choose to purchase Hong Kong suits, proceed with due caution. Here are six reasons why:
1. The Hong Kong tailoring market is oversaturated.
If you walk down Nathan Road, you’ll be immediately reminded that Hong Kong is one of the world’s major tailoring centers. You can’t go two blocks without receiving handfuls of leaflets advertising fast and inexpensive tailoring services. With so many tailors per square block, with skill levels ranging from world-class to shoddy, choose your destination wisely.
The smart customer will visit several merchants before committing to a purchase. Also keep in mind that a shop’s appearance doesn’t correlate to the quality of products or services you’ll receive. Raja Fashions, for instance, is a venerable favorite that’s tucked away in a cluttered, neon-lit shopping gallery amongst many other tailoring shops. Finding a high-quality tailor can be difficult, so stick to tried-and-true favorites with unimpeachable reputations, such as Sam’s, Punjab House, or W.W. Chan. These establishments are known for their tailoring skill and high-quality merchandise. Just be aware that for every top tailor you encounter, you’ll walk past many more that may be subpar.
2. Many tailors use aggressive sales tactics.
The best tailors won’t need to browbeat you into visiting their establishment and ordering a suit—they can rely on their reputation for excellence to bring them all the customers they need. If you feel pressured to enter a store, proceed carefully. If you’re not on your guard, you may find yourself committed to purchasing unwanted items. Do your research ahead of time and know in advance which shops you’d like to visit. Come prepared with a crystal-clear idea of what you want to buy and how much you expect to pay, and be ready to turn and walk out if the pressure to purchase something exceeds your comfort level.
3. Customer service may be lacking.
Tailoring shops in Hong Kong are known for their fast turnaround, often promising you a handmade suit in twenty-four hours. That level of speed means social niceties may be sacrificed. Be prepared for rushed or inattentive service, particularly in bustling shops crammed full of other tourists. Your tailor may not have time to answer detailed questions about their products; your special requests may be ignored. If you know exactly what you want and are capable of communicating it clearly and precisely, this may not be an unsurpassable hurdle. However, if you’re looking to purchase your first custom-tailored suit and would like a little extra guidance through the process, you may be in for a disappointing experience.
Regardless of where you purchase your suit, it’s wise to walk in knowing exactly what you want. A working knowledge of suit styles, fabric mills, and weight/thread count will be helpful, and it’s nice to be able to speak the sartorial lingo clearly when you come through the door. Bring photos with you if you’re unsure—or even a physical garment, if you’re looking for a precise replica of an existing item in your wardrobe. Hundreds of thousands of tourists come to Hong Kong specifically for inexpensive handmade suits, and many tailors simply won’t have the time—or inclination—to give you attentive service or detailed advice.
4. You must be prepared to bargain.
Flexible pricing is part of the process of buying a suit in Hong Kong, so if you’re unfamiliar with that practice, prepare yourself in advance. Bargaining here is not only encouraged but necessary: When you enter a tailoring shop, know that their listed price is only a starting point for negotiations. If you aren’t prepared to haggle, understand that you’ll most likely end up paying more than your suit is worth.
5. You get what you pay for.
The wise customer understands what a high-quality suit should cost—and knows when prices are too good to be true. While you’ll see handmade suits advertised for around $200 USD—a can’t-miss bargain compared to what you’d expect to pay for a custom suit back in the United States—most reputable shops with a loyal customer base sell suits in the thousand-dollar range, or often quite a bit more. If a price seems absurdly low, it’s for a very good reason—and that reason is probably related to quality.
A suit you order one day and take home the next is going to have flaws. It’s exceedingly difficult to hand-sew a well-made, high-quality custom garment in under twenty-four hours without cutting corners, which is why Hong Kong’s best tailors rarely offer that kind of turnaround; worldwide, most custom clothiers spend upwards of four weeks to create high-quality clothing with precision and accuracy.
Speed isn’t everything. If you’re in Hong Kong for a leisurely visit, look for a tailor who works on an unhurried schedule and allows time for fittings and alterations. Alternately, you can order an inexpensive Hong Kong suit online from wherever you are in the world by submitting your self-taken measurements through a website. While this approach brings its own set of problems in terms of the fit and quality of the finished product, at least you won’t end up with a suit that was frantically stitched together to meet an impossible deadline.
6. You must be alert for scams.
Hong Kong’s finest tailors are often fully booked, and you may not be able to secure an appointment by dropping by their shop on your next business trip. If you choose a tailoring shop at random, you could up getting ripped off. Disappointed Hong Kong suit shoppers have shared horror stories about placing an order and electing to have their suit shipped to their home country—only to receive a garment that’s sized incorrectly, made from a different fabric than the one they requested and purchased, or missing requested elements. Be careful with your money and make sure you’re placing your trust in a reputable merchant.
Consider a Better Alternative
We understand the allure of Hong Kong suits. An inexpensive, handmade garment crafted to your measurements and your specifications that’s ready for you in just a couple of days—what’s not to love about that? Custom Hong Kong suits have been popular with global travelers since the mid-twentieth century, and with good reason.
However, not everything in life should be fast and cheap. At Knot Standard, we believe ordering a custom-made suit should be a memorable experience, one designed to be indulged and savored. If you’re interested in getting top-notch service paired with ease and convenience—and if you’re looking for impeccable style, precise fit, and high-quality craftsmanship—visit a Knot Standard showroom in your home city to experience for yourself how rewarding custom clothing can be.
When you enter our showroom, you’ll be greeted by your own personal stylist and invited into a quiet, sophisticated space to explore our custom menswear options. Drink in hand, you’ll learn all about suiting fabrics, patterns, colors, and trends, as your stylist helps you discover the perfect suit for your needs. We’ll take 27 exacting measurements, and our tailors will take the time to craft a pattern specifically for you. We laser-cut your suit out of the best fabrics from world-renowned Italian and English mills, such as Zegna, Loro Piana, and Holland & Sherry. Four to six weeks later, you’ll arrive for a fitting and walk away with the best-fitting and highest-quality suit the market has to offer.
While Hong Kong is still a top destination for custom suiting, it may be simpler and smarter to order your suits from local experts who offer unparalleled value. If you’re interested in experiencing the Knot Standard difference for yourself, schedule your personal appointment today.