If we visit the bespoke tailors in London’s Savil Row we cannot but have to pass by the bespoke tailors in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Their skills are world famous and not only Asians with heavy wallets but tourists and prominence from around the world take a trip to get a bespoke suit made in China. In the internet you find endless discussions on how to find the best quality tailors in between the scams and what to look out for when having a suit tailor-made. Obviously the experience is so exhilarating that Philiph Shenon (head of the Bangkok bureau of the Times, at least in 1995) dedicated a whole article to his first bespoke suit made in Hong Kong. Even my parents couldn’t resist the temptation when they visited China to pass by one of the tailors to have a coat made for my Dad. What fascination!
As fascinating is the history behind it, as told by Tailor Dave: imagine Shanghai at the turn of the 19th century: China had lost the two Opium Wars, with the result that it had to open its doors to trade with Britain. Foreigners flock into Shanghai, make their fortunes
some more, some less and bring with them their taste for all things Western, including Western suits. Savile Row is far, but luckily a number of tailors from Bombay (now Mumbai) and Baghdad have made their way to Shanghai quickly filling the void of Western suits and their nimble fingers match the quality of any Savile Row suit.
Then enter the Communists and their preference for uniform labor suits and other ideologies obviously drives out demand for Western suits. The tailors move and take refuge in Hong Kong where they restore their trade. One of them is <href=“http://www.samstailor.biz/”>Sam, or better Manu Melwani, Hon Phd., F. Inst. D., FRSA, Medal of Honour and recipient of Belgium’s Golden Plams of the Order of the Crown whose list of clients include Coldplay, Rod Steward, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and any junior guy that may walk into his shop because “one day he’ll be a senior guy.”
Armani and Versace may be the kings on Western catwalks but behind the scenes Chan, Ah Man and Sam supply the rank and file.
Photo © 2004 ¡ngel Riesgo MartÌnez