Every year thousands of men and women come to Bangkok hoping to have custom clothing made (expats commision suits and other garments too). Most people have the idea that high quality garments are made very cheaply here. That’s not really the case. To make informed decisions we need to understand a bit about suit construction and the tailoring business in Bangkok.
First, suit construction: There are 3 ways to construct a suit jacket, each with different characteristics and price points. The cheapest method is to use glue to build the layers in the chest and shape the suit. This is called “fused” because glue is used to fuse the layers together. This method is much cheaper, but the durability is limited and it doesn’t look as attractive. Fused suits don’t (can’t) move and fit the same way a fully canvassed suit will. They’ll begin to bubble, warp and separate after a few years, losing the shape that makes a suit special.
The second suit construction method doesn’t use glue to fuse the suit, but rather a horsehair canvas attached by hand stitching. These suits will move with your body, feel much more comfortable, and look much sharper. The skill and hours that it takes to make a fully canvassed suit is drastically different than a fused suit. Fused suits are made in an assembly line fashion, canvassed suits have to be made by hand by an expert.
The third method is a hybrid. You can learn more about this here or just use Google.
Along with construction methods we have fabric. Cheaper suits will have polyester blends, not 100% wool. Wool qualities can vary widely but for a first suit most 100% wools will be fine, and anything other than a worsted wool for a first suit is probably inappropriate – unless it’s for a specific occasion. Talk to your tailor about the climate you’ll be wearing it in, they should guide you. Polyester looks bad, gets hot and sweaty, and should be avoided. A quality tailor should have hundreds of different fabrics to offer, from many mills that feature different weaves, weights, colors, patterns, materials, and all at their own individual price point. Tailors that don’t offer branded mills, but rather have only a few different quality levels in basic weaves are probably contracting these suits to factory assembly lines.
Now to the Bangkok tailoring industry: most suits in Bangkok are fused. The tailors don’t have their own production facilities, they are contracted out to one of the many factories based on the cost and turnaround time. The salesman at the storefront just sends measurements by text to the factory with the cheapest available capacity. All of the cuts are the same, there’s very little room for styling adjustments and they’re generally still making styles from the late 1980’s. Boxy (even if you get “slim fit”), poorly constructed shoulders, ill fitting. They may sell you something different in store, but have a look at finished products (not what’s on the mannequins, but what customers are picking up). There are tailors that employ their own cutters and master tailors, this should be a bare minimum requirement if you’re choosing a tailor in Bangkok.
Some guys don’t care too much about all of this and they’re happy with two suits for $300 in a week’s time. If that’s you, throw a dart at the map – they’re all the same. The top places on tripadvisor all contract out to the same factories, and they aren’t even consistent at which contract factory they use. The reviews you read online are more about the service, charisma and salesmanship rather than the quality. But everyone has their favorite, though they all come from the same factories. If someone recommends a tailor, nine times out of ten they had a charming saleman. Also remember, good tailors have months of work sitting in the back room, they aren’t out on the street hustling customers. A good tailor’s work speaks for itself, they don’t have to sell to you.
There are a few places in Bangkok that make good fully canvassed suits in house at very reasonable prices. Most of my professional wardrobe is from Dgrie. Narin is another name I’ve heard tossed around as one of the better tailors in Bangkok. Dgrie and Narin aren’t the only good tailors in Bangkok, but they are they only two I can speak to making fully canvassed garments that I’ve worn or seen. I’ve seen people looking sharp in ToT too. Choosing a tailor is a personal decision, hopefully it’s the start of a long term relationship and not a one-off, so keep that in mind.
In the end it really depends what you want, what you’re willing to spend, and how much you care. The suits from most places are perfectly passable if you just need a suit, most people won’t notice. At the same time, you’re likely to find more fashionable, better fitting suits from a place like SuitCube at CentralWorld, or even H&M or Zara after a bit of tailoring. If you’re European or North American, SuitSupply or your preferred online MTM tailor are probably a better deal than a contract tailor on Sukhumvit. The counter to that, you can have a Vitale Barberis Canonico suit made in Bangkok starting around 21,000thb ($657usd on 29-4-19). Is there a massive difference between a 21,000thb suit from ToT and a 6,000thb suit from the top places on Tripadvisor – 100%! Is there a huge difference between a 21,000thb suit from ToT and $500 MTM suit from Suit Supply, IDK? Is there a difference between a 35,000thb suit from Dgrie and a 21,000thb suit from ToT? Again that one is for you to decide. (I think SuitSupply is half-canvassed at the price point but i don’t know, you’ll have to check the styleforum spreadsheet).
Some other names you may want to look into yourself (purely based on reputation, personal experiences welcomed):
Jhasper Pinky Jesse&Sons
It depends what you want, what you’re willing to spend, and how much you care. The suits from most places are perfectly passable if you just need a suit.
I also agree with the H&M recommendation made by other user . You’re more likely to get a decent suit at H&M, SuitCube, or another place like that than you are from a cheap suit from one of the contract factories.
Whatever you decide, enjoy your experience. Have fun. Get what you want and what’s in your budget. We all start somewhere, first suits are rarely perfect – and a good first (or the first good) suit can be the beginning of a new relationship with fashion, tailoring, and style.
Disclaimer: only based on my experience, and what I know. Open to different experiences and opinions and I could be very wrong. I don’t recommend a specific tailor, everyone’s needs are different. Hopefully you’re a bit better informed to make a decision that meets your needs.
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