One of the top things to do in Hoi An is to visit a tailor, of which there are hundreds throughout the town. In fact, according to Travelfish, tailors outnumber all other businesses in Hoi An two to one – which isn’t difficult to believe for anyone who’s spent more than five minutes wandering through the streets!
Not only are there a bewildering array of shops to choose from, but every single one of them is employing whatever method they can to reel you in – including paying a handsome commission to your taxi driver, hotel receptionist, friendly old lady on the street, and even that expat you met in a bar last night. And not every tailor shop is deserving of its renown – the huge demand for bespoke clothing in Hoi An has given rise to numerous substandard practitioners producing shoddy work, and with so many vying for your attention it can be incredibly difficult to know which to trust.
So how to navigate the disorientating Hoi An tailoring maze? We have a few hints and tips up our sleeve, so read on…
What can I have made?
Absolutely anything you like. Suits, jackets, dresses, high heels, boots, pyjamas… any fabric, any style, any size. You can take along a photo, draw a picture, search on the shop laptop or flick through one of the in-house catalogues to find what you want – and if you would like modifications, just explain them to the tailor and your wish is their command. Most Hoi An tailors speak good English, or employ staff who do, so it isn’t difficult to make yourself understood.
How does it work?
Once you have decided on what you want to have made, the tailor will show give you a range of fabrics and colours to choose from. Be sure to have an idea of what would be suitable beforehand and handle the fabric to ascertain quality. Once you have chosen, they will measure you up then and there and send you away while they make up your garment.
Though each tailor is different, most should insist upon at least one fitting – usually around 24 hours after the initial meeting. Following this they will go away and make adjustments, then meet with you a final time to present the finished product. Most tailors are willing to come all the way to your hotel in Hoi An – or even as far as Danang – for fittings and delivery, so be sure to ask.
How do I choose the right tailor?
With so many tailors to choose from, a personal recommendation can only be a good thing, right?
Wrong! In Hoi An, you should be very careful who you listen to. Tailors will pay commission to anybody who recommends their shop to others – whether its a hotel, tour guide, taxi driver, or expat living in the area. This commission (which rumour has it can account for up to 40% of the sale) is passed on to you, and you will end up paying more for your purchase. I can vouch that this happens, as I have been offered commission for recommendations myself.
You can’t blame the Hoi An tailors for using this tactic. With such fierce competition, and with so many shops tucked away far from the town centre where fewer tourists bother to venture, there is no other way for them to guarantee business.
A better way to ensure that the tailor you use is worth their salt, however, is to keep an eye on Tripadvisor, where the reviews are generally more trustworthy than relying on chance encounters in the street!
Take your time
If you are planning to visit a Hoi An tailor, make sure that you will be in the area for at least a couple of days – preferably more. This will give you plenty of time to talk to a few different tailors, compare prices, deliberate over styles and fabrics, haggle, and have at least one – maybe two – fittings to ensure your garment is just right. Check out our haggling guide for a few tips on how to get the best price for your item!
If you know you’re impulsive, bring along a friend to stop you buying out the entire shop – and if your tailor refuses to give you a second fitting, find one who does. It doesn’t cost extra and it’ll be worth it in the long run.
If you really are pushed for time, as I recently was, there are many tailors who can knock something together for you overnight – or even in a couple of hours. For some garments this can be just fine – but don’t expect the same level of quality you’d find if you spent the extra time.
Follow this advice, and you’re sure to come away from Hoi An with exactly what you were looking for – at a fraction of the price you might have paid in your home country.