Tailoring in Hoi An – We Find The Best
If you’re visiting Vietnam and looking to have the full Hoi An experience you’ll undoubtedly want a custom-tailored garment. I mean, who doesn’t want a custom shirt, suit, dress, and/or jumpsuit made in Vietnam’s most colourful destination, at a fraction of the price of what it would cost back home? The trouble is that with over 200 tailors in this lantern-lit town to choose from, it can make finding the best tailor feel a bit daunting.
Luckily, the Hidden team is here to guide you through the process of finding the right fit (no pun intended). In this article we take a brief look at the history of tailoring in Hoi An and the types of tailor shops here. We go through what you can have made and a little bit about budget, quality and the tailoring process. We visited numerous tailors in Hoi An and narrowed it down to three we recommend; One of Hoi An’s biggest names, a long established mid-sized tailor and a local market tailor to get a comparison of experiences. All this along with our helpful Hidden Hints to make the process of choosing the right tailor that much easier!
- 20 Years in the Making: a Brief History of Tailoring in Hoi An
- The Effect of the Internet on Tailoring in Hoi An
- Hoi An Tailoring – Tailors or Middlemen?
- What Can You Get Tailor Made?
- Before Choosing a Tailor in Hoi An
- Best Tailors in Hoi An – Hidden’s Experiences
- Category: Larger Tailors (Shops with On-Site Tailors)
- The Tailoring Process at Bebe Tailors Hoi An
- Category: Mid-Sized Tailors
- The Hoi An Fabric Market Tailoring Experience
- Hoi An Tailoring Prices:
- Hidden’s Thoughts
20 Years in the Making: a Brief History of Tailoring in Hoi An
Hoi An has a tailoring history dating back to the silk route. Great-grandfathers taught the trade to their sons, who then passed on their knowledge of the trade to their own sons, making tailoring a Hoi An family tradition. Due to major conflicts throughout Vietnam, there were very few travellers visiting the country.
Then, just 20 years ago, tourists started turning up in droves to soak in the exotic Vietnamese culture and all the stunning Southeast Asian scenery they could. Despite the boom in tourism, Hoi An tailoring hadn’t quite become the serious business it is today. In the late 90s and early 2000s, the quality of tailoring in Hoi An varied enormously. This was before the days of the internet, and long before the reliance on social media outlets as referral platforms. People tended to visit Vietnam only once and tailors saw very few return customers.
The Effect of the Internet on Tailoring in Hoi An
As the internet replaced the old, well-thumbed Lonely Planet guides, the tailors of Hoi An felt a major push to improve the business of tailoring, culminating in the high-standards that exist today. People started to review the tailors and the ones who didn’t care about their customers or quality started to fall by the wayside.
In fact, over the last five years, the quality of tailoring in Hoi An has shot up so much that it has become a major competitor with the likes of Hong Kong and Bangkok as a travel destination for custom made garments. Many people claim that Vietnam’s little yellow city is straight up beating Hong Kong and Thai competitors when it comes to quality and price.
Quality has also made major improvements thanks to recent investments by big-name tailors purchasing high quality machines and equipment. Customer service levels now match the quality of the clothes produced.
Three Main Categories of Tailoring Shops in Hoi An
Tailor shops in Hoi An can be divided into three main categories: the first being the four big names in Hoi An, all with at least a couple of outlets in the city. The second being the smaller “shophouse” style stores lining the streets and finally the stalls at the cloth market in Hoi An. All three types of stores offer a very different overall tailoring experience with varying results.
Hoi An’s big name tailors such as Bebe, Yaly, A Dong and Kimmy come with long lists of extra amenities that the market place tailor shops just cannot offer. Quality control is often an issue with market and small shop tailors. As is the ability to produce quality garments within the typically tight deadlines required by customers passing through or on holiday in Hoi An. The larger tailors have quality control teams dedicated to checking every garment before it’s in your hands.
Only a couple of the larger tailor shops in Hoi An have tailors actually on-site. Getting your clothing made with them means no worries about quality suffering for the sake of speed. Alterations happen at the shop, meaning you don’t waste valuable holiday time. Time frames vary from tailor to tailor, but the standard tends to be 24 hours for a suit. Any quicker than that and you’re pushing the quality. If you are coming in for a shirt or suit early in the morning, it is possible in some cases to have a fitting later that day.
Larger tailors can create suits to very high standards in as little as 24 hours because they have individual expert tailoring teams that are specialists for particular garments.
That’s not to say there aren’t benefits to shopping small. Smaller tailors around Hoi An often offer lower prices than the big stores. Be cautious of this though. Their prices might be cheaper initially, but are they truly providing value when your custom-made jacket starts to bubble after three dry-cleans and there’s no after sales service?
Hoi An Tailoring – Tailors or Middlemen?
The majority of tailor shops in Hoi An don’t actually offer tailors on-site. Only a handful of them actually have their own tailors. Confused? Let us explain.
There are smaller tailor shops on every street corner of this little UNESCO town. These tailor shops are essentially storefronts where they take your measurements. These measurements then sent out to friends with sewing machines. The person who measures you more than likely won’t take direct part in the creation of your piece. This multiple-handling can lead to breakdowns in communication, forgotten adjustments and details.
With in-house tailors, you’re likely to get a finer finished product. For starters, any alterations are done in minutes rather than being sent to someone’s house on the back of a motorbike. Shops with tailors in-store are more likely to have quality control teams checking each custom-made piece from the tailors.
What Can You Get Tailor Made?
To put it simply: nearly everything.
Shirts and suits are the bread and butter of most Hoi An tailors. Business men and women find that tailored suits in Hoi An are top quality and are made for a fraction of what they cost back home. Larger tailor shops also make ball gowns, jumpsuits, blouses, cocktail dresses, and even wedding dresses. Bring in a photo of the designer piece you’d like made for a fraction of the original price!
Hidden Hint: Save yourself time by e-mailing tailors about pricing, fabrics, turnaround time, and any other services you can expect as a potential customer, before you even arrive in Hoi An.
T-shirts, board shorts etc. are not really recommended for tailoring. They’re always going to be more expensive than the pre-made thousands available at markets and ready-made stores.
Otherwise, when it comes to tailoring, you’re only limited by your time, budget, and imagination.
Having an idea of what you are willing to spend on a garment helps to quickly narrow down the long list of Hoi An tailors. Marketplace tailors are obviously the cheapest option for budget travellers looking to have a custom piece made. While Hoi An tailors with longstanding reputations will charge a bit more money in the name of quality. If your main priority is making every penny count, your budget will call for you to head to the market.
Hidden Hint: High-end designer clothing can often be replicated to a tee at a tiny fraction of the retail price – whats more it will be tailored to fit perfectly.
If you’re tight on cash but want top quality, it’s a good idea to look at ways to save. Many of the bigger shops have vast ranges of fabrics from budget lines at $120 USD a suit up to $300 USD+ for the top of the range fabrics. Many will offer discounts if you order multiple garments from them.
There are plenty of accounts on the internet of instances where tailoring has gone wrong. A great majority of them are problems easily fixed by spending a bit more money and time at a tailor offering better services and quality control.
Hidden Hint: Be wary of garments made for less than the cost of a lunch. You run the risk that they won’t last and the money you pay will soon start looking expensive if you only get one or two wears out of the garment.
Before Choosing a Tailor in Hoi An
Hoi An has over 200 tailor shops, most of them concentrated in the Old Town. With such a plethora of choice available, doing your homework is a must. There are a few larger stores at the top end of the market, followed by the majority of mid-sized tailor shops that vary in quality. Lastly, there’s the fabric market.
Hoi An Tailoring Research and Customer Reviews
Online search and websites really should be your first stop when researching tailors in Hoi An.
A quick google of “Tailors in Hoi An” should give you an idea of what people are saying about which tailors. There are plenty of guides to tailors in Hoi An….just google away!
Do your homework before you come, visit the tailor’s website and drop them a line. Talk to them and get a feel for how suited they are to your requirements. Read their online reviews. How do they handle negative experiences? Do they reply to their reviews? Read independent blogs for first hand accounts.
Best Tailors in Hoi An – Hidden’s Experiences
Tailoring in Hoi An has flourished, and is extremely competitive, ensuring customers get the best deal. Hidden tried all the above and this led us to our choice of three tailors. We’ve reviewed one from each segment of the market to give Hidden readers a thorough overview.
Category: Larger Tailors (Shops with On-Site Tailors)
Aesthetically Bebe hits the mark. A well lit spacious store displays Hoi An’s largest selection of fabrics for you to choose from. Their elegantly dressed staff in modern colourful Ao Dai make you feel welcome and comfortable. There were lots of smiles and laughter in store – the staff here are happy and best of all we felt no sales pressure!
Hidden Hint: We were impressed with Bebe’s transparent working conditions for their tailors. Anyone can go and see the tailors working on garments inside the store, just walk in.
We were greeted by two of Bebe’s sales staff – Lisa who had worked at Bebe for five years and Y who has been a Bebe team member for 11 years. Both staffs inspired confidence and made us feel at home immediately.
The Tailoring Process at Bebe Tailors Hoi An
Those getting a garment made for the first time shouldn’t be overwhelmed about the tailoring process – at Bebe it was a very straightforward four-part process.
The First Step – Design Your Garment
Working closely with Lisa, it was time to choose a style and fabric for our creation. Given the tropical climate here, we wanted to update our wardrobe with new shirts, looking for a dressier style but practicality in the heat. Lisa suggested choosing linen. She gave us an entire book containing linen fabrics – the choices were extensive. Lisa encouraged us to take our time – and you need to. Bebe have a large, up-to-date selection. We chose one of their best selling fabrics then decided to branch out a bit and chose a more modern linen print with a bold pattern.
Hidden Hint: Try not to arrive tired or in a rush. This first step is the most important part of the process where your design will be born.
Lisa requested the full roll of fabric be brought out so that we could be doubly sure we liked it in its entirety. A good move as seeing the full roll against our body confirmed for us that it was definitely the right choice.
We then discussed the style of the shirt, settling on a long sleeved slim-fit shirt. Lisa was integral in the design, suggesting (and rightly so!) that with a casual shirt we choose a single curved cuff with a softer collar. She also suggested that we opt not to have pockets with a slim-fit shirt as they sit (and look better) without them.
The Second Step – Measurements
To ensure a perfect fit, Lisa and Y (pronounced Ee) took every measurement with special attention to detail. We didn’t realise how many points there were to measure though! This is ‘real deal’ tailoring – not just your standard neck, chest and sleeve drill. We totalled over 20 measurements. It’s swift work for these girls though – one measures and the other takes the notes. They asked detailed questions such as if we wear our shirts tucked in or out. If we intended to roll the sleeves and if we wanted a round or straight bottom on the shirt.
They drew a sketch of the shirt next to our measurements. Our measurements are now on file at Bebe, so we can easily reorder again. Then it was name and details time and “see you in 24 hours for your first fitting”. Easy!
The Third Step – Fittings
It’s wise to expect two or three quick fittings. Bebe schedules fittings at your convenience and if necessary, even offer to come to your hotel for fittings. They want your experience to be as convenient and stress-free as possible. We found their spacious air-conditioned fitting rooms a welcome relief. Taking a break from the heat outside with our ice-cold refreshments.
At this first fitting, we thought the shirts looked great. Although purposely made a little roomy allowing the staff to nip and tuck the garment down for a perfect fit. Our arms then moved every-which-way to ensure a comfortable fit. Lisa suggested because of the curve in our back we opt for a slimmer fit but we thought it was ok as it was. However, when she showed us what a couple of nips and tucks could do for us (and the shirt) we were in agreement with her!
Off the shirt went straight out to Bebe’s on-site tailors – we watched it get altered and with a happy wave from the tailor himself – it was back in its form-fitting state in our changing room. You could tell these ladies weren’t going to let us go without this shirt looking and feeling perfectly comfortable. It felt really amazing on and we really saw the benefit of high-quality on-site tailoring.
Hidden Hint: Amongst the larger on-site tailors, Bebe’s were the only ones we saw with open doors to the factory floor. You are welcome to have a look around and see the process.
The Final Step – Collection
Once every detail of the shirts were checked, they were ready for collection. Bebe also happily deliver garments to your accommodation, freeing up your arms for more shopping. With an outstanding reputation for after-sales service, you’re reassured that even once home, you’ll be well looked after.
Hidden Hint: Bebe keeps your details and measurements on file. So you can simply use their online tailoring option, placing orders even after you’ve left Hoi An.
Category: Mid-Sized Tailors
We were curious to see what a mid-range tailor would offer, so we headed to Mr Xe. He came highly recommended with great online reviews. Situated in the Old Town, Mr Xe has two stores side-by-side. The space has a commanding presence, much more refined than the myriad of small tailor shops concentrated in the Old Town.
Mr Xe was one of the first tailors in Hoi An and has developed a large following of travellers and locals who swear by his work. Xe was in business long before the masses came to Hoi An. A traditional tailor, seen most days cycling around town with a measuring tape around his neck off checking on orders and visiting suppliers. Xe makes an impact on all he meets and his reviews on TripAdvisor reflect this.
Hidden’s Experience at Mr Xe’s
The staff here were welcoming without being pushy. We were just looking for a shirt although Mr Xe took all our measurements, just in case we later decided to order a suit from overseas. As with all the tailor shops, it’s best that customers have an idea of what they want before arriving. If not, staff will advise on the best style and fabric for the client’s body shape. Mr Xe also has a great selection of designs setup on an iPad for customers to browse through.
If you’re in the market for a suit, Mr Xe makes it easy by categorising his fabrics into grades, he has a large range of cashmere and wool blends. The cashmere is of two grades, a thinner fabric which is of higher quality and a thicker blend that is suitable for a lower budget. He has a variety of silks on display but we were after a specific blue. Mr Xe surprised us bringing out swatch books containing 40+ more silks for us to choose from!
Mr Xe makes shirts in linen or cotton and although the range was not as expansive as seen in the larger tailors, the quality of the fabric felt good. We ended up purchasing two shirts here which were ready for a fitting the next evening. The location of Mr Xe’s shop in the centre of the Old Town makes it ideal to incorporate your fittings while exploring Hoi An for the day.
Hidden Hint: Mr Xe keeps your measurements on file and can sew anything up for you, even after you’re back home.
Fittings at Mr Xe’s
Our fittings went very smoothly and Mr Xe was on hand for both. As a tailoring traditionalist, his attention to detail meant that not having tailors on-site, in this instance, didn’t affect the outcome. We observed the seamstresses at work, applying the finishing touches. The finished products are extremely well-made. A noticeable improvement between the clothes here compared to other mid-sized tailors we visited.
The Hoi An Fabric Market Tailoring Experience
Leaving Xe’s store we made a right and headed to the Hoi An fabric market. We hit the peripheries of the market and it was game on! The hollering to get you into the shop can at times feel somewhat overwhelming. But if you can put up with the hard sell there are bargains to be found. This is not the sit down, air-conditioned experience we had at the two previous tailors. However, if you are looking for a sensory explosion, this is the place to be!
Hidden Hint: Know what you want and your budget well before you enter the Hoi An fabric market ‘arena’. Be firm and look like you know what you are looking for even if you don’t!
After weaving our way through the busy market, we came across Mrs An’s clothing shop No. 90. Here is a calm oasis – the shop owner gave us space to browse her materials. Making her place a welcome respite from the hustle of the cloth market.
Hidden’s Experience at Mrs An’s
While browsing, we started chatting to Mrs An, who opened her business with her husband fifteen years ago, after working as a tailoring assistant for six years. Although tailoring in Hoi An is traditionally a skill passed down generations, she is the first in her family to venture into the sewing trade.
The shirt fabrics here are appealing. This place has some great prints and fantastic fruit shirts (all the rage in Hoi An) for fast-fashion items. An array of high street catalogues are on hand to offer customers guidance. And if you have trouble deciding on the right fabric or style, Mrs An and her assistants are ready to offer advice. But, despite her astuteness of what customers want, and how to make them happy, she recommends going in with a clear idea of what you want. In her experience, customers with a clear vision are the happiest.
Mrs An was a pleasure to work with and offered great value. As is not often the case at the market Mrs An can offer a refund if a client isn’t entirely happy with the finished product. She never wants to have a customer accept an item that they won’t wear. That said, it’s unlikely you’ll leave dissatisfied. Past customers are full of praise on Tripadvisor, pleased with the price (cheaper than the high-end stores), and her service.
Like the other tailor shops, the turnaround time is efficiently quick. If you’re in a hurry, you could walk out with brand new threads within a few hours. But generally, give it a day, which includes a fitting for any alterations.
If you need a quick holiday fashion or something classic – head to Mrs An’s. She’s super friendly, and her team do their best to make a tailored copy for you.
Hoi An Tailoring Prices:
Suits: From 2,700,000 VND (120 USD) – 6,500,000 VND (280 USD) – Dresses: From 1,150,000 VND (50 USD)
Suits: From 2,300,000 VND (100 USD) – 3,450,000 VND (150 USD) – Dresses: From 920,000 VND (40 USD)
Suits: From 2,070,000 VND (90 USD) – Dresses: From 390,000 VND (17 USD)
For the best experience getting tailored items in Hoi An, avoid the heat and hassle of walking the streets. Do some research and let your fingers do the walking before coming here. Read what others established guides and blogs say about the tailors. Always double check any recommendations from tour guides or receptionists. They might not be as unbiased as they sound!
If you’re on a tighter budget or looking for something more fashionable that you won’t wear forever (Hawaiian shirts, jumpsuits etc), the market tailors offer good value for money. Just be aware that quality can be a roll of the dice. Some rave about the quality after a year of wear, others bemoan the poor quality after just a few wears. And the fact that these clothes don’t last a lifetime. Although the shirts we purchased from Mrs An are holding up nicely.
What will last a lifetime are the memories of the hustle and bustle of the fabric market. It really is quite an experience, watching people haggle over prices and fabrics. But it’s not for the faint hearted.
Mid-priced and Larger Tailors
Some of the mid-priced tailor shops we visited certainly did not have the comfort factor or quality of the larger tailors we checked out. Within this class of tailor, we found the most variance in quality and service. Without research, these tailors can be very hit and miss. However, we found a definite hit with Mr Xe. His store has found the right mix of value and service at this price point.
Out of the larger tailors, Bebe really stood out for us. Their large air-conditioned changing rooms and excellent staff made the tailoring process painless. These guys have got customer service down to a fine art. Reading their online reviews Bebe have an excellent reputation for after care service if ever is any issue. Many others just don’t, you’re on your own. Our experience with them was a real highlight of our trip that we’d strongly recommend.