Hoi An Part 1: Get Yourself a Good Tailor
Saville Row, London may have the best tailors in the world, but Hoi An probably has the most. With 200 Tailor shops in the ancient part of the city alone; they double the number of all other shops. It's a clothes shopping paradise.
Being in the Tailoring city of the world, we wanted to take advantage. I wondered about getting an outfit for our son's wedding next July, Hetty wanted a pair of tailored trousers, and Max wanted a new suit. Nothing for Tim.
The first tailor we visited was recommended by Bo, our driver, a small family-owned business. We were greeted with a plastic bottle of water each and asked to sit down at the table.
The place didn't feel right to get my wedding outfit, but I was curious how much it would cost to get a reversible dress made. The assistant understood my request and recommended some material, sadly none to my liking; they looked like a throw-back to the 1970s. I wandered around and found one I liked. She pulled a face and said it's ok for a person my age. What was that supposed to mean?
Max asked about the suit, but the price was too high, and he couldn't find any material he liked. Hetty half-heartedly looked at some fabric, but the vibe in this place wasn't right.
I had done some extensive research; the reviews on Google maps for Yaly Couture were fabulous. That's the place we visited next. Yaly first began as a market stall run by Ms Quynh. With a natural flair for design and through her high-quality workmanship and getting the right staff, she has turned Yaly Couture into a world-renowned institution. We arrived at their biggest of their three stores, possibly the largest in Hoi An. Young ladies guided each of us to look at their products. Immediately I found some fabric for trousers but hesitated about the right colour for the top. We decided on the green, but I knew that my heart wasn't singing about this outfit. Later I decided that it was not the right time to get anything. I needed more ideas.
Hetty found some lovely leafy green material, but alas, Max couldn't find what he was looking for. The service was impeccable; friendly, helpful, professional and they listened!
The next day we visited our third tailors, recommended to Max by a friend. I wanted to wander around the shop, but an assistant was nearly up to my backside following me. Oh, they were so pushy. Poor Max was bombarded. Again, the choices were not to his liking, but I think it was more their attitude that was putting him off. When we tried to leave, three assistants continued badgering him. Even when we did finally go, an assistant followed us out, still pestering us!
We were on our way back to Yaly Couture when Max decided to pop into Bebe Tailor. They also have a good reputation; however, I did read some negative reviews about their customer service.
As I had reconsidered not getting a wedding outfit now, I decided to continue exploring the reversible dress idea. Especially as Bebe Tailors had some gorgeous silks. I started to explain to an assistant what I was looking for and before I had finished, she said: "No – that is not possible". I told her that it was; I use to have one, but she insisted that it was not workable. I was dumbfounded. Oh well, if they don't want my business.
Hetty had a similar experience. She wasn't keen on any of the trouser material they showed her. When she said she wanted a patterned fabric, she also got a resounding "No – you'll have to pick something else."
Luckily Max found some lovely blue material for his suit and some fantastic orange lining. After negotiating the price, with me suddenly remembering that I had a voucher for a free tie and pocket square, he was sorted.
Max and I had already gone through all the options of a suit. Double-breasted or single? How many buttons on the front and on the sleeves? What style of lapel, notch or peak? Single or double vent? Internal and external pockets? And that's just the jacket.
Max didn't need to say much though as the assistant kept stating "we know everything" in quite an arrogant way. Oh my, Max was far more patient than me, I think I would have walked out. He was informed to come back in the evening for his first fitting, just 7 hours later.
We returned to Yaly Couture as Hetty was interested to see if they would make the trousers from the patterned cloth she picked the day before. A delightful assistant Le Le confirmed this. She advised that as the material had no flexibility, the style needed to be loose; otherwise, Hetty wouldn't be able to sit down. After choosing a style and deciding to have a top made as well, Hetty was measured up.
Meanwhile, a staff member listened to my reversible dress request and agreed it was possible. I chose some lovely silk material; she pondered, pointing out that it would need to be dry cleaned, as the colours may run. That won't work with our lifestyle. We explored other ideas, but nothing was quite right, and the price was slightly high. And no pushiness at all.
On the premises, we were informed that there was a demonstration of how silk is made. We wandered over and saw a lady chopping Mulberry leaves and then covering silkworms with this food. Another basket had worms starting to pupate. Once nice and fat, these are stored in a glass case, and after about 10 days, the little moth appears. The leftover cocoons are soaked in boiling water so that fibre can be extracted from each of them and spun together into thread. I have read that to produce 1 kg of silk, 104 kg of mulberry leaves must be eaten by 3,000 silkworms.
After two fittings each, Hetty and Max had their outfits made and both Yaly Couture and Bebe Tailors then delivered them, free of charge to our homestay. From start to finish it took just over 24 hours. Wow!
Tim and I have decided to return here with my sister in February; I'd better get my thinking cap on for a groovy wedding outfit for Mother of the Groom.