If you haven’t already heard, Vietnam is a superstar manufacturing country. In the last several years, many multinational companies have created manufacturing facilities in Vietnam, solidifying the country’s superstar status. The direct consequence of this is a huge reservoir of skilled and knowledgeable workers who can do everything from shoemaking, jewelry making, dress tailoring, suit craftsmanship, and more. The most unique thing to come of this is that custom made things for normal folk is readily available! So down to business… We bring you one of the most important (and fun!) Vietnam travel tips. The where/when/how of custom tailoring in Vietnam!
How much does it cost?
Well, this is tricky. If you walk into 5 different tailor shops (and this applies to clothes, shoes and jewelry), you will be quoted 5 different ranges in price. You can expect to pay a higher price for more experienced tailors and much less at less experienced ones. On the other hand, if you walk into some tailor shops in touristy areas, you will pay a serious premium just for using their business. The big appeal of these types of tailors, aside from the convenience of being in a tourist area, is the quick turn around time.
The Proper Strategy
It’s very important to have the right knowledge and strategy before even walking into a tailor shop. If you go the tailor unsure of what you want, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. The first step is to research what dresses, shoes, jewelry or shoes you want and printing out pictures. Good pictures are key! For shoes and jewelry, it’s more simple because you can basically just walk into a shop and ask them to make it for you according to the picture. Although you can buy leather and other material, shoe and bag makers usually have better resources and it’s best to leave the materials shopping to them.
For clothes, in most cases it is best to buy the fabric before going to the tailor. It may even help to understand the difference in fabrics – jersey, knit, chiffon, net, wool, cashmere, cotton, linen, silk, silk chiffon, silk crepe, cotton silk, polyester, poly blends, etc. It sounds tedious, but if you want to achieve a certain look, a lot depends on what fabric you choose! Make sure you get a chance to feel the fabrics and drape them, stretch them, crumple them, just to gain an understanding of how it will behave once it is sewn. Remember that the raw materials are never prewashed, not even denim. If you purchase cotton based fabrics, make sure the garments are sewn a little bit longer than what you want it to look like.
Fabric shopping is important for suit making. If you are going to wear the suit in a tropical climate, you need different weighted fabric than if you wear the suit in a cold climate. Or, did you know that cashmere blends don’t hold creases as well as other types of wool? Or that silk wool blends are all the rage this season for wedding suits and tuxes because you can get a softer and more natural sheen than polyester fabric? Do your research! 🙂
After you have all that settled and you have purchased the fabrics and materials, find a tailor that is right for you. You can go into high end tailor shops where the track record is more established to increase your chances of getting what you want. But remember that no matter how much experience the tailor may have, there is still a chance that it may not work out. Some pricier tailors in the city also carry their own selection of materials and will not allow outside material. For example, some specialty suit tailors have couture fabric from Zegna, Cerruti and more. They will only use those fabrics in order to uphold their reputation. Beware of frauds, however – a lot of ‘Italian made’ fabrics are actually made in Thailand and just given an Italian name. It’s also very easy to replicate the embroidered labels on the fabric. That being said, if the name brand is not important to you, we have seen fabric made in Thailand that competes with the best Italian imported fabric, so make quality a priority!
You will also have to choose the right kind of tailor for the type of item you are trying to make. For instance, for expensive materials like silk, you should go to a tailor that specializes in it because it’s a very difficult material to work with. Once you have all of this done, the most important thing is to leave yourself some time. Although there are a bucket load of tailors who will turn around items in 1 or 2 days, it is much more risky and the craftsmanship may not be as good. The town of Hoi An in Vietnam employs thousands of tailors and the custom tailoring aspect is a large part of the economy there. Their turn around time for shoes, clothes, suits and jewelry is a day or sometimes even part of the day. But remember, many times if you go to a tailor that promises something back in a day, it looks like it was made in a day! If you want simple shirts and dresses, they are usually not a problem to whip out quickly but don’t expect to get anything complicated made. And if you feel like getting suits made in a day, we suggest having lower expectations! 🙂
Shoes and Jewelry
There are certain things to watch out for when getting custom shoes made. The major problem with custom shoe making is that the shoemakers don’t make their soles but buy them instead. If your foot does not fit diagonally on an A4 (8.5”x11”) sized paper, chances are you are out of luck! This is also why shoes with padding and proper foot support are really hard to make because the soles are pre-purchased. For example, you can get shoes made that look like Cole Haan dress shoes on the outside, but don’t expect them to have fancy cushioning technology on the inside! Bespoke shoe making is another thing to leave some time for because many times you will have to get the shoe makers to re-do the shoe because it will just look shabby or have wonky stitching. These are things that foreigners tend to value and is an unfortunate annoyance when creating custom items – you are your own quality control department!
As for jewelry making, many of the jewelry stores in the city will make almost anything for you. For jewelry made from precious metals or precious/semi-precious stones, we suggest going to proper jewelers who specializes in bespoke jewelry. For simple costume jewelry, almost anyone can do it, and well at that! All of the raw material for fake jewelry, at least in Ho Chi Minh City, comes from the same place. As long as they have a good picture to work with, they can make you your desired piece with no hitches! If you want to have more control over the process, you can just as easily go and pick out the items yourself and just give it to the shop owner to assemble.
WHERE TO GO
** Please note that the following list of shops and tailors are places that we have had good results at. HOWEVER, we cannot guarantee your success at these places! **
– Fabric Street – along Hai Ba Trung street around Tan Dinh market; almost any kind of fabric you can find; the shops inside the Tan Dinh market are generally cheaper. At first glance, it may not seem like the selection is as great, but the market is a lot larger than it seems. Here’s a tip – when you walk into the main entrance of the market, turn left right away to get to denim heaven!
– Soai Kinh Lam Market – 545 Tran Hung Dao, Q5; this is a huge wholesale market in Ho Chi Minh City, mostly for fabric. If you are making a wedding dress or something else that takes a lot of fabric, this is a great place. Otherwise, the stall owners are hesitant to sell smaller cuts of fabric.
– Craft Market – at the corner of Tran Hung Dao and Chau Van Liem, Q5; this is another wholesale market with everything from lace to ribbon to jewelry chains to accessories for clothing. They have it all! They also have the best selection of embroidered lace – a must see for wedding dress enthusiasts. And for those of you wanting to make that ‘Hermes belt’ or the ‘Tory Burch handbag’, find the goods here! 😉
– Tran Quoc Lan – 97 Le Thanh Ton
– Any of the cobblers sitting along Le Thanh Ton – you’ll be surprised! Many of them have their own shoe making businesses and will make your shoes for much cheaper than the stores.
– Tricia and Verona – 39 Dong Du; they also ship overseas if you don’t have enough time in the city.
– Dung Tailor – 221 Le Thanh Ton; best selection of linen fabric in the city (they also own the fabric shop next door).
– Nhut Tailor – 232 Le Thanh Ton
– H&D Tailor – 76 Le Lai St; great selection of high end fabric, but the prices are high end too!
– Viet Thang Silk Tailors – 129 Le Thanh Ton; very fast turn around time.
– All the shops around 185 Ly Tu Trong – our favourite is the store called Ly Ly. Choose your fabric right there!
– Huong Tailor – 48 Ly Chinh Thang – this guy is a jeans magician! He has a shop full of denim wear and he specializes in jeans. Buy the fabric beforehand though because denim has such a huge range in terms of feel, stretch, and wash that it’s really hard to tell what you want from a photograph.
– Huy – 237 Trang Quang Khai, Q.1
– Lan Vy – 217 Le Thanh Ton, Q.1
– V&H Tailor – 98 Le Lai (the entire block is 98 Le Lai, so just find their V&H yellow and black sign); the ladies here also have connections with embroiders so if you want something hand or machine embroidered, they’ll get it done for you! 😉
Custom Wedding Dresses
– Ho Van Hue St – Phu Nhuan District; several shops that make custom bridal wear.
– The One Couture (www.theonecouture.com) – online store; a very creative Vietnamese American girl in Ho Chi Minh City runs this business for overseas clients wanting their Vera Wang or Vivienne Westwood dress at a fraction of the cost!
– Therese Jewelry – 147 Dong Khoi; specializes in gold jewelry or silver plated with gold as well as precious stones
– La Hand Made Jewelry – 323 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q3; go here for all your fake jewelry needs!
– The many jewelry shops along Nguyen Trai – for custom costume jewelry, almost any of these shops will do it for you.
We hope you found this post on custom tailors in Vietnam useful! Please visit the XO Tours Blog regularly for other fantastic Vietnam travel tips! If you are in Ho Chi Minh City – Saigon and you need help with shopping or tailoring, please consider booking the XO Tours Shopping Spree tour!