Hoi An is a pretty small town, I think somewhere around the lines of 60 km2 with only 120,000 people. Just imagine walking down a long block, and along that long block are either tailors or cobblers trying to hustle you into their store- hey, it’s a competitive market, they need to make a living somehow. You hear “Hey Giiiirrrlll, Want new dress? Want new shoes? Take LOOK!” Hoi An is incredibly touristy, and you just have to wonder how many of those tourists have come to see this UNESCO Heritage site, eat the delicious Hoi An specialties of Cau Lau or White Rose, or have heard the wonders of the tailors who will make you anything- for dirt cheap.
I was trapped. A shopaholic’s paradise where designer duds could be reproduced to a fraction of the cost, and a girl’s childhood dream of becoming a fashion designer comes into play; endless rows of silks, satins, cottons, jerseys, in every colour and pattern, it was like heaven except better because they could even make any shoe you wanted! See those new Jimmy Choo’s? $25 bucks, handmade, all leather but in a colour you wanted.
That’s the thing about Hoi An. It’s excess of everything you don’t really need. Blurred by this ecstasy of getting anything I wanted for cheap, I was dazed and confused about what was considered to be a “good tailor”. The minute we walked out of our hotel and had some lunch, a woman from the tailor Hugo II actually sat beside us and played the nice card, asking us questions about Canada and generally sounded interested in a place she never left Hoi An for. 20 minutes later, the jig was up, the bill was paid and we had no choice but to follow the lead to her store. The samples were terrible. Seams looking like they were poorly sewn, which is terrible considering it is low season and you would think that they have less customers which means more time spent on making a good shirt. Pleats and ripples that shouldn’t be, bad quality buttons, overall her sales pitch failed paired with bad marketing. You can’t tell me you have good quality merchandise if all I see is loose threads and a shirt that looks like it went through the ringer.
Since there are so many tailors in Hoi An, it’s best to read the reviews. We googled it and after a day of deciding where to go, popping in and out of stores, being harassed non stop by tailors, it was time to pick a place. BB found Adong Silk, and according to our google finds, it had pretty high reviews. Since I’m on a budget my primary intentions were getting work/interview blouses made while BB was interested in investing in men’s french cuff shirt. I struggled with this, no doubt, clutching a picture of a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress in my hand, readily willing to give in to the price tag to get it made, the hours spent in the store for numerous fittings, but I held back. I needed to pay for metropasses when I get back to Toronto. Back to reality.
There are many types of cotton at Adong- American, Vietnamese, Italian, all depending on your price range. There are also wools for suits and silks/satins for your picking. The cottons range from $20- 50 and the wools range from $25- 100. Not too shabby. Those prices also include the manual labor and fittings. Unfortunately, Lonely Planet tells its readers that you can pick everything from thread to buttons, not a chance in a bigger establishment like Adong, but perhaps if you take a risk and go to a smaller spot, you might have more of a voice in the little details.
The sales staff at Adong Silk were hit or miss- I went to both locations, the smaller one had the silk and I was interested to see what other cottons they had. I was ignored the whole 10 minutes while I walked around, and had to say “excuse me, can I get some help?” until I waited another 5 minutes for an impatient sales associate who seemed like she didn’t care for me whatsoever. It’s also interesting to see that out of all my shirts, it was the one that I picked with this woman, that gave me (and the tailors) the most difficulty.
This experience has taught me that you have to be 110% vocal with what you want, don’t let these other people sidestep you and tell you what you want- which is eventually what happened with this one article I purchased. In the end, it looks great, but only after 3 hours of fittings back and forth, and a little pang inside my chest that knows this wasn’t really what I wanted, you just have to realise that vigilance is key when you’re ordering a shirt. Look at the drawing they make, articulate clearly, sometimes in simple english what it is you want and how you want it. Don’t get suckered into getting a higher v-neck because the Vietnamese are a little shy when it comes to showing some chest, if you want cleavage, voice it! All these things I saw happen around me and to me- guys getting suits made where their concerns about it being not to their vision and guys accepting pants that looked half-assed. Women who wanted more leg who got more nun. It’s crazy to see how sales associates can control your purchase.
Overall, Adong was a good find, not perfect but decent. The shirts I got will do for now and I am pleased with them- not ecstatic. I was on a bit of a high when I came back from getting measured up, picking fabrics and so forth. It’s a great feeling but it sucks when you get something that looks- well, terrible. It’s like the vision is trampled and they tell you “too late, no more fixes”. You’re stuck with the deposit you paid (half) and you’re stuck with whatever they concocted from a picture that wasn’t your own. I take from this good learning lessons out of buying some tailored goods.
Yaly Couture is also supposedly a good spot, but the priciest of the bunch (quality is debatable, you’d have to go check out the fabrics yourself).