What could be better than a bespoke suit, made with the best fabrics and customised to your exact fit? If you’re looking for a good tailor in Singapore, meet “Uncle Chung” of Meiko Tailor, who has been perfecting the craft for over 50 years – ever since he was just 16. Here’s how he does it.
How it all started
Master tailor and founder Chung Chi Kwong – also affectionally known as Uncle Chung – first got into the trade when he was enrolled into a tailoring course as a working apprentice in 1967, when he was just 16. Back then, the income was decent and he had to support his family as he was the eldest in the family. Three years later, Mr. Chung honed his skills doing freelance suitmaking for local tailors. In 1977, he decided to officially launch his own shop with his wife and named it Meiko Tailor (which bears her name); their first workshop was opened in a small shophouse along the old Geylang, now known as Kallang.
Fast forward to today: everything is still created from scratch with no mass production or outsourcing to sweatshops, but now at a newer, more spacious workshop. Appointments are held at Meiko Tailor’s Pan Pacific atelier, which has been up and running since the hotel first opened its doors in 1986, as well as at their Asia Square branch that serves the Marina Bay financial district crowd.
A stickler for quality
One way for modern tailors to save cost is to opt for the faster and easier route of iron-on interfacing in their bespoke suits. Mr. Chung, however, sticks to the rules of traditional, full-canvas interfacing for all his suits. The use of all-natural-fibre canvas holds the shape of the suit and prevents it from deforming. The amazing part? It’s all hand-stitched! Today, Mr. Chung is the only draftsman and cutter behind every suit and trouser from Meiko Tailor. The canvas is cut to the jacket’s shape, then the wool is stitched to the canvas. No shortcuts are taken here. Not only is this method more tedious and a lot more time-consuming, it also requires a high mastery of cut, skills and experience – which is where Mr. Chung’s years of sartorial craftsmanship comes in.
According to him, the jacket falls into place more naturally and looks better when it’s crafted in this way. The canvas conforms to your body’s shape, creating an excellent fit. The canvas lining allows the suit fabric to drape naturally, resulting in a clean, well put-together look. This explains why bespoke jackets command a higher premium than made-to-measure jackets with iron-on fused interlining, which is glued to the shell of the fabric. Mr Chung explains the problem with fused jackets: the glue degrades with time, often resulting in a “bubbling” of the fabric around the chest and lapels during the dry-cleaning or pressing process.
Another common cost-cutting measure is for tailors to outsource production. It is not unheard of for tailors to outsource their production to neighbouring sweatshops due to the lack of skilled workmanship and real-estate maintenance, as well as a high labour cost. Mr. Chung, however, still subscribes to having everything made in-house at Meiko Tailor’s workshop for quality consistency and control. “We’d rather invest in training our sewers to have a stable and consistent quality in the clothes we make for our customers. If they like our work, they return,” Mr Chung explains.
The process of having a bespoke suit made is not as convoluted as it sometimes sounds. First, you’ll need to determine the occasion. Is it for a new job, an upcoming business trip, or your wedding? This will determine the choice of fabric (fabric composite, weight and weave), colour, cut and most importantly, the fit. For example, men in the management consulting or finance sector should invest in a well-cut power suit in a classic navy blue and or charcoal grey shade over a soft, light blue dress shirt. A black-and-white suit combo does not quite cut it, unless your profession calls for it. If you are attending a black-tie event, a tuxedo would be the defacto dress code. With more fintechs (financial technologies) and start-ups in the business scene, many are leaning towards something more smart casual like a half-lined or unlined blazer in a fitted cut.
During the consultation, you’ll get to choose your preferred fabric. Meiko Tailor carries premium quality shirting and suiting fabrics from some of the finest mills including Loro Piana, Solbiati, Ermenegildo Zegna, Alumo amongst many fabric mill brands we see in the store. You’ll also get to customise little details, such as the inner lining of your blazer, the lapels and the buttons, right down to the inner pocket of your jacket or trousers to fit the dimension of your smartphone. Personalised initials on shirts, suits and cufflinks? Sign us up!
To get a glimpse of Master Tailor Chung in action, be sure to drop by their main atelier at Pan Pacific Singapore. For added convenience, the pair are also happy to do house calls or pop into your office on a Friday (11am to 3pm; prior appointment required). Expat Living readers can enjoy a 10 percent discount on bespoke jackets made from the store’s vintage fabric collection.