Hoi An: land of fine fabrics and beautifully tailored clothing

Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Central Vietnam, was once a major port on the Silk Route and still continues to thrive as a place where tailors custom make excellent quality clothing at bargain prices.

I bought a navy silk dress with magenta flowers as well as a full length winter coat, even though I had explicitly told myself I wouldn’t spend any money. Once I posted my items to Canada, I left town for fear of buying more.

This pretty town, with its canals and bridges, multi-coloured paper lanterns and more than 800 preserved historical buildings, also has hundreds of fabric shops and stalls lining the streets and alleys. Thousands of tailors stitch, sew and cut fabrics to create replicas or custom pieces in as little as 24 hours.

I visited a shop that employs over 320 tailors in three different locations and has been crafting clothing for over 20 years. They had a large selection of high quality silks, cotton blends, wool and leather, as well as stacks of American fashion magazines for clothing ideas.

The atmosphere in the shop was electric and buzzing with energy, at least 15 sales ladies were busy with clients, either helping people pick fabric or taking measurements. I was told that the clothing was made precisely to suit my body because not only were my measurements taken, but I also had a 3D scan of my body.

My measurements were taken at 9 pm and my first and only fitting was the following day at noon. I was so impressed with the accuracy of the measurements. A few minor alterations were made and the dress was ready by 4 pm. As I was waiting for my dress, I noticed some lovely wool fabric for a nice coat, so I had a one made, also with only one fitting and less than 24 hours.

There was so much beautiful fabric. If I had room in my bag, I would have ordered 5 linen shirts in various colours, linen pants, the red silk dress I’ve always wanted, the perfect trench coat and some work dresses, I have visions of flying to Hoi An next year and getting tailor made clothing for all four seasons.

I asked for a tour of the facilities and I was brought up to the attic to meet the master tailors, all women, about 70 of them. The rooms were airy and many of the women smiled and we’re happy to show me what they were doing. When asked discreetly, a few told me they were well paid, despite the very long hours.

There really is something to be said for having your clothes made in front of you by an experienced artisan, as opposed to buying cheaply made clothing from a sweatshop somewhere.

This is a shopping experience like no other:  everything made with speed, precision and professionalism, truly the most memorable shopping experience of my life.




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