Mark would claim that we all (should) know that places like Express, the Express Outlet, or Express.com are a one-stop shop for lithe men who love bold fashion. However, if you’re in SE Asia, where ironically, Express clothing is manufactured but not actually sold, where would you go for an “Express replacement”? It’s a tough conundrum for even the savviest fashionistas, however if you happen to find yourself in central Vietnam, we have the answer for you: Hoi An.
Historic villages rarely offer world-class tailors. Williamsburg, Virginia for instance, likely doesn’t have even a single shop that creates custom suits and dresses, whereas Hoi An has hundreds, maybe even thousands! The majority of shops in the area are tailors, offering not just custom clothing, but custom-made everything: sneakers, dress shoes, bags, coats, hats, and more.
Knowing we’d need about 3 days for custom clothing to be properly created and then fitted, our first order of “business” during our 4-day stay in Hoi An was to scout the Old Town’s tailoring scene.
With such dizzyingly numerous options, we were thankful to receive a recommendation from our Rice Field Homestay hosts Mike and Hahn, which was echoed by thousands of reviewers on Trip Advisor: Bebe Clothshop.
Bebe Clothshop stands out from the crowd by its amplitude—a more spacious storefront, elegant interior design, a fleet of English speaking staff, and seemingly endless bolts of fabric to choose from. It also stands apart from the majority of tailoring shops by what it doesn’t have: sample clothing design concepts. Only a few suits and dresses stood on display at Bebe whereas other tailoring shops feature every design they can produce, which is typically dozens. At Bebe, the options are infinite. They can recreate or modify any style you can possibly conceive of, so rather than displaying sample garments, they work with you either from photos or sketches you’ve brought, or guide the process via photo libraries contained in their store’s portable computer tablets. While Bebe’s versatility is admirable, starting a concept from scratch may be overwhelming for some (for example…someone like Robin), and so we recommend if you visit, that you come prepared with ideas.
Mark already knew exactly what he wanted: A light blue seersucker suit, a pair of pink pants to alternatively pair with the seersucker blazer, and at least one dress shirt. Robin wanted a dress for work and maybe a more casual romper, but had hoped to find something to be inspired by, versus coming in with a preconceived idea. Bebe Clothshop’s staff were wonderfully attentive and informative, but also seriously pushy with their upselling. Mark, with his immutably easy-going nature wasn’t bothered by the relentless upselling attempts. However Robin, who is a less flexible person (but working on changing that!), was put off by feeling that the staff were being disrespectful by ignoring our firm and numerous nos. As a result, Mark fully dived into a custom clothing design experience with Bebe, but Robin decided to forgo.
The numerous recommendations for Bebe and Mark’s instincts were right on: everything past the sales negotiations stage was outstanding. After planning what he wanted created, next came measurements and fabric selection. Although they didn’t have seersucker material, the staff made a perfect alternative recommendation for Mark’s light blue suit. And in learning that additional dress shirts are a fraction of the price of the initial shirt created since they’re duplicated from the same pattern, he chose a few bold patterns to join a classic white dress shirt. Mark should be commended for making all of these choices so deftly. The fabric options go on forever!
We would need to return to Bebe Clothshop on two more consecutive days for Mark’s fittings, but after the first visit, we strolled Hoi An Old Town’s charming pedestrian and bicycle-only streets. It was so relaxing to not have to worry about getting run over by an errant motorbike! Seeing an appealing work-appropriate dress in a random shop’s storefront, Robin swung in to query the price. For just $35 they would offer custom tailoring with a choice of fabrics. Bebe’s custom dress quotes (in nicer fabric) were between $90 and $120 per piece, so Robin felt like she couldn’t go wrong in this smaller shop and ordered two styles of dresses. Like Mark’s suit pieces from Bebe, we would need to come back for dress fittings the following day.
As we continued to stroll the Old Town, we began noticing that many of the tailors’ clothing samples looked nearly identical. It turns out that unlike Bebe Clothshop where all of their seamsters are onsite, most Hoi An shops don’t use this model. Instead, they outsource a handful of designs with custom measurements to area workshops with less than ideal working conditions. Blogger Cindy Fan has a great post HERE on how to find a quality and reputable tailor in Hoi An.
When we returned to our respective tailors for initial fittings, it became very clear that you get what you pay for. Mark had a hive of fitters buzzing around him at Bebe Clothshop. We thought his pieces were made nearly perfectly the first time around, but the staff added numerous little adjustments, holding themselves to the highest of standards for the quality of their shop’s work. Whereas at the smaller shop down the street, the store representative sought to convince Robin that the quickly created but ill-fitting dresses they made for her didn’t need any adjustments. Robin insisted on a few alterations which we’d come back for the following day after Mark’s final fittings at Bebe.
By now, we felt like we were in the company of old friends at Bebe Clothshop. The impeccably professional Anh oversaw the final adjustments to Mark’s stunning new wardrobe while the delightful Hanh (a different Hanh than our homestay host) insisted on feeding him homemade bites of food she’d brought in from the staff’s lunch room…lol. The pictures say a thousand words. Mark’s exquisite taste in fashion bore the world a magnificent suit lined with a pink-on-lavender paisley silk from heaven. His pink pants inspired dancing, and his new French cuffed white shirt, black checkered shirt, and white and burgundy patterned shirt will surely elicit stares of envy.
The pièce de résistance was the value: Mark paid far less for these six pieces then he would have at Express and received the highest quality clothing he ever owned, delivered with phenomenal customer service.
We hope to go back someday, but even if we don’t, we can still replace Mark’s shirts and suits from afar because Bebe Clothshop keeps all of its customer’s measurements and past purchase details on file, so that even when traveler’s return home, they can email an order for new items based on their original measurements!
Robin on the other hand ended up with one kinda-satisfactory and one disappointing dress, both with loose threads sticking all-about and tailor’s measurement chalk lines throughout the interior.
Although the dresses were a poor value, it was totally worthwhile to be able to compare a random shop with an all-star shop like BeBe. The custom tailoring experience of Hoi An is one we looked forward to for nearly a year, and it was one we will happily never forget. But Express: For three days, Mark forgot about you!
You can view our tailoring photos HERE.
And a video montage below!