As an individual I can say that I’m generally good with my money. I’m careful with how much energy I consume in my household, save money from my wages each month and put cash into long-term investments whilst refraining from immoderate spending on luxury goods. Having said all of this, I have a particular love for fashion; more specifically, expensive suits. This sometimes borders on an unreasonable and insatiable need for said suits. Needless to say, my girlfriend thinks I’m an idiot (about the need for suits, not just in general… well maybe slightly in general as well). Bearing in mind that a considerable percentage of my salary is spent on fashion I thought it would be a great idea, both economically and ludicrously, to visit one of the famous tailors in Thailand during my stay here.
Getting Scammed – The Strangely Helpful Way
Chiang Mai, a beautiful Northern city in Thailand, is becoming increasingly recognised as one of the cheapest and best locations to get any form of tailoring done within South-East Asia (if not in the world). Luckily for me, my girlfriend (Laura) and I had dedicated a week of our travels to this old city and wanted to explore the vast numbers of temples and national parks before getting me measured up for some custom clothing. With this in mind we set off from our hotel down to the Old City, which was built some 700 years ago. At one time it was completely barricaded with a giant wall and surrounding moat, however whilst the moat still patrols the outskirts of the city, the once grandiose wall is now simply a rubbled memory of what it used to be.
Once inside, we meandered aimlessly around, Lonely Planet guide in-hand, looking as much like naive tourists as we could have! We got talking to a very pleasant man who claimed that he was a Bangkok resident holidaying in Chiang Mai. I asked where the best temples were and any points of interest that we should really be taking a look at. After this he gave me and Laura a whole host of great places to visit and even drew them down on the map for me. He was also very insistent that we visit ‘Viengping Collection‘ to take a look at the best tailors in Chaing Mai. At this point I was thinking ‘great!’. Not only this but he spoke to a tuk tuk driver and told him to take us to all the locations that he had pointed out on the map (about 5/6 places) and wait for us at each location before taking us to the next. All of this for a mere 40 Baht (£1/$1.35)! That’s nearly a quart of what we paid for a 10 minute journey into the centre and the route that he had now planned would last around 3/4 hours. Needless to say, we hopped in and started enjoying all of the sights.
On the second stop we visited Wat Sri Suphan, which was a temple made completely from silver. It was a real sight to behold and I certainly haven’t seen anything like it before in my life. The strange thing here though was that when we were walking around the grounds of the temple, we came across another very helpful and friendly man who claimed to also be here on vacation. The story here was that his wife is a fashion designer in Australia and they both come down to Chiang Mai to get a hold of the very best materials that the world has to offer. Guess where? Viengping Collection. Now it may seem really obvious now whilst you read this, and in retrospect I can clearly see that both of the men that we met were in fact working for Viengping Collection, especially after you read this story from a tourist that visited Chiang Mai in 2011 as well as this story from a completely different person in 2010.
Getting Measured Up
Truth or lie, we didn’t really care because we had just had a day trip around the entire of Chiang Mai’s Old City for less than the price of a loaf of bread! When we finally did get to Viengping Collection I started speaking with the owner, who I must add was a very pleasant and reserved guy, about what I was looking for and just a bit of advice more than anything. Although I love to spend my money on good-looking clothes, I couldn’t tell cashmere from cotton! With this in mind I opted to take a more reserved approach and see what kind of quality I could expect by getting a shirt instead of a whole suit. At first I was worried that they wouldn’t understand the kind of style that I wanted but I was pleasantly surprised by the range of different styles that I was shown. Once I had settled on the fabric that I liked the feel of (80% cotton and 20% polyester), the style of the collar and the colour of the shirt, it was time to get measured up.
For any of you that know me personally then you will know how ridiculously picky I am with my clothes. If something is slightly too baggy in one area or if it is too long at the bottom, for example, then I will end up never wearing it so I felt a lot more reassured when he was measuring me up that he was asking exactly how tight I wanted it and how it would be cut in each place, etc. The whole process only took around 10 minutes to be honest and then after paying a 700 Baht (£23/$23.50) deposit – the shirt cost 1,200 Baht (£38/$40) in total – he told me to come back in 5 hours and it would be complete and ready for me to pick up. Crazy!
True to his word, I turned up 5 hours later and my shirt, custom tailored to my body was sitting there waiting for me. I tried it on and it fit like a dream. I was so impressed by it that I asked him to make me another, which I subsequently picked up the next day. All in all, I was extremely happy with what I got and, considering that I pay more than double the price in the UK for shirts, have saved myself a load of cash.
Regardless of the people trying so so-called ‘scam’ us into going to Viengping Collection, they were actually very helpful and the quality of the tailors in the store speaks for itself. If I had to recommend somewhere to get a suit/shirt/dress made then this is the place for you.