Shenzhen, China: Custom Suits
Shenzhen, a city in southern China, could hardly be considered a fashion destination. Despite a booming manufactured-goods trade (notorious for knockoffs of designer products) that is trafficked through the city to Hong Kong, one of the best bargains in town is something genuine: a custom suit, which can be bought for as little as 600 Hong Kong dollars (about $80) and can be custom-made in as little as three days.
Be warned, however, that even a short visit to Shenzhen from Hong Kong requires a substantial commitment. United States citizens must obtain a visa before taking a 40-minute train ride on the KCR train line from Hong Kong’s East Tsim Sha Tsui station (round trip: 66 Hong Kong dollars, or $8.66 at 7.90 Hong Kong dollars to the U.S. dollar). Travelers are then required to go through both Hong Kong and Chinese immigration lines before being released into the city, where the gleaming new skyscrapers, many built in the last 5 to 10 years, are immediately visible in the distance.
Right outside the immigration terminal is the Lowu Commercial City (or Luohu, as it is often spelled), a five-story shopping mall packed with nearly 1,500 stalls, as if all of the merchants on Canal Street in New York were jammed into one building.
Although located throughout the building, tailors tend to be clustered on the fifth floor of the mall. Talk to several tailors (many speak English) to gauge their strengths, and be sure to bring a suit that fits well as a comparison.
On a recent shopping excursion, the very dapper tailor Xi Zheng Tang, whose shop is near the fifth-floor escalator, was enlisted to create a one-button, single-vent gray pinstriped suit with peaked lapels and slanted pockets. After selecting the fabric through several samples and determining a schedule, Mr. Xi gave a price of 800 Hong Kong dollars, or $105. (Hong Kong dollars are often the preferred currency.)
The suit would take three days; measurements would be taken that same day, a second visit would be required the next day for a fitting, and the suit would be ready on the third day. (Delivery to your hotel in Hong Kong would take an extra day, and cost 100 Hong Kong dollars).
Shockingly, the finished suit arrived the day after the fitting, a custom suit made in merely 48 hours! The suit fit snugly, and was very well detailed, from the interior pockets to the stitching on the lapels. The jacket fit, however, was slightly looser than desired.
Although a second fitting could have fixed that, the philosophy (and prices) in Shenzhen seem to suggest that if at first the custom suit doesn’t fit, just keep trying (and altering) until it does.
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