Getting Custom-Tailored Suits Made in Bangkok at Empire Tailors

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I love getting custom-made suits done in Southeast Asia. I’ve done it multiple times in Thailand. Labor is cheap, skill level is high, and competition is intense.

That translates into a great opportunity for consumers. But it isn’t as good an opportunity that many think it is.

  • Tailor shops will make clothes for you in whatever time you have. But if you don’t have 4-5 days you probably aren’t really getting custom-made. Suits aren’t being properly made for you in a day.
  • Suits are cheap but they aren’t dirt cheap if you want quality. Don’t buy a suit with shirt and tie thrown in for $99. It’s going to be a $99 suit, and more or less wastes your time getting it and the opportunity foregone for something better. Expect to pay for quality — while labor is cheap, good materials won’t necessarily be.

I’d expect to pay ~ $350 – $550 for a good quality suit in Thailand. Hong Kong will be more expensive.

On this trip I decided to try a shop I hadn’t been to, Empire Tailors at 124-126 Sukhumvit Between Soi 4 – 6 near the Nana Skytrain station.

<--more Continue reading to see how the process works, what to expect to pay, and what you want from the tailor..-->The biggest challenge is knowing where to go, whom to trust. Most of us aren’t experts in suits. And you can’t always trust recommendations — you don’t know who is writing online most of the time, the online review could be out of date, a hotel concierge could be getting something in return for the recommendation.

Empire is one of the more recommended tailors in Bangkok along with Tailor on Ten and Raja’s Fashions, but I hadn’t been. They’re also one of the pricier tailors — you can expect to pay 2500 baht for a shirt (!) and US$440 – $650 for a suit.

They have three tiers of fabrics that determine price. That’s the differentiator, since labor is going to be similar and you’re paying for the quality of the fabric (you don’t necessarily want the most expensive).

That also means you can expect more or less the same quality across the board. And they certainly do hand-stitching for their finish. But at $440 or even $650 you’re not getting the equivalent of a $5000 suit. You’re going to get a suit that would be a lot more expensive, but not 5x or 10x.

I went in for a first fitting on the first full day I was in Bangkok. That’s the opportunity to learn their pricing, th esee their materials, and get a feel for whether the shop is going to push a sale on you or work with you to understand your preferences and what you’re looking for.

Some shops are also big on negotiations. In addition to being expensive, Empire is pretty much fixed-price. I didn’t hear anyone haggling. In contrast, the last place I used in Phuket brought out a calculator and started playing with numbers, so I took the calculator and played with numbers too. We were just dueling back and forth with the calculator until we had a deal. They weren’t playing that game.

I was confident I’d get good quality, get good value for the money here compared to what I’d pay at home, but I wasn’t getting the very best price in town.

I picked out material for a couple of suits, and also for a sport jacket. I had them make an extra pair of pants for each of the two suits. And I also had them make a few shirts.

They took my measurements, and then had me come back about six hours later for the next fitting where I tried on the skeleton of the jackets and where they had one shirt already. For the shirt they had nailed it. The jacket needed adjustment.

I came in the next day and then two more evenings after that, tweaking things each time along the way until we had things perfect.

They took a 50% deposit with the first fitting, and then I paid the balance with my last fitting. Since there were still a minor changes to make I had them deliver the clothes to my hotel rather than coming back for them.

I liked the shirts I had made enough that I emailed them two ship me a few more. Like most tailor shops they’ll keep measurements on file and be able to replicate what they’ve done for you already.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. You can get an excellent tailored suit for much cheaper in Thailand, Shanghai, etc. They might not have a fancy storefront but the fabric is often the same.

    Another piece of advice I learned while studying in China; don’t compare local prices to US prices otherwise you will constantly overpay. Compare only locally. You can find excellent suits easily for $250.

  2. You can get suits at a variety of price points, with different degrees of quality tailoring and mostly degrees of quality fabrics. This shop is – as I observe – at he upper end of the market in Bangkok. But I would say that if you want quality materials and work product, without having a really keen eye, you’re unlikely to get it at under $350.

    Put a different way — expect to pay in Bangkok order of magnitude about what you would pay at home but you get custom tailoring instead of off the rack.

  3. Most shops on Sukhumvit are simply front ends or middlemen for the real tailors who rove in and out of shops on a day to basis.

    Few exceptions but your pricing is about 100% inflated to satisfy all parties in the transaction.

  4. I’m a military pilot looking for a suit to wear to an interview at an airline but I only plan on going to Hong Kong for 10 days an not Bkk. Any recomendations for a place in Hong Kong? Never owned a suit before just the military issue so what things should I ask for to use for a interview suit?

  5. Thanks for the post, although I agree those prices for suits are very high. Can anyone recommend any other tailors in BKK that can offer the same suits for cheaper?

  6. May be worth adding that I am happy with the quality compared to cheaper tailors I’ve used in Thailand in the past. However, the real test will come in 6 months and 2 years in terms of how they hold up.

  7. @John your question was never censored? It wasn’t even trapped briefly in the moderation queue. Perhaps you just would have needed to hit refresh on your browser?

    In any case I will answer it straight-up, which is to say use a credit card that does not add foreign transaction fees.

  8. Gary, Have you ever had suits or shirts made at Rajawongse Tailors? I’m curious how Empire might compare to them, since that is where i usually go for suits/shirts.

    I am very pleased with Rajawongse’s suits for around $250 at the time per suit which i found to be of good quality (now 3 years later). The tailored shirts were about $30 and the tailoring was excellent but the material is not so great in my opinion for the shirts.

  9. If anyone wants a more reasonably priced quality suit check out tripadvisor which lists less flashy stores that use the same materials. It’s how I found my last one ($185) that I’ve gotten several compliments on.

  10. I suspect you haven’t traveled in Vietnam, and so can’t compare. I didn’t buy a suit there (I haven’t even worn a tie in 40 years), but I did have some complicated travel pants and shirts copied (no longer available here). Execellent work, very good price (less than the original), and the taylor worked overnight to get the job done on time (which is why I am posting this).

  11. @Thomas the pilot, when I went to HK in 2010, a friend at state dept had recommended William Cheng & Son. The son is Sandy Chang, who does a great job. The suits were $350 and shirts $35. They make it like you want it made, the quality was top notch. In 2012, I emailed them that for my wedding I wanted the Tuxedo that James Bond wore in Casino Royale, $550 later it gets great reviews every time I wear it.

  12. For those looking for a cheaper price, I can recommend Buddy Tailor in the “Buddy” building on KSR. Prices vary, but I paid $250 for a suit (Italian 180s), a shirt, and a copy of a pair of plastic travel pants translated to cotton/linen. I’ve used this tailor three times over three years and he has visited me in New York. Ask for the owner, Babul.
    .
    I suspect I’m not as knowledgeable about suiting quality as Gary but I’m perfectly happy with my suit which cost less and took less time than Empire and certainly fits me better than anything off-the-rack here.
    .
    One excellent thing to do in Bangkok is to have existing clothing copied in new fabrics and colors.

  13. To all of you who think you can get the suit done cheaper. I don’t know what kind of suit Gary bought but generally the labor is only about half the cost of the suit (maybe less). Fabrics can vary quite a bit in terms of cost. You can definitely get a cheaper suit if you don’t care about the quality of the fabric, but if you want a nicer suit with better fibers and construction, you have to pay for it.

    Just like with cars, stereos, tvs, and most things in life, you get what you pay for. There is no way you are getting good quality fabric and good suit construction for $250. You’re almost certainly getting a fully fused suit with some generic fibers that will rip or fall apart in a couple of years. If that’s all you want, fine. But if you want something that’s possibly timeless and with attractive looking fabrics you have to pay more.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-construction-of-a-suit-jacket-2014-3

  14. I had a suit made earlier this month in HK at Sams, and it cost around $700 for Italian precious 190 wool. I actually tried to haggle and even walked out of another tailor shop before Sams to try to get it down to $500; that first tailor didn’t even try to call me back as I walked out of the door. I have relatives who have lived their lives I’m HK and he told me $500 is quite common starting price even for locals. China is changing fast and us dollar buying power has been declining in Asia. So don’t be surprised if prices nowadays are much higher now after a few years, during which China has built thousand of miles of high speed railway system from zero.

  15. I don’t know and simply understand why all US and Europe travelers get their suites done there.
    I am from Korea and have been to all South East Asian countries and let me tell you that you can have even better quality suit made in your home country for less.

    I did a deal with Saks Fifth 5 years ago where I had a number of coupons, used a credit card, and a pretty substantial cashback. In the end I got me 2 BOSS full suites for around $550 each(each was around $3000 full price). Just last year one of the suit ripped its inside pocket, went to the store got a new one right off the bat that was tailored just like the one I bought(actually slightly larger since I gained some).

    So there you have it, I have one of the best Italian sawn suits with lifetime warranty with no questions asked about quality vs. no warranty in asian shops.

    I still don’t get why American shoppers at least do not take advantage of the discounts that they receive and buy same or better for cheaper price but I guess that is the culture clash

  16. @Nasakoto

    If you are saying “$3000 full price” that’s dealing with something a lot closer to $2000 in reality, so there’s that. And 75% off anything (even right now, during sales-a-thon) is no mean fit, so you are not talking about anything realistically achievable vast majority of the time to vast majority of the people. I live in the city with the only Last Chance in the country, and still finding good deals of this magnitude is a challenge.

  17. I’ve always had the impression that saks is a department store and sell pre-made suits. I didn’t realize they had full tailor facility in house. I do see great prices of suits all the time here because there are so many specials; but I haven’t been able to find one thag fits perfectly. I’ve tried at least 20 different models from 10+ different brands which are directly sold in store. I guess I have a different build from most people. shoulder, sleeves, waist, and length just never have worked at the same time for me for the pre-builds.

  18. Does anyone have experience with having the tailor ship clothes to the US in terms of price and time or any other considerations?

  19. I highly recommend Vanda Tailors in Hoi An. They do their shirts in House and they really know their stuff.
    http://www.vandatailors.com

    I’ve been to Empire Tailors and I agree they are pretty good. If their collars and cuffs were softer though, their shirts would be perfect.

  20. My favorite tailor in Bangkok is Charlie’s design in Sukhumvit Soi 16, opp foodland, I have been coming down from Singapore for years and have tried few places including Empire, but at Charlie’s the atmosphere is very friendly and no pushing to sell attitude and they have great collection from very reasonable to top European fabrics. And I personally like their designs and fitting. Roger is the guy to look for if you are there.

  21. Missed this thread when it first posted. I note that Gary mentioned Raja’s as a highly recommended tailor. I have to agree – I have had suits from there that have lasted for years – ditto for their shirting. Excellent quality materials and fitting. As for the comment that many of the shops are just front ends for roving tailors, I recently had some more suits made on a trip to BKK. The tailor working on my suit at the fitting was the same one that’s done my stuff for the last 15+ years. The biggest recommendation item – there is a “fake” Raja’s across the street from the original, even to the point where the fellow inside copies the name of Raja’s son, Bobby.

  22. Great share@ Gary!!!

    Whenever we are out for shopping we always look for the quality fabric more than the appearance of the outfit. The color and style are the secondary issues but the quality fabric is what that makes the suit look more elegant.
    The post is very nice and even the outfits look quite impressing. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience and keep updating with such wonderful experiences.

  23. Are the traveling Hong Kong Tailors (available in the US) a good option If we can’t make the flight to Asia?

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