Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean review! This Sunday, I’ll be chronicling my experience of getting tailored at Meiko Tailor. It’s been quite some time since I did a tailoring review, and I do apologise for that! I’ll be focusing more on tailoring for 2019 – expect to see monthly tailoring reviews for the next year.
I had the good fortune to be invited by Meiko Tailor to experience their tailoring process. Unlike the more affordable made-to-measure tailors that I’ve reviewed previously, Meiko Tailor is decidedly in the bespoke sphere, with a price tag to boot. What goes into a bespoke tailoring experience, and how does it differ from cheaper tailoring alternatives? Let’s find out.
Meiko Tailor – the Brand
Meiko Tailor was founded by Master Tailor Uncle Chung in the 1970s. According to Uncle Chung, Meiko Tailor has been at Pan Pacific hotel ever since it opened in 1986! To stay in the same location – especially one as prestigious as Pan Pacific – for over 30 years is no small feat, and it speaks to the credibility and reliability of Meiko Tailor.
As I’ve mentioned in my tailoring tips article, tailoring is not a craft that can be picked up in a month, or even a year. Uncle Chung has been crafting suits for almost half a century. To put that into context, that’s longer than my parents have been alive! There’s a sense of security when visiting experienced tailors such as Meiko – you know that you can’t go wrong. Furthermore, Meiko Tailor is one of the rare few in Singapore with their own local, in-house production. Most tailors (even those that sells 4 figure suits) outsource their production overseas for cheap, as it is a logistical and cost hurdle to establish one’s own production locally. With an in-house production, one has better control over quality control and consistency, and is also better equipped to handle rush orders.
Today, Meiko Tailor remains very much a family-owned and operated business. Uncle Chung’s daughter, Adele, recently joined the company. A trained image consultant, Adele is abreast of current fashion trends, and keeps the style of Meiko Tailor up to date. To me, I rather like this father-daughter combo – Uncle Chung brings the experience and workmanship to the table, with Adele injecting a youthful vibe as she advises customers on how to look modern and sharp. In addition, Meiko Tailor also produces women clothing, with many of their regulars of the fairer sex. In my personal experience, women prefer to get their style advice from women – Adele certainly helps out her father in this department!
Meiko Tailor – the Experience
Meiko Tailor is conveniently situated on the second floor of Pan Pacific hotel, which in turn is right beside Promenade MRT.
First impressions of the store – cozy. It’s not the biggest showroom I’ve been (understandable, as rental in Pan Pacific hotel probably isn’t cheap), but it is definitely sufficient. They have recently underwent some minor renovation as well to update their storefront for the new year.
Like most tailors, mannequins featuring the craftsmanship of their jackets are visible throughout the store. Unlike most tailors, rolls of actual fabric are present at the store. This is a difference between bespoke tailors and made-to-measure ones. At made-to-measure tailors, one most likely will only interact with little fabric books. In contrast, bespoke tailors such as Meiko Tailor tend to possess rolls of fabrics, so that the customer can have the fabric draped over them if needed.
On the topic of fabrics, Meiko Tailor carries a wide variety of premium fabrics from established mills, such as VBC, Holland & Sherry, as well as Loro Piana. In fact, Meiko Tailor recently hosted an event with Loro Piana, whereby the brand’s top-tier Zenit fabric was showcased. Only a handful of tailors in Singapore carry Loro Piana’s Zenit fabric – this speaks towards the brand’s faith in the craftsmanship of Meiko Tailor, and is evident of their credibility.
Like all good tailors do, Adele started off by asking me whether I had an idea in mind for my suit. As a matter of fact, it turned out that I did – I saw Shawn Mendes’ outfit for the MET gala, and absolutely fell in love with it.
While Meiko Tailor do offer premium fabrics from the aforementioned established mills, for the purposes of this article we decided to go with a wool blend fabric from their in-house collection. Now, each tailor will have what they call their “in-house” (basically brandless) fabric, and usually it is advertised as a wool-blend. However, as I’ve stated in my tailoring tips article, the fabric is where most tailors mislead their consumers. You might be wondering – why is there such a price differential between Meiko Tailor and more affordable made-to-measure tailors for in-house fabric suits? This is because at the lower levels, the affordable tailors who advertise their in-house fabrics as mixed wool are most likely to be misleading you. More often than not, those fabrics have a high polyester content. How do you tell? Firstly, the fabric shouldn’t have a shiny sheen – wool, being a natural fabric, shouldn’t shine. Secondly, genuine mixed wool garments should feel light and breathable on your skin. As such, though a mixed wool suit at Meiko Tailor start at $990, do understand that there’s a difference in fabric quality as compared to the in-house fabrics of affordable $299 tailors!
Now, the original suit that Shawn Mendes donned to the MET gala was of a darker shade, a sort of velvet violet. Adele recommended against that colour for me, stating that specific shade as more “cool”, whereas I should be wearing more “warm” colours as it complemented me better. As such, she suggested a slighter warmer shade of maroon instead. It was here that her background as an image consultant became evident. In my experience, most tailors generally won’t bother with going against your opinion to recommend a different colour – generally, they are of the “You’re the boss, as long as you like it it’s fine” mindset. In my opinion, it is important to have a tailor that is not afraid to disagree with you and provide a different perspective. Of course, this is a nuance that is hard to balance – some tailors try too hard to enforce their opinion of style and fit on their customers, and are unwilling to listen to their customer’s needs, thinking that they know what’s best for them. However, in experience with Meiko Tailor, this wasn’t an issue, and I ended up readily agreeing with the choice of maroon.
For the shirt, we decided to go an Egyptian cotton shirt. For the uninitiated, Egyptian Cotton shirts are the creme de la creme of shirts. As compared to regular cotton, Egyptian cotton shirts are more durable, softer, and have a silkier finish – when one wears the garment, the wearer often feels that their arms “glide” into the shirt. Due to its luxurious properties, Egyptian Cotton shirts are extremely sought after. However, tailors (especially the more affordable ones) often misuse the term, with several falsely advertising their shirts as Egyptian Cotton. If you see a tailor advertising their Egyptian Cotton shirt for less than $100, or see promotions that promises a free Egyptian Cotton shirt with a suit purchase on Facebook, don’t believe them. Genuine Egyptian cotton shirts cost at least $150, often $200+. To be safe, I advise getting Egyptian Cotton shirts only at established tailors such as Meiko Tailor.
For the colour, I took inspiration from Shawn Mendes’ (yes, I’m a fan) outfit – I initially wanted a white shirt. However, this was where Adele once again nudged me to try something slightly different. She suggested going for a cream coloured shirt, which when paired with the maroon suit, would look “majestic and royal”. I liked that she suggested something that was slightly, but not drastically, different from the idea I originally had in mind. I think this was a nuance that she navigated well. As such, I decided to trust her style advice, and we went with a cream coloured shirt to pair with the maroon suit.
For the trousers, I opted to go for side adjusters instead of belt loops – why would there be need for a belt, if your pants are perfectly tailored? Meiko Tailor offers side-adjusters in steel, gunmetal, as well as brass. Now, Uncle Chung initially suggested steel side-adjusters, with brass side-adjusters being too jarring a contrast against the maroon pants in his opinion. However, Adele disagreed, and thought that brass side-adjusters would give the outfit a nice vintage feel (with vintage style coming back into fashion). After some discussion, we eventually decided upon brass side-adjusters. Usually, the main drawback of going to an older tailor is the more conservative style advice one often gets there. However, here Adele provides a more youthful and modern perspective to Meiko Tailor. With Uncle Chung bringing the expertise in fit and craftsmanship, and Adele offering modern style tips, I think the father-daughter duo of Meiko Tailor makes for a strong force with their combined strengths.
With that settled, we quickly went over the rest of the customisation options. Like Shawn Mendes, I opted for a double-breasted suit – my first thus far. We went with peak lapels for maximum effect, with the classic 6 buttons. In addition, I chose my usual double-vents at the back, and the more traditional flap pockets at the front. For the pants, I opted for a quarter break look. Lastly, I decided upon classic collars for the shirt, French cuffs with my initials monogrammed, and golden buttonholes and stitching to complement the “royal” look. However, the choices of buttons and lining/trimmings for the suit and shirt were left to the discretion of Meiko Tailor. Unlike say, HST Tailors, I did not get to choose between a wide variety of buttons and lining/trimming designs. However, the customer can request for specific buttons/linings if they have an idea in mind – horn buttons, floral lining, etc – but Meiko Tailor does not present you with a box of buttons to choose from, for instance. I find this a double-edged sword. On the plus side, this saves time – one does not have to contemplate a wide variety of customisation options, and undergo the agony of flip-flopping between their decisions. The entire process of choosing fabrics, customisation options etc at Meiko Tailor took about 30 minutes. In contrast, I spent over 2 hours at HST Tailors pondering over the vast variety of fabric/buttons/trimming choices! As such, if you’re someone with a busy schedule, or perhaps someone who simply don’t like the hassle, this would be a boon. On the other side of the coin, if you’re someone who revels in having and making choices, this would likely undermine your enjoyment of the tailoring process.
Meiko Tailor – the Measurement
This was where Uncle Chung took over the wheel from Adele.
Measurements are taken the old-fashioned way at Meiko Tailor – with a measuring tape and paper. Uncle Chung was quick and efficient – you get the distinct sense that this was something he has done many a times before. Malcolm Gladwell hypothesised that it takes one 10,000 hours to become a master in their field – I dare say Uncle Chung has already far surpassed that figure!
Something I find remarkable is that Uncle Chung personally oversees the measurement process for all clients at Meiko Tailor. This greatly improves the consistency in measurement, as well as fit, as all measurements are taken by his seasoned hands. From the consumer perspective, this is great – you are measured by the same person every single time.
After about a week, I returned for my first fitting.
Like all true bespoke tailors, clients at Meiko Tailor will undergo typically 2 basted fittings. For those uninitiated with tailoring, a basted fitting process is where the tailor will let you try on a skeleton jacket, held together by temporary white basting stitches. For more information on the basted fitting stage, do read this educational article here. As this is labour intensive, the basted fitting process is one that is usually typically only seen in bespoke tailors.
To me, a basted fitting stage is essential to a true tailoring experience. To quote a line from the aforementioned article: “It’s the difference between flying first class and flying on a private jet.” Yes, it contributes towards a better fitting garment, but more importantly, it is an experience in itself.
During the fitting process, Uncle Chung noticed that the sleeve pitch of the fitting garment is incorrect, resulting in wrinkles (see previous photo). As such, the sleeves needed to be redone. To me, this is why the basted fitting process is so essential to fit. There are certain aspect of fit – such as the sleeve pitch, which is dependent on one’s natural posture – that is near impossible to nail simply from measurements alone. The basted fitting allows tailors to fine-tune the fit of the suit, correcting issues with fit that might otherwise have went unnoticed.
Seeing Uncle Chung cutting through the baste stitches that undoubtedly took his tailors tens of hours to sew, my appreciation of the tailoring craft grew exponentially. This is painstaking, labour-intensive artisan work. Unfortunately, many of my peers buy their suits from fast fashion outlets such as G2000 and Benjamin Barker today – the appreciation of the tailoring craft has declined, replaced by an incessant desire to “look good”. Hopefully through articles such as these, we are reminded of the blood, sweat and tears (literally) that goes into the construction of the garments!
Here’s a tip: if you see a tailor using pins and chalk during a basted fitting or alteration, you know that there’s a high chance that they know their sh*t. Now, I’m not saying that all tailors who utilises pins and chalk know what they are doing, but it is in my experience that those that DON’T rarely use them, for obvious reasons – they don’t want to accidentally injure you with the pins and invite a lawsuit! As pictured above, Uncle Chung uses chalks and pins to indicate the areas required for alterations. This method has remained virtually unchanged in tailoring over the decades, and there’s something in its anachronistic nature that makes the appeal of going to a bespoke tailor perennial.
After about another week, I returned for my second fitting. During the first fitting, Uncle Chung was unsatisfied with the drape of the back, and sought to correct it. I have a concave back, and this usually results excess fabric at the back, resulting in unsightly wrinkles. On the second fitting, he remarked that the drape of the back was much better, but could still be improved further.
After the second fitting, I had the chance to see Uncle Chung proceeding to mark the necessary alterations required (using chalk) immediately afterwards.
This was something that I’ve (till date) not experienced at a tailor’s before. To see Uncle Chung in the midst of his craft was a humbling experience, as his near 50 years of experience shone through here. With a few deft strokes of the chalk, it became increasingly clear that my garment was in safe hands.
The measurement process showed me the key difference between bespoke tailors such as Meiko Tailor and more affordable made-to-measure ones. For the more affordable tailors, they merely take basic measurements of you, snap a few photos, with the eventual construction of the garment being outsourced. As such, most lack the technical knowledge of the tailoring craft. In contrast, it was clear to me that Uncle Chung possess said knowledge in spades – he personally knew what corrective measures were needed to correct the issues with fit. This is perhaps something that only can be attained with a lifetime of dedicated passion, and to me, Uncle Chung and his personal expertise is what differentiates Meiko Tailor from their competition.
Conclusion – so the Meiko Tailor Experience “shiok” or not?
Definitely. As compared to other tailors in their price range, Meiko Tailor doesn’t possess the swankiest storefront, or the strongest social media presence. Instead, what they have going for them is Uncle Chung’s experience and expertise – craftsmanship is their raison d’etre. With their in-house production capabilities, as well as Uncle Chung personally overseeing the measurement and fitting process for most customers, Meiko Tailor has one of the highest standards of consistency that I’ve seen thus far. In fact, whilst I was there, I saw a customer who brought in a suit he had done with Meiko Tailor 9 years ago to get altered – that to me, was a testament that their suits lasts. With Adele bringing a modern sense of style to her father’s business, I think Meiko Tailor presents a great blend of style and substance.
Next Sunday, I’ll be showing you guys how the fit and craftsmanship of the suit and shirt turned out, so stay tuned! For those interested in commissioning a suit from Meiko Tailor, the price for a fully canvassed (all their suits are fully canvassed) 2 piece suit starts from $990. Shirts start from $150 each, while pants start at $250. Usual lead time for suits are 1-2 weeks, typically with 2 fittings. If you need a well-crafted bespoke suit on a tight timeline, I highly suggest checking Meiko Tailor out!
Update: Part 2 of my Meiko Tailor review can be read here.
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
Meiko Tailor’s location:
PAN PACIFIC SINGAPORE
7 RAFFLES BOULEVARD UNIT 02-01
TEL: +65 6334 6911
12 MARINA VIEW
ASIA SQUARE TOWER 2 UNIT 02-17
TEL: +65 6386 9309