Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean review! On this shiok Sunday, I’m covering my experience of getting a suit and shirt tailored at local tailoring establishment, Tat Bee Tailors.
In Part 1 of this tailoring review, I will be chronicling my experience of getting a suit and shirt tailored at Tat Bee Tailors. In Part 2 of the tailoring review (out next week), I will be reviewing the fit and craftsmanship of the completed garments.
Alright, let’s get started on this review!
Tat Bee Tailors – the Brand
Tat Bee Tailors was founded way back in 1975, specialising in made-to-measure suits, shirts and trousers as well as alteration services. That’s almost 45 years ago! Today, Tat Bee Tailors is helmed by Master Tailor Raymond Yik (pictured below). Mr. Yik first joined Tat Bee Tailors in the 1980s, starting as an apprentice and slowly earning his stripes. After the original founder retired more than a decade ago, Mr. Yik took over as the Master Tailor of Tat Bee Tailors.
Tat Bee Tailors is a one man show – Mr. Yik handles almost all aspects of the business himself. When I enquired if he has thought about hiring someone to help him, he cited a lack of budget and declining interest in the tailoring industry as main barriers. At one point, he said wistfully: “As long as I don’t lose money, I’m happy already.” He noted how business has been declining in recent years, due to the popularity of young tailors in the area offering suits for less than $300. He shared that he feels he can’t compete with them on cost (Tat Bee’s production are local, while majority of the cheap tailors in the area outsource their productions overseas), nor on marketing.
That’s where I come in. I hope that through this article, I’m able to shine a spotlight on some of these older tailors who might not have the same social media presence that some of the younger, tech-savvy tailors possess. These are the tailors that have decades of know-how – their work deserves attention. With that said, let’s see how my experience of getting tailored at Tat Bee Tailors was like!
Tat Bee Tailors – the Experience
Tat Bee Tailors is located at the heart of Singapore’s shopping district in Lucky Plaza.
Located on the third floor, Tat Bee Tailors’ store-front is tucked away in one of the back alleys of the floor – you will have to search for it a bit, especially if it is your first visit.
The store is definitely one of the more spacious showrooms I’ve been to thus far. The room is brightly lit with plenty of wooden furniture, while rolls of “branded” European fabrics adorn the walls. At the back, there’s the fitting room to the left, as well as a small workshop to the right where alterations are carried out.
Interestingly, there’s a mannequin strategically placed by the door of the store. I presume this is to attract the attention of passersby, and Mr. Yik tells me that he changes the mannequin almost weekly. If you’re looking to see a finished example of Tat Bee Tailors’ workmanship, it’s right by the door!
Suits at Tat Bee Tailors start at $650 for a half-canvassed suit, with fully canvassed suits starting at $750. For $650, one gets to choose between a wide variety of mixed wool fabrics. The quality of the mixed wool fabrics is quite good – they are unbranded “house fabrics”, but much better than those offered at more affordable tailors.
Now, I’ve accumulated quite a few suits till date, and I was searching for inspiration for something different. I scanned the numerous posters scattered about the store, and my eyes rested on one of the Holland & Sherry posters, whereby a tan suit is showcased. I don’t have a tan suit in my wardrobe yet, and found the idea alluring. A tan suit is traditionally categorised as a summer suit – its lighter colour is deemed to be more casual – and in my opinion, has a nice retro dapper vibe to it. It was also the source of arguably President Obama’s biggest controversy in office, but I’m no president. As I do not have a suit of a tan/brown shade till date, I decided to roll with the idea! With Mr. Yik’s help, we managed to pick out a tan fabric with a subtle red pinstripe pattern from the $650 House Fabric collection.
If you have the budget, Tat Bee Tailors also offer numerous “branded” fabrics from prestigious European mills, such as VBC, Holland & Sherry, Loro Piana, Scabal, Piacenza, Hield, Ermenegildo Zegna, and more. Out of all the numerous tailors I’ve visited thus far, I would say that Tat Bee Tailors has one of the most extensive range of fabrics on offer! Whatever your needs or budget, it’s very likely that Tat Bee Tailors would have a suitable fabric to fulfill them.
Next, we decided upon the shirting fabric. To complement the summer vibes of the tan suit, I decided to opt for a cream coloured shirting fabric. Together, the look is supposed to be a tad laid back, a stark contrast to the slew of business suits that I’ve gotten lately.
Moving on to the customisation, customers can either choose to leave the button and lining choices to Mr. Yik, or select the options themselves – I opted for the latter, as I’m not that fond of surprises. For the suit buttons, I went for faux horn buttons (seen in the foreground of the above photo) to enhance the summer vibes of the suit. As for the shirt, I opted for brown plastic buttons to complement the tan shade of the suit. Tat Bee does have shell/horn buttons available, but those would be price add-ons.
As with the buttons, one can choose to leave the lining option up to the hands of Mr. Yik, or choose one themselves. Again, I opted for the latter option. Unlike most other tailors with little booklets of fabric linings, the linings at Tat Bee Tailors come in rolls. This may be inconvenient to the tailor (Mr. Yik had to carry out the above-pictured rolls of linings), but incredibly convenient to the consumer as one can see the full patterning of the lining. I eventually wounded up choosing the a orange/golden lining (pictured in the middle of the right stack above) – it just screamed summer to me!
Last but not least, it was time to decide upon the remainder of the customisation options. Mr. Yik promptly whipped out a card, and started drawing the outline of a suit on it. He says that it was the way he was taught, and that it helps the customer visualise the customisation options that they choose. For the customisation options, I first decided to go with peak lapels – it just adds that extra bit of panache. Secondly, I went with the usual double vents at the back, as well as flap pockets. Mr. Yik then suggested that I opt for a ticket pocket, given the more casual nature of the suit – something I readily agreed on. He also informed me that I could customise the colour of the buttonholes for both the suit and the shirt. After ruminating a little, I decided upon a matte gold colour for the suit buttonholes (the lapel button, as well as the last sleeve buttonholes), and red buttonholes for the shirt for a nice contrast. In addition, I also opted for working buttonholes for the suit sleeves, though that is a $50 add-on. Lastly, I went for side adjusters on my trousers like I usually do, as well as a eye catching shell button (though again, that’s an price add on) on the trousers.
Next, we moved on to the measurements.
Tat Bee Tailors – Measurement
As aforementioned, Mr. Yik has been measuring people for 30+ years now (that’s longer than I’ve been alive), and his experience shows.
Mr. Yik started by taking my upper body measurements. The usual measurements were taken: shoulders, chest, sleeve length, armhole, etc. Almost immediately, Mr. Yik’s experience shows – I’m not exaggerating when I say he has probably done this over 10,000 times! There’s a nonchalant precision to his wielding of the measuring tape that only seasoned veterans possess – similar to the way an old uncle barber wields his shaver.
Afterwards, Mr. Yik proceeded to take my lower body measurements Again, the usual measurements were taken: waist circumference, pants length, crotch, etc. The entire measurement process took about 10 minutes, which was significantly less than some of the other tailors I’ve visited. The younger tailors will often take the same measurement two or three times, tentatively checking the tape measurements, just to make sure what they have is accurate. Mr. Yik, on the other hand, breezes through his measurements.
After two weeks, I returned to Tat Bee Tailors for my baste fitting. 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 at tailors of a higher price point, and is often seen as a hallmark of the tailoring craft. 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.” Not only does it contribute towards a better fitting garment, it is also a memorable experience. It leaves you feeling like someone special, someone important – which arguably, is the raison d’etre of tailoring.
The baste fitting stage is where one feedbacks to the tailor on the areas where the fit can be improved. For me, I felt that the sleeves could be shortened a tad further, to show more of the shirt cuff. Mr. Yik promptly proceeded to pin up the sleeve. Unlike some of the cheaper, younger tailors, Mr. Yik is more than proficient in the usage of pins and chalk – quintessential tools of the trade.
Lastly, I also relayed to Mr. Yik that I felt that the jacket was a bit too snug. It’s important to convey how you feel in the fitting garment to the tailor, especially when it comes to the tightness of the jacket. Some aspects of the fit is subjective, and up to one’s personal comfort – some prefer a tighter fit, some prefer a looser fit, etc. After hearing my feedback, Mr. Yik promptly used chalk to mark areas for alteration. Thereafter, I bid adieu to Mr. Yik as I waited for the final garment!
Conclusion – so the Tat Bee Tailors Experience “shiok” or not?
If you are a firm believer of the Chinese idiom “姜还是老的辣” – the older, the wiser – then you will definitely appreciate Mr. Yik of Tat Bee Tailors. Tailoring is a craft that’s rooted in technical expertise, and to garner said technical expertise requires experience and years of toiling away in the back rooms. Tat Bee Tailors is more affordable than the other “old” tailors I’ve covered previously – Hwa Seng Textiles, Meiko Tailor – as well! Of course, there’s a trade-off – I would say the younger tailor possess more design pizzaz, keeping up with the latest haute couture trends, etc. For example, you won’t be able to find some of the unique designs the similarly priced Sors Studio boast at Tat Bee Tailors. It ultimately depends on your needs – if you are looking for a runway look, you might perhaps need to look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for experience, reliability, and craftsmanship that won’t break the bank, Tat Bee Tailors is a hidden gem.
At Tat Bee Tailors, a 2-piece half canvassed suit starts from $650, with fully canvassed suits starting from $750. In addition, Tat Bee Tailors is kindly offering readers a free shirt with any suit purchase – simply either flash this post or quote “WAHSOSHIOK” when making an appointment to enjoy the complimentary shirt. Instead of going to big labels such as Suit Supply, let’s support our silver generation instead! They have spent their lives honing their craft, and deserve more attention and appreciation. Before I left Tat Bee Tailors, Mr. Yik said to me ruefully: “I don’t know how much longer I can do this”, as he contemplates declining business and old age. I’m usually impersonal in my reviews, but I have to “break character” here to urge you guys to consider supporting our elder generation, who in many ways have paved the road for the younger tailors in the limelight today. They depend on our support to stay afloat – let’s honour their legacy by giving them our business!
Interested customers are highly recommended to book an appointment with Mr. Yik through SMS/Whatsapp at 96560261.
Read Part 2 of the review here, whereby I reviewed the fit and workmanship of the finished garments!
Tat Bee Tailors’ Location and Hours:
304 Orchard Road #03-09
Lucky Plaza Singapore 238863
Mon-Sat: 10am to 7pm
Sun & Holidays: By appointment only
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!