Hello everyone, and welcome to another of my reviews. In this article, I’ll review a new suit commission from Bangkok tailor Universal Tailors.
Yes, you’ve read that right: I’m expanding my coverage to overseas tailors as well, starting with Bangkok – the mecca of affordable tailors. Over the years, countless readers have asked me if they should tailor in Bangkok, and I’ve never been able to give an opinion as I’ve never done so myself. With COVID now a thing of the past (fingers crossed), I decided to visit a few tailors in Bangkok late last year, with the first being Universal Tailors.
Universal Tailors – the Brand
Universal Tailors was established over 37 years ago and currently resides in a swanky new showroom at the heart of Bang Rak, Bangkok. Today, it’s run by the father-son duo of Ronnie and Raj Singh, making it a bona fide family business. Universal Tailors also possesses its in-house production and even offers factory tours to customers (apparently, the factory is only 5-7 minutes away from the showroom).
After almost four decades, Universal Tailors has garnered quite a reputation – it’s been featured in notable media outlets such as GQ, Business Traveller, LuxLife, etc. It also has a stellar Google rating of 4.9/5, with over 400 reviews. And like most Bangkok tailors, Universal Tailors can deliver a custom-made suit (with a basted fitting) within three days. That’s insanely fast, and would never be a possibility in Singapore. Let’s see if it’s any good.
Universal Tailors – Video
If you’re interested in seeing some hands-on footage of my experience with Universal Tailors, do watch the Youtube video below:
Universal Tailors – the Experience
As mentioned, Universal Tailors is situated in downtown Bang Rak, Bangkok. It’s not quite in the shopping district, but it’s not too far away either.
There are a few tailors on the same street, so look for the golden sign that says “Universal Tailors”.
Upon entering the showroom, I was greeted by Raj (pictured above) – the son of the business. Being younger (I believe he’s in his late twenties), he currently provides customer styling advice. I mentioned to him that I wanted a relatively lightweight fabric that’s appropriate for Singapore’s tropical weather, while being stylistically striking as well.
Raj immediately recommended a blue wool blend fabric, with a lovely hopsack weave. Unlike most Singaporean tailors, Universal Tailors has the actual fabric roll available (the showroom is stacked with fabric rolls), which he promptly brought down for me to peruse. The wool blend fabric felt light to the touch, with none of that shiny, smooth texture characteristic of polyester fabrics. I also liked the hopsack weave – I haven’t had one before. As such, I readily agreed to Raj’s suggestion.
With the fabric settled, Raj took down my measurements. Don’t let his relatively young age fool you – it was apparent that Raj knew his way around the measuring tape, having probably grown up around the family business. After the measurements were done, we finalised the rest of the customisation options available. If you’re interested in seeing more of the consultation process (I also got a shirt done), do watch the video above.
The next day, I returned to Universal Tailors for my first fitting session. Yes, you read that right – the fitting session was the very next day. In Singapore, this would have taken at least a week.
This time, Ronnie (Raj’s father) took over for the fitting. From the offset, it was clear that the elder Singh was immensely experienced as he quickly noted the various aspects of how the clothes fit.
Of course, Raj was also involved in the fitting, often acting as a second check in the basted fitting process. 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, read this educational article here. 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.”
The basted fitting process allows Ronnie and Raj to fine-tune the fit of the suit, raising issues with fit that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Despite the 24-hour lead time, I was already impressed by how well the basted garments fit, though Ronnie still managed to identify some areas (specifically the sleeves and the back) for improvement.
After another 24 hours, I went back to Universal Tailors to collect the suit. Honestly, seeing the completed suit was amazing – it was my first time having a suit made within 72 hours, and I could barely believe it. I’ve heard about Bangkok’s uber-quick turnaround time, but always expected them to be shoddy fitting. But as you can see from the above picture, the fit of the final suit exceeded my expectations (lovely sleeve pitch!).
Just like the fitting, Ronnie (with over three decades of experience under his belt) poured over the completed suit to ensure that it was ready for collection. I’m pleased to report that everything passed his inspection, with the suit draping cleanly throughout. I asked Ronnie what would happen if the suit didn’t fit as well – given that I was due to fly in 3 hours – to which he replied that he would take it in for further alterations and then ship it to me in Singapore. Needless to say, I was impressed by his level of service and his dedication to his craft.
Universal Tailors – Suit Review
Now that I’m back in Singapore, let’s take a closer look at the fit and finish of my suit from Universal Tailors.
Firstly, the jacket and sleeve length are correct, ending near the middle of my palms and wristbone respectively. Most importantly, the shoulders lie flat without any fabric bunching, which is not easy to achieve given that I have heavily sloped shoulders. Furthermore, one can also see conscious tapering around the waist, giving me a slimmer look. Lastly, there are also no shoulder divots – one of the cardinal sins of tailoring.
I’ve already highlighted the sleeve pitch earlier, but I’ll just reiterate – Universal Tailors nailed the sleeve pitch. The sleeves drape nicely with little wrinkling, which is not an easy feat given that the sleeve pitch is dependent on the wearer’s posture.
I’m also impressed by the fit of the back, which drapes well with little wrinkling. I have a severely concaved back, so the back is always the trickiest aspect of my fit. Although not perfect, Universal Tailors did commendably well here, with only a tad of wrinkling to be seen on the upper back. It is obvious that Ronnie put effort (especially during/after the basted fitting) to take in the fabric around my lower back (where my back arches) to give the jacket a cleaner silhouette.
Lastly, the trousers also drape beautifully with little wrinkling to be seen. The length is spot-on as well, just brushing the tip of my Customwelt loafers. There’s also a nice tapering present, though still with adequate room for comfort.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the finishing of the suit. First and foremost, I love the subtlety of the hopsack weave. From afar, the suit looks like a solid blue suit, but up close one can see the multi-coloured threads, all woven into a striking yet cohesive whole. I love the texture – it’s unlike anything else I own, and I own 30+ suits.
Not only does the hopsack weave provide the garment additional character, but it also has functional benefits as well. As compared to regular fabrics, the hopsack is lightweight, breathable, has natural wrinkle resistance due to its woven nature, and also possesses a more forgiving drape.
Moving on from the fabric, the wider 3.5-inch notch lapels balance versatility with style. It’s still appropriate as a business suit, but you’re going to stand out. The wide notch lapels are currently a go-to of mine – I first opted for them in my Perfect Attire suit, and liked them so much that I chose them again with Universal Tailors.
As for the buttons, Raj recommended genuine horn buttons, which complement the blue fabric well. Note how the buttons are more of an amber shade than the usual dark brown – the lighter shade pairs better with the smart casual nature of the suit.
The same amber horn buttons are also used for the functional sleeve buttons. Otherwise known as surgeon cuffs, functional sleeves are a hallmark of quality tailoring. Taking it a notch further, the buttons are actually “kissing”, i.e overlapping. Like surgeon cuffs, kissing buttons are generally only offered at higher-end tailors, so I was impressed that Universal Tailors offers both. And as the icing on the cake, I also opted for my initials to be monogrammed on the shirt cuff.
On the inside, I chose a simple burgundy Bemberg lining. As compared to polyester linings, Bemberg linings are more breathable and comfortable. Notice the pipe stitching running down the seams of the jacket – these are done by hand, and is another sign of good workmanship.
As always, I went with side-adjusters for the trousers – much cleaner than belt loops.
All in all, I’m very impressed by the fit and finish of my blue hopsack suit from Universal Tailors. The fit is great – the sleeve pitch is one of the cleanest I’ve had thus far – and the finishing far exceeded my expectations given the affordable price tag and rapid turnaround time. The suit straddles the line between officewear and smart casual, being stylistically versatile as a result. What’s not to like?
Conclusion – so Universal Tailors “shiok” or not?
Universal Tailors was the first tailor that I visited in Bangkok, and I have to say they certainly impressed me. While not the cheapest, their suits are relatively affordable (in comparison to Singapore prices), starting at 9500 baht (~S$360). Yet, Universal Tailor was able to punch above its price tag and deliver a well-fitting, finely crafted suit – all within 72 hours. The experience was great as well, with the father-son duo reminding me of my experience at Meiko Tailor with Adele and Uncle Chung. My only complaint is the lack of a natural lapel roll, which would have given the suit added dimension.
Those interested in commissioning a suit from Universal Tailors can quote the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” or flash this article in-store to enjoy a free shirt (worth 1500 baht, or ~S$58) with every suit purchase. Honestly, I was sceptical of the cheap prices and quick turnaround times of Bangkok tailors beforehand – I’m glad Universal Tailors was able to dispel my stereotypes. My positive experience with Universal Tailors gave me the confidence to try out other Bangkok tailors, so stay tuned for more reviews.
Book an appointment with Universal Tailors here. They even offer free hotel pick-up services!
Universal Tailors Location: 252/2 Silom Road next to Soi 18 Bangrak, near Narai Hotel, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
P.S: Check out The Shiok Store here – it serves as a curation of my favourite products from my favourite brands.
P.P.S: Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah so Shiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.P.P.P.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.