CH5: Shanghai Tailors

People have been giving props to Shanghai's clothing tailors since the days of yore, but nowadays there are so many of them that it's difficult to pin down a dependable one who delivers consistently good quality.

On the hunt for well-made custom suits, qipaos, pants and coats, we CH staffers were presented with more than just one abomination to good sense and style. We laughed, we cried. We lost a lot of money. Here, our top five picks for Shanghai tailors, edition one.

Qipiao Jie (Qipao Street)

217-241 Changle Lu, near Maoming Lu

This block of Changle Lu that has a cluster of old school qipao tailors is not officially called "Qipao Jie," but that's how we like to refer to it among our circle of fancy ass friends. Here, you'll find qipao styles and makers that range from slightly-above-average quality (better than fabric markets) to uber classy, qipao-tailors-to-the-stars dressmakers (really old Chinese stars).

These shops are especially popular among women who are looking for traditional red silk qipao gowns for their wedding ceremonies, but we've also seen some Western-style ones made with white lace and pearls. On average, it takes one to two days for tailoring an in-store qipao, and one to two weeks for a custom-made piece.

Good ones: Hanart 1918 & Hanyi 2 (#217-221) have been open for over 10 years at this location, and the original shifu retired just 2 years ago at the age of 94 years old. Silk qipaos start around the 3600rmb mark (same for both long and short) and go up to 8800rmb for ones with crazily elaborate hand-embroidered patterns. Zhuang Rong (#241) has the super deluxe, top-of-the-line stuff with crazy head-to-toe embroidery, gold trimmings and dragon patterns (about 12,800rmb for those). For something a bit more East-meets-West, Shanghai 2002 (#201) has a white lace wedding piece (5800rmb), woolen ones with elaborate hand-stitched patterns (12,000rmb) and original in-house designs at 3800rmb.

Suitsupply

2/f, 819 Shanxi Bei Lu, near Kanding Lu

Several of our guys over at parent company SmartShanghai went in to Suitsupply and came out big fans. The brand started in the Netherlands and has since been brought to several fashion capitals around the world, including London, NYC and Milan. The Suitsupply style definitely leans towards the contemporary, with bright hues matched against even brighter hues, bold patterns and lines, lots of mixed textures and the like.

Says SmartShanghai editor Nick Taylor in this review: "They offer high-quality, tailored suits at fair prices, but, more than anything, they make the experience of trying, buying and getting fitted for a suit really enjoyable and easy... suits start at around 3000rmb, which seems to be around the same price a good tailor will charge. The difference is in the shopping experience, and the amount of fun you have here buying a suit. For someone who knows what they want and already has a good tailor, it might not be the place.

But for someone, like me, who has no knowledge about what to buy, what to look for, even what to ask for if I wandered into a tailor's, then this place is ideal. They'll look after you, talk to you, teach you about how to dress well, and you have fun along the way. I left wishing I had to wear a suit every day for work."

South Bund Fabric Market

399 Lujiabang Lu, near Nancang Jie

Of course we included the mega-fabric market that is the South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market. Of course we did. The fabric market is home to hundreds of tailors and seamstresses, and is the city's prime destination for bespoke clothing garments. If it can be stitched and sewn, they can do it for you here.

For women, we recommend Ashley at Stall No. 210, who specializes in jerseywear. For dresses, Xing Qi at Stall No. 213, make some pretty elaborate stuff, like copies of JCrew bridesmaid dresses and other formalwear. Long gowns start at about 480rmb. For the fellas, we recommend Joyce & Rita, Stall No. 129, who speak excellent English and can make good copies if you bring in a suit, or run one up from scratch in a week or less. A suit ranges from 600-1050rmb depending on choice of fabric.

The brothers at Bin Hao, Stall No. 309, are also excellent, and can make a linen suit for summer at 400rmb or wool suits at 650rmb (or more if you use a real silk lining). For dress shirts, we can vouch for Li Guang Ming, Stall No. 371, who can run up any shirt in less than a week, plus Jennifer at Stall No. 237, who can deliver the finished product to you for a small fee.

 Shi Liu Pu Cloth Market

168 Dongment Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Lu

Lesser known than its South Bund counterpart, Shi Liu Pu Cloth Market also houses an array of tailors and seamstresses, but since it’s smaller in size and a lot less busy than its neighbor, it's one of the more manageable markets in town.

Overall, the fabric quality here isn’t as consistent as in the other market (which you can feel), but the prices are more easily negotiated (especially on the basement, second and third floors). You can get basic bridesmaids dresses for as little as 90rmb each here. But, if you’re looking for cottons, then this is the place to go, as they are much better stocked than South Bund for that.

We can vouch for Yang Zhao Hua at Stall No. 31. It’s not much to look at, but their no-frills, no sample corner of the basement can do cheap, cheap copies and reliably good sewing. Jiang & Gu at Stall No. 362 specialize in costumes and performance outfits, all sparkles and puffy tulle and dangling doohickeys. Shiny disco stuff, dancewear, things like that. Examples: 600rmb for a sparkly bra and skirt set, with seashells. Basic sequin skirts around 400rmb.

For wool coats and suits, try Joy at Stall No. 135 or Lu & Zhang at Stall No. 129. 880rmb for double-sided lambswool men’s coat, and women’s coats at 580rmb for 680rmb for double-sided, thicker garments. Dai at Stall No. 325 specializes in cotton and chiffon, mostly ladies' stuff like office dresses (580rmb), formal gowns (780rmb) and cotton sundresses (280rmb) and the like.

 Tony The Tailor

Bld 15, 399 Changlue Lu, near Xiangyang Bei Lu

Yup, Tony the Tailor. We went there. Yes, we know everyone thinks of him as the cheesy tailor with ubiquitous advertising about town. But, it's a solid, reasonably priced alternative to Suitsupply if basics and essentials are what you're after. They do suits (for both men and women), blouses and dress shirts, coats and tuxedos.

Tony can turn around a suit in a couple of days, so if you need that suit made during a brief spell in the city or are having visitors over who want to take advantage of cheap(er) custom-made clothing in China, then this might be one of your best bets.

Tony started off in Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui district, and though he's since relocated to Shanghai, he still imports all of his fabric from Hong Kong. He's got a lot of thicker, warmer fabrics like wool and tweed. Prices start at 2800rmb for a full men's suit, and go up to 4000-5000rmb for fancier cuts and fabrics. And, fun fact: apparently he's previously made stuff for Clint Eastwood and Sylvester Stallone.

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Photography by Brandon McGhee