So here you are. You’ve spent a year looking forward to it. And now you’re finally here, on Samui. It’s the best feeling in the world – busy with lots of shopping when you want it, and miles of white sand and blue sea when you don’t. It’s up to you if you sleep all day or not! But, sadly, there’s a countdown. And in those last few days those little gifts and things to take back home start to take over. But that’s all part of it, so it’s still good fun. However, there’s something else you need to know. Thailand is not only the place to buy Jim Thompson silks and 99% pure gold. It’s also one of the very few places in the world where you can buy hand-tailored and fitted clothing at a fraction of the cost back home – please keep reading!
Keep reading? Yes. Because if you haven’t already done this – and you don’t know about it – then you’re probably either nervous about the idea, or you’ve tried it and had a bad experience. And, yes, as with many aspects of a nation which looks to tourists for its commerce, there are a few bad apples which spoil it for the rest. But just check this for yourself on TripAdvisor. Key-in – Paul’s Fashion Samui. The results are nothing short of completely astonishing. Even going back to 2013, there are no bad reviews. No problems, no complaints, and not even one negative comment. As Paul Subedhi (the partner and spokesman for Paul’s Fashion) says, “We have a cast-iron guarantee – if you are not happy with the final product then you pay nothing.”
Yeah right. But they all say that, don’t they? Indeed they do. But just look at those TripAdvisor comments – and remember TripAdvisor is merciless; it only takes one spoiled kid and there’s a poor rating, often over nothing much at all. And then, when Paul tells you there has never been one person asking for a refund ever since they opened in 2005, you might be inclined to believe it.
Your problem is that you don’t know what to expect. Quite probably you’ve never had hand-tailored clothes before; they’re a luxury and expensive. You’re worried about being inexperienced and getting taken for a ride. So let’s just talk you through the process of getting, say, a formal business (two-piece) suit made – and this is quite an eye-opener by itself. (But keep in mind the same process applies to a huge range of women’s wear, both formal and informal.)
You’ve got a general idea of what you want. You more-or-less know the style, and that you want a dark fabric. So you tell one of the three partners what you are looking for. From this point on you’ll get individual attention and deal only with this tailor. He’ll go through a whole series of books and catalogues with you until you decide on what you want. (But, of course, if you have already found the exact style and can give him a picture, then that saves time.)
Then you have to choose the quality. At Paul’s Fashion there are just two: ‘Premium’ and ‘Premium Plus’, with the ‘Plus’ being pure cashmere that’s unblended with any other material; plus there’s also a whole range of linens for summer wear. Then you’ll get to see samples of the fabric; there are so many in the shop that it’s hard to pick just one, but there are also
quite a few items made up and displayed on mannequins, which helps a lot. And having got this far then it’s on to details, like how many buttons, what type of vents, the pocket style, lining material and so on. And then you’ll spend another 30 minutes being measured in detail.
With a two-piece suit, the focus is mainly on the jacket. So when you go back you’ll have the trousers plus a cut and semi-stitched jacket ‘template’ waiting, that’s been made to your measurements. And now this is carefully adjusted and fitted to you, while you bend and stretch and sit and twist. And then the third stage is that you’ll go back in a day or so when the trousers are complete and the jacket is 95% finished. This is the final fitting. With the majority of other tailors you won’t get this third fitting, and this is what makes everyone so happy here. Now there are the tiniest of final adjustments, and even if it means re-machining one seam, it’s not over until you are completely satisfied.
And here’s the even better news. Paul recommends that you make the first visit to his shop in Chaweng (which is more or less opposite the main McDonald’s) so you can spend time looking through the fabrics. After which the further three fitting can happen wherever you’re staying. He’ll come to you. And he’ll also bring the finished items back to you too, cleverly packed so that they’ll take up minimum space in your baggage. And the time scale? Well, he works in association with a staff of more than 40 pattern cutters and machinists. So, if need be, the time from your first visit to the finished garments can be very fast indeed!
“But we also create a great many women’s items, too” Paul explained. “From formal business suits to cocktail wear, in summer or winter fabrics, in quality cashmere or satin, silk, chiffon or pure cotton. And another thing. People come in for their first garments and like them. But they have to go back home. So, often they ask us to make them another suit, and we’re all geared-up to mail it to them. We keep customers’ patterns for four years. And many times we’ll get an email order for customers who are abroad but who want another garment made-up, and that’s no problem!”
The cost? Depending on the material a quality fitted cashmere wool two-piece business suit works out at about 8,000 baht. The payment is 50% of this in advance and the rest when everything is finished – and a refund of your initial payment unless you’re completely satisfied. But that’s never, ever happened. Which is no doubt because Paul’s Fashion is at the very cutting edge of Samui’s bespoke tailors!
Rob De Wet
For more information, telephone 0 7741 3932 or 0 846 273 812.