For us the year 2014 started in good and due form with 3 days of “holidays” with our loved ones.
After beeing in Vietnam for only a couple hours, we had already been joined by Benoit’s cousin who also happens to be Fabienne’s best friend (we let you guess how we met…) in order to spend a few days in the Mekong Delta.
On December 31st we had an appointment in the seaside resort of Mui Ne with another couple of good friends and Fabienne’s dad to celebrate New Year’s Eve as it should be!
New Years Eve in the sun
One thing is certain: Spending New Year’s Eve in the sun is awesome!
For us, it will definitely have been a breath of fresh air on our journey, with a generous invitation to a great hotel from our friends, and an invitation to celebrat with a delicious meal!
Mui Ne is a very touristic seaside resort with many (too many) Russian tourists…. But hey, the area is beautiful, especially the sand dunes just behind are breathtaking…. But we will probably come back to this in a future article!
After having digested a little bit our few big end-of-year meals and also after having eliminated the residues of the New Year’s evening, we set off again towards Hoi an with Stef and Romain, our dear Swiss friends who came to Vietnam to spend their holidays with us…
Hoi an, old market town
Hoi An is a small town in Quang Nam province on the Vietnamese coast. About halfway between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Hoi An has become a must-see tourist destination!
The city is best known for its tailors, but also for its crazy charm and its small alleys in the Chinese style… Yes, Hoi An has long been the home of the Chinese but also the Japanese! It was in a way the meeting point for Chinese and Japanese merchants in the 18th century for trade.
Currently classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hoi An has preserved over the years the charm of yesteryear with its small coloured houses bordering the Grand Canal. It’s definitely a pretty little town where it’s nice to walk around…
On the other hand, don’t expect to meet many Vietnamese, and as for “authentic cultural experience”, you will have to come back.
Hoi An is a tourist city, and the important thing is to be aware of it when you arrive!
Visit Hoi An ancient town
In the pedestrian centre of the old town there is not a single house that is not a café, a restaurant, a tailor, a small supermarket or a souvenir seller…
Ok… I might exagerate a bit…
There are also some temples and museums that you can access with a ticket!
Tickets can be purchased in packs of 5 for 120’000 dongs. These tickets can the be used to any museum, exhibition, temple or even to cross the famous Japanese covered bridge…
But well, nobody comes to Hoi an for the few temples in general, moreover they are almost all deserted…
Why stop in Hoi an on the way to Hanoi?
Well, I’ll give it to you in the bull’s-eye…. Shopping!
Hoi An has a reputation to be a city for tailor-made clothes, but this reputation is quite recent, and it has mainly developed thanks to tourism! Tell yourself that 10 years ago there were barely a dozen tailors in the city, now there are more than 400 shops of this type! So let me tell you that the competition is tough and that to find the right deal you have to hold on!
You were told a little scoop in our Review on China about our next major joint project “after our round the world trip….. So now we can say that we are equipped! Benoit got two great suits, and I… well, my beautiful dress! But pssst… you won’t see anything of the final result, because it’s top secret!
Okay, just a little taste….
PS: I made a small update in 2017 at the end of the article to show you the finished dress
In Asia, Business is Business my friend
By staying 10 days in Hoi an (yes, getting a princess dress made takes time), we had time to observe a little bit how this small village works and how the business of the tailors of Hoi An operates a little…
Some information in bulk
For the tailors
- You will see the hoteliers are all Suuuuuper nice, and they will most likely give you “their advice” for the best tailor in town…. Often you will be advised one of the most expensive, explaining that they are the only ones who produce quality clothes. But be aware that on average a tailor pays between 30 and 35% of commission on your purchases to this very dear hotelier.
- All the clothes are indeed made to measure in Hoi An by local craftsmen (pfiou) but on the other hand be careful: the fabrics used all come straight from…. China! Nothing Vietnamese in there…. China is cheaper my friend!
- There are only 4 or 5 tailors who have their own designers…. For the other 300 they have their clothes produced in the SAME WORKSHOPS!
In the streets
- At the market prices can easily be multiplied by 10 for tourists!
We observed a rice cake seller for a few minutes… A Vietnamese lady arrives at the stand and hands 3000 dongs to the seller, in exchange she receives a package of 10 pancakes! A few moments later, an English tourist arrives at the same booth and is asked for 50’000 dongs for the same package of cakes… 😉
- Buying a can of Coke in the main street of Hoi An in a Minimart will cost you between 15000 and 20000 dong. If you leave the center the price of the red can goes down to 8000 dongs! 😉
- On the banks of the Canal de Hoi an, you will find many street food stands… The food is excellent, but on the other hand the prices are not really those of the usual street food, they are rather restaurant prices.
There are an almost infinite number of guesthouses and hotels in Hoi An and you will have no trouble finding something for every budget. For our part we had opted for a small guesthouse (unfortunately we forgot the name) for about 13€ per nightSee the Hotels in Hoi An
Where to have your clothes made in Hoi An? Tailor selection
Well it’s nice, we tell you about our little episodes but with all that we still haven’t told you where to shop in Hoi An if you stop by…
Because yes, having clothes made in Vietnam can be very worth it, and the prices are unbeatable!
As we told you above, in Hoi An there are roughly two types of tailors… The small “stalls” and the few large chains whose prices are well above those of small competitors and which are highly recommended by hoteliers…
So why do hoteliers recommend Kimmy or Yally?
It is quickly seen, their commission is the most interesting, but not only… The service is also impeccable, and believe me, it costs money!
We will only talk to you about our experience, i.e. the Kimmy tailor.
At Kimmy’s we start by letting you walk through the door by yourself….
Huh what? Yes it is already a big difference, elsewhere there will always be someone to “invite” you in…
“Have a look my friend!” “Good price for you”
This is probably the phrase that we hear most often from the small stores in Hoi An….
Honestly, we’ll have to explain to them that it’s not by yelling at me that they’re going to make me want to go inside…Anyway…
Once at Kimmy’s, we were immediately put at ease.
They listen to es, they advise us, they offer us drinks, show us images of finished creations online..
When you get there, maybe you will just be saying to yourself “I’m here to take a look”… But you will see the sales techniques are well established and in less than 10 minutes you will already be choosing your fabric! 😉
Kimmy, a top-notch service
As far as service is concerned, there’s nothing to complain about, they’re at the top! The adjustments are done in a few hours, and the result is just perfect!
My two dresses were almost perfect at the first fitting already, and often the “saleswomen” would notice the last touches to be done before I even had time to say a word.
On the other hand, price is a very different range than the small shops in the area….
We tested both…. Let’s move on to comparisons….
Comparing 2 tailors in Hoi An
Benoit got two suits made in Hoi An….
One is a three-piece at Kimmy’s and a shirt. The second suit, we had it made in a small shop a little away from the city center for a price 5 times lower than at Kimmy’s…
in the end?
Kimmy’s suit is absolutely PERFECT! The quality of the fabric is just beautiful, the finishes are perfect and the cut simply couldn’t be better! In short, my man will be the most handsome man on our wedding day! 😉
The shirt is of good quality, and fits perfectly.
The second suit is what I would call a nice suit…. The fabric is beautiful, but less soft than the first one. The cut is good, but it doesn’t fit as perfectly as the first one. You get my point yeah?
But it was 5 times cheaper…. For the shirt, nothing to complain about, it’s perfect!
We made some other clothes to renew our wardrobe, including 2 hoodies.
Benoit and I, 2 sweaters, the same tailor but not the same result…. The sweaters were both perfect! Mine is dark grey and pink, Benoit’s black and green… Yes, except that after not even 3 days Benoit’s sweater was already starting to be damaged. Mine is still in perfect condition!
Thus, the grey fabric was apparently better than the black one… Even though they seemed pretty identical at first.
All this to say that sometimes it’s also a bit of a lottery! It’s a bit of a game: you pay a low price; sometimes you win and sometimes… well, you lose! That’s the game, and you’ll have to accept it!
Our tips and tricks to avoid scams in Hoi An
Keep the name of your hotel secret
When you step into one of the big stores (Kimmy, Yally) one of the first questions very cleverly asked by the saleswomen will be to ask you how you got there…
Don’t tell them that it was your hotel that advised you. Say that you arrived there by chance, or that a piece exposed outside made you curious!
Indeed the tailors of Hoi An are very honest with the commissions and the price will automatically increase by 30% or even 40%! If you can, consider giving a fake name (or even a fake hotel), as most hotels send a list of their customers’ names to the tailors they recommend to make sure you get all their commissions!
Beware too if your hotel provides you with a business card from a tailor…. Do not show it to the tailor, as hotels often have a small distinctive sign on the cards so that the tailor knows where the business card comes from!
For the simple things go to the small tailor shops:
You will have understood, Benoit’s suit from Kimmy’s is perfect, and I am thrilled with my princess dress!
But Kimmy is expensive, even a little too expensive! If you want to do something simple (shirt, little summer dress, sweater or even basic suit), we advise you to orient yourself on the smallest shops. The difference in quality is not worth the difference in price! On the other hand, we would highly recommend Kimmy for more complex things (like the wedding dress for example). 🙂
As we told you above, few tailors actually make their own clothes! Most of them subcontract to two large tailors’ stores where hundreds of small hands are active day and night! In short, if you need a white shirt, it is quite likely that this shirt will be offered to you for $15 at a place X and for $25 at a place Y… In the end the shirt will be made in the same workshop, with the same fabric… The only thing that can vary is the margin of the shop, as well as the speed of delivery of the said shirt!
Ask to test the materials:
If you listen to the sellers, in Hoi An you will only find silk, satin and cashmere… So beware, because it’s often synthetic!
This is not very serious issue in itself, but let’s say that if we can avoid paying satin to have polyesters, it’s better! A salesman who is sure of his fabrics should gladly accept to give you a fabric sample! To see if it is silk, a simple test is to light the piece of fabric…. If it burns the chances are good that it is actually satin…. On the other hand, if the fabric melts…. well then, it is better to try to renegotiate the price downwards!
Do not pay 100% of the price on the first day:
We had no problem with that point, but apparently it is not uncommon for some tailors to be reluctant to make alterations after the first fitting…. By paying only 50% of the order price, you will have the flexibility to negotiate the final adjustments!
Plan enough time:
One of the keys to hand-tailored clothes is fitting! So don’t forget that sometimes for some clothes you will have to come back 2 or 3 times before they are perfect! Plan to stay at least 3 days if you want to have a suit made!
Come knowing what you want!
In Hoi An it is the paradise for tailor-made clothes…. But don’t forget that for most, they are tailors and not fashion designers…. Thus, if you arrive with a photo of what you want (or better an old suit of yours) then it will be easier for them to copy it then to create something from scratch.
probably the most important point! The solicitations of the sellers will make you nuts, that’s almost certain. You’re most likely to get a little bit scamed, but put it in perspective and enjoy!
Ok, with all this, I think you’re ready now to get your clothes made! 😉 So do you feel like it?
We arrived in Hoi An from Mui Ne and before that Ho Chi Mihn. In all it takes about 12 hours of driving between Ho Chi Minh and Hoi An. The price of a sleeping bus (or semi-sleeping) bus is about 12€.See the tickets
If you come from Hanoi there is a train or bus option and the journey takes between 12pm and 4pm. The price varies between 16€ (sleeper bus) and 70€ for a VIP train.
A few years have passed since this article…. In the meantime we finished our round the world trip and in the summer of 2016 we finally said yes 😉
The dress and the suit? We were delighted!