Tailor-made for success
More men are eschewing off-the-rack shirts for ones that are made to measure
For more Singaporean guys, the measure of a man is... a shirt that is a perfect fit.
However, designer labels Ermenegildo Zegna, Armani or Dunhill do not quite cut it. Luxe they may be, but they are still mass-manufactured and often cut for a bigger, Western frame.
Local men, especially younger ones, are opting for custom-made shirts from high-end tailors here, including CYC the Custom Shop, Rossi, Kingsmen, Kevin Seah and Aston Blake.
'The last thing I want is to see someone wearing the same shirt. I'd have to go home and change.'
LAW STUDENT AZIZUL KIROSAKI (above), who started getting shirts tailored three years ago
Prices range from $130 to $600 a shirt, depending on fabric, compared with $400 to $700 and more for designer labels.
Yes, getting a custom-fit shirt is surprisingly affordable compared with a designer one. Think fabric choices, customised cuffs, collars, buttons - no wonder men are mad about made-tomeasure.
One fan is 24-year-old Mr Azizul Kirosaki, a Singaporean of Malay and Japanese heritage. Of the 50 shirts he owns, over half are tailored to suit his slight, 1.71m-tall frame and 71cm waist.
He has been buying tailored shirts for three years: 'I'm very particular about how clothes hang on me. I need it to be precise and I can't find that off the rack.'
He tried everything from high-street chains such as Zara, Topman and Massimo Dutti to designer Dunhill. 'The best fit I could find was from Kenzo,' he says of the Paris-based Japanese label, adding: 'Hugo Boss was absolutely huge. A shirt would fit at the shoulders but not at the waist or the trunk would be too long.'
While it all started with fit, customisation is now a thrill for the National University of Singapore law student: 'I have a thing for little details - buttons, piping, stitching of a particular colour. I like having something different. The last thing I want is to see someone wearing the same shirt. I'd have to go home and change.'
He goes to Marcella - a boutique tailor that opened in 2010 - and shirt specialist CYC two to three times a year.
Indeed, CYC, which has been around since 1935 and is famous for outfitting senior figures such as President Tony Tan, is notching up success with the young generation. People under 35 make up about 65 per cent of its 3,000 new customers a year, a trend which started a couple of years ago, says its business development director, Ms Jan Fong.
To reach out to the younger set and help them choose from a mind-boggling array of options, CYC created a Facebook app last year where customers can play around with colours and shirt styles.
Rossi co-director Daniel Lum says he has seen more young people coming to his two outlets in Millenia Walk and Chevron House, but declines to reveal figures.
'Our clientele has gotten younger and more particular. They're google-ing, reading The Sartorialist,' he says, referring to a popular fashion blog.
'They're getting more information and asking for detailing and hand stitching. They want someone who can reinterpret a Prada shirt or suit for an Asian frame.'
Over at local tailor Men's Tradition in Peninsula Plaza, half of owner Daniel Goh's clients are under the age of 30, he says. Its prices range from $80 to $300.
'They're young guys who want to look hip. If they go down to Topshop, they are quite concerned that they will bump into someone who is wearing the same thing.'
Mr Joel Tan, 24, a business management student at Singapore Management University, started going to the tailor at 18 to get shirts to fit his swimmer's build. 'My shoulders are really broad and I need something that's not too tight so I don't look like the Incredible Hulk,' he says.
Mr Tan also loves the creative aspects of designing his shirts, choosing different colours, cuffs and linings: 'When you're working in the corporate world, it pays to wear something to help you stand out.'
For Mr Woon Ming, 35, there is a practical aspect. 'I need my shirt sleeves bigger on the left to fit the Audemars Piguet, Bell & Ross and Panerai watches I wear,' says the real estate firm vice-president.
Most high-end tailors obtain their fabrics exclusively from European mills in Italy, Switzerland and Austria that are known for their quality processing.
CYC, for example, orders fabric from mills in Italy and Austria four to six times a year to meet demand and trends, and carries hundreds of types of fabric. Customer preferences, measurements, and previous orders are kept on file to keep track of their wardrobe development.
Mr Eugene Yang, a senior banker, has had his shirts made at CYC for more than 40 years.
'I've been going there since I was seven,' he says. 'Over the years, they've kept pace with the fashions and quality.'
He adds: 'The tailor also needs to have the range of fabrics and quality so that you don't feel like you're losing out by not going to a designer.'
At Rossi, stylists sit with clients for up to an hour during their first visit. 'We learn what their lifestyle is, what colours they're comfortable with, what image they want to project, then we recommend something suitable,' says Mr Lum.
Rossi and CYC are tailors which cut from pre-established patterns, whereas others offer bespoke services, with patterns made from scratch according to the client's specifications and measurements.
At bespoke menswear label Aston Blake in Millenia Walk, in-house stylists help the customer choose styles based on their profession, skin colour and body type. The Australian-owned label even has an in-store body scanner to ensure accurate measurements.
Another bespoke label here is Kevin Seah, where orders have doubled over the past year.
Says its eponymous creative director: 'Customers are making a garment to suit their body and personality, rather than fashion.'