Our Hoi An Shopping Experience


Notes:

This site was previously available from hoian.freeservers.com.  However, they removed statistics from their free package, so I’ve moved the site here. – Brendan
 

Information current at:

July 2000
Updated with stuff from Kelly and Ian’s trip April 2001 (added to site Jan 2002)
Updated with a report from Marsha's trip July 2004 (added to site August 2004)
Updated with a report from Eveline's trip April 2005 (added to site May 2005)

Share your experiences:

Share your own Hoi An shopping experiences with others by removing the NOSPAMM text from this email address and emailing Brendan: brendanswebNOSPAMM@optushome.com.au.

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Note: NOSPAMM text is inserted to thwart spam spiders.  These are automated scripts which trawl the web for email addresses to spam people at.

Part 1 – General

Buying clothes in Hoi An has a number of steps:

(1) find a design;

(2) choose the fabric you want;

(3) get measured;

(4) pay a deposit;

(5) make a time to come back;

(6) go away while they make it;

(7) come back to be fit at the time you agreed with them;

(8) be told that the clothes aren’t ready, but they will be in another 15 minutes or so, so why don’t you have a look through some of the magazines and see if there’s anything else you’d like;

(9) (optional) be told that your skin is very beautiful;

(10) make another time to come back;

(11) come back at the time agreed and have the clothes fitted (optionally repeating steps (8) –(10) above);

(12) search very hard for things they’ve done wrong and make sure they’ve used the right fabric;

(13) tell them about the things they’ve done wrong;

(14) (optional) be told that that’s normal/ it will be all right when you wash it/ that’s what you asked for

(15) (optional) remind them gently that that’s not the case and they will be fixing it

(16) make another time to come back;

(17) come back at the time agreed (optionally repeating steps (8) –(10));

(18) check the clothes one last time, pay the balance and take the clothes.

Phew!

A precursor to item 1 is finding a shop that you think (a) has a wide enough selection of fabrics available and (b) has the skill to be able to make the things you want to make. The Lonely Planet suggests that you stick to things they’ve got displayed, that way they’re less likely to make a mistake.

Finding a design is done either by choosing something on display, or, alternatively, by searching through fashion magazines and choosing something that takes your fancy. This alternate system is actually much more difficult than it sounds. I spent forever trying to find things that interested me, and ended up finding about 1 style of shirt – which, in the end, turned out badly, see "not so best experiences" below.

Fabric can be chosen either from the fabric in the shop, or by buying (or bringing) fabric from elsewhere and asking the shop to use it. We always followed option 1.

[Kelly’s tip: Bring your own fabric if you can. The fabric selections available in Hoi An are poor across the board. Kelly took her own and had good results. Also, there are plenty of stories of people paying for silk but getting Vietnamese (ie fake) silk. If you take your own fabric, at least you know what you’re getting.]

We didn’t want to use up our cash, so did some Mastercard transactions. These involved an extra fee, but, from memory, that fee shouldn’t exceed about 3% of the cost of the transaction – but don’t quote me on the figure. Alternatively you can go to the bank and get a cash advance on the card. I am not sure whether the transaction in the shops was done as a "cash advance" or whether it was a true credit transaction.

You will be required to leave a deposit before they start the work. It’s just some amount – but usually anything up to 50% of the price, and usually about 25%.

In addition, lots of shops have "guest books" or similar in which people have written wonderful things. Exercise caution in relying on guest books – they won’t include bad reports and they are not necessarily written by anyone with any tailoring skills.



Marsha adds the following tips:

Tips for any tailor's shop:  
1.  If you're dead set on a particular style, take a picture or drawing, or even a garment to be copied; in most cases you will not be dealing with the actual tailor or seamstress; the person you talk to will be giving verbal instructions to somebody else.
2.  Be very specific regarding design details:  linings, type of button, how many buttons, top stitching if desired, hand vs. machine hems, type of collar, length of cuff, etc.
3.  Many shops are poorly lit and you may have to take fabric outside to get a good look at it, so don't wait until late in the day.
4.  Ladies, take the undies you intend to wear with your new clothes! If you wear a sports bra for fitting a blouse it may not fit right with the underwire bra you normally wear to work.
5.  It would be helpful to know in advance the exact inseam length you want or at least the height of the heels you usually wear; I didn't, and ended up spending a lot of time standing on my tiptoes to figure out the correct length. 

 
 

Part 2 – [Our] Best Experiences




Name: Tailor Sum

Location: 102 Duong Tran Phu (1 on map)

We bought two men’s three piece suits from this woman’s shop in good woollen fabrics. The suits were about US$32 each. The fabric was good quality, but wasn’t what you’d expect from, say an $800+ Italian number. They were friendly, helpful and didn’t pressure us too much. The woman pictured said that she was going to study (law?) in the US with the help of some of her uncles in 2001. [Nov Update – she was still there in 2001 when Kelly and Ian went, so I guess she was spinning us a line]. She runs the shop with her sister (?). Very satisfying experience, happy to recommend them. Slight problem was that they didn’t accept cards, so make sure you’ve got cash.

Update from Kelly and Ian: K+I weren’t as impressed with these people as we were. They found their work of "good quality, but the would use inferior fabrics if you let them get away with it – 6/10". Thanks to K+I for updated photo showing both.
 
 

Name: Cloth Shop Thu Trang No 18

[Unfortunately K+I weren’t sure if they had the right card for these people so take care and match the faces!]

Location: No. 18 Hoi An Market

Tel: (0510) 863 904

[A Kelly + Ian experience]

These two are sisters who do great work. They made a number of formal shirts for K+I. Ian had some clothes made up, then Kelly did based on Ian’s recommendation. K+I were so impressed they rated them 10/10. However, they were also so impressed that they didn’t give me any more details about their experiences at the shop :-).

Name:Thu Thuy Cloth Shop

Location: 60 Duong Le Loi (2 on map)

These people were great, if very hard nosed. M bought a fair number of clothes and was happy with them all. I bought a cloak (US$70) which was my most expensive clothing purchase for the trip. They accidentally sewed a button hole into the body of the cloak, which they shouldn’t have done. At first we were a little concerned that they wouldn’t unpick it properly – they tried unpicking it first, but that was a mess, so they eventually replaced the panel with new fabric. We had a lot of confidence in their ability and knowledge. They also had a good selection of fabrics to choose from. We thought they were pretty professional – however this also means that they won’t bargain too much. I didn’t get a photo of the head woman who runs the shop. They accept Visa and Mastercard.


 
 

Name: Don’t Know Cloth Shop (sorry, have lost or can’t correlate the card)

Location: Near the corner of Le Loi and Dinh Phung on the left hand side going north – somewhere near number 3 on map. It was just a small shop.

This woman made some stuff up for M and did a good job. She has a small shop, with a fair selection of fabrics. M was impressed by her friendly style, and her professional workmanship. Did not pressure us too much to buy.
 
 

Name: Cloth Shop 17 Le Loi

Location: 17 Le Loi (duh!) (4 on map)

We stumbled across this guy at 10 o’clock on our first night there and our travelling companions spent the next 90 minutes spending US$200+ ordering clothing. He’s a fun guy to buy stuff from, and has a camp style. Nothing is ever a problem, and he always takes care to ensure you don’t go away unsatisfied (i.e. keeps asking you if "you like something else?"). Our companions did have some issues with the way their clothes were made but I understand that the problems were fixed. M bought a suit from him. We didn’t notice it at the time, but the fabric in the bottom had been cut differently (cross ways) to the fabric for the jacket. As a result the suit looks like it’s made from different fabric and doesn’t really look like a suit (d’oh!).


Name: Tyty Cloth Shop

Location: 56 Le Loi

Phone: (84) 510 862157

[A K+I experience]

The shop is named after the little girl (Tyty) and is run by her mother. K+I had a good experience in this shop, not least of all because they thought Tyty was cute. They rated this shop as 7/10. They were cheap and did nice work.
 
 

Name: My y (Meei Yih)

Location: 80 Le Loi

Phone: 0510 861 591

[A K+I experience]

K+I didn’t have a lot to say about My y and don’t have a photo of the people who ran it. However, they thought the work was good, but expensive – 6.5/10.

 


Name: Le Thi Bich Lan
Location: 23 Tran Phu Street, Hoi An
[A Marsha experience - July 2004]

B'Lan (far left in picture) speaks English pretty well, as does at least one of her friendly assistants. No pressure at all, she had good design suggestions (and advised against some things we wanted to do in favor of better design/fabric alternatives), and things were ready when she said they would be. When we had fittings, all changes we requested were cheerfully made. We had several suits made & were particularly pleased with how well they did the tricky parts (lapels, fit, pockets). She quotes a firm price that was very reasonable (we comparison-shopped); no bargaining & she does not charge a commission on Visa/Mastercard purchases. We paid $45 US for 2-pc. wool gabardine suits (extra for fine Italian wool); $15 US for women's fitted long sleeve cotton or silk blouses; $8 US for short sleeve shirts; $38 US for winter wool coats.

++++++


Name: Le Thi Bich Lan.
Location: No. 23 on Tran Phu Street
[An Eveline Experience - April 2005]

One thing which attracted me to this shop was its "no bargaining" policy. B'Lan explained that she found it pointless to set the price high just so that her customers can bargain. She preferred to have a "fixed price" policy so that her customers will know exactly how much to pay.

For US$8 for a cotton short/three-quarter sleeve shirt, you are free to specify the modifications you want - the collar, the cuffs, etc. I had several designs made up and all of them cost US$8 each, despite the several variations to the design. Pants cost US$14 for cotton and denim and once again, you're free to specify the design.

Workmanship to the shirts can be a bit rough. The pleating of one of the shirts had its stitches exposed, when it should have been covered by another piece of cloth (unfortunately, I didn't spot this in time and it was too late to make changes). Pants were very well-made and the tailor himself would go to the shop for refitting. I had some pairs refitted twice. Give yourself 2 full days at least for refitting. You can have shirts made up within 6 hours but it's really more advisable to give yourselves more time so that changes, if needed, can be made.

My assistant Loc ensured that every piece looked good. Indeed, "changes are cheerfully made" and no complaints from her at all! Loc and B'Lan, the lady boss, speak good English. Hoa and Tam, the other two shop assistants, speak good French.

It is difficult to find this shop as the shop name is not prominent. The front of the shop also does not give hint that there's a tailor shop in the "inner chambers" of the shop. Remember the address carefully and look for No. 23 on Tran Phu Street.

Here's my online review and pictures: http://www.livejournal.com/users/mrsbudak/100724.html

Regards,
Eveline (Singapore)

 

 

Part 3 – [Our] Not so best experiences

Name: Hien Vien No. 11

Location: No. 11 Hoi An Market 5 on map (have an enclosed stall in a larger building)

For workmanship, these people were ok, but the fabrics that they have available weren’t that crash hot. The woman "A" makes good use of her English by combing the streets of a morning on her bike looking for new tourists. When she sees you, she’ll stop and say hello and engage you in chit chat. After a while she’ll tell you how beautiful you are. She’ll then want to show you her shop (which is run by woman "B"). If you show the slightest inclination she’ll hang on to you like a limpet until you go to the shop – and once you’re there she and woman A will put the hard sell on you. When we were there, she followed us 6 blocks while we walked around the town. Just after M had paid for her things I asked them about having something made up for me. They then started wanting to withhold the clothes that M had already paid for until I had ordered more stuff. M got extremely angry at that point and we resolved to write a bad report on them (they did give M the clothes and I didn’t end up buying anything from them).

They are very high pressure sellers. They’ll also happily underquote to increase the price later. For one item they originally quoted US$30, then later revised it to US$60 – when no details had changed. This might simply be because they don’t have a clue. In any event, beware.

Woman "C" and woman "D" are "off siders" to woman A and woman B.
 
 
 
 

Name: My Dieu Cloth Shop

Location: No. 14 Hoi An Market 5 on map (in the same building but next door to Hien Vien above).

I bought some shirts from this woman while waiting for M to talk to the women at the shop above. I had just bought a Nehru style suit from a place up the road and wanted some shirts to go with it (also Nehru style). I explained this to her, and she quoted me US$9/shirt for raw silk. So I come back later to discover that she’d done normal collars on the shirts. First she tells me that’s not what I’d asked for. Second she says she can fix it easily. Her idea of a fix was to simply cut the top off the collar. I wasn’t impressed. One of the shirts also has one arm longer than the other (which I should have noticed when I was trying them, but I think I only actually tried one of the shirts on and visually compared the others – so buyer beware!!!). All in all, a pretty shoddy job without enough attention to customer service. Unfortunately, her offsiders (not shown) were very kind and attempted to be helpful – but not enough to overweigh the bad impression made.
 
 

Name: Shop Thu Thao

Location: 32 Duong Tran Phu (6 on map)

I bought 5 casual shirts from this woman based on a design in a fashion magazine. The make seemed ok (some of the finishing on the hems wasn’t that great), so I then asked for a further 5 business shirts to be made up (I think the rate was about US$7 for cotton). They have some great colours in cotton, but the workmanship is too crappy. In the weeks after returning home many of the shirts have literally fallen apart at the seams. Buttons have fallen off and the stiffened parts of the shirt (eg collar/cuffs) started blistering after their first wash. For the business shirts, she had an example hanging up in the shop and I just said "copy that" – but they couldn’t even do that properly, putting in concealed buttons (which I’d wanted for the casual shirts, but weren’t on the sample) and leaving out the front pocket (which was on the sample and on the casual shirts).

She is also a very high pressure sales person. Nothing is ready when you come back for it, and she tries to get you to buy more things when waiting. After she puts on the heavy sell for a while, she backs off and repeatedly says "sorry", then waits 5 minutes, and starts all over again. Finally, when I paid for the shirts I gave her my credit card to run through her machine. She put the card back away with her stuff after I signed the chit and I had to remind her to give the card back to me. Can’t tell whether it was deliberate or an honest mistake, but didn’t add any fondness to my memories of the experience.

Despite what the Lonely Planet says, my view would be that this shop is not worth the trouble.

Name: Cloth Shop: Thien Thanh

Location: 66 Le Loi (about 49 up from 17 Le Loi d’uh!)

[A K+I Experience]

K+I gave these people 0/10. Ian asked for a jacket "with some lapels" to be made up. The jacket when it came back had no interfacing in it and was of generally poor quality (I understand interfacing is what makes the fabric stiff). When Ian queried it they pretended not to understand. They called the tailor in, but the tailor wasn’t helpful either, swearing at them in Vietnamese. Ian did a runner, lost his deposit, but didn’t pay the balance. The fat lady’s name is "Hay" or similar.

PART 4 – The Map