Additional thoughts on "How to Find Decent and Affordable Tailoring in South East Asia?"
I woke up this morning to see that a dear customer had sent me a link to this excellent article on affordable South East Asian tailoring. I would like to applaud Ronald for the effort! This ambitious article is the first of its sort I’ve seen, and is very public spirited.
Yet, there are parts which I think I can make clearer. There are also some aspects I think I can add depth and nuance to as an industry insider and practising tailor. In the same spirit as the article I’m referencing, let me get into these points.
Fused vs half canvassed vs fully canvassed
There is a great deal of misunderstanding about these various jacket constructions. This is more so because the structure of a jacket is hidden away---it is sandwiched between the shell cloth and the inner lining. Yet the role of the canvassing to a jacket is fundamental. Consider that it is its structure that separates a tailored jacket from other garments. A shirt relies entirely on the wearer’s body for its shape. A tailored jacket, in contrast, has a structure of its own, and so has a shape partly independent from the wearer’s body. This gives the tailor a certain degree of freedom in bestowing upon the wearer a different silhouette.
A canvas cannot actually be fused to the shell cloth. What gets fused is technically called a fusible interlining. A fusible interlining is very different from a canvas. It is often a very limp purely synthetic material. One side of this material is densely printed with micro dots of glue. This side is bonded to the shell cloth under elevated temperature and pressure.
(Small little dots of glue on a fusible interlining. These dots of glue bond to the shell cloth under high temperature and pressure.)
The shell cloth takes on a very different character after being bonded to the fusible interlining. It becomes much firmer, more structured, almost as if canvassed. It also becomes fairly resistant to creasing, giving the front of the jacket a smooth appearance.
To give more support to the cosmetically-critical chest area, a simple piece of canvas is inserted into the chest. To prevent this single layer of canvas which is quite coarse from pricking the customer, a layer of felt is put over it.
This describes the most common type of tailored jacket made in SE Asia. It constitutes 99.9% of the industry output of tailored jackets in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. Both what are known as fused jackets and half canvassed jackets are constructed identically. Notice the most salient features of this construction. The entire front is fused. The canvas comprises a single layer positioned in the shoulder to chest area. This canvas never extends into the lapel.
(The internal structure of a fused jacket. Notice how the black fusible interlining covers the entire front. In the chest area, a single piece of canvas stops the chest from looking corrugated. There is no canvas in the lapels.)
In reality, there are only two broad categories of jacket construction in SE Asia: fused and fully canvassed. Half canvassed is a redundant term because it is constructionally identical to the fused jacket. I have never seen a jacket that is “canvassed” in the top half, and fused only in the bottom half. Such a construction also makes no sense whatsoever.
Fully canvassed is a very broad term
Both the movement in a Philippe Dufour Simplicty and the ETA/Peseux 7001 are mechanical handwinding movements. Architecturally, they belong in the same category. But in execution they could not be more different.
The quality and seriousness in fully canvassed jackets encompass a similarly wide spectrum. Some tailors execute fully canvassed jackets very simply. Some others move mountains to eke out all the aesthetic and ergonomic potential made available by the object.
(The canvas in a fully canvassed jacket. It comprises multiple layers, each of a different composition and physical characteristic. Darts and vees are cut into strategic parts of the canvas to create both convexity and concavity. The multiple layers are brought together with hundreds of padding stitches which were executed with a low tension so that the different layers can slide around relative to each other to better conform to the wearer's body over time.)
Your personal paper pattern
I concur that a personal paper pattern is one of the pillars of the bespoke proposal. The paper pattern is the blueprint for the garment. Without it, there is no possibility to make incremental improvements to the fit over successive garments. The majority of SE Asian tailors do not keep personal paper patterns. They do produce for you a personal pattern---but this pattern is drafted directly onto the cloth. Once the garment has been made, there is no blueprint left of the garment. The next time you visit the tailor for a repeat order, he starts from raw measurements all over again. The best way to ascertain if a tailor produces and archives personal paper patterns is to ask him show you your personal paper pattern. He either can, in which case he produces it, or he can’t, in which case he gives an excuse, which can sometimes be very plausible. Some tailors adopt a hybrid approach: they file away paper patterns only for their highest grossing repeat customers.
(Filing cabinet where customer's paper patterns are kept.)
The experience and know-how of the big European cloth manufacturers cannot be underestimated. They have been producing cloth often in the same location for a very long time. They fully understand that it took hundreds of years for their brands to be built, and that there is significant continuous cash investment into their brand equity. When they make cloth, that cloth actually performs. It performs well in wear, it goes through dry cleaning coming out pristine, and many years of wear later it still perform. They make the real thing.
The arena of cloth is flooded with cheap stuff from third world countries. You cannot look to the selvedge for information about the composition because the woven information on the selvedge is pure fantasy. You don’t know what that cloth is made of, you don’t know if carcinogenic dyes have been used, you have no clue about the environmental impact of producing that cloth, and you don’t know how that cloth will perform years down the road. All you know is it makes a good initial impression and it is cheap.
I would go European every single time when it comes to cloth.