Feature image (above): Sam’s Tailor owner Manu Melwani takes the writer’s measurements. // © 2016 Lawrence Ferber
One can get starstruck during a visit to Sam’s Tailor in Hong Kong. The walls of this cozy bespoke formal-wear tailoring shop, tucked within an unassuming shopping arcade off Nathan Road in bustling Tsim Sha Tsui, are crowded with photos of its celebrity clientele over some 59 years in business: U.S. presidents, Kevin Spacey, David Bowie, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Sigourney Weaver, Bruce Willis, Kate Moss, Chinese basketball star Wang Zhelin and even clothing designers Karl Lagerfeld and Vivienne Tam.
Yet here, all customers measure up the same — sometimes literally — and Sam’s has maintained a reputation as one of Hong Kong’s most consistent, tourist-friendly tailors. Today, many new clients turn up thanks to websites such as TripAdvisor and social media, including Sam’s own Facebook page, overseen by Roshan Melwani, the store’s New York University-educated, third-generation torch-holder.
“Most people will say getting a suit made here was one of the best parts of their trip, because we give our clients a massive experience and insight into how we build the suit,” Melwani said.
As an example, Melwani cites a visit from “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Kevin McKidd and his son Joseph, for whom Sam’s created identical suits.
“You can see from the photos how interesting the suit is and how happy they are,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience for him with his son.”
Melwani’s grandfather was the brand’s original “Sam,” who opened the shop in 1957. His mantle passed down to Melwani’s father, Manu, who continues to work at the store (with an expression that is perpetually stoic). While the shop can turn around a suit in 24 hours, at least 72 hours and two fittings are recommended for optimal results. For those considering a visit, Roshan offers would-be clients a few dos and don’ts.
“Definitely contact us in advance on the website and make an appointment with me, and I’ll make sure you’re well-looked-after,” he said.
Roshan suggests clients look through magazines so they can see current fashion trends and bring in examples of a style they might want.
“Don’t have misconceptions that tailoring in Hong Kong is super cheap and you can get five suits for $500,” he adds. “You can’t, and if you do, it’s garbage. And keep an open mind: You’re flying 8,000 miles to buy something, hopefully, that you can’t get back home. Don’t go for blue-black-gray basic stuff. We won’t push or pull you in the wrong direction, but we’ll try and ease you into something different.”