Dubai is often touted as one of the best cities in the region for custom-made suits, shirts and impressive dresses. Some of the venues, we’d argue, do a decent job of rivalling the clothes produced by tailors on London’s Savile Row, especially in terms of price – shirts can be made for as little as Dhs145 in Satwa (compared with around Dhs830 in Savile Row). Speaking of England’s famous bespoke strip, one of its own, Leonard Logsdail, gave our city’s custom industry a boost when he arrived in 2007. Since then, more high-end tailors have been popping up all over town.
If you need an excuse to overhaul your wardrobe, Mall of the Emirates turns into a live catwalk from Wednesday October 3 to Tuesday 16, with non-stop runway shows and beauty demos as part of the World of Fashion event. So what better time to take a look at the city’s bespoke fashion scene? If you’re new to the custom-made clothing game, we find out what to expect from a fitting, and which local tailors deserve your custom.
Men’s shirt fitting
Rob Garratt pays a visit to bespoke tailor Ascots & Chapels.
The first visit to your tailor is the most important. Many gents wander into a shop with a vague longing for a new look, and leave half an hour later with an order for a stack of shirts customised to the nearest millimetre – so it’s important to get it right.
When I arrive at traditional British tailor Ascots & Chapels, my experience begins with a consultation with the wardrobe advisor, who guides me through the array of cuffs, collars, pockets, plackets, gauntlet buttons and other options to choose from (if you’re as baffled by the terminology as I was, take a gander at our panel on the right). Apparently, the first question should always be the same: what is the shirt for? Work, home or play? Many of the disorientating decisions can be easily resolved at the outset working from this basic premise.
Question number two is decidedly trickier than it sounds – what colour? A dissection of my current wardrobe is necessary to make an informed decision.
At Ascots & Chapels the bulk of customers plump for office-friendly whites and blues. Simple, right? Well, perhaps not – the DIFC tailor offers more than 100 white fabrics alone. This latter choice is also the key decider of the price, with shirts varying from Dhs300 to Dhs1,500 depending on which of the 2,000 fabrics on offer I plump for.
The next decision to make is which of the nine collar options I want, a choice I’m told should be based not just on whether I normally wear a tie, but what size of tie and how I knot it. There are also more than ten different cuffs to choose from, but if you’re having trouble making a decision, I recommend you join the eight out of ten customers (including myself) who keep things simple with a French double-barrel cuff.
Be prepared to be thrown into the deep end when the conversation turns to plackets (see right). I’m told that a wider stitch, closer to the edge of placket, is considered a more modern approach. There’s also the opportunity to add breast pockets – something most tailors advise against because, quite simply, it looks cheap.
After my measurements are taken at the first meeting, the fabric is sent off to the cutting room in Barsha. After seven days a basic outline of one shirt will have been prepared and I’ll be invited in for a first (and hopefully final) fitting. At this stage the shirt is devoid of button holes or embroidery, allowing the tailor to fit the shirt to my body and requirements. Fabric can be cut further in width or length to fit, and darts are created to shape the fabric to the body. Sleeves can also be pleated according to fit.
All being well, the third visit is short and sweet – after another week, the finished order should be ready to collect. However, fitting alterations can still be made at this stage and further customisation can take place. So what’s the secret of getting the perfect tailor-made shirt? Mahir Ali, the wardrobe advisor based at Ascots & Chapels’ DIFC store, has 20 years of experience, and says the answer is simple. ‘I always say you have to know yourself,’ says the 30-year-old Indian-Canadian. ‘Know what you’re wearing and what impression you want to make. All of our clients come to our shop and say, “what do you suggest?” But they haven’t done any research themselves.
We can give you sound advice, but advice can only take you so far. You need to come prepared with ideas.’ Shirts from Dhs300; suits (with a spare pair of trousers) from Dhs2,500. Dubai Marina Mall (04 427 0124), Souk Al Bahar (04 450 8576), DIFC (04 325 2216).
Holly Sands hunts for the dress of her dreams at Dream Girl.
Getting a dress made in Dubai isn’t as much hassle as you might think. Unfortunately, it’s not always as cheap as you might think either. But surely, spending an extra Dhs100 or so to get a dress tailored exactly to your measurements is a better bet than just pulling a size 12 off the rack and hoping for the best?
If you’re up for the investment, few women’s tailors in Dubai can match the reputation of Dream Girl in Bur Dubai.
So popular is the shop that it’s expanding into a larger property next door, giving it more space to cope with the influx of business, and will open the new premises imminently.
When I arrive, picture in hand of the dress style I’d like created, owner Makhija Kamal is more than happy to talk me through the process. He notes that the design I’ve chosen is a little complicated, but explains his staff can offer advice on which fabrics will work best. The shop itself only stocks a brightly-coloured range of fabrics for lining and undergarments, but there are plenty of textile shops nearby where I can pick up something that suits my desire and budget.
For the layered, cross-over minidress I’m after, Kamal explains the price would be approximately Dhs250, excluding fabric – this is roughly the starting price for most evening or dressier gowns. For something simpler – more in the style of a shift dress, for example – the price would be around Dhs150.
Once my measurements are taken and I’ve submitted the fabric, my garment will change hands several times before it’s assembled for my first fitting (for which I can arrange a date and time during my first visit – it can take place after just a couple of days). Dream Girl employs hundreds of skilled textile workers, some of whom dedicate their hours solely to cutting, before the pattern pieces are passed on to the seamstresses, who will then begin the all-important task of putting everything together.
Once I’ve tried the item on, they will happily make alterations free of charge if it doesn’t quite fit, until I’m completely satisfied with the end result. Even with repeat visits factored in to get the fit just right, my order shouldn’t take more than two weeks – and I’m guaranteed something that fits me like a glove. Simple dresses from Dhs150 (excluding fabric). Dream Girl Tailors, opposite Mustafa Carpets, Meena Bazaar, Bur Dubai (04 352 6463).