Before you venture to any of our top ten tailors make sure you learn the lingo and get some tips on customizing your own styles.
Where do Robert De Niro and Denzel Washington go when they want a suit? Leonard Logsdail of course. We talk to the celebrity tailor before he opens a new store in Al Quoz.
Satwa Road 04 344 7563 Opposite Satwa Clinic
This tiny no-frills shop might be hidden down an alleyway in Satwa, but don’t let that put you off. Ishwar, the proprietor has been churning out excellent ladies’ and gents’ outfits in Dubai for the past 26 years, and he’s got a loyal customer base to prove it. It’s a family-run business (his sons beaver away at the back of the shop cutting cloth) and the service is ultra-friendly. If you’re a regular, he’ll even supply you with a beedi cigarette or two while you wait (he insists the tiny Indian smokes are harmless, although we’re not so sure).
Select your material from any of the shops on the main street – Regal Traders (04 344 9092) is just nearby – and he’ll do the rest. We had a suit made three years ago that still ranks as one of the best-made items in our wardrobe.
Be aware that during peak season you’ll have to wait for a couple of weeks to get the end product back. And it’s best to have a picture of what you want to have copied, or even better, a similar item that you can leave with him to work from. This isn’t the kind of shop that boasts coffee tables laden with Milan stylebooks. But for Dhs500 a suit (excluding material, including beedis), it’s an absolute bargain and a great place to visit.
Satwa 04 3499 733/34 Opposite the new Emirates Post Office
‘I’ve fallen out with so many tailors,’ a friend and Dubai resident of over a decade told us as we made our way through the bustling streets of Satwa. ‘But I’ve been with this one for a while.’ So you have to ‘go steady’ with your tailor in this town? Odd. We then entered the smart wooden door to Deepa’s. Two friendly Indian men greeted us as we walked into the small, brightly lit shop.
Armed with mountains of fabric we’d previously purchased from the similarly named Deepaks on Plant Street round the corner (04 344 3182 – the Satwa Road store is currently closed), we ordered six garments to be made. Fast forward a year and a half and we’re still going strong with Deepa’s. Among the numerous pieces we’ve had made there, the best pieces have always been the copies. If you’ve got a few favourite dresses you want copied or made in different fabrics, they can do the job brilliantly.
Recently, we’ve had two Diane von Furstenberg dresses faithfully replicated – which everyone believes to be the real deal (and who are we to correct them?). If you’re not happy, they’ll alter anything until it’s perfect. But, if you want elaborate buttons, you’ll have to bring them yourself. They only do smart, but simple styles.
They are also honest about what will and won’t work. If you brought in a cotton dress you wanted remade in silk, they’d tell you if it wouldn’t hang right. Some tailors don’t always match the seams to the colour of the garment, but Deepa’s do beautiful finishes. Prices start from Dhs100. A simple cotton dress will cost you between Dhs150-Dhs200. Yes, we think this relationship is going to last.
Satwa Road 04 349 5445 Opposite the new Emirates Bank, behind Satwa Health Clinic
People don’t just say ‘you have to try the tailors’ to expats arriving in Dubai. They say, ‘you have to try Dream Girls’. Not to be confused with the two-hour long Destiny’s Child video that is Dream Girls – the movie, or, indeed, a less reputable establishment altogether, Dream Girls is the most widely-recommended tailors on the Satwa block.
People will also tell you that it is best to take an item in to be copied, rather than just a design idea or magazine pull-out – although the selection of Next and Bollywood catalogues at the front of the store are all-encompassing and inspiring in a conventional/spangly way. [Just don’t ask for a ‘Warren Beatty in The Parallax View’-inspired shirt. The results were skin-tight and not pretty.] We, however, preferred to seek out our material first, hunt about for a dress design that it would work with and then approach the tailor of reveries.
Inside, we slipped on the dress and pointed out the things we wanted slightly different on our new version – perhaps taking it in, or, more likely, out slightly – which they marked on with chalk. These instructions were then passed back to the dressmakers quietly buzzing at the back of the store via a complex ‘bag tag’ filing system.
All that was left was to set a date for us to come and pick up our new togs – a speedily sewn five dresses in under two weeks – which they managed to stick to. Alterations are also big business for the dreamers: buttons and zips can be fixed for as little as Dhs15, and any changes required are done free of charge. However, the Chinese whispers system used to pass design instructions back to the invisible seamsters out the back has been known to upset the Dream Girls fantasy – with adaptations occasionally coming back bunched up or with strange creases.
However, the dresses returned to us have always fitted snugly, with delicate finishes and a tiny price tag starting from just Dhs150. We were particularly impressed with the pink, sequined veil they mastered for a friend’s hen night without any sort of design to follow – the stuff of garish, L-plate-wearing nightmares.
Satwa 04 349 2434 First right after Deepak’s before Abdullah Hassan Al Balooshi butchers
Go to Ishwal and you’ll feel as if you’ve really settled in to this city – now you’re privy to offbeat tailors down grotty alleys. Just after Deepak’s on Satwa Road, you’ll spot a butcher’s shop – the image of a goat in happier times gives it away – and a small alleyway on your right. Ishwal is the second tiny tailors along. Don’t worry, we were sceptical too when we first saw the shabby sign and shop front.
Inside isn’t much better: there’s just about room to swing a couple of sewing machines (carefully), a makeshift changing room, some mammoth design catalogues and lots and lots of clothes, all peeping out of random carrier bags. But while the colourful filing system may not inspire the greatest confidence that your re-hemmed chinos will make it back to you safely, there’s a reason Deepak’s fabric store and probably quite a few of your well-dressed mates recommend Ishwal.
When we visited, service was softly spoken, but they were quick to comprehend what we were after. Although our attempt to copy a hastily-printed off 70s style three-tiered dress was a bit of a disaster (we looked like we were drowning in turquoise blancmange), it was more due to a problem with a lack of available elastic than tailoring – although they really should have admitted defeat from the outset. Dubai’s smaller garment makers only have access to certain elastics and fabrics and therefore some things are beyond their capabilities, such as T-shirts. However, Ishwal really excels at copying free-flowing dresses that don’t need to be particularly well-fitted (and, rather fortunately, are perfect for Dubai’s sun-drenched climate).
After handing in two frocks along with our chosen fabric, I was more than happy with what was returned to me a week later, both for just Dhs300. Though there were small dressmaking sins such as shoulder straps which didn’t sit quite right and a length of cloth alongside the zip which should have been snipped, we just wanted outfits to throw on for work. Even better, once you become a regular client they’ll make small alterations (mend holes, repair tears) for free or extremely little – although tips are eventually, and very modestly, accepted.
Whistle and Flute
Plant Street 04 342 9229, Right at the Dulux Shop, then first left into the small shopping complex
The hardest part about getting a garment created at this superb Satwa tailors is actually finding the place. Tucked in an alleyway running through the large red brick building next to the Iranian Hospital, it’s not the type of place that attracts passing trade. But once inside the smartly fitted-out shop (complete with black and white photos on the walls of English cloth cutters decked out in Edwardian outfits) it’s clear the three tailors who work at the Whistle are a cut above most of their competitors.
The outlet boasts a wide selection of materials for shirts and suits ‘for the discerning gentleman’. Although the fabric may appear a little more expensive than shops nearby, it’s second-to-none in the quality stakes. From start to finish it will take around 10 days for a suit to be made, with shirts taking half that time.
You can also have as many alterations as you like – all free of charge. Whistle And Flute do both of these garments well – we especially love finishing touches such as the coloured suit jacket linings– well worth the extra Dhs200 on top of the basic Dhs700 for a two-piece outfit. They also sell cufflinks to round off your outfit in style. And speaking of sartorial elegance, the shop specialises in Hugh Heffner style smoking jackets. They come in at around Dhs400 but, face it fellas, they are something that no man should be without.
Bur Dubai 04 352 4243 Meena Bazaar Fashions, opposite Hitachi Showroom
Surprisingly, Dream Girls’ sister shop is not named Bollywoods. Whereas their Satwa counterpart clones Western-style clothing, Hollywoods also does a fine line in Indian men’s and women’s clothes. What we especially like about the star-studded tailors is how they stick as closely to what we describe as possible – too many places stitch in a couple of puffed sleeves for luck, guessing you’ll appreciate such fashion insanity.
Instead, when we asked for a frayed edge on the sleeves of this sherwani (a long coat-like garment worn in India), they managed the difficult needlework precisely. They also went the extra distance when it came to fabric.
Though we took in our own textile (sourced from Shining Sword Textiles round the corner on Al-Souq Al-Kabeer, 04 355 3664, where they served Chai tea as we chose), they picked out the lining and buttons – all added in to the final bargain price of Dhs300. They also managed a perfect fit without an original to follow. No wonder they have their own sign across the LA hills.
Bur Dubai 04 352 1246 First right before Astoria Hotel car park
Much like Lobo, Kachins’ equally grand rival round the corner, this long-established store prides itself on being an elite, highly regarded fashion emporium. Forget all notions of cupboard-sized shops hidden down back alleys – Kachins is an extensive, well-appointed store where tea is served and guests can relax on sofas while browsing through style magazines for inspiration.
There’s a good range of Indian outfits on show here – ideal for weddings. If you’re just after a business suit and shirt, head past the colourful gowns and sequined slippers and rifle through the more sober cashmere wools on display. The assistants are helpful without being pushy and you’ll find plenty of materials to choose from. (Tip: they don’t like you taking in your own fabrics unless it’s something they can’t source themselves – they’ll tell you they ‘can’t trust the quality’).
We were after a slim-fitting two-piece number and were mindful of the fact that the cut is the key to a good suit – previous tailors in Dubai had always made suits that still looked like they were on the hanger once we tried them on; probably because we’d always ask the man with the tape to ‘think Paul Weller circa 1981’– which unsurprisingly met with blank stares. But what makes Kachins superior – and meant we got the look we wanted – is that they insist on two fittings and a final check before the suit is finished.
Even if the measurements aren’t quite right, you’ll still get to try on the roughly tacked version and get them to make adjustments before the final stitching takes place. And to finish the job properly, there’s a range of different collar and cuff styles to choose from. It all adds up to a suit that you can craft exactly as you wish it to be. And for that, it’s worth every penny (That’s Dhs600, minus the material).
Bur Dubai Meena Bazaar Fashions, 04 352 3760 Opposite Raymond Showrooms
We had a parent in town (Dad, 6’4’’, very tall). You’d assume he’d have to spend a fortune getting suits made. Not so. After battling the Bur Dubai traffic, we finally found Lobo, located just down the road from Dream Girls. Deepa’s, another favourite, assured us Lobo was the best in the city for suits. Thirty minutes later and we’d struck a deal: two suits and a shirt for Dhs1,200. The process was pretty simple.
After we’d picked the fabrics in the store (which, depending on what you choose, can end up costing you upwards of Dhs1,500) Dad was measured. Next he went through details like buttons, pleats and general style issues, customising his suits to perfection. Just 24 hours later and he had another fitting – usually, you’d need to wait a few days but since he was leaving for Australia that night, it was an express service, for no extra charge. If you’re not in a rush, you’ll have two fittings before the suit is ready.
In 24 hours, they’d knocked up a rough cut which fitted perfectly. Around a week later, I picked the pieces up and flew to Australia. Dad was thrilled with his new suits and shirt. Six months later and all the garments are in prime condition (in case you’re concerned that your new suit will fall apart within a week). If you’re in the market for a new suit, and want something sharp, Lobo is the way to go.
Bur Dubai 04 359 5902 Meena Bazaar Fashions opposite Model Supermarket
From cozy corsets to huge ruffled skirts, this Bur Dubai gem is ideal for all Indian clothing. And Rinco is extra special for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as in Kachins and Lobos, you can buy fabric in-store, saving you from having to wander off to the nearest fabric shop and choose it yourself. Without the assistance of your tailor, this can put rather too much pressure on you and the fabric salesman to guess which cloth is going to work best with your item.
Secondly, the storeowner (‘Rinco’, we’re guessing) designs clothes, as well as amends and copies them, to be sold them in another shop. He’s therefore a dab hand at directing his tailors to cut the very best shapes and fits. This extra edge seems to give them the confidence to exceed expectations: when we took in material that we liked and asked for a churidha (tightly fitting trousers worn under a smock), they matched it with a gold scarf in different material and used a spare flower detail from our fabric to make an additional, customer-satisfying scarf holder.
It’s all in the added touches. They’re also very reasonable. Our tailor-made outfit would have cost around Dhs1,000 if made elsewhere, but here we got it for Dhs250 – a snip. And when they’re asked to work to an especially tight deadline, they don’t come undone. A visiting friend once urgently needed a tuxedo and two suits made within 24 hours, and they managed it with style. What’s more – because we’re reliable repeat customers they didn’t charge us a dirham more than usual. Rinco couldn’t get it more right.
Madinat Jumeirah 04 368 6192 Second corridor right from the theatre
Tucked away in a corner of the souk at Madinat Jumeirah, Royal Fashions is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of place. As a result, they don’t have the range of materials you’d expect at one of the city’s larger tailors, but what they do have is of a good standard. That’s something you’d expect from a shop at the city’s biggest tourist trap. This branch of RF (they also have a base in Bur Dubai) clearly caters for tourists and passing trade.
There’s even a sign in the window that says, ‘Get your suits bespoke tailored within 48 hours. Starts from GBP169 only.’ Cheap compared to the UK perhaps, but you’d get a two-piece knocked up for half the price in Satwa. That aside, service at the store is fast and thoroughly professional. You’ll probably want to stick to a formal shirt or suit (when we visited, the other customers were German businessmen – an indication, perhaps, of their average punter). We opted for a simple shirt and were perfectly happy with the process. We were in and out of the shop in 15 minutes (not having row upon row of fabrics to choose from actually helped) and we were told our shirt would be ready in three days. It was. It fitted snugly when we tried it on, and it even came folded up in a posh brown paper bag.
One expects these sorts of trimmings for Dhs265. It’s more than we’d normally part with, but if like us, you can’t always face the traffic in downtown Dubai, it’s worth the extra fils.
Before he took to wearing Prada, the Devil was widely acknowledged to be in on the details. Customising your little black dress or plain white T-shirt is a great way to ensure you stand out from the crowd, and can turn a shop-bought staple into a designer double. Dubai’s fashion insiders, designers Sam Reding and Rima and Dina Sami of Seven Minutes, gave us some tips.
1 Often the difference between a designer shirt and its mass-produced equivalent is the quality of its buttons. Buy a shirt from H&M (Mall of the Emirates, 04 341 5880) and replace the standard fasteners with fancy buttons from Fida (opposite Satwa Post Office, 04 344 4008).
2 Add some bling to your blouse with iron-on Swarovski crystals from Crystal House (Al Hanna Centre, 04 398 9380). You’ll normally expect to pay approximately Dhs150 for three lines.
3 Al Qamzi (opposite Satwa Mosque, 04 344 0063) is the tailor’s choice for sturdy buttons and zips. Deepak’s (on Plant Street, 04 344 3182) is great for distinctive fabrics with which to patch frazzled jeans.
4 Denim labels like Tsubi and Rogan are giving their jeans a ‘distressed’ look before they hit stores, rubbing them to create holes and even adding grass stains. Fake the look with a pumice stone and a lazy afternoon in Safa Park.
Dubai designer Sam Reding deciphers the words in your wears
1) Hems. The type of stitching you choose to run along the bottom of your garment can change its entire fit. ‘Blind’ hems are those that can only be seen on the inside, while ‘hand stitching’ can’t be seen on either side. ‘Bagged out’ hems are currently fashionable in skirts and describe when the hem is attached to the lining, creating the ‘bagged out’ balloon style.
2) Pattern making. This is absolutely key when it comes to producing a good suit or dress, or indeed, any tailor made clothing. If a suit fits well it means a good pattern has been drawn on and cut from the fabric. The pattern making is the first stage of the clothing’s creation, and you can ask to have a look at the pattern after they’ve drawn it but before they cut it to check it’s been done correctly. There are plenty of books and articles on pattern making, if you want to go in knowing your stuff.
3) Lining. ‘Half-lining’ describes when the lining stops half way down your back. ‘Full lining’ is the way we describe lining that joins entirely inside the suit. Full lining creates a neater fit, but is obviously a lot more expensive, perhaps twice the price, of half lining.
4) The cut. It you have a dress cut ‘on the cross’, even a non-fitted, flowy dress will instantly fit better. It means that it is cut diagonally on the fabric, creating a wave at the hem and allowing the fabric, even if it’s not stretchy, to flow over your hips, waist and bum. Getting something ‘cut straight’ is cheaper, but the end product won’t attach itself to your body as well. The material will just fall straight over your curves.
5) Interfacing. This is a product that can be ironed-on to your fabric to give it a better shape, stop it stretching and make collars and cuffs stiffer. It’s very cheap, at around Dhs4 a yard, can be bought direct from most tailors and is absolutely magic.