Hoi An, Vietnam, is famous for many things. The beautiful Old Town, with its yellow stained walls and charming alleyways. Vibrant silk lanterns that adorn every building, street and stretch of river. Delicious street food, thriving markets and lush Vietnamese countryside. But Hoi An is also famous for its tailors, which can be found around almost every corner of every street in the Old Town.
If you are looking for a new custom outfit, Hoi An is the place to be. With a vast number of tailors to be found, you can grab a bargain at a smidge of the price you would get it back home. Flick through databases of designer clothes and make your selection. Choose from a variety of colours and fabrics, get measured up, sit back and relax. Your brand new tailor-made outfit will be with you in no time!
But how ethical is this process?
Tailoring is a skill that can come with a hefty price tag. If you pay for a tailored outfit at home, you expect quality on every level, from the service provided, to the materials used. You would probably expect to know who is making your clothes. You would assume that the tailors are paid fairly for their work, and that the hours that they spend working are reasonable. These are all fair things to expect. So why should this change when you’re on holiday?
Of course it is to be expected that you will pay a lot less than you would at home. But try not to be exploitative. Bartering is a part of buying many things in Asia, but if the price is so low that it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The average wage in Vietnam is far lower than most of the western world, at around £100 per month. Textile workers are typically paid around £70 per month.
Being measured up for a suit one day and collecting the finished product the following afternoon is an incredibly fast service. Rather than be impressed, consider the hours that must have been worked to provide you with such a speedy service. Does £70 a month seem fair for working these labour-intensive hours, potentially throughout the night?
What can I do?
Of course, it is unfair to assume that all of the tailors in Hoi An employ unethical working strategies. There are many reputable tailors to be found in the town. Knowing where to look can be made easier if you consider a few things first.
- Do your research and find the most reputable tailors, with good sustainable and ethical standards. There will be many people in Hoi An who’ll recommend you go to certain places. While it’s great to have a local insight, it’s also worth considering that some people work on the basis of commission for making recommendations. Listen to what they have to say, but check it out for yourself before making any purchases.
- Ask to see the fabrics. Some tailors may outsource to factories with questionable working standards and therefore won’t have everything on site. Know what you’re paying for and be responsible. Do you really need these clothes or are you buying them in a daze of wanderlust? If you have doubts about what you’re paying for, it’s probably not worth it.
- Allow for a few days and several fittings. The workload will be spread out over a longer period of time, meaning the hours worked are more reasonable. Going back for a second fitting is also a great opportunity to make sure everything fits correctly!
- Pay fairly. With so many tailors in Hoi An, it’s a highly competitive industry. If the most expensive tailors are selling clothes for cheap, it forces the tailors further down the line to lower their prices. By the time you get to the smallest tailors, they may not even be making enough to cover the material costs. If you can afford to travel to Vietnam, you can afford to pay fairly for tailored clothes.
Have you purchased tailored clothes from Hoi An? We would love to hear from you! Let us know all about your clothes and your experiences in the comments below.