suits

Latest Acquisitions from Shanghai C&G

A few months ago, I sent some fabric to Shanghai C&G tailoring for some suits. I received some QC pictures today showing the completed items and I look forward to receiving them in the mail soon.

 

Fabric: pinstripe from Holland and Sherry. Petrol Blue Mohair from Harrison Burley.

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Shanghai C&G Review

SHANGHAI C&G FASHION

One of the things about working in a law firm is that I ended up with quite a few suits, some of which are better fitting than others. I’ve found as I worn through several of my earlier suits, I started to get a better understanding and appreciation for what makes a good suit. Some tailors offer a suit for an affordable price and a reasonable fabric but with poor construction. Others offer suits with good construction, a tailored fit but poor fabric. It’s very rarely that I find a good tailor that can nail a suit with a good fit, a recognised fabric and amazing hand-stitched construction all for a very reasonable price. Shanghai C&G is one of those tailors.

I was first introduced to Shanghai C&G by a friend from Styleforum. Previously, I had bought a number of suits from a range of online and travelling tailors with a presence in Australia with mixed results. However, what I was looking for at the time was a tailor who could work with a length of suiting fabric that I had ordered from Huddersfield during one of their weekly mill specials and who could deliver a three piece suit for under $400. I was pleasantly surprised by the result of my first commission from them and I have since commissioned two more.

WEBSITE

Shanghai C&G are based in Shanghai and they make suits for a number of Australian and US-based made to measure operations. While English is not their first language, they are quite responsive to my email enquiries and I was able to arrange my order over the internet using measurements from some existing suits that I already had in my wardrobe. I also understand they can do in-person fittings if you visit their workshop at Zhoukang Road, Pudong, Shanghai. The online sales is run by a lady named Amy Yang, who is very knowledgeable about the product.

As I alluded to in my review for another online tailor, having a good set of measurements with notes about your body is the key to getting a well-fitting suit from the internet. Things like a lower shoulder, posture, the roll of your shoulders could drastically affect the fit of your suit even though the measurements are the same. While local tailors like P Johnson’s Suitshop deals with this problem by offering a local alteration service after receiving your suit, the services of a local fitter and alteration comes at a price. I strongly recommend anyone ordering to get professionally measured.

Conveniently, there’s a measuring guide on their site and in that respect, they’re very similar to many other online tailors. Do the measurements a couple of times at least, to make sure they’re correct and go to an experienced tailor to comment on the adjustments that need to be made for your body. I find it’s useful to get the measurements from a well-fitting garment to avoid errors, or even send in an existing suit for them to copy.

However, as you’re dealing with the tailors directly, they don’t offer the same level of after sales service you might expect if you go to somewhere like Indochino, Black Lapel, Dragon Inside or Elite Suits. There’s alot of competitors these days. It’s important to note you’ll probably be paying half the price of what you might be paying from those guys for an equivalent product and this is very much a different type of experience in made to measure tailoring where you avoid the glossy marketing. I’m actually quite hesitant to recommend them if you haven’t bought a suit online before because the potential for mistakes is still there, However, the product that C&G produces is better than most.

Not the greatest webpage in the world but it does give you an idea of what they're capable of doing. All orders are arranged by email or in person.

Not the greatest webpage in the world but it does give you an idea of what they’re capable of doing. All orders are arranged by email or in person.

I found the best way to communicate what I wanted to Amy was by sending in photos of what I wanted and being specific on the choice of linings and buttons. They offer a wide range of bemberg and silk linings, as well as horn and pearl buttons. This gives you a lot of options in making what you want. While some of the images on their website are rather questionable, it goes to show what they’re capable of making.

… Kudos to whoever ordered this, but safe to say, it’s probably not for a regular 9-5 office job. Or maybe it is.

I understand they offer a range of tailoring options, with their machine-stitched half canvas being the cheapest, and their hand stitched full canvas being their most expensive. Their cheapest machine made half canvas suits, made from a generic Chinese-milled wool starts around $150, and their hand-stitched full canvas options start around $300. Generally, shipping to Australia costs another $50 or so and the better fabric are more expensive.

THE SPECS

The first suit I ordered from Shanghai C&G was a grey check three piece, with the fabric ordered from Huddersfield during one of their weekly specials. At 25 GBP a metre, I needed about 4 metres to make my three piece suit. I submitted my measurements through the order forms and paid for the order with paypal, incurring a 0.4% surcharge. At the time, the AUD – USD – GBP exchange rate was moderately favourable and my 3 piece suit (including the cost of the fabric) came to around $600 in total, including shipping. This made it a far cheaper option than going to a ready to wear place like MJ Bale or Suitsupply and the suit was fully hand stitched with a full canvas, instead of a machine made half canvas.

I note the Suitsupply La Spalla, a machine made, off the rack full canvas suit in a similar fabric retails for around $1,000.00 which puts the value of the hand stitched, made to measure suits from C&G into perspective.

CMT1

Went from this…

Trousers in construction

A curtained lining in the trousers with a split waistband and braces buttons.

Jacket lining detail

Jacket lining detail

Jacket after completion

Jacket after completion

I ordered horn buttons a bemberg lining for a softer feel and I requested 3.5 inch lapels with a functioning boutonniere. I also asked for a split waistband, suspender buttons on the trousers and  horn buttons. Prior to receiving the suit, I had requested Amy to send over some pictures of the work in progress so I could confirm the details for myself. Safe to say, they did not disappoint.

A suit made of this material and with this level of construction could have easily costed over a grand at any other tailor. The Huddersfield fabric is a light super 120s 230gs/m that breathes well and doesn’t hold any creases. It was perfect for a Sydney summer and I was pleasantly surprised they managed to get it right the first try.

THE FIT

CMT Detail

Fit

Fit picture

CMT3

The suit far exceeded my expectations and while there was only a minor sleeve pitch issue which I got fixed at M&R Tailoring for around $90, it was nearly perfect and could have been comparable to a bespoke garment. The fit silhouetted my figure nicely but wasn’t too tight anywhere and gave me plenty of room to move around. The stitching was clean and had all the character of a hand stitched suit with details.

The shoulder pads are soft but also structured and you can feel the substance and layering in the construction, unlike some cheaper tailors. The lining for the trousers are made from a durable cotton, and they are curtained so keys and other sharp objects won’t puncture the pockets.

With subsequent suits from C&G, I was able to refine the fit even further but I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by their first attempt at getting the suit right.

Mohair suit still in basting stage.

Mohair suit still in basting stage.

Mohair

Midnight blue mohair suit from C&G, with a length of fabric from Ebay

A double breasted suit I ordered from Shanghai C&G Fashion

Double breasted suit I ordered from Shanghai C&G with the Huddersfield Wool.

THE VERDICT

If you have a specific commission in mind, know your measurements and are patient enough to deal with tailors whose first language isn’t English, I have yet to find another tailor than Shanghai C&G that can do a better job at the same price. The construction, fabric choices and fit comes out far better than any local options and the pricing is very competitive, even in light of the recent hikes. Their cheaper suit options exceed the quality of anything else around that price range and I would not be surprised if more expensive local tailors actually send their jobs to them.

With any online tailor, fit can be improved with subsequent orders and I’ve found C&G are very accommodating in that regard by offering feedback on how to improve the fit. Their willingness to work with CMT (cut, measure, trim. Essentially, providing your own fabric) is remarkably useful when you can find cheap specials in suiting fabric. However, their own fabric options are quite extensive and they can send you scans if you’re looking for, say, a specific pinstripe or check of a specific colour.

Just don’t order the fluro pink leopard print suit and I think you should be fine.

PROS

*Great value, great fit. Probably the best price:quality ratio online made to measure tailor I’ve found. 

*Great fabric options, a wide range to suit every budget.

*Horn buttons available at no extra.

*They accept CMT orders

*Can customise anything and everything. 

CONS

*English not first language

*Ordering can be a confusing process if you don’t know what you want. 

*You need accurate measurements, or failing that, make a visit to China for a fitting

*You need to know what you want. Not beginner friendly and no remake policy. 

*Only accept USD and payment systems are not elegant. Kinda hurts when the AUD is falling in value…

Shanghai C&G can be found at http://greatclothes.cn/

Matthew Aperry Review

Anyone who’s known me for a while will know that I like nice things but don’t like to pay big money. That’s the reality when starting off a new career without much cash to spare. Fortunately, I have amassed a small collection of suits over the years and I was very interested in trying out a deal that came up one weekend from a site called Matthew Aperry.

ONLINE TAILORS

I ordered a number of suits from the internet tailors over the past three years, mostly from workshops based in South East Asia. Matthew Aperry is just one of the many companies that have emerged over the last three or four years that promise tailored clothing like suits, shirts and trousers over the internet. Back around 2010, places like Indochino were doing a lot of business selling custom Chinese-made suits over the internet. There’s a lot more competition now from places like Black Lapel, Elite Suits, Institchu and Dragon Inside and they operate on a similar premise of sending in measurements, and then receiving a suit a few weeks later in the mail.

Matthew Aperry is one of the newer companies and they are one of the more affordable options in online tailoring. They’re a company with an office based in Shanghai but the suits are made in a factory in Suzhou. I’ve previously ordered some suits before and while there were some issues with the fit and ordering process, their staff were very accommodating when assisting me with my options. The sub $300 – 400 USD price range for many of their suits also makes them a very attractive option, especially in light of price rises from many of their competitors in recent years and the falling AUD.

From my experience though, online tailoring isn’t for everyone. It’s easy to get things disastrously wrong and there’s a whole thread of tailoring disasters on Styleforum. These problems are compounded when the tailors making the suit interpret the measurements differently from whoever’s doing the measuring and there’s no easy way of trying on the garment before it’s shipped across the world.

There’s also a plethora of information that cannot be easily communicated by measurements alone, like sleeve pitch, dropped shoulders and posture that can cause problems with fit. In that regard, Matthew Aperry is no worse than its competitors in offering a small alteration credit and a remake if the tailors deem it unalterable. However, it’s interesting that they don’t remake if the measurements you provide are incorrect, which means anyone ordering should get their measurements checked in triplicate before sending it. This is the common pitfall from purchasing from an online tailor rather than say, a brick and mortar store like MJ Bale or a ready to wear vendor like Charles Tyrwhitt.

THE SPECS

The differences in prices between online tailors often comes down to the fabric, construction, fit and after sales service. Often, construction and fabric are compromised for a lower price. Wanting to test out the capabilities of Matthew Aperry, I requested wider lapels, a split waistband, side tabs instead of belt loops and a full canvassed construction where the canvas extends to the lapels, creating a nice “roll”. I also ordered a double breasted waistcoat in the same fabric, with shawl lapels. I note these options aren’t standard on either their main webpage or their aliexpress and I sent instructions and requests over email to Charlene with pictures and accompanying diagrams. I paid under $300 USD for the entire order and I could’ve easily paid three times that amount if I went somewhere else.

I opted to use their order form instead of mucking around on their website, which I think is not very good in detailing options available.

A standard order form, like many other online tailors.

A standard order form, like many other online tailors.

I selected a bright blue superfine wool from one of their books with a blue paisley lining and brown resin buttons. There are a lot of fabric options which don’t appear on their webpage. The good thing about these guys is their willingness to send out fabric swatches and samples to their customers. This is something that not many online tailors offer and there are significant advantages in having a chance to feel the fabric before ordering. The fabric is not comparable to those from named UK mills but they are excellent for the price and indeed better than the cheap wool or poly-wool blends from ready to wear stores. In my experience, they make great beater suits and don’t break the bank.

Some of the fabric choices they were happy to email me. They have three books of suiting fabrics to choose from.

Some of the fabric choices they were happy to email me. They have three books of suiting fabrics to choose from.

THE FIT

The suit arrived in a cardboard box, delivered to my office.

The suit arrived in a cardboard box, delivered to my office.

The suit arrived in a cardboard box with a wire hanger, nicely folded. I placed the order on the 20th of September and by the 8th of October, it had already arrived at my office. This is much faster than some of the competitor companies, which may take up to four weeks to fulfil their orders. I ordered a waistcoat with the suit but it appears they decided to send it separately.

Suit fit

Suit fit

The jacket was cut a little too wide in the chest and shoulders. The sleeves are slightly too long by about a centimetre, despite my instructions to the tailors. However, the trousers fit excellently and I am very pleased with the cut, which is better than some trousers I’ve paid two or three times the price for.

I believe the jacket will need a little work on future orders. I would have liked the shoulders to be about 1cm smaller on each side and the chest to be about 2cm smaller. The sleeves could have also been shortened by an extra 1cm.

A split V at the back of the trousers

A split V at the back of the trousers

It’s nice to see some of the details which I requested from the tailors. Again, these options are not available on the standard order form and I had to ask for them specifically. However, I was able to customise my lapels to 3.5 inches, request a lower buttoning point and ask for a split at the back of the trousers. The detailing is done very nicely.

The stitching behind the padded lapel. The padded lapel is not a standard option and needs to be arranged separately via email.

The stitching behind the padded lapel. The padded lapel is not a standard option and needs to be arranged separately via email.

Pick stiching on pocket

Pick stitching on pockets. I requested them to be slightly larger than usual.

Kissing buttons

Kissing buttons on the sleeves. Unfortunately, the cloth was too fine for the buttons to line up properly. The stitching is slightly messy but I cannot complain too much for the price.

image

Piping detail around the pockets

The lining is made of a polyester fabric rather than a more expensive bemberg or silk which may “breathe” better but such features are often only found on suits twice the price. The wool is soft, light and ideal for an Australian summer. For under $300 USD, the fabrics that Aperry offer are an excellent value proposition.

THE VERDICT

Not for everyone, there are language barriers and potential for confusion if order is wrong. The fabric and construction is good value for the price and exceeds anything else for the price. Nobody is going to be upset if I spilled wine or steak sauce on the trousers at lunch.

While the fabric isn’t anything amazing and the fit could do with some refinement, the suit itself is very good for the price as long as you are specific with your requests and are able to communicate it to the tailors. It is always difficult to get everything right on the first try but the people at Matthew Aperry seem to work very hard to deliver a satisfactory product within a low budget and with remarkable turnaround time.

Make no mistake, this is not going to be a bespoke suit and it’s no substitute for getting measured in person by an experienced tailor and having something made specifically for you with multiple fittings. However, it occupies its own position in the hierarchy of online made to measure clothing and it certainly holds its own against competitors who charge double or triple the price for a similar or inferior quality product. Especially in Sydney where there are far and few tailoring options for cash-strapped students, graduates or people who just don’t have all that much money to spend on a suit, places like Matthew Aperry can be a good option assuming you get properly measured and you spend a little on post-delivery tailoring.

For under $300 bucks, I really find it difficult to fault this company.

They can be found at http://www.matthewaperry.com/

PS: I’ll review the waistcoat when I receive it. And no, I did not receive a free suit from this. Not at all.