As soon as I arrived at my hotel the lovely lady at the reception advised me that I should check out Yaly Couture or Aobaba tailors as I would receive a 10% discount on my purchases. I thought to myself “um, wow, awesome!” and so the next day I plodded off to Yaly after some sightseeing to check out what I could make. I had read a little bit about the tailors and through my research discovered they had “look books” with an array of styles that they could copy. I wasn’t loving any of the pieces so I showed the incredible sales assistant Barbara some of the looks I would prefer to have made. Having worked in retail for over seven years (both luxury houses, boutiques and department stores) I have a fairly strong grasp of what is good fabric and what is not. In Yaly they had a solid mix of higher-end fabrics including soft silks, cottons and linen with some lower-end options including polyester, viscose and blends. I was very particular about what I wanted so I had no qualms saying no to certain fabrics because I knew just by touching them that: 1. they would easily deteriorate in the wash 2. they would make me sweat like no tomorrow 3. they looked tacky. So off we went around the huge store picking out different fabrics and patterns and slowly everything started to come together. Initially I was quoted the following prices ($USD)
- Cotton Shorts – $22
- Linen Pants – $45
- Casual Jersey Cotton Dress – $40
- Silk/Viscose Cocktail Dress – $85
- Cotton Day Dress – $65
- Striped Linen Skirt – $40
- Jersey Cotton T-Shirt – $17
In total the seven pieces came to $314 before discount. After discount it was approx. $286.
I walked out feeling incredible! I was about to have some wonderful clothes fit to my body and I was going to look fab-you-lussss. So I called my boyfriend to tell him the exciting news and asked him to guess how much it was all going to cost. To be honest I thought it would be cheaper than that but I tried to rationalise that it was being hand-made, to my figure, using high-quality fabrics. My boyfriend said he had no clue about fabrics and wasn’t sure how to value it but then he asked “how much did you come down by?” and I responded with “what do you mean come down by?” and he said “mel, did you bargain?” – oh.my.gosh. NO I DID NOT BARGAIN. “She told me she was giving the lowest prices” I explain but by this stage I’m freaking out realising I’m dishing out around $300 U.S. dollars which is about 300 million Australian dollars. He advises me to call back and ask them to renegotiate before they cut the fabrics, which I do. Like a crazy person I called their phones about 10 times to no avail. Later that day I meet with a friend for drinks and get a call from a random Vietnamese number – “hi this is yaly couture”. Oh no, they called me back, what do I do now?! So I calmly and politely explain that I did shop around and found other tailors who were willing to give me the same clothes, same quality for half the price. The sales assistant says that’s not possible and that nothing matches the Yaly quality. I explain that I’m pretty disappointed to be overcharged because seriously that place IS expensive and that I can only pay $140 for the items (i’m low ballin here – not expecting them to give it to me at this price!). The sales assistant says she will need to speak with her manager about this so I request a call back. About five minutes later my phone goes off – the sales assistant says she has spoken with her manager and the best they can do is $260 approx. I, again, calmly and politely explain that this is still too high to which she retorts “well we have already cut the fabrics so this is the price” – ok, but no. I say my best is $190… silence. She advises me that the price I have now is good enough and that her manager won’t go any lower – I request for her to speak with her manager one final time and give me a call back. Then my phone goes off for the third time, it’s the manager. We finally agree on a price of $200.
The next day I head in for my first fitting, everything is looking pretty good except a couple of areas that need to be tightened and shortened. Barbara asks me to come back again for another fitting, which I do. Whilst there some things have been fixed but she explains that she still needs to do a few more things to get it to where I want and asks me to sit down for a few moments so she can do that and come back for me to try on. So I wait in the nice cool lounge area and Barbara comes back with two of her tailors to try on my cocktail dress one last time – we try it with bra padding then without then I finally decide I prefer it without. So they fix it all up and all the way through they give me their honest opinions about what looks good and what really does not. Barbara says that she can pack everything else up and send my cocktail dress to my hotel, which I agree to. Everything is neatly packaged in plastic pockets and I am given the bill. It’s now $206 including a $6 service charge for using a debit card. I’m fine with that.
My Final Verdict
I absolutely loved Barbara and the tailors, they were very professional and friendly and what I appreciate is most is they weren’t afraid to tell me when things wouldn’t work. For example I requested elastic for my pants, skirt and shorts but Barbara said it would look so much more flattering without it and she was right. I’m super happy with the service however I do think they are super expensive. For that reason I have some tips if you’re ever going to Hoi An tailors.
- SHOP AROUND – yes, sure, they say they have the best fabrics blah blah but honestly when I looked around I could see other stores that were just as good, not as busy (less waiting time for you) and more importantly not as expensive – so do your research! Spend at least 3-4 days there so you can have a thorough look around. Talk to locals, they WILL tell you the prices if you are nice.
- BARGAIN – they DO mark-up their prices by at least 50% if not more and why not? Ultimately tourists are willing to pay a bit more but for me this was a LOT more, it wasn’t a matter of a few bucks but instead about $100 difference for me, which is a lot. I got way too swept up in the moment that I forgot about bargaining, don’t make the same mistake I did because it felt quite paiseh (embarrassing) to call them back and renegotiate after we agreed on a price. The best thing to do is start low and work up from there – if they don’t give you what you want find someone else who will – this is business and the only person who will lose if you’re not careful is you.
- AVOID A DEPOSIT – mention to them that you’re hotel advised you that it was not necessary to leave a deposit, which is what I did and in the end it gave me bargaining power. If you leave your deposit they can dictate the terms and it’s in your best interest to say when you need things done by and how much it will all be. Of course it’s horrible threatening to not to go through with the transaction if they are ripping you off but at least you have nothing to lose in the end – so please follow #1 and #2 tips to be sure this doesn’t happen as it did to me (partly my own fault!).
- NUMEROUS FITTINGS – there isn’t just one fitting – it may take up to two or three to get the clothes right so this is another reason to stick around longer so you have time to make sure the details including zips, buttons, seams, pleats etc. are all how you want them to look. It also means you won’t go home with an unfinished product – and remember the more clothes you have the more time it takes.
- BRING INSPIRATION IMAGES – I love Pinterest and had lots of images that I could show Barbara and the tailors. I’ll be putting them up in another post along with photos of the actual clothes I had made. But doing this makes your life so much easier because the styles in their lookbooks were a little outdated for me. I drew inspiration from some of my favourite brands including Zimmerman and Acne for the clothing.
- DONG THE GONG – figure out which currency will be more advantageous to you – VND or US? For me converting from AUD to VND was way better than converting from AUD to US – not by a huge amount but a few dollars. Save where you can my friends, and ask them what rate they are using to convert the US into VND – they need to use a market or retail rate however I found plenty of places that were just making up their rates to their advantage – no thanks…
In the end I am so so happy with my clothes. I will be sharing another post where I will show you my inspiration images as well as the final product! Keep an eye out 🙂