On the subject of bespoke tailoring, people often think of the traditional Savile Row tailors as the gold standard, but how many of us actually get an opportunity to visit Savile Row. With the recent trend in menswear and more men wanting to get a refined dapper style, many are willing to explore getting a custom made suit – be it made-t0-measure or bespoke. This trend has also caught on here in Singapore as we see more and more bespoke tailoring services sprouting out in this tiny(warm and humid) island.
I took the opportunity to speak to bespoke tailor, Leslie Chia, who founded PIMABs – the company is probably one of the best and a pioneer in modern bespoke tailoring services here in Singapore with regular celebrity clients like Dick Lee and Bryan Wong . Celebrating it company’s 10th anniversary this year, I asked Leslie what he thinks about menswear, bespoke tailoring and some helpful style tips for every man.
HSD: Leslie, what made you decide to move away from being a RTW fashion designer into a bespoke tailor?
LESLIE: It was a decade back when I realized there was (maybe still) a growing demand for bespoke garments. I think it stems out from the increasing quality of living in Singapore. People wanted something more distinctive and exclusively their own. I was lucky to be one of the firsts to ride that wave. When you are designing for off the rack clothes, you have a certain muse in mind. Designing bespoke garments is the exact opposite of it. Every client is a different muse and you must make him look good no matter what. You are dressing real people who wear your designs for at least 8-10 hours a day, 6-7 days a week and not a 38 Chest and 32 Waist model who walks on a runway for 1 minute, and that is the challenge I yearn for.
HSD : How did you get into menswear design? Have you always wanted to do menswear?
LESLIE: In design school, where I majored in Fashion design, we are required to learn both menswear and womenswear. However, being a man, I have a strong inclination to menswear and the structure of it. I feel like we don’t have enough strong menswear designers out there who make wearable clothes and celebrate sartorial masculinity.
In the 60’s, it is rude not to wear a suit or blazer to dinner or even to a cinema. Now, when you wear a blazer to the cinema, your friends might raise an eyebrow.
HSD: Do you prefer to be address as a designer or a bespoke tailor?
LESLIE: I prefer to be addressed as a bespoke designer. I was trained to be a designer, after design school I apprenticed with Thomas Wee, a well-known local fashion designer who is a veteran in the industry, also known as “The King of Jackets”. Through him I met master tailors and cutters and learn the art of tailoring. I like to used the techniques of tailoring, knowing the structure and construction behind a garment and combine that with design. I hope to break the mold of what people think of a tailor and a designer.
HSD: Do you have a style icon that inspires you?
LESLIE: Giorgio Armani. Ever since I was in design school, I have admired his designs and approach to clothes. How he can transform simple clothing to one of a kind piece, which speaks volumes to me. He revolutionized the fashion industry through his outstanding cuts and silhouettes. Whether it is about using different shapes of shoulder pads or fabric fusing, he knows how to make simple designs make the biggest impact.
HSD: Menswear has gained a foothold in the global fashion market; do you see that trend in Singapore as well?
LESLIE: Yes. It’s apparent that the menswear market is really growing. It’s so different now compared to ten years back when we just started. Seeing that “bespoke” shops have exploded throughout Singapore and even tailoring online, it’s a sign that men are becoming more fashion savvy these days.
HSD: What do you think has changed for menswear in the past ten years?
LESLIE: Recently, most men want to have outstanding items rather than an ordinary run of the mill garment. They can appreciate details even though it’s only for their eyes to see.
The global menswear scene is in polarities; one side is taking more risks while the others are keeping it conservative and classy. This is a good time for us menswear designers because elegance and stylish efforts are coming back.
HSD: When talking about bespoke tailoring, many will reference the Savile Row tailors as the golden standard for tailoring. Where do you think PIMABS ( and maybe the local tailors in SIngapore) stands?
LESLIE: We are still not there yet. However, I would say our quality and approach to bespoke tailoring have improved over the years. It is the constant effort of improving and progressing to better ones self. What we lack in tradition, we make up with the unique Asian flare that we have. In Savile row (or any fashion capital the world), tailoring is put in high regard, however from what I can see in the Asian market, they consider tailoring as just another labor job. We want to influence people to think of tailoring as a respectable craft and it is to be distinguished.
HSD: We commonly hear of different cuts of suits such as the British, Italian and American cut. Do you see a relevance of that in Asian market where we are built differently?
LESLIE: Yes there is some relevance to it. After all, these are all traditions and tailoring is rooted in it. However, these cuts are made popular because they look good on men from that specific region. We take this as a guide and reference, apply it on Asian physique. Ultimately, I am dressing someone from a person-to-person point of view. It’s different for every client; we do your cut more than anything else.
HSD: Do you have a design philosophy?
LESLIE: Less is more. I think a good design should be functional and cleverly applied into a garment. It should be timeless and yet has a strong aesthetic appeal. One should take out all the unnecessary details and strip it down to bare essentials. If it doesn’t do anything to the overall design of the garment, take it out. Quiet down all the noise and focus on just one or two parts.
HSD: PIMABS is 10 years old this year, what existing plans do you have?
LESLIE: This is a very special year for us. We have been blessed to be in business for 10 years and thriving. I myself have grown and matured. I noticed my designs have been more focused and really find my own true aesthetic. I want to give back to my clients by designing one of a kind signature pieces to a few of them.
We wanted to strengthen our brand identity and image through improving our service and craftsmanship. We are also in the process of revamping the shop interiors and giving the brand a breath of fresh air. Putting more value to our service and let our customers know that they are well taken care of.
HSD: Do you have plans to launch a RTW line someday?
LESLIE: I think it is in every designer’s dream to see people on the street wearing their clothes. However, coming from a RTW line, I know it’s not that easy. If given a chance in the future, it would definitely be something more for the gentlemen, wearable, modern and chic.
HSD: What is the ultimate fashion faux pas for you?
LESLIE: There are a few! But if you ask me, the ultimate one would be wearing those overly outlandish spectacle frames. It doesn’t do anything to your face shape and image except makes you look like a clown. Some people like it, and I respect that but not for me.
HSD: What do you think of the style of Singaporean men in general?
LESLIE: Very casual, to the point it’s becoming slack and sloppy. I believe it’s because of the weather. But we should not use this as an excuse not to dress up. We can look relax but at the same time chic and stylish. It’s all about the right choices and knowing what are your options out there. Style is more than just clothes and shoes; it’s a way of life.
HSD: Singaporeans often complain of the hot weather and view a jacket as excessive, what’s your view on that?
LESLIE: It’s really sad that when you try to dress up, people think that you are trying to peacock your way in the city. But we should encourage each other to dress up and bring your own style out. In the 60’s, it is rude not to wear a suit or blazer to dinner or even to a cinema. Now, when you wear a blazer to the cinema, your friends might raise an eyebrow.
If wearing a suit is too hot, always remember there are summer fabrics (Linen, seersucker, cotton) and choose fabrics that have Panama (open) weaves. In PIMABS, we do unlined jackets that cater to our humid Singapore tropical weather. We retain the structure of the lapels, stripped out the lining at the back to let the cool breeze in.
No matter what style or trend you want to wear, the number one rule is to know your color.
HSD: Can you leave us with an important style tip to remember?
LESLIE: No matter what style or trend you want to wear, the number one rule is to know your color. Understand what shade works for your skin tone. We all can wear all kinds of colors, just find the right shade that works well on your complexion. You may have a bad design but if the color works, it won’t look so bad.
PIMABS is located at 32B Boat Quay 3rd Floor, Singapore 049821.
For an appointment with Leslie, you can call +65 6538 6466 or email email@example.com