Sam's Tailor is Hong Kong’s preeminent tailor, catering to both ladies and gentlemen and providing the same superlative service to everybody who crosses the threshold of his shop, be they complete strangers or celebrities with an instantly recognizable face.
Sam's has been in business for half a century and more, with three successive generations of the Melwani family deftly plying tape measures around midriffs and across shoulders, advising on various cloths and styles and dispensing their charismatic brand of what for a doctor would be called a bedside manner.
Attention to detail and a lot of charm are two of Sam's hallmarks — Photo courtesy of Sam's Tailor
Customers of Sam's – and they include the likes of Prince Charles, George Bush, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pierce Brosnan – know they can count on three things. Firstly, an excellent suit, or indeed any item of clothing. Secondly, very reasonable prices, which compare well with other tailors in the city and extremely well internationally. And thirdly, respect.
Sam’s star treatment is not just meted out to presidents and princes, clerics and 007. Everybody gets a large helping, and just about everybody comes back for more.
In short, Sam is not just another tailor, but a Hong Kong legend. He’s a typical Hong Kong success story, building up his business by dint of hard work and never stinting on quality. Word of mouth played a huge part, too, as one satisfied customer after another told his or her friends about the great deal they’d got in Hong Kong.
Both Manu Melwani (Sam, Senior) and his son Roshan work in the shop nowadays. Sam’s shop in Burlington Arcade on Nathan Road could never be described as expansive, but you’d have to travel a long way to find better service.
Hong Kong has long been known as the home of the 24-hour suit. One traveler who visited in the 1950s recalls a set of pinstripes being delivered moments before his departing ship’s gangplank was hauled away. While Sam once made an entire suit in one hour and 52 minutes as part of a charity event, just a tad longer is a more usual time frame.
The normal modus operandi covers three visits: an initial measuring up, which also includes choosing material and general chit chat; followed by the main fitting perhaps a week later; and then – minor fanfare – the moment when you slip on your newly tailored duds and realize the full meaning of that age-old cliché "fits like a glove."
As Mark Twain so presciently noted: "Clothes make the man." And in Hong Kong, Sam makes the clothes.