For keep­ing the lo­cal tai­lor­ing scene alive

Thomas Wong, Mas­ter Tai­lor and Tech­ni­cal Direc­tor of Thomas Wong Be­spoke Com­pany

Esquire (Singapore) - - Man At His Best -

Thomas Wong, 69, the doyen and the highly-re­garded mas­ter of the lo­cal tai­lor­ing field, can point to a mo­ment when be­spoke tai­lor­ing took a nose­dive. “It was when the ready-to-made brands en­tered the Sin­ga­pore mar­ket in the ’70s and the ’80s,” he says, his slen­der fin­gers weav­ing through the air like he’s draw­ing a sigil. “Be­fore that, ev­ery­thing had to be made from scratch. In those days, it was a liv­ing be­ing a tai­lor.” From his ap­pren­tice­ship at 16 to open­ing his own shop at Shaw Cen­tre called The Pres­ti­gious, Wong wit­nessed the ups and the downs of the tai­lor­ing in­dus­try. In 2012, The Pres­ti­gious shut­tered, not be­fore Wong was en­ticed by an of­fer to field a menswear course at LaSalle Col­lege of the Arts. There, he dis­tilled his 40-odd years of knowl­edge into easyto-ab­sorb for­mu­las. These days, Wong pre­ferred to be known as a teacher, but his clients still clam­oured for his crafts­man­ship. Soon, he re­opened The Pres­ti­gious at Boat Quay, bring­ing some of the menswear course stu­dents with him. Along with a tai­lor­ing house that ac­com­plishes the en­tire put-to­gether of a com­mis­sion, Wong also launched an Ap­pren­tice-in-Train­ing pro­gramme that teaches the fun­da­men­tals of op­er­at­ing a tai­lor­ing business. Lo­cal tai­lor­ing was once a dy­ing trade, but now, with a new gen­er­a­tion ex­press­ing in­ter­est, it has been given a re­prieve. “Us, old tai­lors, we will set with the sun,” he says, “but, for them, it’s the dawn. We will pass on our knowl­edge and step back to let them take up the reins.” Un­til then, Wong keeps the flame burn­ing, and with­out cut­ting any cor­ners. “I’m al­ways learn­ing,” he says. “Ev­ery three months, I im­prove my tech­nique and try to be bet­ter.” He doesn’t be­lieve in profit be­fore art; he sees his work as some­thing rev­er­ent, to keep. It’s of­ten said that a good suit makes the man, but, per­haps, only if it’s made by Thomas Wong.

Words by Wayne Cheong Pho­to­graph by Chng Dju-Lian Styling by Eu­gene Lim

Linen jacket by The Pres­ti­gious; cot­ton polo shirt by La­coste.

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