For keeping the local tailoring scene alive
Thomas Wong, Master Tailor and Technical Director of Thomas Wong Bespoke Company
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.
Linen jacket by The Prestigious; cotton polo shirt by Lacoste.