Over the last few years, the number of Hong Kong menswear stores that specialise in custom tailoring has grown exponentially. For the most part, these operations tend to produce clean conventional suiting at a pricepoint competitive with the local marketplace. The Brown House hardly breaks this mould — their product lacks the immediately distinctive “house style” and handwork essential to the best European tailors — but compensates by maintaining efficiency in all customer service aspects from start to finish.

To trial their services, we recently commissioned a double-breasted suit (DB) with minimal stipulations as to style; and the results were (for the most part) pretty good. There’s room for improvement, particularly when it comes to the underrated yet pivotal discussion of trousers, but for men working in Hong Kong’s vast professional services sector (e.g. law firms, banks, auditors) The Brown House is able to offer solid middle-of-the-road business attire that will test neither your patience nor wallet.

 

The fitting process

The Brown House
A sample of the varied collar designs that are available for Brown House shirting, displayed in-store. (Image source: Caitlin Kerrigan)

At The Brown House, the entire process of commissioning a suit takes approximately 6-8 weeks. At an initial consultation, clients explain what they want to have made — anything from a blazer all the way up to an overcoat — touching on details like where the garment will be worn and the kind of cloth desired. Subsequently, a first fitting is conducted and a “baste” (i.e. a provisional garment, loosely sewn together) is made using the client’s measurements. They return two to three weeks later for a second fitting: at this stage, the aforementioned baste is worn in order to simulate the final garment’s fit. It’s only very loosely attached, so significant adjustments — in relation to the wearer’s body shape, posture and other individual quirks — can be made directly onto the client’s body with relative ease. A second fitting follows, usually involving minor cosmetic tweaks, and the finished garment delivered.

The Brown House
While much of the cutting takes place at one of two off-site workshops, The Brown House employs a full-time in-house tailor (Mr. Tang, pictured above pressing) to oversee basted fittings and alterations. (Image source: Caitlin Kerrigan)

To be fair, this part of the process is where The Brown House excels. The team there have the initial consultation down to a tee, running through a literal checklist of details which many Hong Kong tailors (even the good ones) often fail to so much as acknowledge. It would seem like a given — especially when customers are dropping anywhere between HK$5,000-$20,000 — but the formality of looking through trays of buttons, waist fasteners, et cetera helps to streamline the fitting process early on.

Picking the right cloth is another important aspect of the consultation phase. This is among the biggest factors to have a bearing on price; so it’s important that the salesperson provide a selection of fabrics that, whilst fit for your purposes, cover a variety of different producers and pricepoints. At The Brown House, fabrics skew towards big Italian names from Biella, covering everything from office-appropriate worsteds (Cerruti 1881) to more extravagant wool/silk/cashmere blends (Loro Piana). Still, the team’s priority shouldn’t be to up-sell you. After explaining that I was looking for something to wear in the office and out to happy hour, the team recommended a “City of London” glencheck from Holland & Sherry (HK$7,121). This smooth navy woollen appears nearly matte at a distance, but under hard light is revealed to be woven like plaid — complete with a mid-blue overcheck. At 280 grams, it’s definitely not the easiest fabric to wear during typhoon season, but its weightiness helps to enhance the wool’s natural drape and “recovery”. (The latter terminology refers to a woollen fabric’s ability to retain its original shape after an extended period of wear.)

 

The finished product

When commissioning tailoring in Hong Kong, the onus is overwhelming on the client to specify exactly what kind of fit and proportion they want. For that reason, I intentionally refrained from giving too many instructions — to better see what kind of “house style” (if any) The Brown House team would opt for when making my garment. As you can see above, there’s a certain cultural tension between the various anatomical features: the natural chest and unextended shoulders are redolent of Neapolitan tailoring; yet the gorge placement and heavy canvassing — used to give the jacket volume and shape — suggest the involvement of British-trained cutters.

Guys who don’t wear a lot of suiting may find this hodgepodge of influences disconcerting, but by borrowing both Italian and British tailoring traditions, the overall visual effect is pretty good. The back and shoulders drape cleanly over the body, while the vents — though trendier than we’d like — sit about halfway between the collar and ground. Fronts and the collar are two areas which could benefit from some adjustment: the left-hand side appears slightly longer while the jacket is buttoned; while the collar is prone to floating away from the body when the arms are raised. Admittedly, these are the kinds of fit issues that won’t be immediately obvious to others, though they do interfere with the wearer’s enjoyment over time.

By contrast, the trousers are an area which require significant improvement. An improbably low rise means that they appear extremely tight whilst seated; and when standing, appear baggy (especially from behind). Excessive tapering causes each trouser leg to twist during any but the smallest of movements; and has the rather unpleasant follow-up effect of causing bunching behind the knees. This disparity between the fit of the jacket and trousers is concerning, given that the latter is made using almost as many data points (i.e. 10 are taken for the jacket, 7 for trousers). Viewed head-on, these defects are less obvious but do suggest a lack of communication between the team’s fitters, master tailor and any outworkers who may be used.

Our verdict

The Brown House

There are a few noticeable issues of fit, particularly where trousers are concerned, but The Brown House compensates by offering tailoring that is both time and dollar efficient. For half the price of most high street brands, punters can support a local business that offers robust construction (e.g. full canvassing and machine-made buttonholes), European fabrics, and on-balance a pretty comfortable fit. The gear here lacks the carefully polished eye of certain more fashion-saavy outfitters — there’s certainly no getting around that. Though chances are, if you work in a professional environment — the sort where your “personal style” is only as relevant as your last performance review — this is exactly the kind of gear that’ll get the job done.

Suits starting at approximately HK$5,500. To learn more, visit The Brown House online. The Brown House6/F, Hang Shun Building, 10-12 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 9602 7134

Randy Lai
Editor
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.