It would be all too easy to say that Dylan Chong's success as a tailor is down to good genes. And it would be even easier to resort to a witty pun and say that it was more down to good suits and shirts than any kind of jeans. But I shall grudgingly refrain.
Instead I sat down with the man behind the name to find out just how his store in Telok Ayer came to be and what one can expect from his tailored pieces. From the fabrics that are most appropriate for Singapore's perpetually sticky climate, to the styles and cuttings that are best suited to particular body shapes, nothing it seems escapes Dylan's attention to detail and penchant for personalised precision.
The power of tailoring can conceal your imperfect parts, so to speak, and accentuate those you want to show off.
So Dylan, you're not the first in your family to enter the tailoring industry.
That's right. My father is a tailor. He has been for about 40 years and he used to have a small shop at Lau Pau Sat. As time went on it wasn't doing very well because the older guys in general, including himself, didn't know how to market themselves in the face of the emergence of ready-to-wear brands. He ended up doing a lot more alteration work than actual tailoring.
When did you come on board then? And how have you differed from your father?
I took over his spot at Lau Pau Sat in 2010 and started rebranding and taking the business in a totally new direction. My father's approach was a lot more dated; the style preferred now is totally different from what he knows and he wasn't in sync with what the younger guys wanted. I moved to Telok Ayer about two years ago, and even though he still cuts some of the trousers now, he does it from home as he prefers to work at his own pace.
So it's about 35 degrees outside and I'm sweating through my T-shirt. How hard is it to create suits that are weather appropriate?
You're right, the climate in Singapore makes it very hard to dress well. Linen is great in this heat, but because it's so casual, it can't really be used for workwear. Lightweight wools tend to be the choice for more formal settings, but for anything that is overly lightweight, the shape and the drape can start to suffer. The problem is that these materials just don't have the pull, and structure and shape isn't as pronounced as the heavier English cloths that have more body and weight to them.
Whilst we're on the subject of situationally appropriate materials, what would you suggest for, say, the slimmer man, who isn't able to fill most off the rack suits?
Sometimes people can be brainwashed by the images they see of suits online, which might not actually be suitable for their own body type. That can be a problem. Very skinny guys struggle to pull off anything too lightweight and formless. They really need to be picking a stronger material that will have a much better drape and shape. Tailoring is all about creating the right shape — it doesn't matter what the customer's body type is like. A good jacket should create a silhouette such that when worn, everything just looks right. The power of tailoring can conceal your imperfect parts, so to speak, and accentuate those you want to show off.
And on the other side coin for body shapes, what would you suggest for the muscular gents?
For those that are extremely built — I'm talking the bodybuilder types — it's honestly very difficult to make them look good in a suit. Normally these kind of guys tend to be top heavy, with a wide chest but small legs when it comes to proportion. You ultimately end up with an unbalanced inverse triangle. In order to combat this and to achieve a balanced look, you have to make the trousers somewhat fuller so that everything flows nicely. Sometimes, however, if you do make the bottom fuller for this very reason, the client will come back and complain that the trousers are too loose. It's all about convincing them that this is the right choice for their body.
I notice that you've got a few different accessories on display — what other products are you selling and are you looking to diversify further in the future?
We're currently stocking braces made by the English brand Albert Thurston, as well as an Italian brand of ties called Viola Milano. In general though, I prefer not to diversify Dylan & Son too much. First and foremost, we're a tailor and I want to focus on being a tailor instead of stocking a whole assortment of accessories. I feel that we still have a lot of room to improve as a brand, and I want to do so before we start dabbling in any other services or products. I would rather do one thing well than do a lot of things at once, but sub-par.
Dylan and Son is located at 147 Telok Ayer Street.