Matthew Lai of Kay-Jen Dylan adopts traditional tailoring methods to craft the perfect suit.
Matthew Lai began his journey as a tailor four years ago, at the age of 23. In 2014, he trained under Thomas Wong, founder of The Prestigious. Wong was previously presi dent of the Singapore Master Tailor Association, and is the lead lecturer in menswear at Lasalle College of the Arts.
Lai believes that mastering the basics is important to further his career in the industry. “Understanding drafts and cutting systems is the most important aspect of tailoring. Without these fundamentals, it is extremely difficult to achieve a proper fit. That was why I decided to learn the techniques and apply them to suits for my clients,” Lai says.
Under the legendary Wong’s tutelage, he studied the finer details of bespoke tailoring before putting his passion into creating Kay-Jen Tailored in 2014.
Until last month, Kay-Jen Tailored had helped countless customers ease into the world of bespoke tailoring at Sultan Plaza. But now, it has moved to a new location on Telok Ayer Street and taken on a new name, Kay-Jen Dylan, in keeping with the partnership Lai has formed with bespoke tailor Dylan & Son.
Before the partnership, Lai’s brand was known for having industry veterans behind it; each of his tailors boasts at least 30 years’ experience. Now, Kay-Jen Dylan has become the pick of young customers and those making their first suit, for its slim cuts and flexible price range.
And many of them learn about these selling points through social media. “Most of my customers are graduates and people relatively new to the workforce. They find out about Kay-Jen Dylan through Facebook and word of mouth. They are attracted by our price range, and often request first-time classic suits for weddings, events or [job] interviews.”
Lai’s soft silhouettes and gradual curves follow classic bespoke, made-from-scratch cuts and stitching that highlight comfort. “All my suits are full canvas — this gives the jackets structure — and are stitched by hand. I prefer using a minimalistic approach and will usually avoid contrasting collars, cuffs and interlining.”
However, should clients with smaller budgets ask to fuse suits, his tailors will oblige.
Lai constantly checks his suits to ensure they are accurately cut and comfortable. But longevity is equally important for the brand, he says. He believes that every piece, which serves as a unique representation of a man’s style, has the potential to last forever. “My suits are cut solely to fit each customer’s body type. Unlike seasonal wear, a personally tailored suit will never go out of style.”
Every client is given a walk-through on selecting the appropriate fabrics and colours. Popular choices include pure wool for suits and 100% cotton for shirts. Clients looking for standard suits usually gravitate towards navy blue, brown and olive green.
After the consultation, measurements are taken and a skeletal mock-up of the suit is made. The client then goes in for the first fitting, following which adjustments are made. A second fitting, arranged weeks later, will give the client an idea of the final product. A Kay-Jen Dylan tailored suit can take eight weeks to complete and cost up to $4,000 for those made of cashmere and silk.
Urging customers to find a suitable style, Lai says: “A tailor may have the best technical skills, but if he doesn’t understand your style, he will never deliver.” The reverse applies as well, he adds. “If you don’t understand the tailor’s philosophy, you are essentially forcing him to work outside of his comfort zone, and he may not achieve the results you are looking for.”
This article appeared in the Options of Issue 754 (Nov 14) of The Edge Singapore.