“I am not a tailor, I am the tailors’ tailor in Malaysia.” This is how Tommy Cha would describe himself. Tommy Cha is a man who wears many hats in the industry of bespoke fashion. To those unfamiliar with bespoke fashion, it is custom-made clothing designed and cut to the individual’s specifications, often done with skilled craftsmanship. Tommy is the owner of Absolute Opulence, selling premium textiles and luxurious clothing accessories. He is also the bespoke tailor behind BarTailor, a hidden speakeasy in Damansara Kim. With just a little over five years since starting Absolute Opulence, his clientele has grown to an impressive range from corporate professionals to celebrities and politicians. Most notably, Tommy is a man with a mission: to revolutionise the scene of bespoke fashion in Malaysia, one three piece suit at a time.
From Clothier To Bespoke Fashion
Tommy Cha’s journey in bespoke fashion began eight years ago when he started working with Ziad under Zeetash Holdings. At that time, Tommy was primarily in charge of distributing premium imported textiles. Merely two years in the company, his then employer passed away from a heart attack. Tommy had to quickly recalibrate his career bearings as the company offered him to take over the distribution rights. With the encouragement of his clients and friends, Tommy decided to start his own business – Absolute Opulence.
Initially, he took in custom orders for his friends, particularly in menswear. In late 2018, Tommy decided to set up his gallery in BarTailor, the first tailoring-themed speakeasy in the world. This made Tommy the first tailor to introduce a more casual setting for bespoke fashion, as clients can relax at the bar while discussing all things sartorial or even lifestyle preferences. Since then, he has expanded his business to open up orders for the public, including luxury accessories such as buttons and ties.
Additionally, Tommy encourages collaborations within the industry through various events. He organises textile training workshops for tailors and designers, giving support to up and coming talent as long as they are keen to improve. He is also part of the annual ‘Gentlemen’s Night’ which helps to spread more insight into the style maxims of a gentleman’s world. Overall, Tommy hopes to inspire more people to dress well and to curate quality lifestyles.
A Personalised Experience
Stepping into Tommy’s gallery, he or she will be spoilt for choice. Behind the counter, hundreds of fabric samples fill up the shelves. Most of these fabric samples are premium quality worsted wools from select English and Italian mills, of which Tommy is the sole distributor in Malaysia. The rest are lighter fabrics such as high-quality Indian linen and cotton, which are great for hot climates. There is a dizzying array of colours and patterns, to suit any and every occasion. This is a space where you can unabashedly express all your sartorial dreams, whether it is through a sleek, classic suit or a contemporary, fun style. The impeccably dressed Tommy is there to help you discover how to dress according to the image you want to portray.
To complete the outfit, stroll on over to the gleaming marble counter in his gallery, which is stocked with fine accessories and buttons. Far from boring, Tommy keeps things fresh by introducing new fabrics or accessories. Lately, he has added Gladson’s bamboo fabric to his repertoire, adorned by Benedict Cumberbatch at the recent Cannes Festival. Bamboo is an environmentally-sustainable and highly breathable fabric, attracting many high-end clients.
Encounters With Clients
Having encountered many clients from different walks of life, Tommy has an endless arsenal of anecdotes. He recalled a client who have had suits done by many experienced tailors. “Some clients like to test what you know,” Tommy mused. After a consultation with the client, Tommy suggested boldly to add wide lapels to the clients’ new suits. To some, this may seem like a slight difference. However, in the tailoring world – this can make the suit a stand-out piece. And now, a year since this session, wide lapels have become very fashionable for men.
For clients new to bespoke fashion and unsure of what suits them best, Tommy usually opts for something understated but elegant. Tommy also advised potential clients to go for regular work-outs until they attain their ideal and stabilised physique before commissioning a bespoke piece. He explained that exercise can help an individual look and feel good in the clothes they wear. It would also save them more money on alterations if his or her physique does not constantly change. One of his clients became a repeat customer after commissioning his first suit from Tommy. The reason? “I feel much more confident for my meetings when I am dressed in high-quality pieces that fits me perfectly,” he said.
Not Just A Tailoring Service
While there are endless choices for the consumer in Absolute Opulence, Tommy expressed that bespoke fashion still has some way to go among Malaysians’ lifestyle choices. Most Malaysians are not aware of how they can dress better while managing a wise spending budget. Fast fashion labels are still the go-to for most people where they can buy trendy pieces that are often not built to last. In contrast, the waiting time for orders in Absolute Opulence reaches up to a month due to importing fabric from Europe, which can turn away clients. For now, Tommy’s biggest competitors are bigger businesses that have faster business models.
However, what sets Tommy Cha apart in the local bespoke fashion scene is the experience he can offer. Unlike traditional tailors, Tommy is open to working together with other tailors to deliver the clients’ requests. Additionally, a consultation or fitting session with Tommy at his gallery in BarTailor is often akin to enjoying oneself at a social club. A client might stay longer just to listen to the engaging and humorous Tommy share style tips or his stories on being an occasional yacht broker and charter.
Future Of Bespoke Fashion In Malaysia
Since managing Absolute Opulence, Tommy has faced the many challenges that come with owning a business and keeping up with the evolving scene of fashion. Despite the hurdles, Tommy is eager to receive each new challenge with a growth mindset. Currently, he is focused on expanding the business and increasing awareness on bespoke fashion. For the future, Tommy hopes collaborations between bespoke tailors and designers become more regular in the local scene. Beneath the casual conversations on fashion and the high life he pursues, there is an underlying sense of grit from his entrepreneurial mindset. This will surely transform Tommy into a household name for bespoke fashion in the long run.
Absolute Opulence Galleria
42-B, Jalan SS 20/10
47400 Petaling Jaya Selangor
Tel: +60 12 290 0308
Website: Absolute Opulence
This is the first part of the Suit Up Series, where Espoletta invites Tommy Cha to speak on bespoke fashion and general style. Stay tuned for the next article, where Tommy shares tips on wearing suits for Malaysians.