Nestled in the middle of the extremely diverse Buford Hwy shopping district, Neil Balani’s shop, Hong Kong Tailors sits alone atop a hill. Before actually entering the store, I take the time to relish in the scenery. Although I have passed through this area numerous times, this is the first time that I actually stop and take it all in. There are many shops in the backdrop of Hong Kong Tailors, which makes this scene seem surreal, as if to say: “Hong Kong Tailors, we stand apart from the rest”.
Hong Kong Tailors has been a primary influence in the community since 1970. While the custom clothing market has been inundated and then slowly idled, HKT has continued to be one of the finest custom clothing businesses in the Southeast. It has a loyal clientele, which is composed of many generations. Prominent figures such as Evander Holyfield have been privy to this shop’s expertise. His knowledge and fine customer service have created the fine familiarity and pleasure you receive as you create your own custom clothing.
Upon entering the quaint shop, I am heartily greeted by Neil. He and his staff are idly working, but from the mounds of fabrics and other displays you can tell that there is no lackluster effort put into anything here. While he finishes up with other business I get the opportunity to browse the shop. I am in complete awe at the unique items that are present. From the custom-made belts to the very different “pleated” ties. The range of his work definitely does not go unnoticed.
Neil is casually dressed today but you can tell that there is a still a hint of effort behind the look. His European heritage shows in everything about him from head to toe. And growing up on the scenic island of Malta (southwest of Sicily, Italy), you’d never imagine that he had a hard time dressing himself due to his larger size. Raised by a dad who worked in one of the many clothing shops that catered only to the smaller sizes, he saw the need for specialty shops for the bigger male. Once he came to America as a student, it is here where he starts his tutelage of the art of tailoring under his uncle and another Master Tailor. Both took him under their wings to mold him into the tailor he is today. He eventually took over his uncle’s shop in 2005 (current location), and is running the business successfully as did his uncle.
Once I sat down with this extremely gifted tailor, he immediately begins to tell me more about his passion for men’s fashion. As one of the premiere “Bespoke” tailors in the state, he intently explains to me the process he goes through when dealing with customers. He first starts with a one-on-one session that allows him to better understand the customer as an individual. This allows him to properly meet their needs. He also asks that the client bring their best fitting pants/jacket so that he can ensure that what he plans to do for you and is to your liking. Although this isn’t a requirement, this is the first I’ve heard of a tailor doing this and I think that it’s quite a unique spin on getting to know the client. Once this 1-2 hour-long meeting is done Neil then starts to work his magic. In 4-6 weeks he has your suit ready. His thoroughness at the beginning interview ensures that you will be able to walk away with a well-fitted suit the first time. This cuts out the drawback time that most tailors have when making extra alterations.
As he finishes telling me about the normal “process” it takes for one of his suits to be ready, I start questioning him about the mounds of fabric throughout the store. With this it’s as if he lights up instantly. He immediately goes into detail about all that he uses. Here are a few of the well-known companies that he uses:
- Holland & Sherry-From its conception, over 170 years ago, Holland & Sherry has continued to supply prestigious tailors and luxury brands with the finest cloth. In 1836 Stephen George Holland & Frederick Sherry began the business as woolen merchants and eventually moved to Saville Row in London. They are still one of the premier stores on Saville Row. (www.hollandandsherry.com)
- Dormeuil– Over 150 years in business, it has garnered a worldwide reputation as suppliers of the finest luxury cloths extended its textiles to Haute Couture collections of the leading fashion houses around the globe, and continues to develop limited edition cloths of extraordinary luxury. The company’s diversification into a full line of clothing and accessories has seen the opening of Dormeuil stores around the globe. (www.dormeuil.com)
- Scabal- Founded in 1938 in Brussels by Otto Hertz, Scabal was originally a cloth merchant and supplier of fabrics. His successor is JP Thissen, Chairman Scabal Group, who is assisted by his son Gregor Thissen (CEO Scabal Group), the third generation. (www.scabal.com)
- Ariston- Distributing high quality men fabrics since1920 and headquartered in Naples, Ariston is synonymous with style and elegance. Everything is produced exclusive in Italy and cover a wide range of compositions and fibers. Passion for fabrics, skill, and tradition blended family atmosphere are fused in twice a year.
These are a few of his premiere suppliers from all over the world. They provide him with quality fabrics for his more exclusive suits. Neil also offers the option for his clients to choose customized woven fabric. With several different preset designs for the woven fabrics, a customer can mix and match those to create the perfect customized suit. Only dealing with the best, he gets all of his woven fabrics especially made in Scotland and it usually takes about 2 months for it to come back..
Neil also notes that for many men, getting a custom suit is financially impossible. So, Hong Kong Tailors also offers deals for the more cost conscious shopper. A man can purchase suits elsewhere and bring them in to HKT and have alterations done to them to make the fit more complementary to the man. And as a new customer special, for both men and women, he is offering 3 suits for $1899, which is a great price. Just do the math, if you go purchase one “quality” suit from any other store, you’ll spend almost $500-600 and still need customizations. I would recommend a deal of this sort to anyone.
As we close out our interview, I make sure that I get all of his information to pass along to you all. Make sure you take the time to learn more about Neil Balani and Hong Kong Tailors.
Neil Balani, Hong Kong Tailors
5378 Buford Hwy, Atlanta, Georgia 30340 770-458-8682
Just one of ‘fatboyfavs’