Bespoke Chinatown tailor, thriving for 45 years, proves he's well-suited for success

ByMichael Tamsuriyamit Localish logo
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
Finding the right fit: Bespoke Chinatown tailor thrives for 45 years
In the heart of Manhattan's Chinatown, one small business owner has long helped men of all ages look and feel their best in their own bespoke, one-of-a-kind suits.

CHINATOWN, Manhattan -- In his more than 40 years as a tailor, Albert Lam has become an institution in Manhattan's Chinatown.

From a very young age, Lam remembers being fascinated by the craft of suit making. He spent almost a decade working at a tailor shop in Hong Kong learning how to make different articles of clothing. Eventually, he found himself in New York City, where in 1978 he and his wife opened their tailoring shop, Albert Lam Bespoke, originally on Lafayette Street.

Tailoring involves an intricate process of both precision and execution. From meeting clients at his shop to discussing needs and preferences, to taking their body measurements and helping them choose the right fabric, Lam walks customers through every step of the suit-making process.

"We talk maybe about half an hour or 45 minutes because all the customers' bodies are different," Lam said.

Unlike some tailors who may outsource production, Lam prides himself on giving his clients the full bespoke tailoring experience. Everything from the cutting of the fabric to the suit's stitch work and monogramming is done in-house by hand.

It's no surprise that Lam views his work as a form of art, since a standard bespoke suit takes him about 70 hours to complete.

Whether you need a suit for that first job interview, or getting ready to tie the knot with your significant other, Lam helps his customers craft the suit of their dreams. Some of his most notable customers include former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, the late Rev. Calvin Butts and comedian Ronny Chieng. He even has clients spanning multiple generations, including sons, fathers and grandfathers all from the same family.

As a small business owner in the Big Apple, Lam has also needed to adapt to changing times.

Rent increases and gentrification have forced him to relocate his storefront to 80 Bowery, where he now operates out of a single office suite. He also lost customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he switched to seeing clients by appointment only.

Despite the troubles of the past few years, Lam remains optimistic about what his family describes as a business renaissance.

Business picked up again after he was allowed to return to his office, and a key lifeline has been the shop's social media presence, which Lam embraced during the pandemic.

He has also witnessed a demographic shift among his clientele.

Though many of them are his traditional customers in law, finance or medicine, Lam has seen a rise in younger men seeking a bespoke suit for their weddings, many of which were put on hold because of the pandemic.

An energetic 72 years young, Lam says he often hears questions about whether he plans to retire.

That's out of the question, he explains, citing two reasons: the support of the community and the joy the work still brings him.

"For me I cannot complain, but only say I'm very lucky," he said.

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Lam, you can reach him at 212-226-2130.