Fashion

Common Suits Brings Singapore’s Suit Culture to Manila

Its Manila branch provides a taste of English tailoring for the tropics.
IMAGE Common Suits
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Singapore’s unique history as a progressive metropolis with strong English influences (it was under British rule for almost 150 years) provides the perfect cocktail for suiting up in the tropics. Its haberdasheries are well-versed in English tailoring but know, as well, how to adapt the tradition to Asian builds and the region's hot and humid climate.  

Ryan Chua made this observation while visiting Common Suits in Singapore. After meeting with Javin They, owner of the tailoring company, the two entertained the idea of opening a shop in Manila to cater to the needs of discerning Filipino men. “He walked me through their haberdashery and their display of suits. What initially sparked my interest toward their suits was how different their house cut suits and trousers are from what I see in the Philippines,” says Chua, who is now Common Suits' Manila managing partner. 

At its shop in New Manila, clients can expect a curated selection of English and Italian fabrics, as well as a house cut that is designed to flatter local physiques. After the initial consultation, measurements are sent to its Singaporean tailors, who, with their combined experience of over 170 years, will make a suit with timeless appeal and comfortable fit. 

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Esquire Philippines spoke to Chua to learn more about Common Suits’ tailoring philosophy, as well as its aspirations for Manila’s gents. 

Photo by Common Suits.

Brown Worsted Wool Double Breasted Suit

Photo by Common Suits.
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ESQUIRE PHILIPPINES: Why was it important to open Common Suits in Manila? 

RYAN CHUA: I want to change the notion that suits are uncomfortable, one-time-use only garments. Suits are timeless can be worn every day, most especially if they are constructed to be lightweight, non-restricting, and breathable.  

Wearing my first suit, or rather my first full canvas suit Javin made for me, proved that it was possible. Experiencing perfect fit, all those full canvas benefits, and a magnificent drape was breathtaking and inspiring. It was almost a stark contrast from the suits I've been wearing earlier, from both ready-to-wear and bespoke. It was only with Common Suits that I experienced this and I thought the hardworking gentlemen of Manila deserved that same feeling, if not better. 

ESQ: What is the Common Suits philosophy when it comes to style? 

RC: We believe in a permanent fashion—an enduring style of masculine art to empower men and remind them of the common traits of good men. Men and society have evolved over the centuries, but what fundamentally makes a man are the core values of integrity, manners, power, humility, resilience, confidence, leadership, and inspiration. Regardless of background and status, these traits are the common denominators of all good men. Common Suits is, too, a common denominator of all good men. 

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We want to allow men to feel and perform their best by being their best wingman. We want to help men develop taste—the sort of taste that is fearless yet grounded, unapologetic yet humble, refined yet effortless. 

ESQ: Can you describe the men who wear your suits? 

RC: Common Suits' clients are those who acknowledge the value of having a well-fitting, tastefully designed suit. Although the majority are professionals—lawyers, doctors, real estate agents, bankers—we do get managers and entrepreneurs, all of whom are looking to make a statement in their career-defining moments and create a professional and polished impression on the daily.  

Our clientele base has been experiencing some growth also because of weddings. Both grooms and groomsmen have been coming to us, sometimes in batches, for the big day. We’re glad that we’re getting more acknowledged in this area as our suits are made and designed to be timeless and elegant in mind, much like the event itself. We would like our grooms to always look on point in every photo opportunity.

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We're also grateful to have gotten feedback that they wear the suits even after the wedding for casual and formal events. 

 Pin Stripe Worsted Wool Three-Piece Suit

Photo by Common Suits.

Yale Blue Worsted Wool Three-Piece Suit

Photo by Common Suits.
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Gray Herringbone with Pinstripe Suit

Photo by Common Suits.

ESQ: Tell us about your house cut. 

RC: The house cut is modern in silhouette yet classic in style. Expect generous lapel rolls and a lean masculine silhouette every time. It maintains a balanced proportion with a flattering silhouette to create a more V-shaped figure: high waisted trousers to make the client appear taller and slimmer, a slightly lowered jacket button stance to maximize torso-to-leg proportion, elegantly crafted curved gorge lines and a generous sleeve head to allow maximum movement and maintain a masculine shoulder line. 

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As for trousers, we have our signature Common Suits designs. Our curved unibody trousers, inspired by Hollywood top trousers, are a signature design where the fly is curved and the waistband and body are made with a single piece of fabric. It’s a unique and contemporary twist on regular trousers. 

ESQ: What are the materials you favor in your suits? Where do you source your fabrics? 

RC: Pure worsted wools are the go-to, and this should be the fabric for everyone's first suit. These are light, breathable, and durable—perfect for the Philippines' climate. These are also perfect for both formal and smart casual events. The wool that usually comes to Filipinos' mind is woolen wool, used in sweaters, scarves, and most winter wear. Worsted wools, on the other hand, are finer, lighter and smoother.

We use three weaving methods to make them more breathable, namely high twist, hopsack, and tropical wools. High twist wools give more space in between the weaves. These tend to be heavier but are very breathable. Hopsack wools are woven like a basket, making it textured and airy. Tropical wool is loosely woven and lightweight. 

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Aside from worsted wool, personally, I like to wear linen a lot for casual suits, sports jackets, and trousers. Cotton and wool-silk linen are also great options. 

Our fabrics come from reputable fabric merchants and mills from Europe, especially from Italy and the U.K. Our selection includes notable brands such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Loro Piana, Vitale Barberis Canonico, Harrisons, Cacciopoli, and Holland and Sherry. 

ESQ: Given that Singapore's suits evolved from traditional English suits, what modifications has Common Suits made to adapt to its wearers? 

RC: Because of exposure to trends from all over the world, our tailors constantly adapt to ways of making garments to combine both relevant and classic suit elements. For example, we offer different shoulder expressions such as unpadded, which is more Italian, or padded, which is more English.

The canvas that we use is softer now, as well. We also only use Bemberg to line our jackets and trousers to allow wearers to cope with rising temperatures.

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With the dress-down culture in corporations, we have also adapted and started offering jackets with softer and lighter construction so that they can be easily paired with jeans, sneakers, and T-shirts. 

Tobacco Linen Suit

Photo by Common Suits.

Glen Check Wool-Silk Linen Suit

Photo by Common Suits.
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ESQ: Can you walk us through the process of having a bespoke suit made at Common Suits? 

RC: There are usually three to four appointments needed to get the perfect suit. Our regular lead time usually takes three months after the initial consultation or two months with a prioritization fee. 

The first appointment is the initial consultation where we try to determine the purpose of the suit and other preferred crafting details. We ask customers if they want their suit to be worn at work or for events, as well as their preferred fabric and styles and other related information. We take all that information into consideration and give them advice on what will best suit them.  

Basted fitting happens on the second appointment. Here, we have clients try on suits cut exclusively just for them on a dummy fabric. We will then examine and diagnose the necessary adjustments needed. In this phase, we aim to perfect how the suit would drape. After this appointment, our tailors in Singapore will then make the final adjustments on the actual choice of fabric to complete the suit. We will also save the final adjusted pattern that we've created for our clients to make repurchases a lot easier and faster. 

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The third and possibly final appointment would be the final fitting or pickup. Clients fit the final suit shipped from Singapore and assess the overall fit. If no adjustments are needed, we usually hang our suit on our wooden hanger and pack it in a water-resilient woven suit bag and clients can be on their way. Otherwise, our in-house tailors will make the necessary minor adjustments and have the suit ready in a week. 

ESQ: What are the similarities and differences between Singaporean and Filipino men when it comes to wearing suits? 

RC: Men in Singapore are more inclined to wear suits than men in Manila because they have a more mature suiting culture. Men in Manila, however, perceive suits as very hot and a hassle to wear, primarily due to most suits available here being crafted with fused or glued construction. These are made with polyester which makes the suits cheap, but hot and not breathable. That itself already hinders people here from opening up to wearing suits unless they are required to on special events and occasions.  

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Suiting practices we recommend are going for ideal fabrics such as worsted wool, linen, etc., and getting bespoke to address the build or fitting issue. Anything bespoke will be based on the client's proportions, guaranteeing a good and proportional look with a clean drape. 

Linen Safari Jacket

Photo by Common Suits.
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Denim Gurkha Trousers

Photo by Common Suits.

ESQ: What makes your tailors in Singapore unique? 

RC: The combined 170-year experience makes Common Suits unique. Our oldest master tailor is already 70 years old with over 57 years of experience. His skills and knowledge in bespoke suits have been passed down by his masters during the colonization period.  

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Since then, Singapore's suiting culture has matured and gotten more refined, which has pushed our tailors to make their craft more precise and accurate. They have gone from crafting heavy suits for the English men to crafting lightweight suits that are perfect for Singaporean weather. 

ESQ: Do you offer other services aside from bespoke suits? 

RC: We offer bespoke trousers for men and women, both casual and formal. We have denim, linen, and cotton chinos for casual wear, and wools for formal wear. We also have tweed just in case clients would need winter wear.  

We also have made-to-measure cotton and linen shirts for both men and women, and they can opt for our one-piece collar construction. We also have sports jackets, which can be done with a half-lined or unlined construction, safari jackets, and tuxedos. 

Book an appointment at its flagship store located at 5 Campanilla Street, New Manila, Quezon City. Common Suits Manila also accepts Sunday appointments at Covent Grooming Lounge, The Grand Midori, Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City. commonsuits.ph

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