The Dream of a Custom Pair of Jeans

(A long and lengthy review of my experience with Viktor jeans in Manila.  If you dont want the full account, skip to the bottom for my summary.)

You know how jean sizes are based on your waist measurements?  If I follow that, I never fit into them.  When flares and bootlegs were in fashion, I always went for the stretchy ones and made sure I wore belts.  When skinny jeans started cropping up, well, I stayed away from them.  Until I finally got smart and started buying several (and I mean several!) sizes up and having the waist taken in.

The alteration method work really well for me that I decided, on my trip back to Manila, I would buy a pair from Viktor jeans.  They specialize in custom made jeans in Manila.  I have seen their shops and have heard good things about them.  I just never went for them because, well, they were a bit pricey (you can get denims for half the price in Manila, maybe even less.  Admittedly, quality can suffer).

On the very first visit, I obviously did not know what to do. But I was clear on what I wanted: My thighs are my problem area, so I want the jeans to fit my waist, hip and thighs properly and then just fall straight down from the widest point in my thighs.  If you’ve watched “What Not to Wear” US, you’d know what I was talking about.   The lady at their Trinoma shop made herself visible when we entered, but made no eye contact with me as she was busy texting.  I called “Excuse Me…” and then went on to ask how we should go about things.  I explained the fit I  wanted and we went on to choose the material from the samples.  She suggested I went for something with a bit of stretch, which I thought sounded like good advice.  After choosing the color I wanted, she asked what type of buttons (or are they called rivets?) I wanted and what color thread should be used.  So far so good.

We went inside near their big mirror and I was gesturing to her how I wanted the jeans to fit.  Literally sliding my hands down the sides of one leg to show her what I wanted.  I wanted it straight from the widest point on the thigh.  I even made little comments about how huge my thighs were to explain what I was trying to accomplish.   She just said yes, straight fit jeans.  Okay, as long as we’re clear, I don’t care what you call them.

Out came the tape measure and around my waist.  She then found a pair of jeans for me to try.  They were skinny jeans so not what I wanted, but she wanted to know what I thought about the rise and the seat.  They fit well and were nice for a pair of skinny jeans, the rise and the seat were perfect as well.  I did say I wanted a little more give around the waist as they were too snug.  At this point I was happy since I thought having a pair that already fit me meant the waist and seat were sorted. The next main thing would be the leg.  Again, I made that gesture with my hands down my leg to show her what I wanted.

The lady was a bit deadpan to be honest.  She was asking the right questions and saying the right things (material, button, thread color, yes straight leg, yes needed by this date) but she wasn’t engaging.  She didn’t even seem interested.  No matter, I thought, not everyone is bright and bubbly.  I was a bit worried that with the exception of my waistline, I wasn’t too impressed with how she handled the tape measure.  I’ve been measured before, so I have basis for comparison.  She measured waist, length of jeans and a random spot around my thigh, I think.  Honestly don’t remember her measuring my hips, but maybe she did.  Surely she did.  It was the idea that there is a pair that fit me anyway that comforted me…they can use that as pattern if needed.

From then on it was dates (when I needed it, when they will text to notify me for fitting) and prices and deposit.

I left the store happy and excited. With a promise that she would notify me on Saturday if its ready for fitting.  From there we went on to Alterations Plus to have a pair of Mango jeans that I bought altered (yes, it was Jeans day).  My experience with the ladies from Alterations Plus made me worry a bit — they were so obviously capable of altering my jeans to my size, in contrast to the lady at Viktor, that I had a little voice suddenly panic at the thought of my custom jeans going wrong.  But I didn’t mind it, surely all those good reviews were based on something?

Saturday came and went and I didn’t hear anything.  I was also busy that day so I couldn’t come in for a fitting even if I wanted.  On Sunday I gave them a call to ask and I was told they’d text.  I was told I can come and fit that afternoon.

When I walked in I was still excited, even more so when she showed me the jeans.  Since I chose the material and thread color, it was just as I expected.  I went into the fitting room to try them on.

First up, they were too tight, I could close them around the waist.  Fair enough, its first fitting it can be adjusted.  But the worst part was, they didn’t get the leg fit right!  It was straight, yes.  But from the thigh it narrowed down to my knee before going straight down.

In short, it was just like any other straight pair of jeans that I try on in other stores.  They are technically straight fit because they fall straight down after the knee, but with my body type, they simply look like skinny jeans.

I annoyingly told her that this was not the fit I described.  I never said I wanted it be tight fitting to the knee.  Whatever happened to all those “hand-down-the-sides-of-the-leg” movement I kept doing??  She said okay, she would simply tell them to let it fall straight from the hip — I said no, not from the hip, the thigh.  Straight from the thigh.  She said okay, they would let it out from the thigh.

At this point I was so annoyed.  Even the sample pair she made me try on fit better, at least I could zip those up!  This was just so not the fit I wanted I was waiting for her to talk to me about the fit and for her to reassure me that she knew what I wanted.  To my dismay she started fiddling around with the length.  I told her the length was fine.  She asked if I wanted it shortened a bit, I said no, the length is fine.  I wanted to scream “Stop with the length! I want the fit right!!!”  — Of course I didn’t say that.  Nor did I shout.  That would be mean and rude.

In her deadpan way she told me she would set my next fitting for Thursday night — I was leaving Saturday, so this made me worry.  I didn’t think they would get it right for Thursday, and I didn’t have time for more fittings.  But I had no choice.  I had made the deposit and I checked that I would pay for cancellation anyway.

I left the store distraught, disappointed and angry.  If I wanted jeans that fit that way, I would walk into any other jean shop.  This was a custom shop, I expected more.  I expected even something loose that they could take in.  Instead, I couldn’t zip it up.  I expected the straight type I wanted — did I not explain myself right?  Maybe I should not have said ‘straight’ ? But I recall showing her how I wanted the jeans to fall, several times.  Was that not enough? I wish I can post a video of myself doing that right now, and I can get views on whether I was clear or not.  The other thing I was so disappointed at was that I couldn’t zip them up!  Whatever happened to the other pair that fit me perfectly?  Was that not a good pattern?  Plus I even said I wanted a little bit more around the waist as it was too snug — yet I couldnt close them…was that their idea of bigger waistline?

All these thoughts made me convinced they would never get my jeans right.  Surely a tailor can get the fit around the waist right?  Bigger I can accept since I asked for more, but why was it tighter?  After some computations, I told Allan I would go back and have the order cancelled.  I was willing to risk a percentage of the deposit, I just don’t want the stress of coming back to Trinoma and dealing with another fitting with them again.  So cancel the order I did.  Miss Deadpan asked “Refund nalang?” (Do you want a refund?)  I said yes, and she gave me back my full deposit even though I was not expecting it, but why would I refuse?

And that was the end of my attempt at custom made jeans.  At least until I find another shop.

My Verdict in Summary:

Product summary:  Their jeans on display looked really good.  Even the one I tried on were quite nice..the material felt soft yet sturdy and seemed well made.  My pair also looked good before I put them on so I was impressed when I saw them.

Service summary:  Perhaps where they failed is that they don’t have proper tailors or seamstresses manning their store.  Surely if you offer custom jeans, your staff should be able to assist your customers in designing their jeans?  The lady’s manners with the tape measure left a lot to be desired to be honest, even though I’m not expert.  Plus, they should be paying more attention when a customer explains what they want.  Perhaps they should even be able to sketch it somehow, the way designers normally do.  It might also help to have an illustration of the different types of fit —the type you’d see at Levi’s maybe.  Yes, that’s more “mainstream” than designer and doesn’t sound fancy at all, but for a custom jean shop, I think its vital.That way both staff and customer have a point of reference.

The good:  They got the material, thread color and rivets right.  Oh and the length was right.

The bad: They got everything else wrong — the fit and size were wrong and I think this is the heart of a proper pair of jeans to be honest.

Would I recommend them:

If one of the jeans they have on display is exactly what you want, but maybe just loose or snug around the waist or is too long or short, I would say go for it.  I’m sure they can copy that fit and design but to your measurements.

If you’re big around the hips and thigh like I am, but want skinny jeans or the typical straight fit jeans (snug up to the knees) before falling straight.  Sure, go ahead.

If you’re on the small side or have “realistically normal thighs” (you know, those who are just paranoid about their thighs but are REALLY, HONESTLY just normal or even better than normal), you might also like their jeans.

In all cases, be prepared to come back for several fittings just in case.  But also, in all cases, ask yourself if you really want a custom pair, chances are, you can already fit into jeans from the “usual” stores.

If you’re not in any of the above categories, I would say try a proper tailor, and if you find one, please let me know.

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One thought on “The Dream of a Custom Pair of Jeans

  1. I agree with your the authors comments. I must confess I am hooked with his designs, but the problem is the people who are taking measurements are not professional in the industry. They can’t tell which is good or bad for you. I had a jacket altered twice because the length was wrong. They don’t display too many sizes on the ready made rack. I think they should if they want to save clients time in coming back and forth due to errors made. I don’t know if I will give it another try, (although I have 3 jackets already and one vest (cost me 5000, considering it’s a tiny piece and no sleeves). Haven’t bought the jeans yet due to time constraints but I will buy only off the rack and not custom made anymore (because of too many errors).

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