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August 01, 2022 3 min read

Mr Matthew Lai, the founder of Kayjen tailors is a gentleman of style, a true persona of the sartorial community in Singapore. Kayjen (named after his traditional Chinese name), provides a specialised soft tailoring made-to-measure service.

Inspired heavily by magazines such as Free & Easy, and brands such as Saman Amel, Mr. Lai is a true believer of influence on personal style and inspiration. Mr. Lai’s career as a tailor has pushed him to experience different styles as the “Singapore market is too small to be a purist”. “I have to understand different style tribes like your Japanese Americana Ivy style, or your classic men’s tailoring, or Scandinavian aesthetic.” Understanding the variety of styles available in the market today allows Mr. Lai to adapt to his clients needs, as no two clients are the same. Mr. Lai also describes tailoring to be like engineering for the body, by presenting garments to different body types, personalities, and styles.

Although, there is a personal favourite for Mr. Lai’s style. He takes inspiration from the lightness of Neapolitan tailoring, the soft silhouette lines and curves of Florentine tailoring, and the colour palette of the English. Combining all these styles together, as well as inspiration from brands and magazines, Mr. Lai has created a personal sense of fashion which is unrivalled.

Singapore is a country which can really embrace the humidity and warmth of its geographic location, similar to Australia. Mr. Lai was asked how to overcome this whilst wearing tailored clothing. Air circulation keeps your cool and comfortable, something which is attained when your garments drape on your body, rather than wrapping around it. Making use of lighter fabrics such as linen, cotton, and wool, help absorb the moisture from your skin whenever you perspire. The combination of fabrics as well as the fit on a body helps gentlemen keep cool, dry and comfortable, without losing their sense of style.

Due to the on-going impacts of COVID-19, Mr. Lai has recognised that his clients' styles have become much more casual. “As many work from home and offices, the dress code starts to be less formal”. He finds that many more people are wearing cotton chinos and linen shirts as a result.

Despite this, he has also found that clients are tailoring fewer items, but better quality items. “Clients realised that the clothes that didn’t survive the pandemic were the poorer quality items”, a true testimony to pieces and garments of quality.

The Sartorial community in Singapore is growing, and described to be in an “infancy stage” by Mr. Lai. There is a lack of experience in understanding the sartorial style, such as colour palettes, playing with proportion, understanding qualities, or dressing to the environment. Given the region, there is a misconception that Singaporean sartorial style is similar to the likes of Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea. Although, this is the complete opposite, according to Mr. Lai. “Singaporeans don’t wear suits or jackets often.

The only probable time they do, is when they attend a wedding, or it’s their own wedding.” There is also an idea that garments must be as slim as possible and as clean as possible, with no creases at all. Mr. Lai’s soft tailoring style showcases that tailoring does not need to be slim, and that fabrics such as linen and cotton can create creases to tell stories.

Singapore is a country of magnificence, featuring many beautiful man-made structures and environments to indulge yourself in. Mr. Lai highly recommends that travellers to Singapore visit the Chinatown Complex, as “it’s one of the very few places left in Singapore that you could truly taste Chinese Singaporean cuisine flavours.”

For shopping, he recommends paying a visit to Colony Clothing, one of the only few places he would personally shop for ready-to-wear menswear clothing. He also mentioned that Vertigo26 is a unique visit, featuring craft beers and cocktails, whilst listening to good music and browsing through their vinyl collections.