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Raja Fashions Semi-Custom Norfolk Jacket: Review

Being a menswear writer of Hong Kongese origin, I am often asked about my view on the various tailors that are based out there. One of which is Raja Fashions, a bespoke atelier that boasts itself with more than 60 years of history.

Now, readers who are even slightly familiar with the tailoring scene in Hong Kong may be instantly skeptical about the quality of make from Raja, considering the latter's position and roots as a Tsim Shai Tsui ('TST') tailor.

For the uninitiated, TST tailors have long received bad reps for being inferior to Central-based tailors, say, WW Chan and The Anthology (whom I reviewed back in 2019), given their connotations with the budget (fused) 'bespoke' suits offerings Hong Kong was known for throughout the second half of the past century.

Needless to say, let stereotypes be stereotypes. It is rather pointless to perpetuate this viewpoint without acknowledging, or at least examining what actions the newer generation proprietors of these tailors are taking to modernize their house's image and, more importantly, their quality.

So when Prashant Daswani, the current owner of the business, invited me for a showroom visit during my stay in Hong Kong last winter, we came up with the idea of making me a piece that one normally would hardly expect from a TST tailor, for the purpose of illustrating the range Raja can offer.

There was plenty to browse from inside the showroom, given the multiple sub-brands Prashant is running under the wider Raja Fashions banner. From an interior design angle, it didn't give off the impression that it is a premise of a typical 'quick and affordable' TST tailor. Rather, it felt more like the tailoring section of a department store.

Ultimately, what caught my attention was a Norfolk jacket, which to my knowledge, was made for a previous exhibition or trunk show Raja did in the States. I have always wanted one for myself but there has never been enough imperative for me to actually purchase one.

If anything is to be said about a Norfolk jacket, it would be the fact that it has a unicorn level of existence even in the UK sartorial community, not to mention the fairly reserved scene in Hong Kong. For a TST tailor to be able to execute a piece that has more cultural and historical flair than a go-to lounge suit truly means something special, to say the least.

There's more to it. What is particularly appealing about this Norfolk is its 'fake' full belt design, meaning the belt is actually attached to the jacket as well as the pleats.

While the design does not serve any functional purpose like waist-cinching technically speaking, it makes the piece less of an occasionwear and more contemporarily relevant, especially when paired with a muted cloth. The four-button stance does make it more unusual, however, though no less traditional, and I shall address that furthermore later.

As for the level of finishing and make, we have opted for Raja's Semi-Custom offering, rather than fully bespoke. This is due to the time constraint we had, since bespoke, of course, requires multiple fittings.

Crucially speaking, then, this write-up is by no means analyzing every finishing and fit detail of a Raja bespoke jacket to the other bespoke pieces I own exactly page-by-page, as this jacket was made by adjusting an existing, scalable block pattern, and no measurements were taken. It was also delivered without requiring any fitting.

The same should also be kept in mind regarding the construction. The Semi-Custom jacket comes in a lightweight horsehair half canvas and is normally half-lined. (It is only fully lined on this particular piece due to its back pleat and belt.) It features minimal handwork and is predominantly machine-made, which is fair given the jacket's retail price. It does, however, come with kissing buttons.

In other words, a better way to view this offering would be a cool-looking MTO jacket with customizable options on minor fit details (sleeve length, etc.) and cloth choice. This might not be something a seasoned bespoke client would be keen on, but is certainly a good, entry option for enthusiasts who have just started out and wanted to get more hands-on with the garment customization process.

Starting with the fabric, I must say this tweed is such a lovely find. The texture almost reminds me of an acorn's cupule, with its subtle hints of ivory, dijon mustard, chocolate brown, and black threads all interacting with each other harmoniously. It's relatively mid-weight as well, making it rather ideal for a three-season piece in London.

We had originally opted for an ivory linen cloth from a smaller, less well-known cloth merchant/ mill as Raja no longer carries cloth from big names, top-notch textile merchants based here in the UK or Italy. In fact, the bunches Raja has in the showroom mainly consist of worsted wools and other Super 1XXs. Prashant explained that there just isn't a big enough demand for the 'sartorially-inclined' cloth amongst his clientele.

Regardless, in an interesting turn of events, we ended up discovering a piece from Raja's substantial collection of vintage and deadstock cloth, all (peculiarly) thanks to his Semi-Custom tailor stating the back design details wouldn't work with the half-lining and thus the linen.

I think this is where Raja's heritage comes in strength, as Prashant's father, had collected tens of thousands of fabrics from a range of suppliers from China and the UK back when he was still managing the brand, and these are still available to this day. I was informed that they even have fabrics that would now be completely unthinkable, such as mink blends, in their warehouse!

The only issue is the fabrics themselves aren't traceable, as there wasn't an ordering system back then. (But then it's largely the same story for old European warehouses...) So the trick, I'd say, is to be persistent with your cloth search, and dig deep enough until you discover something you like. What's certain is that I cannot emphasize enough how helpful Prashant had been in searching for the right cloth throughout this process.