Toni Vain - Clothes Designer

Picture: A three piece Chinese silk suit, white cotton shirt, and gold shoes. Tailor made in Hong Kong. Red silk tie, Hong Kong. Earrings made by Toni, ribbons and blank earring clips from John Lewis, Oxford Street, London

Picture: Toni being fitted by Nan for Harem suit in Cambodia

Picture: Full circle skirt left made to measure by Jennie Davis Tel: 01372 450687 Surrey, UK. Lindy-Hop Shoes by Colin Johnson Tel: 020 8647 6948 Surrey, UK

Made to Measure

As a tranny I love dressing, I like to create my own compositions of loveliness. I want to look attractive, nice, stunning, sensuous, feminine, interesting, ambiguous, androgynous or various combination. And occasionally I want heads to turn and say "Wow"! Because I am a tall man with big feet I have to go that extra mile and sometimes I have things specially made for me. I suppose one way to describe some of my clothes is that they follow the classic iconic looks ensuring that they never go out of date and I can enjoy them over and over again. But hereís the big problem, it can be expensive unless you can make your own. As I travel to New Zealand every 2 or 3 years my own solution is to arrange stopovers in places which offer advantageous skills and rates. You have to be clear in your own mind what you are after. Good communication is essential to ensure that the artisan understands what you want. Diagrams, drawings, models or samples are ideal. Look at what they do, the quality and the price as these vary wildly..


Hong Kong

Hong Kong has excellent shopping, wonderful materials and highly skilled dressmakers, tailors and craftsmen. Reasonable accommodation and food are readily available. English is widely spoken and armed with a suitable map, (free from the airport), it is easy to get around.

Vogue Shoes - Shop B-23, Basement, Hyatt Regency Hotel, 35-79 Nathan Road, Kowloon Phone: 23668150 Email: I made the mistake of finding them last, so although I ordered 4 lovely pairs of shoes they could not make them in time so they had to post them to me. Consequently I had to pay UK import duty. So stay in Hong Kong 6 days and get your shoes measured up as soon as you arrive. Vogue shoes are not cheap but they are well made to your own requirements and fit comfortably which is always a bonus for big uneven feet.

Hong Kong is famous for tailors and dressmakers. You can order clothes in the UK that can be made for you in Hong Kong, For example Wear Nice Fashions - 3 Well Close, Camberley Surrey GU15 3NL UK Tel: 0127 6682815 had (for example) an offer of one suit, blouse, slacks and scarf for £370. The same firm in Hong Kong at Shop 20, Ground Floor, Tsim Sha Tsui Mansion, 83-97 Nathan Road, Kowloon had the same package for £159.

I made contact with an agent Mr Mike Ho Tel: 6285 9220 and he guided me to a tailors workshop in my own building where I was fitted for some clothes of my own design. I wanted an exotic ladies style 3 piece suit with a high collared Chinese cut jacket, waistcoat and trousers. I also wanted a traditional pink Cheong Sam ("Suzy Wong") style dress.

The cost of tailoring was £200 and the high quality silk brocade was £85. It is certainly not Ďdirtí cheap, but Iím sure something of this nature would be considerably more expensive in London. The quality of the tailoring is truly excellent. The material came from Yue Hwa Chinese Products 301 Nathan Road, Kowloon. Buying through a tailor or an agent such as Mike Ho can result in a discount. I had another excellent suit and shirts made at Union Tailor Ltd, G31, Ground Floor, Hyatt Regency Hotel, 35-79 Nathan Road, Kowloon, Phone 2368 5582 Mr Tom Tong.

There are also many Indian tailors in Hong Kong. I had some cheaper shirts made at one of these, however from my limited experience Chinese tailors generally do better quality work.

Stanley Market on Hong Kong Island One day I took a bus out to the market where I bought a very nice red silk tie for just £1.00



During a visit to Cambodia for a couple of weeks I found a market with some cheap materials. I found a dressmaker, who did not speak English but who was willing to help me. Her name was Keo-Nan She lives and works opposite the Angkor Reach Hotel, next to the War Museum on Route 6, a few kilometres out of Siem Reap. With the aid of many drawings, sign language, smiles and laughter I conveyed my plans for 5 mix and match pieces. I politely tried to ask the cost and was told it would not be very much. I went back three times for fittings. Then I asked her how much again, sheepishly she asked for only £4. She and her assistant had spent 6 days on the project, so I gave her £16. She was very pleased. Some types of fastenings including zips that can be undone and separated were not available, so I had to settle for low tech solutions. So try things out, take your own, explore, experiment and donít worry if it is not perfect.


South America

If you fancy a high class jacket and skirt made with the finest Alpaca fibres in the world, - they are smooth, silky, lightweight and very warm. Then try Arequipa in Peru. If leather or furs appeal to you try Buenos Aires, Argentina.