Of late Fashionising.com has been looking at having the key elements of a gent’s wardrobe custom produced, and as such I’ve been reviewing made to measure shirt manufacturers. Having something custom produced is, however, quite different from the regular shopping experience. Regular shopping is dominated by impulse and desire. Bespoke and made-to-measure pieces are all about creating garments that serve a purpose; each manufacturer often being better at creating a particular style of garment than they are at others.
Having already looked at creating the perfect, custom white shirt, I accordingly turned my attention to creating something else that is quite elusive: the perfect travel shirt. Despite the fact that millions of shirts make it to thirty-thousand feet each day, actually finding a shirt that is easy to travel with and doesn’t come off as looking solely corporate is still no easy task. The average men’s shirt often creases too much, and when you’re travelling on a tight schedule you don’t always have the time to send your shirts off to be pressed by room service. Thus comes the need to create a shirt which is travel friendly but doesn’t attract the ghastly ‘iron free’ label.
For a made to measure shirt that I can take with me on my next overseas jaunt, I turned to Nialma.
Nialma are an Australia-based company who produce and ship their shirts from the city that is one of the last bastions of tailoring: Hong Kong. While by no means unique, Nialma do have something of a rare product offering: they cater to both men and women.
What is certainly unique, however, is just how adept Nialma at the art of selling shirts online. When all is said and done, the one thing that is likely to prevent any online shirt manufacturer from selling their goods it that we as customers don’t have a an accurate enough gauge of the shirt’s fit or quality. Thus we’re hesitant about placing our first order. Nialma have turned this problem on its head with a long term special offer that, if it’s still running at the time that you read this piece, you should certainly consider: they’ll send you your first shirt for free. Problem solved.
Aside from breaking down the mental barrier that lies between fantasising about a custom made wardrobe and actually purchasing it, Nialma have a massive offering that you could spend days of your life reviewing. While a great many of the other shirt manufacturers seem to pigeon hole themselves into a particular style (often with corporate overtones) Nialma have no less than 294 fabrics that you can choose from. 294 – that figure guarantees that you can pretty design whatever shirt you want, be it the sharp or the ridiculous. Thankfully their ordering process allows you to refine the details enough that you can quickly break that figure down into something manageable, and browse fabrics by colour, pattern, weight and price with ease.
Away from the fabric Nialma’s other options aren’t as excessive; their 9 collar and 9 cuff styles are certainly desirable and some of the better ones on the market, though their button options are a little light on the ground.
Nialma’s shirts start at the $89 mark.
Reviewing the shirt I ordered
Shirt ordered and what I considered
As I said in the introduction, from Nialma I was looking for the perfect shirt to accompany me on my travels. That meant having a clear idea of what I needed in a travel shirt even before I sat down and reviewed Nialma’s fabric offerings. I settled on a shirt with blue tones. Blue tones will take a chap from day to evening. While a blue shirt won’t work with a black suit, provided its tonality is right it’ll certainly work with grey and navy suits. They’ll also work with smart denim, which makes a blue shirt something of an all rounder for travelling with.
What else did I decide made a shirt perfect for travelling with? The right cloth, one that is both light-weight and durable – after all, the shirt has to keep up with my pace and roll with the knocks it’s going to endure in the course of travel. I also came to the conclusion that the perfect shirt for travelling is one devoid of a French cuff – as much as I love a French cuff and tend to solely wear shirts that sport them, I’m also forever forgetting to pack cufflinks with me when I travel.
Thus from Nialma I opted for a dark blue and white houndstooth shirt with barrel cuffs and contrast stitching. I personalised the shirt with thin, shell buttons, and finished it off with side pleats and rear darts for an extra slim fit.
The ordering process
While their checkout process won’t give you a great visual indication of what you’re ordering (hint: it’s a shirt), you won’t click away from Nialma’s site without a very good idea. The gem for me here is the ability to select a fabric according to any number of specifications, and should you shop with Nialma I’d implore that you make great use of this option. When it comes to selecting a fabric here are the things you should definitely know and consider:
- Nialma offer three ranges of cloth: Classic, Premium and Black Label. The classic offers a cotton from Japan, the premium offers a cotton sourced from Italy, while the black label range offers cottons from British brand Thomas Mason. I went with the latter, not because I fear that the former are bad or average, but because I know that Thomas Mason produce great cloth. That’s what they do, and for a long time they’ve been a brand you can trust.
- You have the choice of cotton and linen: linen is great for humid countries and summer months. Somewhat rare on the streets, I certainly favour it when the mercury pushes past 100 degrees fahrenheit.
- You can filter the cloths by thread count and thickness, which aren’t necessarily the same thing. So be certain to pick a weight and thread count that suits the season and the reason for the shirt. Personally I opted for a 100 thread count and a medium weight – such measurements will take me through all seasons.
Elsewhere in the ordering process you’ll find that Nialma offer you a standard array of customisations. Only one piece of advice is necessary here: ensure that you upgrade to shell buttons – don’t cheapen the look of a custom made shirt by picking average looking buttons.
The shirt itself
As I did with all made to measure shirts I’m reviewing, I based the measurements of the Nialma shirt upon my favourite Tom Ford shirt. And from the measurements I gave them to the shirt I received I certainly can’t fault what Nialma have delivered. If anything, it doesn’t feel as taught as the Tom Ford shirt but from a quick comparative measurement that seems to have more to do with the differences of the fabrics used: Nialma’s certainly feels far less rigid.
What I’d do different next time
I’d do one thing differently next time: I’d order the thick, shell buttons over the thin, shell ones. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with the thin buttons, they’re too fine for my personal taste.
What you should consider before buying
Have a clear understanding of what kind of shirt you want or browse Nialma’s existing styles for inspiration – without doing this I fear you might have trouble navigating your way with the multitude of fabric colours and patterns on offer.
The all important question
The all important question: would I’d opt to shop with Nialma again? I certainly would. The fit I was after along with such a wide fabric selection means that I wouldn’t having a problem doing so.
Nialma can be found at nialma.com.