The tailor and Dr M


After 25 years of friendship and patronage, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pays a glowing tribute to the owners of Lord’s Tailor on its 37th anniversary.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister from 1981 to 2003, is always immaculately garbed. Many admired his sartorial sense during his tenure as prime minister — he always looked smart and well-groomed.

It was an open secret that his suits and shirts were exclusively handcrafted by Lord’s Tailor. This bond between tailor and politician spans a quarter century, making Lord’s Tailor’s Robert Loh one of the few non-politicians with direct access to Dr Mahathir.

Last January, the former prime minister paid tribute to his personal tailor and old friends, Loh and wife Lee Lee, during the 37th anniversary celebration of Lord’s Tailor at KL Hilton.

In the presence of 200 guests who turned up in their Lord’s Tailor suits, Dr Mahathir gave a glowing testimony on stage filled with wit and wry humour.

Many were impressed by his candid assessment of his friendship with Loh and the ringing endorsement of his tailoring skills.

The guests roared with laughter at his opening remark that he was not wearing a Lord’s Tailor suit for the occasion.

“It seems Lord’s Tailor has many distinguished guests tonight all wearing Lord’s Tailor suits. However, I must confess, I am not wearing one of Robert’s suits! But it was not deliberate. I picked a suit from my wardrobe and only later did I realise it was by Canali! Normally I would wear a Lord’s Tailor suit.

“When I first came to Kuala Lumpur from Alor Star, I was told I had to wear a coat and tie for Cabinet meetings instead of my bush jacket. So I made a suit. It was most unsatisfactory. I switched to a second tailor. Again it was unsatisfactory. I went to a third tailor. Still, it was not good,” he recalled.

It was Asri, son of the late Tun Ghafar Baba, who reportedly introduced Dr Mahathir to Lord’s Tailor, then operating in Jalan Alor.

Continued Dr Mahathir, “When Lord’s Tailor was recommended, I was not sure if they were English lords or if they made suits for English lords but I imagined if anyone could make lords look impressive with their big stomachs, he should be very good. I assumed if Lord’s Tailor could do that for lords, he could do that for me also since I didn’t have a big belly.”

So he duly ordered a suit and, hey presto, it fitted like a dream.

“I never went to a fifth or sixth tailor as I stopped at my fourth, which was Lord’s Tailor. That solved all my problems as to what to wear on which occasion.

“I am grateful my tailor in Kuala Lumpur is slightly better than my tailor in Alor Star. I say ‘slightly better’ because I don’t want to hurt the feelings of my Alor Star tailor.

“Lord’s Tailor has made the grade and should market their products like the Italians. I sometimes wear Italian suits but I never purchased them — people gave them to me. To please them, I wear Italian suits when meeting them, but normally I only wear Lord’s Tailor suits.”

Dr Mahathir has always been knowned for his tenacity and strength of character but now he also made claims to being a fashion trendsetter!

“One day, Robert Loh sent me a suit that was different from my usual. It looked as if it was made for Jawaharlal Nehru of India, though I couldn’t imagine Robert fitting out Mr Nehru.

“For some time, that suit was left hanging in my wardrobe. I dared not wear it as it was so different from the norm. Malaysians were so conservative in those days and we liked to wear what everyone else was wearing.

“I normally wore bush jackets and, on special occasions, I wore suits, but to wear this new collarless suit was a big trial. I could not gather enough courage, but after several months, I decided to wear this suit with the closed collar. It didn’t need a necktie which was the attractive part as I hate wearing neckties.

“So I wore the suit, and soon everyone else started to wear one too. Actually, maybe they didn’t copy me as a lot of waiters also wore this type of suit! Anyway, many began to wear this Nehru suit because the Malays have this saying of teladan, about leaders ‘showing the way by example’ so I suppose people thought I was trying to be an example.

“Thus, they duly wore such Nehru suits, and hence I promoted this style for Lord’s Tailor.

“A lot of my friends, on certain occasions, would like to give me a suit. So they all go to Lord’s Tailor to order as they know Lord’s has my latest measurements and the suits will always fit perfectly.

“I wish to congratulate Lord’s Tailor on their 37th anniversary and hope they will go global,” Dr Mahathir said.

Despite their success, Lord’s Tailor operates only two shops. One is in AmpWalk while their flagship boutique is at Bangsar Shopping Centre.

Explained Loh, “This ensures a high degree of personal attention as I cannot be in several places simultaneously.

“Regarding Dr Mahathir’s suggestion that Lord’s Tailor should go international, I leave that to my son and successor, Kenny, who is also a trained tailor and now managing director of Lord’s Tailor.”

For the curious, Dr M’s waist is 34in and has held steady for decades, although it went up to 36in briefly in 2004 after retiring as PM.

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