(FORTUNE Magazine) – It's not surprising that a city that regards T-shirts and sneakers with the same suspicion as sleeping late on a weekday should be home to some of the world's finest tailors. And though many of Hong Kong's movers and shakers now tend to prefer off-the-rack prestige suits by Armani or Versace, custom tailors are still doing a thriving business, with clients ranging from movie stars and British royalty to expatriate businessmen who want a suit made in as little as 24 hours.

You should probably don a Savile Row suit just to walk through the door of A-Man Hing Cheong, the territory's most prestigious tailor, located in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Leather-upholstered chairs, glass display cases, and polished wooden shelves bearing bolts of wool from England and cotton shirt fabric from Switzerland and Italy give the shop a hush of luxury. Managing director Y.K. Poon smiles somewhat disdainfully when asked whether he can make a suit overnight. The answer is no: "You can't make a suit properly in 24 hours." It is said that some of Hong Kong's richest tycoons have their suits tailored at A-Man Hing Cheong, which was founded in 1898. But here money buys discretion in addition to a finely tailored suit. "Our customers don't like to have their names known," says an assistant.

Anonymity is not an option at Sam's Tailors, tucked away in the teeming streets of downtown Kowloon. Write Sam a check and he may photocopy it and tape it to his counter, account number and all, as he did with the one for the equivalent of $3,200 written in 1994 by Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. His walls boast signed pictures of happy customers, among them Colin Powell and Bill Clinton. Other famous clients include Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten, former U.S. President George Bush, and Donald Trump.

At Sam's tiny shop, tourists, diplomats, and army types quite literally rub shoulders examining some 2,500 bolts and swatches of cloth. No snubbing of small spenders here; Sam's motto is "Don't ever think a junior guy is not important because one day he'll be a senior guy." You can wander into Sam's in your jeans, and owner Manu N. Melwani, son of the original Sam, will make you at home, pressing on you a bottle of soda or a beer with drinking straw straight from the refrigerator in the cramped fitting room. Most customers soon find an assistant taking the 15 measurements required to fit a suit. Governor Patten has had 39 suits and 160 shirts made, according to Melwani, who worked briefly on Savile Row in London. Sam can even make you a pair of plus fours for that hunting or fishing expedition in Scotland.

Sam's style catalogue is almost identical to that at A-Man Hing Cheong. With names like Classic, Traditional, and Conservative, these designs don't change much from year to year. Some tailors do offer more fashionable styles. At Bosco, customers are shown a glossy catalogue of designs and fabrics from Ermenegildo Zegna, the Italian men's clothing company. But perhaps the safest way to get what you want from Hong Kong's tailors is to take along your favorite suit and get it copied. "Men's tailors here don't innovate; they don't need to," says Kavita Daswani, who writes about fashion for the South China Morning Post. "When they say black tie, everyone--all the bankers, all the businessmen--wears identical black wool tuxedos with identical black satin bow ties."

What the Hong Kong tailors lack in high style, they should be expected to make up for in service and workmanship. Sam warns against fly-by-night tailors who subcontract the cutting and sewing to cheaper labor in mainland China. His suits are all made in a dingy building ten minutes' walk from the shop. Sam's biggest draw, however, is fast and courteous service. "He's an institution. People love to drop in and pick up a suit 24 hours later," says Daswani. "He fawns over you."

While most expatriates favor the traditional English fashions, a relative newcomer, millionaire socialite David Tang, is hoping to win Western and local converts by reviving the fine art of traditional Chinese tailoring--and giving it a modern, high-fashion twist. The two-year-old Shanghai Tang is an eclectic mix of China-themed knickknacks, a ready-to-wear collection, and a tailoring operation, all beautifully laid out in an airy duplex. Shanghai Tang's leather Mao jackets and yellow silk pajamas are not likely to appeal to the middle-aged military men who frequent the traditional tailors. But with the handover to Chinese rule fast approaching, fashion-conscious expatriates and tourists looking for something classic yet novel are flocking there.

So are celebrities, judging by the photos that grace Shanghai Tang's walls. There's director Oliver Stone in black silk and the designer Kenzo in a moss-green Mao suit. Chinese actress Gong Li, whose cheongsam-clad figure has wowed moviegoers, has just signed a contract to become Shanghai Tang's in-house model.

Shanghai Tang, which is staffed with tailors from Shanghai who are renowned throughout Asia for their expertise, is unlike the other shops in that women outnumber men. Chinese women of a certain age and a certain income have always had a tailor make their cheongsams--the body-hugging dresses with a high mandarin collar, buttoned from neck to armpit, and with the skirt slit at the sides to make walking possible. On one recent day, a slim blond expatriate woman slips out of the fitting room in a miniskirted cheongsam and looks delighted as she catches sight of herself in the mirror. To an untutored eye her dress already looks perfectly fitted, but tailor Hon Kei Gun, who came to Hong Kong from Shanghai at the age of 12, expertly pins and tucks the poppy red silk until there is no space to slide a paper knife between the woman and her cheongsam. She looks like a million dollars. I just hope she doesn't try sitting down.

For a man who wants to look trendy but businesslike, Hon might recommend a Mao suit that can be worn either with the jacket done up to the neck or open over a T-shirt. Fabrics, all made in China, range from casual cottons to linen and silks. A surprising number of men are also ordering the long flowing robe, loose silk jacket, and string of beads that will transform them into a Confucian sage. Who ever said money can't buy wisdom?