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Suit Yourself in Panama

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Written by Matt   
Sunday, 02 August 2009 17:50
Suit Yourself PanamaThere are few things in Panama that hold their low cost amidst a country of otherwise astronomical inflation: $2 taxi rides, pills for example, twenty cent snow cones, a bottle of Coke, seek and, as I would find out recently, custom made suits at a little place called La Fortuna. There are also few things as deliciously empowering as being measured by a team for custom clothing. So by my calculations, a visit to this place is pretty much a no-brainer. La Fortuna, home to the self-proclaimed tailor of Panama (who recently passed away and who's son now runs the show), is an unremarkably drab building on Via Espana in Panama City just before Blockbuster and Via Argentina. From the outside, it wouldn't be wrong to misinterpret the shop as just another useless and seriously outdated storefront on Via Espana selling curtains or tiles or whatever those stores so graciously contribute to the market. Even as you walk through the door of La Fortuna, there is still a sense of the generic and the mundane: a rack of ties, pile of pants, and the obligatory plastic statue dressed in a suit as if preparing for a manikin gala. But it is in the deep bowels of La Fortuna - the walls that line the back of the store and further through the swivel doors into a sewing lair smelling vividly of Keebler Elf-like diligence - that the place truly makes a name for itself.

As I parked out in front, a midget passed by and I thought to myself, I wonder if they have clothing brands for small people. The obvious and most generalized answer would be that midgets simply shop in the children's section of department stores, but in reality, how many children's sections have anything other than childish outfits? I envisioned the midget, of which there are relatively few in Panama (I know this because I am friends with one in Casco Viejo and he estimated there to be about 30 of his brethren in the entire country) coming to the wedding as my guest and wearing a matching suit. A miniature version of me, I liked to say to myself.

Once inside La Fortuna, the suit design I picked was from a non-descript fashion advertisement in GQ magazine with four men standing in a Victorian ballroom, three of them in formalwear, the other wearing nothing but boxer shorts and a mask designed to resemble a peacock. It'd cost a few thousand bucks in the USA but at La Fortuna, my suit from start to finish was about $320. You can pick from what seems like an unnatural amount of colors and fabrics, and they even tailor button-down shirts for around $30. The suit creation process can be done in as little as four days (with an advanced appointment necessary) and generally require a few internal fittings for snugness and alterations.
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The Spanish word for seamstress is sastre, which I like because it makes me think sassy which, in turn, makes me think of a seamstress. The one at La Fortuna was the same one who fitted Pierce Brosnan when he was filming The Tailor of Panama, proof of which you can see in the celebrity picture frame wall of fame above the register.

La Fortuna's custom suits, to me, deserve serious tourist attention in Panama. Not unlike the warehouses in Hong Kong who'll make you a suit for sixty sesame seeds or the sweat shops in Thailand where you can find handmade Nike's for nothing, Panama's custom suits are somewhere around 1/4th the price they would be in the states - terrific quality, unparalleled expertise. Call my boy Ariel (perfect English) at 302-789- or email him at ariel@lafortunapanama.com in advance.

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a very good address for suits
written by Pascale Schwander Taylor , August 05, 2009
This tailor makes great suits, very nice job and they have the best fabrics from Europe.
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Prices have gone up.
written by AlaskaDave , February 15, 2011
I recently visited La Fortuna. $2300 US for two suits and two shirts. No longer the deal it once was.smilies/angry.gif
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Avoid La Fortuna
written by Kevin , October 15, 2012
La Fortuna is a sweat shop making cheap uniforms for the local Police. An individual customer is low on their priority list. If you do have anything made it will take weeks....( I mean 4-6 minimum) to get anything made. Several fittings...many mistakes and missed details. They have never had anything done on time as promised for me. And they dont call you...you will sit in Panama traffic and when you get there you will only have excuses. Sloppy work and poor service. Great movie but lousy tailor shop.
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Owner and General Manager for La Fortuna tailor shop
written by Ariel Abadi , September 18, 2014
As the owner and Manager of La Fortuna Tailor Shop, I write to reply to the last comments I see in this page. Regarding prices and customer service.
Regarding prices, we have been constantly looking for better fabrics and overall to make better suits. In this path, we have had to adjust our prices. I still think we are giving great value for the money in all that we do.
Regarding customer service, I regret the situation that we gave a bad service, and we try our best to give good service. We do have a lot of customers, and occasionally we fail to give good service, but for all customers we are ready to go out of our way for you to have a good experience and enjoy your suits. You can contact me if needed.
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Very good
written by Alix Warnke , January 14, 2015
Me and two friends (flying in from Sweden late december 2014) went to La Fortuna to get equipped before the new year celebrations and were promised that three black tie suits could be delivered on time.
Ariel and his staff was very friendly and helpful and speaking for the group we are very pleased with the result.
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Last Updated on Sunday, 02 August 2009 17:51
 
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