'Sam' the tailor is bracing himself for next month's WTO meeting, measuring tape in hand. The global talks mean visiting heads of state and that means customers for bespoke suits. 'God is good,' says the Nathan Road tailor whose worldwide fame, coming from a city of tailors like Hong Kong, is hard to explain. He numbers Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and several members of the Bush family among his customers. In fact, he has measured most of the British prime ministers of recent decades, as well as US presidents going back to Richard Nixon. 'The stars keep coming back to me because they know their secrets are safe,' he repeats almost like a mantra. Other customers have included Nelson Mandela, Helmut Kohl, Luciano Pavarotti and Roger Moore. He may be known worldwide to prime ministers, royalty and stars as Sam but his real name is Manu Melwani. It all started in 1957 when his late father Naraindas arrived from Bombay and built a business making uniforms for the British military. The nickname stuck after one client could not be bothered to remember the family name and dubbed the tailor 'Sam'. His father's reputation for crisp officers' uniforms spread and the first celebrities included Hollywood star Cary Grant. His father sent his apprentice son to London's Savile Row to learn the trade. 'It's all in the cut,' says Mr Melwani, who joined his father's business in 1975. 'I needed to know what they meant when they asked for plus fours, knickerbockers and Donegal tweed.' But how, in a city full of cut-throat competition, has his name remained synonymous with Hong Kong tailors for so long? It's all about communication, he says. Just like a hairdresser, it is vital to really understand what the customer wants. 'The secret is to write down exactly what they are asking for in terms of colour, style and fabric to reproduce exactly what they have in mind.' To this end he chats earnestly with clients, establishing minute details about their tastes and peccadilloes. If he gets it wrong, it is his fault, not their inability to articulate their requirements. 'It's like going to a restaurant and saying how you want your steak done. Sorry doesn't mean anything to you if they get it wrong.' At Sam's the customer is king, no matter whether he is a blow-in tourist or Britain's Prince Charles. Problems are sorted out immediately, the many faxed and e-mailed orders from around the world are dealt with promptly. Once Mr Melwani has someone's measurements, clothes are parcelled off no matter where the customer is. Although coy about how many suits he makes, it is nothing to overhear visiting businessmen boast they have just had their annual 20 shirts and four suits run up by Sam as if he worked for them and no one else. Of course, Mr Melwani is mostly busy front of house these days, except for special clients, leaving the cutting and sewing to his 55 staff beavering away in the floors above the cramped shop off Nathan Road. His clients, 87 per cent men, are all saints, it seems. Difficult customers simply do not exist in Sam's world. 'There are no difficult customers here; anyone who spends money gets exactly what they want.' A bespoke suit costs from $2,750 to $28,000 and takes three working days and three fittings. And even in these days of off-the-peg and designer labels, tailor-made still carries cache. Far from being colonial throwbacks, his customers include not only bankers and lawyers but young people of different backgrounds. 'We're getting a lot of local Chinese now who are willing to pay for their suits. They understand the value of tailor-made things.' Surprisingly, as many as 85 per cent of his famous customers prefer to have their fittings done in the pokey shop, rather than in the privacy of their hotel rooms. 'They like to come here to see where their suit is actually made,' says Mr Melwani, who has installed a measuring device that does away with those touchy-feely tape measurements. Customers don a lycra outfit before entering a small booth where a digital camera takes a three-dimensional image. From this, the measurements are noted. For someone who is renowned as a self-publicist, he scoffs at the idea of marketing. 'We don't do any advertising. The customer should know about you. The more you advertise, the more the client is scared and wonders why you need to do it.' Customers are assured of discretion and confidentiality, but somehow word always seeps out when, for example, Tony Blair's suit had to be rushed so he could fly out ahead of a typhoon. But ask who his famous clients are and he clams up. 'This is like a doctor's surgery here,' he smiles enigmatically. His office is smothered in letters from happy customers such as Kylie Minogue, who wrote in thick silver ink with a heart at the top. What he has is his name and if you go to Sam's, you are sure to get the man himself or his brother Sham from 9.30am to 11pm seven days a week. He is meeting, greeting and taking orders, all in an atmosphere of almost eerie calm that belies the frenetic activity that must be going on in the floors above. Apart from worker bees dashing in and out clutching half-made suits, it is quiet and he is quietly very much in control. 'You must love your business and to grow it you must do it yourself,' he stresses. 'If you find a hairdresser you like you stick to him. If he's not there, you don't go. You don't want anyone else to cut your hair.' Everyone is afforded the same courtesy and attention. 'Everyone is famous in my shop. Whoever spends money is exactly the same to me.' If his customers are never petulant or demanding, their requests are never a challenge - even when Australian entertainer Rolf Harris asked him for a pair of three-legged trousers. As for the future, his 28-year-old son Roshan has joined the business. But his father is not planning to retire any time soon. 'A tailor is like a doctor, he can never retire. Someone is always looking for him.'