Original Article by Randy Lai, link here:
Read the original article above, it's much better edited and with more content.
I've published my raw responses below.
1. You are a well regarded (and self-professed) watch enthusiast. Considering that you sell suits all day long have you noticed any parallels between the luxury horology and menswear industries?
Yes, there is definitely an overlap in the two products’ customers, who have a number of traits that apply to both products. The customers are seeking fine items. They are looking for some complexity in the product, be it unusual cloths or horological complications. They want to know more about what they are getting, interested in each item’s provenance and construction.
Watches and suits go hand in hand aesthetically. For me, watches are the ultimate and only form of men’s jewelry. The watch you wear has an effect on your appearance and the way you present yourself.
2. Which five watches currently in the market could be described as essential? Or to put it another way, represent the pinnacle of excellence in their field?
I very rarely buy new watches, I tend to stick to vintage. If I had to pick 5 new watches still in production and that I think are exemplary:
Credor Eichi 2
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ultrathin
A Lange & Sohne Datograph
FP Journe Optium
However, I’d like to state that I find most modern watches bigger than they need to be and I would love to see a return to the 36mm size. Also, while these 5 I mentioned are exemplary in some way, they are plenty of other great albeit simpler options out there.
3. Like so many other movers and shakers in this industry, what motivated you to transition from the financial profession (property & investment) to something so different?
It was partly motivated by my love for the product and partly for the people.
Men’s tailored clothing is an incredibly rich subject, inextricably linked to culture and history as well as technically complex. There is a lot to be seen and learned. It’s amazing to think that the modern lounge suit is a style dating back to the 19th century yet still relevant today. Furthermore, its design has different nuances depending on when and what part of the world you are in, such as American, British, Milanese, Neapolitan, etc.
At The Armoury or Drake’s quality of goods, our suppliers and craftsmen are generally trying to make the best product possible rather than seeing what corners could be cut without superficially compromising the product. While efficiency is important, It’s very enjoyable to be working with people with this type of attitude in mind.
4. 've often observed, particularly in menswear, the influence that fathers have upon their sons. You've mentioned on your personal website how your own father played a role in shaping your personal style? But is fatherly influence more holistic than aesthetics?
My father had his own style both aesthetically and as a person. I definitely take some cues from him but I think it’s more out of enjoying having things in my life and wardrobe that remind me of him than necessarily wanting to copy what he did. A fatherly, or in general a parental influence, is a fundamental part of most people’s lives. I find comparing my work to what my father achieved a useful yardstick for what might be possible for myself. He did a lot in his life and he worked hard on his projects all the way to his end at 79, wishing he still had time to do more. To me, it’s an amazing way to live, to be both fulfilled and hungry in your work for so long.
5. Your approach to The Armoury may be described as multidisciplinary. Were avid interests in tech and photography ancillary to the store, or have you always been a bit of a boffin?
Tech and photography have been long term interests of mine but they come in handy for my work at the store. It’s nice when my various interests collide. I used to do a lot more photography for the store but have had to cut back significantly because of time constraints. I try to stay involved with photography by doing a column for The Rake Japan, where I do a portrait of the subject paired with a brief interview. I keep an English copy here - www.markcho.com/for-rake-japan/
As for tech, it has been interesting trying to collect and make better use of data. We have developed a few little tools for internal use that have been quite fruitful. An example would be our alterations database, where we track all alterations being made to our various garment models. We developed our own models for almost all our garments and constantly try to refine the fit of them based on our customer’s real needs. Seeing trends in how things need to be altered is extremely important as part of that development process.
6. In past years, the term 'international classic' has often been used to describe The Armoury house style. Can you speak on the genesis and meaning behind 'international classic'?
“International classic” is a term I coined since it’s arguably the easiest way to describe what The Armoury does. We deal in the best of classic clothing from around the world. We think that menswear need not be confined to English or Italian-centric views and selections. Great menswear is made all around the world and it is worth understanding its regional differences, especially when it adds a local authenticity to the item. A few examples: we try to educate our customers about the distinctions between Neapolitan, Milanese and Florentine suiting. We showcase the “teba”, a classic English country jacket adopted and then adapted for use in Spain. We work with one of the best bespoke bagmakers in the world, based in Tokyo, bringing him to our stores to see our customers. The world is increasingly interconnected and rather than let everything devolve into a homogenous, common denominator mess, we prefer to celebrate differences.