Drake’s in Japan – Michael Hill Interview

Text by Mark Cho / Photo by Mark Cho

Mark -

How are you feeling about Drake’s and about being in Japan right now?

 

Michael -

Very excited, it’s been a long time coming. We started in Japan 40 years ago and whilst we’ve been wholesaling there for a long time, we’ve never really retailed outside of London. To have our first permanent spot outside London, in Tokyo, is very fitting, as it’s a market we’ve always loved. To be able to communicate face to face with our Japanese customers directly about every category we sell is a great opportunity for us.

 

Mark -

Yes, during our meeting yesterday with the Jean Rousseau team, they said something that resonated with us: When you’re in Japan, you really feel like you’re building, step-by-step, a business and a brand for the market. .

 

Michael -

Totally, these things do take time. We look at it as a long term project, but in some respects, we have the best of both worlds. We have had many years where our products have been in the market and we have been building our reputation, yet we can now have a fresh start as a retail presence. 

 

Mark -

Talk a little bit about the new retail. When we took over Drake’s in 2010 and we started introducing the other categories over the years, it was because we wanted to introduce the Drake’s look, i.e. how we envision men in our style of clothing. How does the appearance, the feeling, the aesthetic of the shop work as an extension of the Drake’s look?

 

Michael -

Given that we had to expand beyond London, we required a template for our store’s design. The template needed to allow us to be sensitive to any local market, yet retain a consistent aesthetic. So whilst our old shop was charming, it was also somewhat limiting. At the time we opened that store, ties were the biggest focus of the business and we designed the store around them. We remain committed to ties as a fundamental part of the business and the product that we love the most. However, we have been selling more and more of our other categories, e.g. jackets, shirts, knitwear, better and better. It became more important to integrate those products into the store and merchandise them together. Therefore, we needed a template that could take this into account.

Our template maintains some of the materials used in the original London store, e.g. walnut and brass to maintain some consistency, but we’d also like each store to have its own personality and individuality. Certainly, in Tokyo there’s more of an opportunity than anywhere else for us to represent the concept of our factories. Hence the factory glass, the “tongue and groove” wall panelling, the washdown kick board in dark green - all things that remind me of a British factory. This, I think, will resonate with the Japanese market. A good friend of ours, Adam Dant, drew the original Drake’s factory on Garrett St and we’ve hung this drawing in our Tokyo shop to show off the ‘making’ side of the business to the Japanese customer.

 

Mark -

With the new materials, new furniture and more standard layout, it’s also an efficiency issue, we knew some of our shops would be small and we had to be able to plan them in a much more precise way by using our own standard of furniture.

 

Michael -

Yes exactly. While the shop is relatively modest in size, we can still get most of our products in there. I think the other interesting thing is that our store is based in the “British Made” shop, our partners in Tokyo, and our physical shop is actually made in Britain - as in we made large parts of it in England and shipped them to Japan.

 

Mark -

Any bits of the fit-out you really like?

 

Michael -

All I’m seeing right now is how I want to improve it for next time.

 

Mark -

I love the new white mosaic, it brings so much light into the space.

 

Michael -

I think so too. Designing a shop remotely has been a good challenge. You’re not as hands on as you would like to be. You see things on completion that could be done differently, but for our first foray in Japan we are satisfied. I’m only looking to tweak the shop at this stage. It’s a journey. You don’t always get it right first time and we’re improving all the time.

 

 

I think the factory themed elements work really well aesthetically. Particularly the haberdasher’s counter with the slipper’s mark on it. The little stool in the changing room and small side table, by Flange in Yokohama, positioned between the leather arm chairs, both from Tokyo craft companies. It’s nice to have a bit of Tokyo in the shop! We also have a pair of antique club chairs from Lillie Road in Fulham to remind us of London.

 

Mark -

Any new products you want to talk about?

 

Michael -

We’re opening halfway through the season, so it wasn’t easy putting it together. Autumn/Winter in September will be the full representation. Currently, it’s a mix of Drake’s classic and seasonal highlights. I cherry picked our best things from every category. There are still some cardigans and jeans to come in later in the season. In time, we would like to do some special, exclusive products for Japan and nowhere else. We want to make the in-store experience as special as possible.

Mark -

Any favourite pieces in the shop right now?

 

Michael -

I love the seasonal ties that are on the top row of the tie display - the ones with the diamond pattern and everything from that series. Combinations of bright navy with ecru printed on silk poplin.

Our button-downs, developed with the old Brooks Brother collar in mind, are my favourite shirts, at a great price and using great cloth. The ticker stripe, the blue oxford and the white oxford can be worn for almost any occasion.

Of the jackets, I like the chocolate brown linen. It’s so versatile. People often get scared by a brown suit, but you can wear it with so many things. Grey trousers for a more dressy look, or cream cotton for a more relaxed look.

I grew up listening to Michael Drake talk about the Japanese market. He admired how the Japanese could take ideas from Naples, Milan, Paris, London, give it their own twist and make it better. For us to be opening up our own store in this market is very humbling. It’s a real challenge and we really have to deliver for a Japanese customer that is so knowledgeable. We are among serious competition with such a rich amount of great classic menswear brands in Japan. There should be a customer base for us and we’re dedicated to serving them well.

 

 

This must be reflected in our product. Clearly, this is English focussed, but we’ve been influenced by the Japanese market over the years and this filters back to what we do. Yes we’re English, but there’s an international standard that we try to stand alongside. We don’t want to just come here and say: “We’re English and this is the only style we believe in”. I think it will be interesting to see what spin offs and collaborations will happen as a result of us being here. I think we can produce something much richer than if we were on our own. 

 

The Making of The Armoury Lookbook 2016FW

Text by Mark Cho

My mission for The Armoury is to try and make tailored clothing more relevant and easy-to-wear. People today are dressing almost too casually and I want to create some resistance to that. I love tailored clothing and want people to understand and enjoy it as much as I do. So, at The Armoury we try to present tailored clothing in less serious ways and get people thinking: “I could wear that.” 

 

Traditionally, we have liked to shoot images in the shop. If we were having a quiet afternoon and the light was right, we would turn off all the lights in the shop and just use natural lighting to create our images. If a customer came in, we would turn all the lights back on and get back to serving them. Our focus was usually on our customers’ bespoke or made-to-measure commissions and sometimes our own as well. We wanted to highlight new makers and craftsmen visiting our store for trunk shows. Above all, we wanted to try and create new and beautiful images. 

As our online store has grown over the years, we faced a greater need to show our ready-to-wear items. Last year we shot our first lookbook, engaging an external photographer rather than doing it ourselves and putting two of our New York team in a studio wearing ready-to-wear outfits from the current season. It was well received and so we aim to try out some new ideas each season and see how it goes. We still continue to do our more candid, natural light and street photography style images as our bread and better throughout the year. 

I’m fortunate enough to be friends with a talented menswear illustrator, Mr Slowboy. We wanted to do a project together and so the lookbook for FW 2016 was a good opportunity to see what might be possible. 

I’m a big furniture junkie, particularly for designers like Poul Kjaerholm, Jorgen Hoj, Hans Wegner and Arne Jacobsen. Another friend of mine was recently appointed to run a new workspace / dining / bar concept in New York called Spring Place. The interiors are some of the best I’ve ever seen and very much in the aesthetic of the designers I love. So, I asked if I could do the shoot on their premises, which he kindly agreed to. 

The idea with Mr Slowboy was to do draw in some Roger Rabbit style illustrated figures interacting with real people. The people and the environments would be more conservative, classic, flat imagery and the illustrations would bring it to life. Jim, the redhead, is our New York shop manager and a great musician. Rich, the non-redhead, is one of our sales guys and also a fantastic illustrator. The two of them wore this season’s ready-to-wear and I wore some of my own bespoke pieces from the different makers The Armoury represents. The illustrated character is someone Mr Slowboy came up with, a mix of different people at The Armoury. We named him Arthur, after the lion in our logo. He also wears items from this season.

We planned the images, then shot them and drew the illustrations. We then looked for an order to the images and a theme to tie it all together. Since the space we were in was a workspace / dining / bar concept, we decided to call it “Work and Play”, to suggest that The Armoury and the clothes could be not just for the office but also for relaxation after work. I thought it would be nice to add a little timestamp in the corner of each image to give a bit more context. It was a fun project to execute, I like the concept and I wish I had more time to refine it into a longer series but it has made for a memorable start to 2016’s Fall Winter season at The Armoury! 

 

Antonio Liverano

Text by Mark Cho / Photo by Mark Cho

As someone still in the early stages of his career, I’m fascinated by the working habits of the greats, particularly how they use their time. Rich or poor, smart or slow, in a day we all have the same 24 hours to work with. How the greats use this limited resource, that is given equally to everyone, is of particular interest to me.

 

Antonio Liverano, one of the greatest tailors in the world, who cuts in the Florentine style, is today’s subject. Here’s how he spends his day:

 

5AM – Antonio wakes up, gets dressed and enjoys a simple breakfast of a pastry and a cafe macchiato.

 

6.45AM – Antonio departs from his home in the countryside to his shop in the city of Florence, sometimes by car and sometimes by train. Once he’s on the road, he starts thinking about work. He starts by thinking about the business as a whole, then recalling individual customers and their orders.

 

7.45AM – Antonio arrives at the shop. He is usually the first one to arrive. After checking the shop, he prepares the irons, starting them so they are ready to use when the other tailors arrive. Antonio’s first job at 8 years old when he first started in tailoring, was preparing the irons. Back then, irons needed to have lumps of hot coal placed into them by hand.

 

8.30AM – Antonio checks the work of the tailors from the day before. He is still intimately involved with all the garments, constantly doing quality control on everything that passes through the shop.

 

9.30AM – 1PM – Antonio spends most of his morning cutting customers’ orders.

 

1PM – 2PM – Lunch break. Antonio is now 78 years old. On some days, if he is feeling tired, he will return home early.

 

2PM – 7PM – Antonio continues to cut but also does some teaching and training with the younger tailors in the workshop. The workshop now has 8 tailors, 5 of which are under 40 and still in training. Antonio is passionate about tailoring and in training his apprentices. He looks for young people who are share that passion and he tries to grow them. In everything he does, he tries to transmit that passion and expects the same from his juniors.

 

7PM – Antonio returns home to eat dinner with his daughter’s family who live next door to him. His work starts early in the day but at 7pm, it ends and he does not dwell on work any further preferring to spend time with his family and recuperate, in bed by 10pm and ready for the next busy day.

 

Tailors stay in their profession all their lives. It is a difficult trade to master and it requires a lifetime of dedication. Often their businesses end when they retire. Antonio, a more modern tailor than his age belies, always has his eye on the horizon. His finest apprentices, such as Qemal Selimi and Takahiro Osaki, have been with him for nearly ten years and are now coming of age with the potential to take over from where he leaves off. I have enormous respect for his ability as a tailor but I am most impressed by his long term vision, to preserve his tailoring house and traditions and allow it to continue for another generation.

Richard Carroll

Text by Richard Carroll / Mark Cho / Photo by Mark Cho

Richard hails from Australia, full of talent for style and art. He spent his formative years with his uncle at Strand Hatters, one of the most famous hat stores in Australia, and is The Armoury’s resident hat expert. Richard is also a skilled illustrator and regularly draws for our website and our shop windows. He is a pleasure to work with, always enthusiastic, with a smile and ready for beers at the end of the day.

- Mark

 

Could you give us a brief history of your career?

After highschool I went and studied Art and printmaking in Canberra but I dropped out after a couple of years. During that time and for a few years after that I had a lot of different jobs. I was a cook at a cafe, a barrista, I worked in bars and then I started DJing at nights with some friends. Eventually I got burnt out in Canberra and moved to Sydney where I started working with my uncle in the Strand Hatters. That was kind of during the start of the menswear renaissance and I feel I learned a lot and we really helped to pioneer a certain sort of style around Sydney. I developed a few hats and small accessories with my uncle and started to get a bit of a taste for the grander world of menswear. After a few years at the hat shop I went back to school to finish my degree, got to go on exchange at Parsons here in New York, fell in love with the city (and an American girl) and decided to move back. Now I work at the Armoury!

 

Could you talk a little about Stand Hatters?

The Strand Hatters is one of those really special shops that have almost all disappeared. The established (old) menswear specialty shop/haberdasher. One of those places where you get the feeling you can walk into and maybe buy something that is 20 or 30 years old. My uncle Bob has been working there since the 80s and so even he has sort of become a part of Sydney legend. We used to get all sorts of customers in there and I think there is something really great about a shop that can appeal to Australian truck drivers and farmers as much as Leonardo Dicaprio.

 

What do you do at The Armoury?

I work on the sales floor at the Armoury New York and so my day to day activities revolve around helping people in store, making sure clients are happy with their garments, and teaching people about what the Armoury is. I feel like a lot of what makes our store cool is that we are as interested in teaching and informing our customers about clothing, be that manufacturing processes and materials or the social and cultural history of clothing. I also take on a lot of responsibility for the physical presence of the New York store, probably due to my history in the graphic and fine arts, so I am always trying to come up with new ways to display things and make sure the store looks fresh. And finally, and I’m really excited about this, I have recently been working with our press and online guys to make illustrations for online content. 

 

How would you characterize your style?

I like an almost recontextualised classic American Ivy style. Repp ties, chinos, checked odd jackets, penny loafers and button down shirts. I mix true vintage with reproduction with a little contemporary Italian thrown in. I kind of think that I approach Ivy style with a Japanese mindset it’s closer to an obsessive costume for me than it is a natural born right. Lately I have been wearing my shirts a little fuller and my trousers a little longer.

 

How do you find New York? Especially in comparison to Sydney?


A lot of people ask me this and expect me to be surprised by New York but a lot of the time for me the cities are fairly similar in feel. One of the coolest things I think about NYC is that, even despite its size, so much of our contemporary cultural collateral is based on, or directly came from, New York and when im here I find it really hard to avoid that. A cartoonist friend of mine, who is from Sydney but is based here, recently told me “if I’m not in New York, I just don’t think anything I do makes a difference.”

 

What is Sydney style?

Americans always tell me that Americans dress in a very casual way now but in Australia we really do. There is much more a culture of dressing down and of stealth wealth than I see here. Sydney particularly has a relaxed take on mens clothing but the things I tend to think of as emblematic are bold and patterned shirts, not wearing a tie, unstructured jackets, brighter blues and lighter greys, winter whites, RM Williams craftsmen boots and of course fur felt hats!

 

You are also a skilled illustrator, having made some fine images for our website and our window displays. Who are your influences?

My largest influences are always those midcentury cartoonists who have a really bold, simple line and a lot of energy. Like Alex Toth’s shadows and perfect line, the gouache paintings of Mary Blair, Kazuo Hozumi’s Ivy characters and Harvey Kurtzman’s everything! I also am heavily influenced by the 2nd wave of underground cartoonist who appeared in the early-mid 80s guys like Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, Seth and the younger but sublime Adrian Tomine.

 

What is the favorite thing you’ve drawn recently?

I drew a little 4 silent panel comic about NYC last year and I don’t know if I will ever draw something I like as much again!

 

What are your favorite works from other artists?

A couple that spring to minad are Ice Haven by Dan Clowes, Tomine’s New Yorker covers (essentially all of them), Chuck Closes “One Froggy Evening”, Sokol’s 60s playboy pages… too many things to name. Also there are a couple of Stuart Davis paintings on display in this weird back room in the mets modern art section that I LOVE.

Jim Parker

Text by Jim Parker / Mark Cho / Photo by Mark Cho

Jim is the shop manager of The Armoury NYC. Friendly and even-keeled in nature, neatly dressed with a tendency for shades of blue, he has been a huge part of the team in NYC. He also happens to be from Nashville, Tennessee, part of the Southern States with its own distinct culture with huge influence on American style and music. As a Southerner, Jim is my reference for how best to wear seersucker, the classic American summer suiting.

- Mark

 

Could you give us a brief history of your career?

I dropped out of recording engineering school because I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting in a dark room, staring at a computer screen for hours on end–a pretty typical day for an audio engineer. I also knew I wouldn’t do well in a typical 9-to-5 desk job. So, after a few years, I realized I could turn my lifelong interest in men’s style into some sort of career. I went back to university and finished with a degree in fashion merchandising. After that, I snagged an entry level job at an old-school haberdashery in Nashville, and it all took off from there.

 

What do you do at The Armoury?

I manage the Armoury New York retail store, which means my day-to-day activities are never set. Most days, though, you can find me on the sales floor leading clients through our made-to-measure process and assisting my staff in providing the best service possible.

 

How would you characterize your style? 

I wish I could give a concrete answer to that question, but I can’t. My style, like most people’s, goes through phases. I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the country, and most people there don’t wear classic menswear. So lately, I’ve been interested in how to wear the clothing I enjoy without standing out, too much at least. That typically means wearing coarser, more casual fabrics–nothing too slick–and odd jackets and trousers instead of suits.

 

How do you find New York? Especially in comparison to Nashville? 

New York is so much faster-paced than Nashville, but I like it. Just about anything one could ever want is available here, which is simultaneously liberating and frightening.

 

As a Southerner, could you describe what a Southern Gentleman is? What do you think of the term?

A Southern Gentleman treats everyone as a friend, even a stranger. He introduces himself by his full name, and refers to new acquaintances as Mr. or Ms. He dresses appropriately for the occasion. He always opens the door for the fairer sex, pulls out her chair, helps her with coat. And never swears in front of her.


What do you think of seersucker?

Well, I’m wearing seersucker as I type this, so I suppose I’m a fan. It’s a polarizing fabric–it seems when I wear it, everyone notices and has an opinion about it. I just like it because it’s practical and reminds me of home.

 

You are also a keen musician, having spent a great deal of time performing live as well. What do you like to play? Why?

It depends, really. If I’m onstage, I like to play anything that makes the crowd happy. If I’m just playing by myself, I’m usually working to improve an aspect of my playing I feel is lacking. Right now, that’s uptempo country runs.

 

Who are your musical influences?

Oh, so many! Off the top of my head, I can say I’ve stolen a lick or two from Randy Rhoads, Andy Summers, Alex Lifeson, Jake E. Lee, Prince, Billy Corgan, Johnny Marr, George Benson, Eddie Van Halen, the Edge, Mike Campbell, Jack White, Brent Mason, Vince Gill, Daniel Donato, Zakk Wylde, and so many more I’m forgetting.

Douglas Cordeaux

Text by Douglas Cordeaux / Mark Cho / Photo by Mark Cho

 

Fox Brothers is one of the oldest mills in England, seeing its fair share of ups and downs over

the years. Today, it is looking healthier than ever, consistently releasing distinctive yet elegant

collections season after season as well as adding a retail business for all sorts of finished goods

related to Fox. Douglas Cordeaux is the man behind it all. He is an industry veteran and a

standard for great taste. 

- Mark

 

1. Could you give us a brief history of how your career and how you eventually came to own

and manage a mill?

 

I have been involved in the fashion/textile Industry all of my life. Trained as a textile designer

at The Chelsea School of Art, specializing in print.

My first job was a textile screen printer in London, where I discovered I really liked the option

of working for myself. 30 years in the industry working as a freelance print designer, working

as a print designer for Pepe Jeans with the great Nitin Shah, who with his brothers started

the brand, an amazing seven years, with lifetime friendships forge. A year of this period was

spent in New York with the brand; this is where I discovered the love for menswear.

Working at Pepe Jeans in the 80’s was like attending the world’s best design and business

school. Nitin Shah, thank you!

 

With two colleagues from Pepe Jeans, a design studio was set up, offering a complete

service from design to garment production, specializing in sportswear.

 

A further eight years was spent at Pepe Jeans, in various London locations, again an

amazing experience this time with the now owner Carlos Ortega, who is design driven,

which is so important in fashion based brand and ironically often over looked.

 

How I ended up owning a mill. It was at a lunch with Jeremy Hackett, whom I met whilst

working with at Pepe Jeans, who had just purchased the Hackett brand. This lunch was

some seven years ago now and I was fascinated about British manufacturing and

menswear. There was a textile mill that could be turned into a brand. It was Jeremy who

said, go and take a look at Fox Brothers. It was walking through the doors of a British mill

and hearing the sound of looms, the sound of making, was the real turning point in my

career. In textile, it does not get better than the sound of weaving. It was then on to the

phone to my longtime friend and fellow Somerset resident Deborah Meaden, literally two

months later, we were the owners of Fox Brothers. The first year was known as “character

building.”

 

2. As Fox Brothers is the inventor of the flannel, can you explain how it came about?

 

 

Flannel, traditionally a milled cloth, which has always had its origins in military cloth with

blind finishes are functional, as it’s harder to get snapped up in a tunic made of a milled

cloth, we have some very early examples of flannel in our archive book dated 1773, the first

thing that strikes you is colour, from rich warm tones to strong jewel colours. Over the years,

Flannel has become the luxury fabric it is today this is down to the very best raw materials,

how it’s woven and the expertise of the miller’s hands. Fox flannel is woven without

compromise. If it’s not Fox, it’s not flannel.

 

3. Is it possible to characterize British vs Italian cloths? If so, how would you do so? e.g. I often

find myself preferring British cloth for suiting because it tends to have more body and

stiffness, whereas I prefer Italian cloths for jacketing because it's sportier and more lively. 

 

 

When it comes to British cloth versus Italian cloth, I’m a big supporter of both. In fact, a big

supporter of the industry, and those in it. I think that you can’t beat British flannel. It has a

warmth and hand feel that is so authentic and steeped in history, with so many iconic

wearers.

 

4. What are your favourite cloths? Either with Fox or elsewhere

 

 

Personal favorites: A mid-grey “West of England” Fox flannel for suits and for a jacket. I

don’t think you can beat a Harris Tweed. Harris Tweed and Fox Brothers are seen as

brands in their own right, that’s down to heritage and quality. It’s like owning a listed

building.

 

House favorite: Iconic is an overused word, however the Fox Brothers chalk stripe favored

by Sir Winston Churchill is something very special, this clothe is woven exclusively now for

Henry Poole & Co, who originally made the suit for Churchill and has to be one of the most

famous clothes in the world and it's a Fox cloth.

 

 

5. You've owned a series of Land Rover Defenders. What are your favourite aspects of the

car? Any interesting anecdotes related to the Defender?

 

 

I have driven a Land Rover Defender for 10 years, the current one I purchased last year, as

I wanted one last one before LR discontinued the model. It is such a basic car, noisy, not

that comfortable, really not ideal in any city, has the turning circle of a cross channel ferry, I

love it! Mine must be the most photographed Defenders in the industry. It’s part of Fox, with

many customers discovering Fox Brothers after I have picked them up at our local railway

station and driven them to the mill via the wonderful Somerset Countryside.

 

 

6. You also sell at retail a lot of finished goods under Merchant Fox, a business move that is

pioneering among English mills. What was the motivation? What are some of your favourite

products?

 

The Merchant Fox is the retail arm of Fox Brothers and it was launched as a result of seeing

what we could make in the UK as we felt there were a lot of likeminded artisans to discover

and give a platform too via an online retail presence. It is also foes back to the fact that Fox

Brothers is a brand that makes a luxury product, which we felt should be expanded on.

I love seeing how things are made and the craftsman behind these products.

The Oak Bark Leather products are really something and I recommend a visit to J&FJ Baker

in Devon who tan leather in such an incredible way using Oak Bark and Mimosa.

 

7. What exciting new projects do you have upcoming?

 

 

In the next few months we plan to broaden our horizon with TMF and start making and

selling products from around the world. We think it’s important to support artisans globally

weather it’s indigo pocket squares from Japan to trousers made in Naples.

Future projects for Fox Brothers, we plan to expand out cloth merchant business with

exciting new branching plan in the coming years. Lessons from that 1773 archive books

leads us to believe there should be more colour and patterns in menswear again.

We also plan to expand the in house tailoring department at Fox Brothers. It’s a very special

experience to have cloth woven and tailored under one roof.

Q&A #2.1 - Mark Cho

#3

 

Ring Jacket Honey and Blue Checked Jacket

Drake’s Navy Overdyed Cotton Shirt

Ambrosi Bespoke Grey Wool Trousers

Drake’s Navy Paisley Silk Pocket Square

Carmina Brown Suede Penny Loafers

 

Grey trousers with a jacket in warm colours is one of my favourite combinations. It’s a combination very skillfully used by the Italians, I don’t see it as often in England. Since the grey is neutral, I find it shifts attention up towards the jacket, shirt and tie. I was very excited to see this jacket arrive in our stores this season. The base colour is a rich honey and the blue is just the right shade to add interest. Given the blue accent of the jacket, I automatically search for blue items to match. This blue overdyed cotton shirt was in the Drake’s store last year. Its heavy weight and marbled colour goes perfectly with the textured jacket fabric. I wanted to add a little more elegance to the combination so I used a classic paisley square to complete it.

 

#4

 

Ring Jacket Balloon Brown Wool Jacket

Drake’s Green and White Striped Linen Shirt

Drake’s Panama Silk Tie

Liverano Cream Linen Trousers

Drake’s Pink and Navy Silk Spotted Hank

Koji Suzuki Cream Nubuck Derbies

 

I love this shirt so much, I built the outfit around it. It’s an unusual shade of green, similar to teal, and with a very bold, wide stripe pattern. The first instinct is wear it casually and without a tie but it’s so appealingly decorative, I want to wear it in a more complex, dressy way. To really highlight the shirt, I stayed tone-on-tone for the trousers and jacket and tried to avoid any items that were too dark and would overwhelm it. The tie is a new fabric we are using at Drake’s called Panama Silk. It has a lovely, dry hand with slight texture to it. Colours on Panama Silk tend to look a little bit dusty and this one also had some green in the motif so it was a very natural match for the shirt. The pink square was to add a touch of unpredictability to the outfit. 

Q&A #2 - Mark Cho

For this edition, Fujita-san asked me to suggest a few nice Spring looks for Tokyo. Since he specifically said the stylish city of Tokyo, I used it as an excuse to be more liberal with colour.

#1

Ring Jacket Blue Herringbone Jacket

Drake’s White Oxford buttondown Shirt

Ring Jacket Pale Blue Cotton Trousers

Drake’s Kelly Green Grenadine Tie

Drake’s White Cotton Pocket Square

Drake’s Lapis Lazuli Cufflink

Saint Crispin’s Medium Brown Split Toe Derby

 

Everyone knows and loves navy jackets with grey, cream and white trousers but there is also the possibility of using pastel blue, especially with a jacket that is closer to medium blue than to navy. The problem with wearing pastel blue, is it’s easy to look like an ice cream salesman. I tried to use colours that have distinct contrast from one another and without going back into pastel shades. Hence, a white oxford shirt and a strong green tie, a favourite of Michael Hill and myself. I really like how it turned out but because of the colour of the trousers, I find it difficult to add or substitute other colours into the palette without it becoming overly playful. I thought about using a yellow tie but since I wanted to use a very saturated colour, green worked better. I added an old cufflink I had as a lapel decoration for a bit of extra interest.

 

#2

Ring Jacket Navy Tropical 4-Ply Suit

Drake’s Denim Chambray Shirt

Drake’s Shantung Silk Block Stripe Tie

The Armoury Lotus Lapel Chain

Koji Suzuki Dark Brown Oxfords

 

The Tropical 4-Ply is one of my favourite fabrics in the world, perfect for spring/summer use. It has a matte texture that sits well alongside other textured items, so I put together a look that could also have been made in finer cloths and silks but instead has all been translated into softer, more casual fabrics. This was one of the earliest Drake’s shirts made, with the original label we designed when we started manufacturing our own shirts. It is made of denim chambray that used to be light blue but I’ve washed it and worn it so many times, it’s faded to a pale, ice blue. It is one of my favourite shirts. The block stripe has been a Drake’s standard for years but this year we issued it in raw, shantung silk, with imperfect slubbiness for additional texture. Since the whole look is a little off-beat, I skipped using a pocket square and just used our signature lapel chain as the pocket decoration.

Simon Crompton

Text by Simon Crompton / Mark Cho / Photo by Mark Cho

Can you give a brief history of your blog? 

Permanent Style started 10 years ago as an exploration of quality in tailoring. I was buying my first expensive suit and wanted to know what I was spending my money on. 

To a certain extent, that's still what I do: my latest book, The Finest Menswear in the World, is an examination of quality in all areas of menswear. The difference now is that I'm able to tour the world and see the factories myself, rather than just surreptitiously looking at stitching in high-street shops. 

In those 10 years the blog has grown enormously - which has been very satisfying, if a little bewildering. We have our own events, books, products. Every day men say they find the writing inspiring, which is probably the nicest aspect.

What do you prefer, Italian or British tailoring?

I don't have a preference really. Each has its place in different lifestyles. English tailoring will always look stronger, sharper, more dashing. I'd always wear an English suit to a big meeting; I'd never have an Italian tuxedo. 

But the various forms of Italian tailoring fit better into most lives today - it's soft and malleable, easy to wear and not too formal. I still hear Savile Row tailors recommend these structured tweed jackets 'For the weekend, Sir' and it baffles me. Do they really think that level of structure works with casual shirts and jeans? It doesn't even look good without a tie.

Sometimes, I feel the "rules" are used more to beat people over the head than as guidelines to understand aesthetics. What do you think?

I agree - that's certainly how they're used, which is a shame. I guess men do it because rules are easy to understand and latch onto. Style isn't easy, and rules provide a refuge. 

Style rules are like rules for good writing. They all contain an element of truth, but none are absolutes. There's a reason your English teacher told you never to start a sentence with 'and'. But that doesn't mean great writers don't do it. 

I think the best quote on this is from Picasso: "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist." 

How do you feel about the comments you receive to your blog posts? Do you feel there is good discussion developing? Do people nitpick? Do you feel motivated when receiving very positive comments? Disappointed with negative comments?

Good question. I've always liked receiving comments because it gives me an immediate connection to readers. It means I know what they want to read and what they don't - like any good product design, if you only develop in reaction to customers, you can't go far wrong. 

The commenters also live in something of a benevolent dictatorship. I only publish things that are substantial - that provide useful information to others. If people just say they like a product, I'll push them to specify why. If two readers get in an argument, I'll cut it off quickly. 

And I try to direct people to comment on relevant posts, so that their questions and experiences do build up a reference source over time. I love how many people come across old posts (God bless Google), read it and all the comments, and then either add their recent experiences or ask a new question. It's not quite a Wiki, but it's not far off. 

Rob Spangle

Photo by Mark Cho / Text by Mark Cho / Brian Davis

Each time I meet Rob, I can't help but notice how many shirts he wears in one outfit. One under, one over, sometimes one tied around his waist. It is unusual but it suits him. His style is relaxed and worn-in, with some unexpected details. I am impressed by his curiosity and open mindedness. He is always wanting to explore his own ability and pursue his interests, which led him down the interesting path he has taken so far. 

- Mark

What are you wearing?

my wardrobe is a mix of tailoring and workwear thats easy to travel in. If I wear one outfit more than anything else its laceless brougues, selvage denim jeans, some layered bespoke shirts from Luca Avitable, and a beat up Barbour international jacket.

What are you shooting with?

Most days I carry a Nikon, A D4 or D800 and generally a 85mm lens, though sometimes a telephoto. At night, amongst friends and at least once during the week I stick to film with my Leica M6.

You’ve walked an interesting road over the last 10 years. Could you introduce yourself and talk a bit about what you have been doing?

Its been a wandering path to say the least. At 17 I singed up and joined the United States Marine Corps, out of a sense of adventure and patriotic duty. I joined the Infantry but had the good fortune of become a Reconnaissance Marine and got to see allot of the world because of it. I started to gain an interest in menswear and tailoring while in the military, through books, websites and magazines. When my duty finished I studied fashion and product design, eventually taking a leap and apprenticing on Savile Row at Maurice Sedwell when i realized my tastes where less commercial. While apprenticing a hobby of photography more or less took over my life and I decided to combine my two passions. Now I travel for a majority of the year photographing the stylish guys I encounter, as well as working on editorials with brands and magazines.

Do you feel there is a constant thread among the things you have done? (military, tailoring, photography)

with much reflection I think I can say that my different passions and occupations have all been in pursuit of answering the same question: what is a man's true nature, and what is his highest form? Its an answer for myself, one I havnt found yet, and hopefully others can learn from my journey and through my work

As a tailor, any particular styles you like? Cuts from certain tailors, or certain details from garments?

from a tailoring perspective I think the syles that I admire the most are guys I see returning to a more voluminous suit, high waisted, double pleats, a longer jacket that swings from the shoulder. There has been an obsesion in the last years with fitted suits, and it hasnt lasted because it ignores what actually makes a suit comfortable to wear, and that the highest aim of a bespoke suit is one that looks good in motion. On a personal level I love when I see a narrative and sense of sentiment above form/function in a mans dress.

Who are your style inspirations? Both for clothing and for photography.

for both style and photography I always admire people who either introduce me to new ideas, or have a real sense of mastery of themselves. for style, in no particular order: Jason Blood, Jay Azingir, Adam Rogers, Bernarnd Fouquet, Saman Amel & Dag Granath, Jake Grantham…for photography, Ryan Plett, Jonathan Daniel Pryce, Adam Katz Sinding, Sam Haskins, Bruce Gilden, Brassai….

Q&A #1 - Mark Cho

Mr T:

I wear shirts, jackets and ties to work all the time.

Please let me know if there's any rule or something that you always pay attention to when you style these 3 things.

 

Dear Mr. T,

Thanks for the question! There are some basic things to pay attention to:

  1. How well does your shirt collar fit? When your collar is buttoned, you should be able to fit 1 - 2 fingers between your neck and collar. The right collar size will make it much easier to wear a good tie knot.

  2. How is your collar shape? I prefer slightly larger size buttondowns, or spread collars that are medium sized. It’s important to find shapes that flatter your head and face. In general, the buttondown elongates the face slightly. The spread collar frames the head well and has a more neat appearance.

  3. What knot are you wearing? In general, I prefer a simple four-in-hand. I like small knots and I think the asymmetry prevents the tie from looking too stuffy.

As for an overall look for the items together: seek balance by paying attention to colour, pattern and texture, not letting any one item become overwhelming to the others.

Try to keep textures similar across all three pieces. If you have a jacket and shirt with very simple texture and a smooth finish, stick to a tie without too much texture but add visual interest using interesting colour or pattern.

With striped items, keep the sizing of the stripes very different, so that they do not “melt” into each other. Alternatively, mix in a patterned tie, again keeping the scale of the pattern different from the stripes.

If you have a patterned jacket, either keep it very simple, with plain coloured shirt and tie, to simplify the overall appearance, or match it with a patterned shirt and a plain coloured tie, to reduce the contrast between each piece. Like with stripes, use very different sized patterns so each piece is still distinct.

Try to mix warm and cool colours together, but in unequal proportions. For instance, brown suit, white shirt with navy tie. Or navy suit, blue shirt with brown tie. Keeping this in mind also helps to restrict colour palettes from being too wild.

If ever in doubt over a combination, you can always rely on a plain navy tie to “anchor” and restore balance.

I took a few photos of my own personal garments, combined together to show some of my thinking. Hope that helps and thanks for writing in!

Top row 1, 2
Bottom row 3. 4

1 - Items - The Armoury knit tie, Drake’s shirt, Ciccio jacket

I used complex mixed patterns but to reduce contrast, I used similar colours for everything except the tie. The tie is a simple navy knit tie with a little bit of texture. I used a cool navy colour to offset the warm yellow tones everywhere else. There is a little bit of blue in the pattern of the shirt which helps the tie blend with everything better.

2 - Items - Drake’s tie, Ascot Chang shirt, Liverano suit

A checked suit is quite a strong item so I paired it with very simple items to tone it down. I used a plain white shirt and a yellow tie which picks up the pattern from the suit. The scale of the patterns in the tie and suit are very different so they do not clash.

3 - Items - Drake’s tie, Ascot Chang shirt, Tailor CAID suit

The suit is simple but with good details, such as “swelled edge” stitching on the lapel, and a heavy twill cloth, to keep it from being too basic. I used a striped shirt and a striped tie in very different scales. I like how the stripes are “contained” by the dark, solid navy.

4 - Items - Drake’s tie, Drake’s shirt, Ring Jacket suit

I aimed to keep consistent, busy texture across all the items but kept the colours and patterns smiple. The flannel has a soft, warm feeling to it so I used a rough, blue oxford with a large, polka dot tie. For the tie, I did not choose a printed silk but a woven silk, which has more texture.


Brian Davis

Photo by Mark Cho / Text by Mark Cho / Brian Davis

I met Brian recently through one of our colleagues at the store. He owns an excellent vintage shop in Red Hook, Brooklyn. What Brian is doing is interesting to me from two perspectives:

1. Brian's vintage selection, has a strong emphasis on workwear and military wear, i.e. clothing that is designed for practical use. I find items designed in this way as beautiful as any decoration. It makes the appearance of the garment very clear and focused on its function. 

2. Brian has setup in Red Hook, very much an up-and-coming part of New York but far from the normal retail areas. Unfortunately, good and interesting retail can be so easily crowded out of markets like New York which are expensive to find space in. Red Hook gives Brian the opportunity to create a beautiful store but the distance from the main areas of the city means he must work to a high standard to attract people to come to him. 

- Mark

1. Tell us what you're wearing

Gitman Vintage oxford cloth button down shirt

L.L. Bean Norwegian Sweater

L.L. Bean Field Jacket 

Seiko 5 Sports Automatic 100m Scuba Diver (gift from Jeremy)

The Real McCoy’s Double Diamond Khaki Trousers Lot 451

Converse Jack Purcell Signature in white

Wooden Sleepers vintage heavy duty canvas coal bag

2. Tell us a little about how you started getting into clothing and finally ended up with a superb vintage shop.

The first item of clothing I remember having a strong opinion about was the Adidas Samba Classic. The year was 1992 and I was in fourth grade. I was enamored with them. I was never an Air Jordan/Nike kid. Soccer ruled in my town and the Samba was king. My grandmother bought them for me and I felt like the coolest kid in school. By the time I was in sixth grade in 1994, my style was influenced by equal parts Kurt Cobain, Snoop Doggy Dog, and the CCS skateboarding mail order catalog - flannel shirts, Dickies work trousers, Chuck Taylor Allstars, Levi’s 501 jeans, band/skate t-shirts, etc. My first experience in a thrift store was revelatory. It was 1996 and I was a freshman in High School. My Grandmother volunteered at the Eastern Long Island Hospital Thrift Store and I would buy vintage t-shirts for $0.25 a piece. That turned into digging at Salvation Army and other thrift stores. By the time I was in 11th grade in 1999, I was making frequent trips to downtown Manhattan via the Long Island Railroad to shop for vintage in the basement of Canal Jeans, Search and Destroy on St. Marks, and the myriad of other nameless vintage shops in SoHo and the Lower East Side. It wasn’t until 2010 that my wife, girlfriend at the time, Allison suggested that I start a vintage men’s wear shop online. With her help, I launched Wooden Sleepers on Etsy in April of 2010 as a small collection of vintage men’s wear, accessories, and objects for the home. By the end of the year WS had participated Pop Up Flea as the only vintage seller alongside brands like J. Crew, Levi’s, L.L. Bean, Red Wing Shoes, and Warby Parker; and were invited to set up a shop in shop at Steven Alan in Tribeca. I moved WS out of my apartment into a studio space in Greenpoint where I held private shopping appointments and grew the business. My dream all along was to open a retail store, which we did in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook in November, 2014.


3. Any particular vintage items or periods you focus on?

Classic American style through a Northeast Atlantic lens: select Military, Outdoors, Workwear, Sportswear, and Traditional “Ivy” style. We also stock relevant home items such as old books, blankets, and other antiques.  

4. Do you treat collecting as an investment? Outside of the things you collect and sell at the store, would you sell any of your more personal items?

In my personal life, I do not buy things with the intention of “flipping”. I am much more interested in clothing than a normal person and I’m ok with that. Some people like sports and have an encyclopedic knowledge of stats and whatnot. I enjoy the process of researching an item or brand, visiting a retail store, having a conversation with a salesperson or store owner, trying on a product, purchasing, and beating the hell out of it for as long as it lasts. 

 

5. What do you think is next for the vintage market? Do you feel like it's growing? Becoming more mainstream? Plateau'd? 

The specialty vintage store is what is most exciting now, stores with a strong point of view. Normal people do not want to dig around for hours, picking through overcrowded racks of overpriced clothing. Less is more. It’s all about the edit. The ability for a shop to tell a story without words, to communicate a feeling, a vibe, something that connects with people on an emotional level. Ultimately, it’s nostalgia. Nostalgia is very powerful. Different people are drawn to different things. For a vintage store, or any store for that matter, the most important thing is authenticity, being a good neighbor, and providing an amazing experience for anyone who comes through the doors. In that way, Wooden Sleepers appeals to a more mainstream audience - not just the vintage connoisseur.  


6. Any style heroes for you?

My friends - Jeremy Kirkland, Joseph Au, Ouigi Theodore, David Alperin, Danny Calderon, and many more. 

7. You are in quite a new, up-and-coming area of Brooklyn, could you talk about it a little?

Red Hook has a real neighborhood feel. People say “hello” to each other on the street. People know each other. There is a thriving small business community. With the exception of Ikea, most all of the businesses are independently owned and operated. The food and drink is incredible. I am very happy there. I like taking a deep breath and smelling the salt in the air from New York Harbor, it reminds me of home on the North Fork of Long Island. 

Agyesh Madan

Photo by Mark Cho / Text by Agyesh Madan / Mark Cho

What are you wearing?

- Rollable felt hat in cement (Stòffa) - http://stoffa.co/collections/hats/products/hat-rabbit-felt-rollable-cement

- Cashmere Silk Jacquard Scarf (Stòffa) - http://stoffa.co/collections/scarves/products/woven-scarf-double-sided-reverse-pin-dot-pearl-grey

- 002 flight jacket in sand suede (Stòffa) - http://stoffa.co/collections/outerwear/products/outerwear-002-flight-jacket

- white pique polo (unknown)

- Double pleated trousers in sand peached cotton (Stòffa) - http://stoffa.co/collections/trousers/products/trousers-made-to-measures

- Belgian Shoes - http://www.belgianshoes.com/mrcasual.html

Great design cannot come from nothing. An interesting design can come on a whim, but a great design require focus and perseverance, as if chiseling an enormous stone into a a tiny but brilliant object. Agyesh understands this better than most. He has been on a long journey, constantly learning new skills and developing new ideas without pause, and I always look forward to the things he has designed. Although his designs are new, they emerge fully formed, with a great deal of thought put into them. I particularly admire his dedication to colour and colour theory. which he applies carefully and respectfully. Given his background, which he explains in the interview, I think he is an exemplar of art and science. 

- Mark

 

1. Can you talk about your path into the clothing industry and where you are now?

I think my journey is simple. I started off as computer engineer focusing on web applications where through my experience at an e-commerce startup, I discovered my passion for the clothing industry and more so a fascination with production. I followed that up with a stint at Parsons, Newschool for design where I focussed on textile and product development. During my time there I was fortunate to discover the neapolitan brand ISAIA Napoli which I joined in the latter half of 2010. I spent four years there starting in marketing and product development in the US and then moving to Italy to serve as the brand’s Director of Product Development. It was in Italy under the mentorship of Leonardo Genova ( the head of all product development at ISAIA ), that I furthered my love for textiles and found the idea of responsible production.

Last year, I founded Stòffa where we are focussed on creating thoughtfully designed products through a continuous exploration of production. I really wanted to focus all our energy in building innovative, robust products and production; and the only way to do it was one product category at a time. Currently, we offer a series of accessories which include our covetable hats and scarves along with made-to-measure outerwear and trousers. 

 

2. You place a lot of emphasis on focused, considered combinations of colour. Could you suggest some interesting reading or references? 

Colour is an integral part of my life. I derive an irreplaceable joy from experiencing harmony through the use of colour. I think most people interested in this field are aware of Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color which presented his theory that colors were governed by an internal and deceptive logic. What most people might not know about is the interactive app created by Yale University, based on the aforementioned book. It is available for download on the app store and I highly recommend all kids and adults to download and interact with it. It is beautifully executed and truly uses the power of the technology platform to elevate an already solid read.

 

3. Stoffa, your latest project, has been growing in an unusual way. You started with hats but moved onto leather jackets and trousers. Was there any reason for this progression?

Stòffa was created on the fundamental principal of creating thoughtfully designed products that are produced in a responsible manner. To that effect, all our products are made in production units where we have close control over every step; from raw materials to finishing to packaging. Furthermore, we wear-test everything we make for at least a year before releasing it. This philosophy has dictated our direction thus far as we focus on one production category at a time to slowly create a collection of products that are thoughtfully designed, tested and then produced in a very responsible manner.

 

4. You spent a formative period at Isaia, which included making regular visits to Japan. Do you have any thoughts on the differences between the two markets?

Japan was amazing for I observed a certain innate dedication in people to thoroughly research and explore before purchasing the right item or experience for them. As a product developer it was really fulfilling to see the passion in the customers as they enjoyed learning about every step of how the product was made and really respected the maker’s vision.

On the other hand, in the US there is a certain sense of nonchalance or idea of enjoyment when it comes to ones clothes. I find that very geniune, as I have always believed that clothes are meant to be really worn and worn hard. 

As a product developer, I felt that it is our responsibility to marry the two. Be really thoughtful about every element of our product while designing it but also present them as items to be worn, enjoyed and lived in with little care.

Kathryn Sargent

Photo by Mark Cho / Text by Mark Cho / Kathryn Sargent

When it comes to tailors, I strongly believe the relationship should be more than businesslike. Commissioning bespoke orders are a dialogue between tailor and customer and the process benefits from care and understanding from both parties to achieve great results. 

I've been making clothes with Kathryn for around three years now. Having grown up in London, I've always felt a strong need to keep a section of my wardrobe very British. Coming from the Gieves & Hawkes tradition, I think Kathryn has a strong understanding of more constructed British tailoring but she is also flexible, willing to create softer garments as well. 

-Mark

1. What are you wearing?

  • Nackymade glasses
  • Alain Figaret blouse
  • Kathryn Sargent bespoke suit, dinner suit style
  • Dior pearl earrings
  • Church’s brogue pumps

2. Tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, what made you want to start in the industry, how long have you been in it?

I am originally from Leeds, a city in Yorkshire in the north of England, and moved to London to study fashion and have been here ever since.

During my time studying for my degree, my passion for menswear really developed.

I chanced upon some old Tailor & Cutter books and started to explore the craft of drafting patterns from scratch, which led me to Savile Row where I started a work experience placement during my final year studying at the tailors Denman & Goddard.

In 1996 I graduated college and started my apprenticeship working at Gieves and Hawkes, No.1 Savile Row.

I trained in their bespoke department and became a cutter, and in 2009 I was promoted to Head Cutter, the first woman to hold this position in the history of Savile Row.

I have been in the industry for 20 years and I love it, I launched my own business, Kathryn Sargent, in 2012 which is based on the true values of bespoke tailoring.

Located in the heart of London’s Mayfair at No.6 Brook Street I offer a luxury bespoke service for both men and women.

3. Who are your influences when it comes to clothing?

In my own life I have been influenced by my father who was an extremely smart and stylish man,  he always wore suits and beautiful coats.

In my business I am influenced by my clients, their personality and accomplishments often gives me ideas on how best to create something special for them.

Kathryn Sargent offers a traditionally inspired, yet fresh approach to bespoke tailoring as in order to deliver truly personal bespoke garments there is no house style, each garment is created in collaboration with the client so that it truly reflects the personality of the wearer.

4. Any cloths you particularly like to work with? Which for summer, which for winter?

I like working with most wools for different reasons, I love the drape and look of a winter weight wool flannel and the colours which can be found in an hand woven Harris Tweed along with the handle of it, and luxurious overcoatings.

For summer the sharpness of a lightweight wool and mohair blend suiting, cool wools which are durable and crease resistant, are my preferred choices to work with.

5. You cut a lot of traditional, historic garments such as uniforms and ceremonial clothing, any in particular you like?

I enjoy both the cutting, and the style of a traditional morning suit which really is beautiful.

I have a vast experience of cutting uniforms and have been challenged with various styles.

I like the traditional overcoats such as naval great coats, watch coats, pea coats and the army British warm style.

I create contemporary versions which are traditionally inspired for my clients.

6. As a member of the opposite sex cutting for men, do you think you might see men differently from a male cutter? i.e. You notice certain aspects of fit differently or you recommend cloth differently?

Clearly I have a woman’s eye, and my own eye for style which was refined by four years at fashion and art school but I have been trained traditionally in Savile Row in one of the most historical and prestigious houses, in the same way as any man would be.

I am a women making clothes for men and advising them on cloth and styles which would flatter them and that is a culmination of my training and my eye – knowing what would look good on the individual.

7. How does it feel being independent as opposed to working with an established Savile Row house?

I have the freedom to be creative, offer a luxury customer service and not be governed by a house style.

Adam Marelli

Photo by Adam Marelli / Text by Adam Marelli

Tell us about what you do?

I’m an artist and cultural photographer who specializes in photographing master craftsmen.

At the moment I am in Italy photographing one of the last traditional gondola makers called D.co. Tramontin e Figli.

Can you provide an anecdote that speaks to your own philosophy on style and clothing?

I like to wear clothes from people I know, personally.

It creates a cultural and personal bond that I find fulfilling. So what does that look like?

After art school I cut my teeth in construction for a dozen years. It left a lasting impression on my style.

When I’m in the studio or out shooting, I like hard wearing fabrics that are well cut and can take a beating. Look at old photographs of artist like Cezanne or Renoir, I’ve always enjoyed that they could wear a shirt and a jacket, but it was much rougher than most of the things you can find today.

Dealing with craftsmen on such a regular basis and being a craftsman in your own right, how do you feel about the place of craftsmanship, particularly artisanal craftsmanship in the modern age of efficiency and mass production?

Comparing craftsmanship with mass market is like comparing a truffles to astronaut food.

Isn’t it amazing that you can have an ice cream sandwich that will last 1,000 years and still taste good in space?

Sure!

But the knowledge, experience, and harmony with nature that come together when fresh truffles melt over a plate of pasta represents centuries of culture.

The truffle is only the physical manifestation of something that is in some ways still mystical.

This is where craftsmanship has no peers. It is our connection to the past, living in the present, that informs the future.

Michael Hill

Photo by Mark Cho / Text by Michael Hill

What are you wearing?

A special make up of one of our soft jackets in a vintage bolt of boiled and felted lambswool. Trousers are Fox Bros. Flannel, and Alden for Drake's Chukka. The shirt is one of our new essential Oxford button-down's that we're now making in our own factory down in Somerset. The tie a warp-faced vintage stripe from Autumn/Winter '15 and the hank our vintage skier print in wool/silk. 

How did you get started in the industry?

I took every bit of free time I had before going to college to apprentice with weaving and printing mills in Como. Then whilst I was studying I worked Saturdays and holidays for a tailor on Savile Row. I was also fortunate in that my father was a tie maker so growing up I spent a lot of time on the factory floor. I just loved being surrounded by all the wonderful cloth he was working on. It struck me as being a hard life but a good life and it was one I was desperate to get into. 

What do you do at Drake's?

I'm the managing/creative director. I help to run the company and develop the collections with my great design team. I then help to market them and work with the retail team, at Clifford St and online, and the wholesale team at Haberdasher Street to sell them. It's genuinely a huge privilege to be helping to steer a company with great people and great heritage into this exciting new chapter. 

 

Do you have any style rules you follow?

I tend to wear a jacket and trousers rather than a suit, ideally tweed in Autumn and Winter, with flannel, cord, or it could be jeans if I'm not wearing a tie. Spread collared shirts in blue and white stripes or Chambray, otherwise a button down in a robust Oxford cloth. I tend to wear Ancient Madder, Repp or Grenadine ties, always a four-in-hand. My shoes and boots are snuff suede or Cordovan, my socks over-the-calf navy or purple. If I am wearing a suit, most likely a chalk strip, then I find blue and white striped shirts incredibly useful for joining the tie through to the jacket and vice-versa. For example if I'm wearing a polka dot tie, and thinking about it I'd only wear polka dots with a suit, then I'd always wear a striped shirt. Finally, I don't own a suit that I can wear in the Spring/Summer months and I don't wear black, unless I'm wearing a Dinner Jacket. In short: smart comfortable! 

Your family has been in tie-making for a few generations now, do you think that has had any effect on you?

Although I've never worked for my father (not in a salaried capacity at least!) it must have had an influence. It's true that I've followed him in terms of the industry he went into but irrespective of that I perhaps feel it was his dedication and ethic that has the biggest effect on me. While I don't claim to have followed him in that regard there's no doubt his example taught me a lot. Growing up I would travel the country with him in one of his countless navy blue Volvo Estates full of bales of cloth (the Volvo was the best estate for carting cloth around given it had the largest boot capacity!) visiting suppliers and out-workers, listening to him talking about the trade and its many characters. I was fascinated. But it was the cloth that I really wanted to understand and work with. I'm extremely conscious that we are nothing without great cloth. Even as artisans ourselves at Haberdasher St. our job is simply to make something that best celebrates the beautiful cloth we're making from. And in terms of how I look at things at Drake's I would only hope that one day I can hand over to someone with a great commitment towards what we do and a vision for how that could evolve in order to give the best opportunity for everyone working in the company. 

Do you think your style has changed over the years?

I suppose it evolves. Perhaps you get better or more particular in terms of knowing what you enjoy wearing and feel comfortable in. I'm always excited by unusual cloth that I can't wait to wear, but in general perhaps ones parameters become a touch narrower, because you know what works, and therefore what doesn't! That said I always say that although we make clothes, and hopefully beautiful things, they are after all only clothes; they're there to be enjoyed. Why not experiment a little to find what works rather than always rigidly sticking to the rules. Better to have your own sensibility than be a prospector and if that takes some imagination then all the better. 

Name 3 ties that are must-have for you?

An Ancient Madder print, repp stripe and four-knot grenadine. 

Arnold Wong

Photo by Arnold Wong / Text by Arnold Wong

What I'm wearing

  • Ring Jacket mohair and wool hopsack sports coat
  • Drake's chambray shirt
  • Orazio Luciano MTM trouser in W.Bill linen
  • Saint Crispin's MTM wingtip
  • Rolex 5513
  • Monsieur Fox "Ouest of the Daimyo" Handkerchief

Commentary

Ring Jacket - one of the very few, high quality ready-to-wear maker that produces refined garments in italian soft construction. What I'm wearing in the photo is one of my favorite model from RJ - AMJ03, an exclusive cut designed by The Armoury team; I would describe it as a Neapolitan inspired cut - soft shoulder, spalla camicia, full sleeves, high armhole, 3 roll 2 buttons, and generous lapels. It's a jacket that basically combines every details we like from experience and from some of the most renowned taliors around the world.

The jacket is also made up in a mohair/wool hopsack fabric - a high twist construction that makes it very light and breathable in the swealtering heat of Hong Kong.

Oh, and most importantly,  it goes well with my preferred high rise & full legged trouser.

 

Anecdotes

Whenever I put on my hat or tie, my grandmother would always tell me an interesting story about about my grandpa. On one occasion, I remember how she talked vividly about how my grandpa believed a good pair of shoe is of great importance. It taught me something to which I would never look back and for which I will be forever grateful of. Quality over quantity is a philosophy that I do and preach everyday.
Once in a while, I can't help myself but to think what is the kind of poignant stories could people could pass on their their childrens?
Here at the Armoury - a places that values heritage and craftsmanship, allows me to explore and find myself something truly meaningful to pass on to future generations.

What do you do?

I help customers with their buying decisions and give stylistic advices on fit and combinations. So my day-to-day role can include everything from taking measurements and suggesting on fabric and style for customers.

I also act as a bridge between customers and tailors - helping our customer understand and solve fitting problems; making sure all our garments looks as refined as possible on our customers.

Another role I play is visual merchandising - decorating each mannequin and changing window displays is something I do with great passion. Expressing my view of what a luxury haberdasher should look like gives me great excitement.

On photography - I handle majority of the products styling and shooting. Keeping abreast on what's happening out there and posting regularly on our social media is of paramount importance in our business. The whole idea is to keep our community informed with the new artisans we discover; providing a platform for people to share and get inspired by others.

Yohei Fukuda

Photo by Mark Cho / Text by Mark Cho / Yohei Fukuda

At The Armoury, we strongly believe in classic style. What makes it so interesting is that there are many different regional variations of it, such as English, Neapolitan, Florentine. In the case of shoes, we actually work with two different bespoke shoemakers, one is Yohei Fukuda and the other is Koji Suzuki. I love Koji's work and I think it is an excellent representation of classic Italian shoes. At the same time, I also love Yohei's work, and I think it is an excellent representation of classic English shoes. It is impossible to declare any one region's style better than another and I am glad to be able to offer choices to our customers that best suit their personal style!

- Mark

 

What are you wearing

  • Bespoke Double breasted jacket (Holland & sherry victory) by Vick Tailor
  • Bespoke trousers (Eurotex - Brighton) by Vick Tailor
  • Shirt (Acorn) by Bespoke Tailor Dittos
  • Tie by Bespoke Tailor Dittos 
  • Briefcase by Yohei Fukuda 
  • Bespoke Shoes by Yohei Fukuda

 

Q&A

1. What is your favorite part of the shoemaking process? e.g. the lastmaking? the fitting? the design?

My favorite part of the shoe making process is discussing about the shoes we are going to create with the customer. Our job is not merely making shoes. We always make sure to take enough time to talk to every one of our customers, so that we can recommend shoes that match each person's lifestyle. No matter how great the shoes look, if they do not suit the wearer, that's like putting the cart before the horse. Also, when I make shoes, I imagine the customer: what is he wearing? where is he at? what sort of fun thing is he up to? I believe that shoes are just a part of a whole person, to be happy and comfortable. 

The shoes that I pursue are the best of ordinary. Our shoes are meant to be worn for a long time, so they would not be trendy. However, we stick to the classic so it never goes outdated. I wish our shoes to be life long partners for our customers. 

2. If you could only have a selection of 3 styles of shoes in your wardrobe, what would they be? 

  1. Black punched cap Oxford
  2. Dark Brown Semi-Brogue Oxford
  3. Tobacco suede Chukka Boots

I believe that these 3 pairs are essential for every gentleman. 

The 4th and 5th shoes could be Apron-front Derby (U-tip), Monk Strap, Side, Elastic, Loafers...up to each person's taste and style. 

3. You are very skilled with your hands and you have mentioned in our conversations that you are interested in other crafts, such as watchmaking, as well. Where did you learn this appreciation for working with your hands?

I think that there's a strong influence from my grandfather. In my childhood, I remember that my brother and I helped our grandfather with gardening or traditional events on the weekends and holidays. Our grandfather was very creative and loved working with hands. For example, he would curve out the corridor wall and put glass in to create a corner to see Koi fish outside from inside the house. He loved to entertain others like that. Perhaps that aspect influenced me in my current work.

Also, since I grew up in the country, we were playing in the nature most of the time, so it was normal for me to make something that we do not have. Even now I still make knick-knacks for myself sometimes. 

My brother is a high-fashion jewelry maker and I make classical shoes. Although high fashion and classic style seem to be the opposite, there are many things in common and we are very close brothers.

As I have been involved in hand crafts, not only I have gained experience and techniques but also I started to look at things with a new perspective. Even for things other than shoes, I can feel the character and thoughts of the maker by just looking at them. That's also a reason why I love hand crafted things. 

A very simple pair of Black Oxfords in Northampton Shoe Museum lead me to this work of shoemaking. Made about 100 years ago, these pair had a beauty that I had never seen before, and they impressed me with their powerful beings. I am determined to pass this beautiful art to the next generation. 

Alexander Pirounis

TEXT BY MARK CHO, PHOTO BY MARK CHO

What He's wearing
Ascot Chang x The Armoury Safari Jacket
The Armoury shirt MTM
Salvatore Ambrosi bespoke trousers
Carmina tassel loafers
http://shop.thearmoury.com/carmina-uetam-80285-loafer-suede-natural

Commentary
As an Asian person, I always notice the very strong guiding influence of family and especially parents. Many of my friends work for their family businesses or work in the same fields as their parents; for instance doctors having children who also become doctors. I think children inherit some of the passions of their parents and it guides them towards certain types of work as a result. 

My colleague Alex is half Italian, half Greek, fluent in multiple languages. His father has worked in the clothing industry for many years and is passionate about men's clothing. Alex inherited that same passion for men's clothing but also brings his own strengths. I am always impressed by his confidence, which comes very naturally from him. When promoting a new style to a customer, he presents it in a positive and confident way, which in turn gives the customer the confidence to try it.

Alex's style is that of a sophisticated, modern Italian. Through experiencing many cultures, he truly understands the value of a subtle, clasisc look. He uses a very classic colour palette and he likes classic details like high-rise trousers, pleats and vent-less jackets. He updates it with a slim, soft silhouette.