TEXT BY MARK CHO AND JUSTIN CHANG, PHOTO BY MARK CHO
No telling of Hong Kong's tailoring history could be complete without mentioning Ascot Chang, Hong Kong's most widely respected shirt maker. AC was the first Hong Kong tailor to travel to the USA for trunk shows in the 60’s and the first to set up shop in New York. Their business now spans three generations of Changs and several shops in multiple countries, selling bespoke shirts made at their facility in Hung Hom to a consistently high standard. I use the term "consistent" with a great deal of respect as it is a difficult thing to achieve. I find great comfort in being able to receive something that is precisely made and able to be precisely re-made if ever necessary. It makes my Ascot Chang shirts seem immortal because if one is ever ruined, it can be replaced by a new shirt made exactly as before.
I was fortunate enough to get to know the Chang family first as friends when The Armoury was still a single, tiny, new shop. Justin, a few years younger than I, graduated university in New York and spent several years at their New York shop learning the retail side of the business before returning to Hong Kong to be closer to the production side, which he is passionate about. Over the years, we have produced several interesting items with Ascot Chang that we have since become quite well known for. Justin has always been the lynchpin between The Armoury and Ascot Chang, helping us to prototype and coordinate these special orders.
The most popular item we have collaborated on is our polo shirt, worn by Justin in the photograph. It is made in Italian cotton pique cloth with a shirt style spread collar. Smart casual is such a common dress code and yet so confusing because of its ambiguity. Our favourite look for smart casual would be our polo shirt in white, paired with a navy blazer, cotton chinos and a pair of suede loafers. Our focus was on making a collar that stood up well around the neck and could be worn under a jacket. Hence our collar has a tall collar band, allowing it to surround the neck like a normal dress shirt. The collar shape is a spread style because under a jacket its appearance is neat and not overly casual. Without a jacket, it also wears well as the collar will spread from the neck, framing the head and shoulders.
A few questions to Justin:
What’s it like working for your family and how does it feel to be part of a long line of shirtmakers?
There's still alot for me to learn, especially on the technical/tailoring side of things, but I've been enjoying my work very much. I've been very fortunate in that my father is quite receptive to new ideas and I've been afforded the freedom to pursue interesting projects such as the collaboration we have with Mark and The Armoury.
As we are still quite a small company, I take on quite a few different roles at Ascot Chang: Business Development, Marketing, Data Analysis, Sales...but I find that at the end of the day, I am most passionate about the product. Whether it's solving tailoring problems, sourcing fabric, working on designs or even just sitting next to our tailors and watching, I am happiest when I am working on the product.
Tell an interesting story related to you and Ascot Chang.
I find that sometimes, when it comes to buying fabric for our inventory, my father takes more risks than me. There are times when he wants to buy 5-6 colors in one fabric, and I have to look at the numbers and tell him that he can only pick 3-4. Surely this situation is reversed for many father-son partnerships?
What are your favourite shirt cloths?
I like Alumo's 120s 2-ply "Supraluxe" alot, to me it is the perfect balance between smooth hand-feel and substance in the "body" of the fabric.
Some fabrics can be very silky smooth, but too flimsy and light. Others can be quite hard-wearing, but have a slightly coarse feeling, especially when new. The Alumo Supraluxe is a great balance between then two.