Last month, Thomas Mason collaborated with Simon Crompton of Personal Style to host its first online symposium, focusing on how luxury menswear can adapt to a more digital, online future. Of the many distinguished panelists from across the menswear community, Mark Cho of The Armoury kindly agreed to answer a few questions for Ivy Style following the discussion.
The symposium is available in its entirety on YouTube. — ZG BURNETT
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IS: During the symposium, you explained that Hong Kong never quite shut down throughout the pandemic, yet there has been a decreased appetite for tailoring. Have in-store and online buyers been stocking up from your Essentials section?
MC: Demand for tailored clothing usually wanes as the temperature rises but this year has been especially pronounced as it coincided with Covid. People have been switching from buying tailored clothing to buying more of our casual items such as our polo shirts, our Dayware shirts, our Sport Chinos, etc. The Essentials section is more about basic wardrobe building, i.e. first navy suit, first white poplin shirt, etc., and there are certainly items in there that are suitable for the current state of the world.
IS: Your Tribeca and Westbury shops just reopened; was it a mad rush or a hesitant re-entry?
MC: We opened quite cautiously, starting with Tribeca first and then the Upper East Side. We implemented provisions for Covid such as hand sanitizing stations, temperature checks and limiting the number of people allowed into the store at the same time. The safety of our team and our customers is of primary importance to us.
IS: The conversation about whether or not bespoke clothing can truly be made with fittings by video call or measurements taken at home continues. With increased concerns regarding health and safety, are you planning to make the option of remote fittings permanent?
MC: It depends on what you mean by remote fittings. We are currently trialling having our customers see us in store while having our tailors be included in the customer’s appointment via Zoom. We have built a very sophisticated setup to make the experience completely different from just another Zoom call on a phone or laptop. I think it’s important to feel the tailor is present during the appointment which is why we’ve gone to such lengths in our setup. We have no plans for doing fittings with customers remaining at home.
IS: Your comment that The Armoury “should feel like a library you can drink in” was my favorite of the symposium. Now that people have been shopping and drinking from home in their own makeshift libraries, what do you imagine customers miss most about the brick and mortar shopping experience?
MC: For our customers, I’d imagine it’s the sense of community. Our regular customers all had The Armoury as part of their life’s routine. They would be visiting every few weeks for fittings with visiting tailors or just to stop into the store for a chat with the team and a browse of what’s new. Our stores are places that are comfortable, welcoming and conducive to socializing. When I got back to Hong Kong after the lockdown in New York started, I had to go into quarantine for two weeks and I really missed speaking to customers during that period. Our YouTube Channel, The Armoury TV, started from my own need to engage customers again which is why the presentation feels so conversational.
IS: With comfort being prioritized when working from home, are you seeing a renewed interest for the unfussiness and ease of Ivy style clothing?
MC: Yes, I think there is more interest in Ivy style features like button down collars or classic, straighter leg chinos.
IS: One of your fellow panelists mentioned that following times of crisis, the wearing of suits and ties resurges even outside of the menswear community. Why do you think that is?
MC: I think there could be a lot of reasons. One is that there are many people who miss wearing suits and ties. I know I certainly do. Another is that people enjoy the confidence that wearing good, sharp clothes can bring, especially in the wake of a crisis. You cannot control most things in the world but it is comforting to know that your own dress and appearance is your own domain within which you can do as you wish.
IS: Yamamoto-san of Tailor Caid is only one of the Japanese artisans with whom you collaborate. D you anticipate ametora’s practical elegance will become even more prominent in menswear following Covid-19?
MC: Yes, I think ametora has a renewed place in a man’s wardrobe. It’s a nice change from the soft Italian style that has been in vogue for a while now. People were already looking for something new and the practical, unfussy nature of Ivy Style is particularly relevant right now
IS: With a rise in user engagement through your ‘What I’m Wearing and Why’ and product Q&A posts on Instagram, can we hope that the series will continue beyond quarantine?
MC: The WAIWAW series and our video production in general has become a big part of who we are and how we present things. I’d like to continue to do more with it. I think it conveys what The Armoury is about in quite a complete way, more so than just text or just photos.
IS: Your on-screen wardrobe is impeccable, of course. Do you have a go-to outfit that never leaves the house which you’d care to describe?
MC: I am usually in Muji pajamas or loungewear at home. They’re not bad but I’m working on some replacements for them that are more up to The Armoury’s standards. I think it’s nice to use a slightly chunkier cotton jersey that isn’t quite so soft and doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s something you should only wear to bed.
Most interesting. Particularly pertinent is the interviewer’s knowledge of transpacific styles and makers. Made for a truly cosmopolitan discussion. Not the usual: “Uh-uh, and what do you think is ahead for tweed?” Mr. Cho’s casual sophistication really came through here. Also, dare I say, this interview gives one hope for the future.
Zoe very astutely brought up Mark’s video series through instagram which has been a favorite for so many. He has immense knowledge and listening to him talk about clothes is mesmerizing. I once met him at the Drake’s HQ in London not knowing it was him, only to realize after the case my blunder. He was incredibly kind and helpful all the same. A brilliant man with a keen sartorial eye — awesome interview!
“You cannot control most things in the world but it is comforting to know that your own dress and appearance is your own domain within which you can do as you wish. ”
Yes. And yes:
“People were already looking for something new and the practical, unfussy nature of Ivy Style is particularly relevant right now.”
The first point undergirds everything this (Ivy-Style.com) and other clothing-related forums are about. Of all the things in life we (I’ll speak on behalf of men) cannot control — unpredictable events and fickle partners and mercurial interactions — our appearance, including clothing, is among the things we can decide and control. “How you look, smell, and sound”– largely up to you. Unlike a lot of other stuff.
Agreed, An interesting interview. Mr. Cho seems like he’d be fun to sit down and chew the sartorial fat with for a few hours. While I’ll be teaching asynchronously online this fall, and making weekly videos to upload to the related course pages, I cannot wait to get back into similar practical, unfussy albeit tailored clothing four or five days a week for online office hours, various meetings, and video production. But, vapid popinjay that I am, it’s really all about the clothes. I also see either another couple of Mercer shirt orders in the near future, or perhaps J. Press, come to think of it.
I’ve watched several of his videos and enjoyed them a lot. Like Sid Mashburn, he really knows his stuff and has great taste, but is not pissy about it.
I like the sports jacket in the cover photo. The shoulders look very good.
I wish that there were an Armoury branch in the SF Bay Area.
The nearest retailer which carried Ring Jacket was Khaki’s of
Carmel who dropped the line a few years ago. Their selection
was limited to models that ran so small that the 44R- my size,
wouldn’t even close. I understand that the Armory also carries
models for those of us who descend from Euopean peasant stock.
Mr. Cho and his colleagues do have a good eye for quality. I have tried on a Ring jacket at a local retailer and was impressed with quality and overall fit but did not purchase. The Armoury also offers Tailor Caid from Japan and if I had reason to travel to NYC regularly, I would stop in and get fitted.
I hope he starts carrying FE Castleberry – now that’s Trad!