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.