In the past week I have been in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai – the images here are from the Beijing launch of our Permanent Style 2015 book at the menswear store Brio.
George at Brio put on a nice display for the book, including several pieces featured in it (Bemer shoes and Begg scarves) and a couple of looks styled after the images of my travelling outfit, my Langa suit (below) and Tommaso C in Florence.
There was a young, enthusiastic crowd of guys, all of whom wanted their books signed. Beijing is still very much a nascent market, but as in every city there are men interested in tailoring, often with exposure through education or work to Europe, and whose interest in European craft has been fuelled by the internet.
Shanghai, despite its European feel and tailoring heritage, has no greater presence of crafted menswear – there is also no focus like Brio, although the pop-up store GMT-London got a decent response and I spoke to two others planning interesting stores in this area.
China is still ruled by brands and fast fashion, and all the ‘tailors’ suggested to me are more young designers who happen to like suits and have big followings on WeChat. Indeed, such has been the power of social media in China that stories of guys launching loafers or sunglasses companies overnight – and reaching big markets – are commonplace.
The depressing side of this is rising commercialism. It is entirely accepted that all big social media names take money to feature brands – it’s as bad as magazines in the west, with the added problem that there is no advertising on social media, so the only outlet is (undeclared) promotional posts.
As one PR described it, not only do writers expect expenses paid in return for coverage, but they require ‘spending money’ for every appointment. Prominent reporters can make a lot of cash on the side.
The only positive news comes from the tailors and shoemakers that now visit China, who report that the Chinese are engaging with bespoke faster than any other newly rich generation. It is obviously a generalisation, but everyone says the same: the Chinese are keen to learn, value knowledge highly, and quickly understand every aspect of the process.
The numbers are small, but perhaps the future is bright.
Brio launched at the beginning of the year and stocks a good range of shoes and clothing including Stefano Bemer, Talarico and Dalcuore. More on them next week.
BOOK UPDATE: Many thanks to those that have bought so far, it has been great to see. And thanks for the comments on the book itself. The US copies are now all in and shipping out to those that have ordered. Paul Stuart will have them on the shop floor today, and shops that have sold out (Kevin Seah, Vitale Barberis, Double Monk) are now receiving new shipments
How was HK, Simon? I would be interested to hear your insights on the tailoring there with your experience now (as I’m sure your perspective will have changed from your earlier posts in the early days of the site).
I’m a big fan of WW Chan and have had some good results with Lee Barron also.
I’m afraid I’m unlikely to try the HK tailors again… I do like Chan in HK though.
Most of the day was spent hanging out at the Armoury…
Are you planning book signing in london?
Hopefully, yes. Trying to organise it now
Simon, it will be interesting to see how that style of dress takes off in China. The notorious humidity must make it difficult though. Quality is nothing new to the Chinese, but perhaps it got lost somewhere in the political climate.
Kilgour set up a factory there (about 15 yrs ago) and trained the local workforce to make their MTM suits. The quality was very good. Is it still operating?
China has a history of exquisite workmanship. A few centuries ago it was European artisans who were trying to copy Chinese artefacts of all types. Sadly that tradition was thoroughly trashed during the course of the second half of the twentieth century and I’m not sure that modern-day Chinese society really encourages the kind of patience necessary to rediscover it – aesthetic appreciation is not really very prevalent in China now, even the Art market is more driven by money than connoisseurship. It does survive more in Taiwan and Hong kong, however – with the Armoury at the forefront of that. Brio is certainly also an example of a shop focusing on quality and educating its customers. Good luck to them!
p.s. Simon – good to bump into you in A & S ten days ago or so!
Cheers Jason, you too. Shang Xia (owned by Hermes) is an interesting example of the growth in Chinese appreciation for craft by the way
I received my book (No.638) yesterday from The Hanger Project. It’s a lovely piece and I shall enjoy browsing through it!
has the book sold out Simon?
Nope, sold around half so far
following up further to your comment to Orwain Jones , considering many buy in HK from the likes of Raja Fashions , Panjab House etc to get affordable ‘bespoke’ / MTM what would you instead recommend ?
Any names on the MTM, RTW you could suggest ?
@Rabster – not wishing to speak for Simon, but I suspect his advice will be (as it has for many years) save up a little more and go to Graham Browne for a true bespoke suit for just in excess of £1000.
In London yes…
Is it possible to get the last book in the run?
We’re considering what to do with special numbers. Perhaps a competition?
A competition is ofcourse always a good idea, but the chances of me winning are slim. Keep us posted on what you decide to do. Otherwise, I’d happily take book 2000 please, thanks
Hi Simon, as I might of planted the seed re. the numbering and signing perhaps I could claim it (after having paid said price), of course the possessor of number one possibly has the best issue…it would be interesting to know who it might be (my money is on Mac!).
Not me, Stephen! Maybe it’s the big man himself…
Are you attending the G & G event with Camps de Luca,next week?
You mean in London last night?