Last month we had a book launch at the Brio menswear store in Beijing. It’s worth running through a few more details of the shop – because the stock is interesting, and because it is part of a pleasing trend in more specialist tailoring and craft stores opening.
Brio was founded by George Wang, an ex-banker who used to work in Hong Kong. An active Style Forum member, he regularly travelled to Italy to have bespoke suits made. George left the industry in 2008 and, like so many ex-bankers I hear from around the world, decided to pursue his dreams in menswear. The shop, Brio, opened in Beijing in January this year.
Brio is slightly more high-end, on average, that other stores such as the Armoury. Where the Armoury has both Carmina and Saint Crispin’s shoes, for example, Brio stocks Edward Green and Stefano Bemer; it lacks more of the ‘entry-level’ shoe or suit.
In shirts, Brio has Avino and G. Inglese. Avino does a good functional Neapolitan shirt: hand-inserted sleeves, collar and shoulder seam, but machine elsewhere; it makes Liverano’s shirts among others. The other brand, Inglese, is a big step up. Everything is done by hand (though of course often reinforced by machine) – as above plus the side seams, bottom edge and sleeve gauntlet. There is also decorative pick stitching around the collar, shoulder seam and gauntlet.
George has a range of Rota trousers, and being Rota has been able to specify some personal aspects to the make and carry them in some interesting cloths: there are two shades of washed denim among the whites, creams and browns.
The tailoring is by Dalcuore, a Neapolitan house founded in the 1960s that does both RTW and bespoke. Dalcuore has done a few bespoke trips to Beijing already (pictured below) but Brio also carries a good range of their RTW jackets with unfinished sleeves that can be finished in-house.
In fact Brio’s on-site tailor might be one of the smartest things about the shop, at least for the Chinese market. It means George can deal with any further alterations on things made by visiting tailors (such as Dalcuore and Ambrosi) and quickly alter anything else for customers that aren’t prepared to wait for the full bespoke experience.
Other stock includes Schiatti casual jackets, Cappelli ties, Sozzi socks, Liverano scarves and Talarico umbrellas. The umbrellas are all imported personally by the guys when they travel – like many things, including Bemer’s wooden shoeboxes, getting such things into China is not easy.
There are also Martinenghi bags (which I wasn’t such a fan of) and Giacometti hiking boots (also labelled under Walles, or Marmolada).
It’s early days for Brio and for the Beijing audience in general. Although keen, most of the customers are young enthusiasts rather than bigger spenders.
But these things can change remarkably quickly. I remember fondly walking into Leffot in New York the week it opened, and a colleague swearing to me no one in NY would spend 1000s of dollars on shoe brands without advertising or big branding. I’ve managed to visit Steven at Leffot every year since around the same time, and it’s wonderful to see how wrong my colleague was.
When I visited, trouser maker Salvatore Ambrosi was there for his second visit to the store; Dalcuore had just left; and Ann Ryley from Begg had been a couple of months earlier. It’s early days, as I say; but the signs are good.