Now Reading
Mark Cho on The Armoury Arcade and Menswear

Mark Cho on The Armoury Arcade and Menswear

Entrepreneur and suit savant Mark Cho explains how his new venture, The Armoury Arcade, is transforming menswear.

The time-honoured traditions of tailoring have long carried connotations of exclusivity, rigidity and elitism. These undertones may have contributed to the decline of Savile Row, once the go-to destination for dressing the political and social elite and the aspirants thereof. Yet although this once-venerable London institution is losing its shine, does that mean tailoring is fading away?

Mark Cho

According to Mark Cho, Hong Kong entrepreneur and co-founder of tailoring brand The Armoury, the answer is a resounding no. He compares tailoring to a timeless tool such as a pen or pencil, and says there are good reasons why it’s remained virtually unchanged for decades. “It’s one of those rare things that is already perfect in its essence.”

Ah, the classic suit. A symbol of conformity and tradition, worn by men who seek to blend in rather than stand out. But nestled within Cho’s latest creation, The Armoury Arcade, there lies a touch of rebellion in the world of tailoring. This is no stuffy establishment modelled after its London counterpart, Burlington Arcade. No, it serves as a haven for tailoring enthusiasts, curious onlookers and even those seeking a quick adjustment or coffee break in a schedule. The Armoury Arcade is an upscale social club with no membership requirements, one that happens to be driven by retail.

Entrance to The Armoury flagship

“A lot of people think The Armoury Arcade is a gentlemen’s space,” Cho tells me, “But it’s not. I just filled the place with brands I have a personal connection with, which happen to be menswear brands. But really, my dream is to have a space for people who want somewhere quiet and sophisticated, something that feels endearing, classic and timeless.” And it’s hard to think of a better home for such a concept than the Pedder Building, a pre-second-world war edifice in Central district.

Ascending to the fifth floor, I encounter the grand lofty arches and ceilings that seem to mock my presence. The interior, designed by the talented Katherine Wong, brings warmth with brass and copper accents, deep green and navy hues, and cosy coco-mat flooring. My gaze is immediately drawn to The Armoury flagship on my right, a haven of hidden treasures and trinkets. Inside, the finest fabrics, suits, shirts, trousers, canes and ties await. As I enter, Cho is welcoming Noriyuki Ueki from Sartoria Ciccio as a guest tailor for the day’s appointments at The Armoury. A meeting of masters in this temple of sartorial excellence.

Corridors in The Arcade are illuminated by lofty, arched windows

I make my way through the space, brushing my hand along wools, silks and cashmere – and, curiously, my eye is drawn to a few golden lighters laid out on display. “These are vintage Dunhill,” Cho tells me. “They’re fully restored and some date back to the ’70s.” He adds that The Armoury’s decision to sell them is the result of pure serendipity, “I became friendly with this guy who was an English teacher in Hong Kong, who was restoring these lighters in his free time, and he asked me to find these babies new owners.” On the walls hang some of Cho’s collection of black-and-white photographs, a craft he dabbles in himself.

Pedder Building exterior

We then make our way to the first pop-up space, which is currently occupied by Fox Brothers of Wellington, a Somerset-based clothmaker founded in 1772 that, says Cho, was “the original creator of flannel”. As expected, there are lots of shirts, scarves, cashmere and one of the most gorgeous dressing gowns I’ve ever laid eyes on.

In between these pop-up spaces is the atrium, which opens to floor-to-ceiling arched windows. “It was important to me that our customers and visitors walk along the windows,” Cho says as he leads me past the JK on the 5th bar, where visitors can enjoy a glass of Aperol (or a cup of tea for those above daytime drinking) between tailoring appointments. As my exploration goes on, it becomes even clearer that The Arcade is much more than a retail space. On the walls, I see artworks drawn by Mr Slowboy, known for his quirky menswear-themed illustrations.

The Arcade is also home to the Phillips Perpetual Hong Kong outpost, a haven for those on a hunt for rare watches (which isn’t surprising, given that Cho himself is an avid watch collector), though it’s being renovated at the time of my visit.

See Also

Mark Cho in The Study, above

As well as this treasury of priceless watches, which today is hidden beneath tarps, there’s also The Study – but before we enter the room itself, Cho points out a small enclave in the foyer housing an impressive collection of cigars, among them several boxes of rare vintage smokes that Cho says, were consigned by “a kind gentleman”.

“I like to smoke when I work,” he says, “which is why The Study is also a cigar lounge.” And, as we take our seats, he reminisces about the business. “It’s been nearly 14 years since The Armoury first opened. We started as a tailoring shop and eventually moved our expertise in-house. Our attitude towards clothing remains unique in the marketplace: we respect the established aesthetic canons of tailoring and remix them in new ways, while always emphasising functionality.” Suits, he says, originate from military uniforms, so they imply complete freedom of movement (hence when someone like the prize fighter Conor McGregor attempts to accentuate his muscular frame by wearing an extremely tight suit, it not only appears gauche but defeats the purpose altogether).

The Study also doubles as an elegant cigar lounge

But how does someone entirely unfamiliar with tailoring begin their sartorial journey? “Depending on what you do, it would make sense to start with a suit,” says Cho. “At the same time, I always recommend our line of entry products (of which I wear a ton). It’s The Armoury by Ring Jacket. Even in that category, there are a lot of different styles.” He then explains how simple it is to build a starter menswear wardrobe. “If you think about it, you just need a white shirt, blue jacket, grey trousers, chinos, a polo shirt and a pair of loafers.” It’s not, however, a sales pitch. “We’re not trying to push a certain product,” he says, “but rather help the people who come here find their style.”

Sartorial refinement is a form of conformity. Yet in rare moments, we encounter a soul who refuses to be confined by societal expectations and dares to make menswear a judgement-free realm. Is the emergence of a modern Savile Row on the horizon? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: tradition can no longer stifle creativity and individuality in the realm of tailoring.

Source: Prestige Online

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Copyright © MetaMedia™ Capital Inc, All right reserved

Scroll To Top