The Perfect Fit: Clothier Mark Cho gives us the low-down on classic menswear

Gafencu's interview with Mark Cho

Mark Cho is the co-founder of classic menswear store The Armoury and co-owner of British retailer Drake’s. Having worked in commercial real estate in the UK and China for many years, Cho decided to pursue his passion for clothing after helping W.W. Chan & Sons Tailor with their London trunk shows.

Cho gives us the lowdown on the true meaning of classic menswear and the evolution of The Armoury in this exclusive online Q&A following our February 2018 print coverage.

Having cut your teeth in real estate, how did you wind up working in menswear?

I used to work in commercial real estate in the UK and China, and then about seven years ago I decided to pursue my passion for clothing.

I’ve been into classic, tailored clothing ever since I was a teen. The school I attended allowed students to switch from a uniform to a suit at age 16, so with that in mind I started investigating my options. Once I started peeling back the layers, I realised there were all these aesthetic and cultural rules that underscored classic menswear. I was instantly hooked.

What’s the idea behind The Armoury?

The tagline for The Armoury is “international classic artisanal clothiers”. A lot of people don’t realise that aside from the traditional British or Italian aesthetic, many other countries are making great classic clothing. We wanted to show the world that there’s great stuff in Spain, France and Japan as well as what you might expect from the more obvious tailoring regions.

Gafencu's interview with Mark Cho
Your style seems to be the epitome of classic. Do you follow fashion trends at all?

I typically stay within the realm of classic. I don’t buy overly designed clothing–it’s too trend-driven and ‘of the moment’. What I do appreciate about fashion, though, is that it’s a shared experience. It brings a group of people together for the sole reason that everyone is wearing the same thing, and I think that can be beautiful.

How did you come to co-own Drake’s?

I took over Drake’s in 2010. At the time, I had been purchasing ties from Drake’s to sell at The Armoury and W.W. Chan. The owner, Michael Drake, was looking to retire and he had no successor. He was starting to think about selling the company and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

In my opinion, Drake’s has the finest neckties on the market. I love the aesthetic – it’s British but draws from French and Italian influences when it comes to colour. I grew up in the UK, so naturally I have an affinity for all things British.

You’ve well versed in the history of tailoring in Hong Kong. Is it an industry that can survive here?

 I think there’s a viable future, but it will have to adapt. A lot of Hong Kong tailors have moved their productions to China. Unfortunately, Hong Kong has had a reputation of being a cheap and cheerful tailoring city for far too long, and they didn’t price in what it would take to keep the industry going for successive generations. It’s a real shame because the quality of Hong Kong tailoring is extremely good, and they’re quite cheap for what you get – perhaps too cheap. Many might not be able to afford taking on an apprentice. A lot of the good tailors are heading towards retirement with no guarantee that the next generation will take over.  

Gafencu's interview with Mark Cho

What’s the most valuable item in your closet?

The Armoury collaborated with Tokyo-based clothier Tailor CAID to create a new aesthetic, which doesn’t happen often because tailoring is such a mature thing. We set out to make something original, and what we ended up with was the Model 99 suit, which I actually wore for Gafencu’s photo shoot.

The Model 99 is all about drape, which means that the chest in the jacket doesn’t necessarily touch the body. It harks back to military uniforms and the idea that the chest should be fuller and a little more curved..

It’s probably my most interesting and valuable garment because it’s the summation of my experiences with getting to know a lot of different people over the years and being able to put all those ideas and influences into one garment.

Thank you.

Catch our main interview with Mark Cho in Gafencu magazine’s February 2018 print issue, out now!