At Ponytail Journal we sometimes get the chance to cross paths with people who are so impassioned by their work that we are, in turn, compelled to take a snapshot. It was clear after meeting Mark Cho and Alan See, co-founders of The Armoury, that we had to take that snapshot not only of this enchanting world of menswear they have helped build upon, but the story behind it.
Mark and Alan’s Funnest Life.
Explain it like I’m five: what do you do?
Mark: I love classic menswear and spend most of my life selling, educating and developing classic menswear for my stores as well as operating the business itself.
Alan: Adults come in to my shop and then they leave knowing a bit more about how to look like one and hopefully look good doing it too.
What first brought you to the world of menswear?
Alan: I liked to talk too much to the tailors that I was getting suits and jackets from and coincidentally found friends who really loved doing that too!
Mark: When I was in high school, at 16, you no longer had to wear the school uniform, you could wear your own suit. My father always wore suits and I thought he looked great so I started looking into what wearing a suit actually involved. It was just down the rabbit hole from there, endlessly speaking to my father, asking people, reading (this was well before #menswear was a thing), etc.
I was and still am captivated by all the different things that go into the classic menswear look. There are endless rules, but if you learn some of them, you realize they are part of a whole culture. They define a very long developed and flattering aesthetic but also are reflective of history, art and craftsmanship
How did The Armoury carve a name for itself in the international domain of menswear? What pointers can you give to those trying to similarly establish their brands?
Mark: It was mostly a happy accident, I was very interested in classic menswear and wanted to be able to do something I was passionate about.
We wanted the store to stand apart from the usual men’s store in that it is not Italian or English focused, but much broader, drawing from great classic menswear suppliers from all around the world, such as France, Spain, Japan, USA, etc and also putting a much greater emphasis on craftsmanship and showing people what else is out there. Many of the brands we carry are almost exclusively represented by us or have never exported outside their home countries. We were first to move on a lot of things, such as shooting our own high quality photography, using Tumblr to promote ourselves, etc, it helped us generate a good following.
As for other people trying to establish their brands: be yourself and true to what makes you unique.
Alan: Find out what works and go hard at it.
What’s your favorite part of your work?
Mark: Developing a product, explaining and selling it to a customer and then seeing the customer enjoy the product and feel like it made a difference to them.
Alan: Helping someone transform – seeing someone gain so much confidence through us and changing into a different man.
What’s your favorite piece of clothing?
Mark: I love overcoats, a bit useless in Hong Kong but whatever.
Alan: In my wardrobe – my Liverano overcoat is something that keeps me warm, safe and I absolutely adore. Something that I can pass on to someone I’m sure. Outside my wardrobe – Vittorio de sica has the best dinner jacket with the most amazing silhouette and shape in Mister Max – hands down, no competition. Ugh!
Where are your hunting grounds for new menswear pieces (other than The Armoury of course..)?
Alan: Movies! So much inspiration from the most unexpected movies… the coats in fantastic beasts were great! The style in 50s and 60s European movies are amazing.
Mark: I try to get out and visit as many tailors as possible. I got into this because I love tailoring after all.
What was the last thing you googled?
Mark: Goatskin leather care. I just bought a great leather jacket from Real McCoys, wanted to see what people do to take care of them. Also, how to get the damn thing softer more quickly.
Alan: Snowboarding gear – almost time for hitting the slopes and a lot of my current gear are more than 10 years old! Nothing like a bit of worn and beaten clothing on the slopes, but can’t really get replacements for 10 year old goggle lenses and helmet straps!
What distracts you the most?
Alan: Everything… I have to admit I have a rather short attention span…
Mark: Computer games. It’s the only thing that fully distracts me from work so I try to play a bit every week if not every day.
What does the word “goodness” mean to you?
Mark: Presumably it’s one of those historically used idioms that’s related to “Oh my God” but with less religious weight? Kind of like how Goodspeed used to be Godspeed?
Alan: Goodness … is doing what is right even if it is in spite of oneselves!
Many thanks to our pals at The Armoury for their time to answer these.
Words and Images by Anne Berry.