How the West was worn

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2012, 12:00am

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Architect and interior designer Jason Schlabach used to shun the working boots he had to wear growing up in a farm in Ohio, but now that he's based in Hong Kong, he'd go to great lengths to get his hands on a pair.

'My style is inescapably American,' says Schlabach. 'The further I move away from the US, the more American I get. I don't think I ever owned a pair of American-built shoes until I moved here, and now I'm all about the Aldens.'

His staples include a good pair of chinos, paired with leather boots and Oxford shirts.

'For me it's a mix of high and low. I wear my J Crew chinos and Uniqlo shirts with the more high-fashion stuff,' he says.

Some of his favourite pieces include wool jackets from Parisian label A.P.C. and a vintage Burberry trench coat.

Schlabach also likes attention to detail. Since he bought his first pair of custom-made Aldens a year ago, he has been hooked on the bespoke service. 'I met the brand rep at a trunk show. They didn't have the colour I wanted for this style, so the factory rushed the first pair off the line for me,' he recalls. 'It's nice getting personal attention.'

He's since had more shoes made at Tassels, and suits created by veteran Peter Lee of Lee Baron, one of the city's top tailors.

'It's different in every way. I came out of Lee Baron and told my friends that I was never going to buy off the rack again,' says Schlabach. 'The beginning of getting a garment is not just picking and comparing but talking about what you want and want to look like.'

Accessories are the one area that has Schlabach shopping for designer brands. His bow tie choices are from the likes of Ralph Lauren, Jil Sander and Marc Jacobs.

He also tried his own hand at accessories, making leather strap bracelets for himself during a recent leather workshop he attended in Hong Kong.

A big fan of bespoke craftsmanship, Schlabach also has a thing for nostalgia.

'I like the idea of fitting into a previous generation. It's not that I want to look like I came from the '60s, but I like being part of an evolution of a cool legacy rather than inventing a new look for myself every five years,' he explains.

A fan of retro eyewear, one of his favourite shops is Woo Ping Optical in North Point, where he's already bought more than half a dozen pairs.

'They are handmade, no-name Japanese brands. The shop is a well-known secret. Every time someone commented on my glasses, they'd say, 'Oh, Woo Ping, right?' So I decided I had to pay them a visit.'

And while he's got an eye for vintage style, Schlabach keeps a close one on streetwear trends, too.

'I really take note of it. I'm kind of an internet addict. I checked my Google reader this morning, and there were over 100 street-style photos. There's a lot that I look at but I keep a bit of a distance from it,' he says. 'I'm fascinated by brands such as Rick Owens and Raf Simons, but they're not really what I'd wear.'

Schlabach says the key to putting together an outfit is contrast.

'I start with one thing that I want to wear, be it shoes or a tie. From there, I'll just build contrast in texture or colours.'

For him, clothing is a language to communicate to others about himself, and he tries to keep the message deliberate.

'I've concentrated more on using basics combined into interesting and balanced outfits rather than splurging on unique pieces that don't fit into my wardrobe,' he says. 'My aim is for a consistent personal style rather than have people remembering any specific item.'