Three men's fashion start-ups made in Hong Kong
Online and 3D measuring are bringing tailoring in Hong Kong up to date
Since the 1950s, many Hong Kong businessmen have depended on the city's multitude of custom tailors to create their working wardrobes. More recently, however, a host of style-conscious, homegrown tailoring brands are bringing fierce competition to the scene.
Milk Shirts, which was launched in 2012 by London College of Fashion graduate Sheetal Pritmani, is the epitome of a 21st century business: it cuts out the tailor completely and is mostly based online. It specialises in just one item that Pritmani calls the "holy grail" of men's fashion - the white shirt. "I'd been to tailors in Hong Kong, but I found it a very hectic experience, so the idea of taking the traditional experience and modernising it and taking it online fascinated me. I wanted to create something that was more private, personalised, unique and user-friendly," she says.
Initially Milk Shirts offered only classic white shirts, available in two fits (classic or slim) from the ready-to-wear collection or made to measure. For the latter, customers are required to submit six essential body measurements which are then stored in the system for future orders (Pritmani says they have a 95 per cent success rate with fit). Orders are completed in 10 to 12 days.
Unlike many local tailors that use workshops across the border, Milk's are made in Hong Kong from start to finish at a small, family-run workshop that dates back almost 50 years. While many of the 20 plus tailors trained in Hong Kong and Shanghai, Pritmani says they have moved with the times and adopted a more fashionable approach to suit the modern customer.
"While the tailors respect and appreciate traditional techniques, they build upon that by tweaking each piece where necessary - such as collars and cuffs - to introduce more innovations without compromising quality," she says.
In the past year, Milk Shirts have expanded their offerings to include over 19 styles, 35 fabric options and new colours such as blue, pink and purple.
Pritmani has also opened a showroom for customers to view the product in person, although the majority of orders still come from the web.
"Everyone is so keen on mobile, it's the future of shopping. Once they've tried a couple of shirts they are very loyal," she says. milkshirts.com
James England, founded by British native David James England in 2012, combines 1920s British tailoring with "Made in Hong Kong" craftsmanship.
"After a decade working at the catwalk and couture level of fashion I decided it was time for a break, so I looked for opportunities in Asia," says England, who learned his craft with greats such as Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. "I fell in love with Hong Kong and decided to stay and launch a designer men's fashion label based and made here.
England says that Hong Kong has the same level of tailoring expertise as fashion powerhouses New York, Milan and London - it's just overshadowed by "shops that offer cheap tailoring because they send everything to Chinese factories".
"I want to change this," he says.
England's line of ready-to-wear is made entirely in town under the watchful eye of the city's master tailors and ateliers. The brand's core product is the shirting, which also come in sets. Designed for men on the go, each set includes three shirt styles made from the same fabric, with additional add-ons to change the look from detachable collars and cuffs, allowing for up to 800 combinations. Other essentials are thrown in, such as boxer shorts and ties. This season England plans to add trousers, shorts and jackets to the collection.
"Men's fashion is coming out of a long lasting heritage trend that has massively educated men about quality and craftsmanship of the past. They are moving away from disposable fashion and demand more, want more, expect more. Hong Kong offers this," he says. jamesengland.eu
Hong Kong-based Iter Itineris, which recently opened a boutique in Wan Chai, is also more fashion-driven. The brand's founder, Marco Vedovato, initially moved to Hong Kong to work with Italian brand Armani.
"During my time there I was travelling in and out of the city. I was on the move all of the time and it inspired me to create a line for the travelling man," he says.
The brand appeals to the local jetsetter with its easy-to-wear essentials, including vests and blazers which come in 100 per cent washed silk to create a look that is light and slouchy, yet tailored.
Although the brand uses Japanese fabrics and Italian construction, some items are catered to the Asian customer.
"The length of the arms and legs tends to be a challenge for Asian body types so for blazers I have a style that accommodates that while keeping a European fit," says Vedovato. "We offer a more sophisticated fit and debonair look than other retailers. A lot of research is put into the process from selecting the yarn and designing the fabrics, detailing and finishes." iter-itineris.com
3D tailoring: a new dimension
Many of the city's tailors train for years to master the art of creating the perfect suit. At local menswear brand Gay Giano, however, tailors are being replaced by a new technology called the 3D Tailor Studio. Customers are measured using a hi-tech body scanner equipped with 14 infrared sensors that can take up to 120 measurements from a 10-second body scan (traditional measuring methods use only 20-25 points in comparison). This data is then used to create a pattern that promises the perfect fit. The 3D Tailor Studio is available at Gay Giano, shop G09, Regal Kowloon Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui gaygiano.com.