Founded six years ago in Hong Kong by Mark Cho and Alan See and now with two stores in Hong Kong and one in lower Manhattan, The Armoury has emerged as a renowned international haberdashery. The shop, which also has its own online store, specializes in classic styling and promotes “quality craftsmanship, outstanding design, and timeless style” with a carefully curated arrangement of brands from all over the world.
Cho, who says he has been obsessed with tailoring since he was 16, recently spoke to me about this remarkable independent store (pictures show the New York shop), which is a definite must-visit for the well-dressed man.
What’s The Armoury’s specialty?
The store is primarily about tailored clothing, both as ready-to-wear and custom. We also cover other categories related to classic style, such as shoes, shirts, ties, etc. We call what we do “International Classic,” because rather than stick to the standard Italian and English choices, we get out there and find other craftsmen or manufacturers doing amazing things in the classic style, but not necessarily with a wide international audience.
What are your bestsellers?
Over the years, our bestsellers have become the products that we put a lot of time into developing. We have very good relationships with some of our suppliers and so we get to try things and produce things that other people might not have access to.
Our Ascot Chang x The Armoury polo shirts came from the idea of doing a polo shirt, but constructed with traditional dress shirt techniques rather than knitwear techniques. We wanted to have a polo shirt that could sit nicely underneath a jacket or be worn casually on its own.
Our Ring Jacket x The Armoury Model 3 is one of the best tailored jackets on the market at its price point. Made with Ring Jacket, our friends in Osaka, Japan, it’s a signature The Armoury piece that draws on all the best lessons we learned from our collaborating tailors. It’s so good, we actually have Japanese customers flying from Tokyo to Hong Kong to pick this piece up from us.
Who is your customer?
We have two types. We have people new to tailoring who want some guidance and are just starting to build a wardrobe. We try to provide as much education as possible and are always happy to show people our take on “the rules.” Then, we have the more mature customer who has seen a lot and knows we can offer something unique and special through our exclusive craftsmen and our own sourcing. Ultimately, our customers are guys who enjoy clothing.
What sets the store apart?
For our ready-to-wear, almost everything we do is exclusive to us. We work with our suppliers to create really unique things in the market. We are not trend driven and we think a lot of tailoring has gone in the wrong direction in terms of fit and attitude (too tight and too flashy), so our taste sets our ready-to-wear apart.
We also work with a roster of great craftsmen from around the world doing amazing, custom products, and who are very small operations with very limited production.
What’s the breakdown of tailored versus casual and where do you see menswear going in the next few seasons?
For us, tailored is just indispensable. I like my casual gear maybe after work and on Sundays, but otherwise, there’s always some combination of tailored clothing that I prefer to wear for most of the week; suits some days, sport jackets other days. We are trying to encourage a mindset of not treating tailoring like its super precious. It’s better to be comfortable and feel natural in your clothes and part of it is not obsessing too much over what you’re wearing throughout the day.
I don’t really have a comment on where it’s going, it’s always been in the same place for me. Wear great clothes, stay comfortable, feel natural and look good.
Tell me about your bespoke services and other special services.
We are huge supporters of real craft. We work with a roster of about 12 different craftsmen from around the world dealing in very particular niches of product. For instance, we have bespoke Florentine suiting, bespoke Milanese suiting, bespoke Japanese glasses, bespoke Japanese briefcases, etc. We fly these craftspeople into our store on a regular basis to see our customers and take orders. What they offer is truly one-of-a-kind.
We also offer a great deal of custom products in-house, so there’s always something available for everybody. Custom stingray watchstraps, custom handmade Neapolitan shirts, and so on.
What makes for a great suit?
There are some basic things as a minimum: horsehair canvas for structure in the chest. At least the collars attached by hand if not more components. Good cloth, not super-soft and flimsy, but something with a bit of heft and body to it. Beyond that, tailored clothing should have a good, defined shape. All those internal layers that go into the making of a tailored garment have to cover a multitude of sins.
What is the price range in the store?
We start at $1,500 for a two piece ready-to-wear suit from Ring Jacket and go up to $7,700 for a two piece bespoke suit from Liverano.
What pieces/brands are you most excited to carry?
Personally my favorites and the ones I wear the most are: Ring Jacket (because I worked so long on our collabs and special models with them), Liverano (because Antonio Liverano is one of my heroes), and Drake’s. I’m also really pleased with our knitwear range. We do our in-house knitwear in Scotland for the heavier stuff and we work with Caruso in Italy for the really beautiful, refined stuff.
How do you find the brands that you stock?
Every way possible. Recommendations, word-of-mouth, keeping my eyes peeled when I’m on the road and just asking people all the time.
What’s the “secret” of successful retailing today?
Love the product and love the customer. Don’t just try and shove things through the cash register, try to create a relationship with the customer, and really help them get something out of their clothes and their purchases.