What makes a well-dressed man?

CULTURE VULTURE - Therese Jamora-Garceau (The Philippine Star) - November 27, 2013 - 12:00am

As the impeccably turned-out star of The Great Gatsby, Leonardo Di Caprio knows a thing or two about being well-dressed. Shortly after playing the role, Di Caprio visited Hong Kong and one of his stops was Ascot Chang, bespoke shirt and suit makers since 1953.

“Leonardo di Caprio came in to order from us a few months ago,” recalls Tony Chang, managing director of Ascot Chang. “We made shirts for him and it was such a good experience.”

Ascot Chang, which has also made shirts for George Bush and various Hong Kong celebrities, partnered with Rustan’s and recently opened boutiques in Rustan’s Makati, Rustan’s Shangri-La Plaza, and Makati Shangri-La Hotel that offer both bespoke services and men’s ready to wear.

Tony, who’s the son of the founder Ascot Chang, inaugurated the stores together with son Justin and cousin Lincoln Chang. They came in their dapper best, and talked about what it takes to be a truly stylish man in these fashion-fickle times.

PHILIPPINE STAR: In your opinion, what makes a man well-dressed?

JUSTIN CHANG: I think fit is probably one of the most important things. We always say no matter how beautiful the fabric, color, or how well made the suit, fit goes a long way in making someone look well-dressed.

TONY CHANG: If the fit is not there, for example at the shoulder line, then the shirt, the suit will crumple, and you cannot define him as well-dressed.

How do you distinguish a well-fitted suit from an ill-fitting one?

T: We have a very simple guideline: the way the garment falls should be nice and natural and clean-looking. If the shoulder’s too big or the fabric gathers somewhere, then that’s not right.

What are the essentials that a well-dressed man must have in his wardrobe?

J: A blue suit and a white shirt because those are the most flexible options that a guy can own. A white shirt can go with any color suit and tie, and a blue suit you can wear with brown or black shoes and almost any color shirt. So those are the staples of the men’s wardrobe.

If you want to expand a bit more then every guy should have one or two blue suits and gray suits, white shirts and some blue shirts. That already is a good start.

What some big trends in menswear?

T: Nowadays customers ask for a more tapered, slim fit. I have suits I had made five years ago; when I put them on now, how come they look one or two sizes too big? These are perceptions of the style. Nowadays some younger people want shorter pants, to the extent of Lincoln’s very short pants, because they wear a fancy pair of socks and want to expose it. People are also showing more cuffs — old school was always a quarter inch, but nowadays half or three-quarters of an inch.

How would you introduce a new or younger client to bespoke tailoring?

T: Some people come in because of the fit — they cannot buy because they’re too tall, short, round, or their collar’s too big. Others because they have their eye on some fabric or style, for example they love a collar from past seasons that’s not in style anymore. So we have all these different styles and fabric that can satisfy them. For somebody who does not have experience, we ask, “Is there something you want but cannot get?” We can custom make it for you.

How long does it take to make a suit, from first measure to delivery, and what are the steps?

T: For suits it usually takes a few more fittings, so normally we do a basted fitting, then a forward fitting, where the suit is half complete, and then we finish the suit — usually two fittings. Special requests might require another fitting to define the details.

You’re based in Hong Kong. Do you have tailors from Savile Row?

T: We categorize ourselves as Shanghainese tailors. The term “Shanghainese tailor” comes from the 1920s and ’30s, when Shanghai was already an international port city. Old Shanghai had British, French, German concessions. In those days, so many foreigners lived there and naturally would bring in their requirements of dressing. For British gentlemen who wanted a suit made, it was not practical to go all the way to England to buy suits, so this knowhow came to Shanghai through British tailors. We learned the craftsmanship. I would say the majority is British tailors’ knowhow that dictated Shanghai tailors. The workmanship is very similar to British Savile Row tailors.

So when these Shanghainese tailors migrated to Hong Kong in the ’40s, ’50s — my father migrated in 1949 — they started training people in Hong Kong to do the same work.

What about your ready-to-wear, does it bear a certain Ascot Chang design signature?

T: Working with New York designer Michael Macko, we have a direction.

J: We generally have a direction every season where we do look at the marketplace and see what colors are in trend and what the silhouette is, but wth every season we try our best to mix and match different colors and texture that I think is quite distinctive to us, and try to use fabrics that we find from Italian mills or sometimes British mills that generally have a bit more texture to them so there’s a bit more depth to the fabric.

Big checks and plaid suits are very popular at the moment. The three-piece suit with double-breasted vest is popular again. And pinstripes are always in.

T: We have the plaid, the checks, where Michael Macko put together classic suits with interesting ties, textured ties or textured shirts to bring out the classic side of mix and match.

J: We like to describe it as “classics with a twist,” and have something that’s a little different.

* * *

Ascot Chang is now available at Rustan’s Makati, Rustan’s Shangri-La Plaza, and Makati Shangri-La Hotel.



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