Hong Kong-Based The Armoury Brings Authentic Italian Tailoring Around the World
There are rules to dressing well and they’re different for men and women, and unfortunately for men living in this world of ready-to-wear’s homogenized sizes, the biggest challenge is picking the right clothes for your body shape. Simply put, it comes down to fit. Fit is what makes a man in a good pair of jeans and a shirt look more dapper than someone in an ill-fitting suit. And when it comes to suits and trousers, everything gets trickier. A tight waist easily emphasizes a big midsection; a slightly loose suit instantly appears sloppy; small imperfections look like a big deal. This is why the most stylish (and wisest) of men opt to have made-to-measure pieces in their wardrobe. While the world thrives on having everything in an instant, the art of made-to-measure will always be the sine qua non of every gentleman’s sartorial journey. Every tailor banks on this.
The Armoury has already made its mark as a hub for made-to-measure menswear in key cities around the world. When Hong Kong-based owners Alan See, Jake Grantham, and Mark Cho launched the company in 2010 in pursuit of making “clothing with substance,” they knew they only wanted to associate themselves with artisanal makers who are experts in their craft. “There is more focus on craftsmanship with made-to-measure,” says Jake. “It’s taking a better view on men’s wear. It’s a move away from a homogenous product. The focus is on craftsmanship and the people behind it.”
The Armoury’s Jake Grantham (left) and and Alan See
The people behind it are indeed true artisans, including Italian master tailor Orazio Luciano, known for his signature hand-stitched jackets with no shoulder padding, Salvatore Ambrosi of the Ambrosi family, known for its legacy of making trousers for the most respected tailoring houses in Italy, and Antonio Liverano, who has 60 years of tailoring experience under his belt and is considered as one of Italy’s greatest tailors. They shuttle between New York, Hong Kong, and Italy regularly to take measurements of clients themselves and supervise fittings. In key cities where they have yet to have an actual shop, they hold pop-up made-to-measure shops throughout the year. In Manila, for instance, The Armoury collaborated with men’s specialty clothing retailer Signet to provide their service to the country’s most discerning men.
The process is simple. The artisans head to Manila to meet clients and take their measurements, go to Italy to have the suits and trousers tailored, head back to Manila after a couple of months for fittings with the clients, head back to the workshop to adjust the pieces, and then finally have the garments shipped to Manila. “We mostly do made-to-measure,” explains Alan. “We put you in a fitting garment. We tweak according to your body, taking into consideration the way your shoulders fall, irregularities like your posture, balance of your shoulders, etcetera. We take a picture of your posture. We put you in a fitting jacket and modify accordingly.”
Trouser maker Salvatore Ambrosi, who has been working with The Armoury for the many years, puts emphasis on men’s bottoms. “Many people don’t think about the trousers but it’s the most important part. It’s something you can’t take off when you’re already out and it doesn’t fit you well,” he says, laughing. Most RTW trousers only fit in the waist. The rest are baggy or ill-fitting. He travels every month to cities around the world just to take measurements before heading back to his workshop in Naples.
Fourth-generation trousermaker Salvatore Ambrosi
Taking measurements, they say, is the easy part, only taking around 15 minutes. The more crucial aspect is choosing everything else—from the fabric to the details of the suit. “It’s only difficult because we have a lot, and I mean a lot, of options,” adds Jake. When it comes to the suit’s style, however, The Armoury gravitates toward the Neapolitan style—of course given the suits are cut, stitched, and assembled entirely in Naples, the Italian city whose genius in craftsmanship has earned it its own suit classification: the Neapolitan tailoring. What sets it apart is how it oozes with Italian nonchalance. Its construction features no shoulder padding, a relatively rich chest with a bit of chest drape, fitted hips, a rich waist, a pleated sleeve head, and a three-button that rolls into two. “This style is softer, a bit on the messier side. It’s younger in a sense that it’s edgier and softly-tailored, as opposed to the British style that’s more structured and aesthetically more traditional,” explains Jake. “It’s very Italian, you see. In Naples, you see men on their Vespas wearing the suit and you see they made it that way, as in relaxed-formal, to adapt to their lifestyle.”
It is this same spirit that The Armoury hopes to impart to clients—a style that goes with the attitude of making people at ease and being naturally elegant. “Most bespoke or custom processes fall in the same thing—measuring, making the clothes, fitting, wearing. As for us it’s having customers discover their own style. A lot of people wear suits because they have to, not necessarily because they love to,” says Alan, “but suits should be fun, jackets should be fun. It should be part of who you are. So part of our process is engaging in conversation, getting a feel of who the client is, how he is, and figuring how to bring a suit to fit his lifestyle.”
Signet, Shangri-La at the Fort
This story was originally published in the October 2014 issue of Esquire.