Aah, the chinos; the material of many a joke over the past decades. These controversial, “He-vs-She” — a little shoutout to that Beijing exhibition on violence against women which was shut down before even opening up at the roaring political capital’s Gingko Space art gallery — dividing twill-fabric (originally produced in … China) cotton khaki pants have never left the hangers of many a male’s wardrobe…
Nevertheless, my fellow females, do not fear, menswear beacon Principle M is here. I personally believe there’s always a way to jazz up or season the nerdiest or most-reeking-of-despair looks with some zesty sexy rock appeal, so perhaps Principle M could shine a guiding light on this matter. Moreover, with winter rapidly sweeping through Mainland China, a little help in flannel layering never gave anyone a cold.
In sum, here’s a Sentimental Saturday blurb about one of my favored Beijing men’s tailoring and image consulting brands: Semi-handmade silk ties, tweed jackets and made-to-measure winter overcoats. Principle M.
Also visit www.principlem.com
Tripod in tricot
(I never saw any actual tricot lying around their studio, but just liked the way this read.) Some time ago, I sat down for a little chat with Principle M’s business brain (Minneapolis-born) Justin Kwan about the Chinese man’s sense of style and how they offer to help them get that made-to-measure tad extra. Having attended business school, spending some time at Beijing Language and Culture University (for some reason, we’ve all been there at one point or another), Kwan was already involved in the sole production of menswear design in China, subsequently sold in the United States, several years ago. Yet the big “Oprah AHA” moment came in 2012 when he decided to start focusing on not just producing but also selling within China itself.
Brainstorming away with several of Beijing’s menswear and tailoring hard-hitters, the idea slowly transformed into the lifestyle concept Principle M aims to portray in 2014. Kwan of course is not spending his hours in their Chaoyang District studio by himself. It’s a little tripod in there. (I may have just been speaking to the business brain here, but let’s not forget the two other people involved in the grand scheme of things: Dutch-bred Walter de Haan and designing expert Daniel.) The choice of Beijing was easily made: Shanghai is polished fashion-wise, its market is saturated like thickly woven cotton; yet the Beijing market remains under-served and rougher cut, from the styling perspective. Plus it’s still the capital of a country with a 1.4 billion population.
Through offering a wide range of menswear choices and topping it off with (the optional) personalized styling sessions, Kwan and associates aim to be compelling to the new Chinese man in a new way. Currently, they are using social media as platforms for both educational and promotional ends. By all means, finding a brand’s formula rhythm isn’t easy; like working with linen or creating a pattern or patiently rolling and pinning the lapels by hand, it takes much trial and error. One advantage of the tripod then is that it can easily pivot; from image consulting to perhaps a webshop focus to a tailoring function. All are possible.
Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the Bird’s Nest I’d say. But how to avoid becoming yet another fleeting fashion brand in this town?
(Granted, slightly much and not even what the “M” stands for by the way — that shall remain a mystery.) Finding a biz niche and setting up a venture in it that would cater to China’s newly emerging “golden collar” class (the new rich kids on the block, so to speak) may seem less-hindered and more open to success than trying to impress audiences by being the umpteenth female “artist” to wear a “plunging” neckline ( I know for a fact that lingerie designer Irene Lu has been irked by these “fashion statements” for years now). Yet figuring out just how to attract them, inspire them and fire up this interest in “what (not) to wear” is a whole different ball game. Principle M therefore not only created a made-to-measure line, but also boasts accessories (think bowties, pocket scarves and ties in natural fabrics) and ready-to-wear collections (think polo shirts with already-stiffened collars — even as a woman I cannot stand those floppy things). The brand is all about a sense of close-knit style.
And styling. Kwan and company aim to offer clients the full-on makeover, lifestyle-changing treatment. Styling through or with accessories is easier as merely one piece can raise an outfit up to its maximum potential or pull it down into borderline silliness –I’m sure we can all think of a few (self-imposed) examples here. Image consulting, from color-toning to the best lengths for you to wear — e.g. tall and lean: go for a three-piece; short: don’t go there at all — forms the key selling point. As Kwan explained, “A mere made-to-measure line would not be sufficient nor would the sole consultancy aspect be. We want to inspire our customer and keep him coming back for more; so we decided to offer the full service scale.” From top hat to toe-up sock.
Street-smart, casual, cocktail even, all have in this day and age become susceptible to different interpretations, personal interpretations. Even chinos. As a result, no matter which direction you go, style matures, it’s ever-evolving. Plus, whatever you put on, and all gents at Principle M will reiterate this, just put it out there with confidence. And style your hair — it’s a matter of principle.
Who knows… As they say, if you wait just that tweedy tad long enough, all clothes come back in vogue. Perhaps all you burly blokes had it right all along… In chinos veritas?
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