Business / Companies

Classic menswear brand plans closer ties

By Meng Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-15 08:49

Classic menswear brand plans closer ties

Mark Cho is the biggest shareholder of Drake's London. The company makes hand-made ties and pocket squares.[Provided to China Daily]

UK fashion firm with Chinese connections is aiming to spread traditional styles

In the British movie Kingsman: The Secret Service, which was released in China in March, the spies were dressed to kill, in more ways than one.

In fact so stylish was their attire that this new generation of British James Bonds went viral on China's social media. That does not necessarily mean the kinds of handmade ties, custom-made shoes and bespoke shirts that these spies wore will make their way into the wardrobes of Chinese men soon.

However, Drake's London, which made all the ties and pocket squares for the Kingsman movie, is undeterred by market resistance and will make a foray into the Chinese market this year, said Mark Cho, the biggest shareholder of what is the biggest handmade tie maker in the UK.

"The broader Chinese mainland market is not ready (for classic style ties) but it is definitely getting there," Cho, who invested in Drake's in 2010 when the company's founder Michael Drake retired, said.

"We are now preparing to enter China, but it may take another three years for mainland customers to fully warm to the classic style of our ties," added Cho, a Londoner born and bred, both of whose parents are from China.

Drake's was founded in 1977, the year in which the United Kingdom celebrated the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth's ascension to the throne. It may have been auspicious, for in the years since it has won the Award for Exports and the UK Fashion Export Gold Award for Outstanding Export Achievement.

This year Chinese menswear retailers have signed orders to buy 500-600 ties a year as well as 200 scarves and handkerchiefs, Cho said.

"That's not a lot, but it is a very promising beginning for us," he added.

Drake's has about 200 customers worldwide, ranging from small retailers to huge shopping malls.

Cho has noticed an increasing interest in classic style menswear in the Chinese mainland in the past two years, but he is not blindly optimistic about Drake's prospects in the market.

"When people talk about the market in China they always talk about the huge population, but that doesn't mean it's easy to make money, especially in the tie business. When people don't have nice suits, shirts and shoes, the odds for them wanting a nice tie is rather low," he said.

Cho added that everybody wears suits in London, but when he worked for a British property firm in Sichuan province about eight years ago, every time he wore a suit, people would ask him if he was going to a wedding.

He is pinning his hopes on the young generation of Chinese, especially those educated in the West.

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