The Armoury 8 Year Anniversary Party in HK
We celebrated The Armoury's 8 year anniversary on October 20th with an event at The Armoury HK shop followed by a dinner for our close friends and partners. Thank you to all who have supported us throughout the years.
Co-founder Mark Cho honored the relationships we've built throughout the years as The Armoury has grown into what it is today. We've transcribed his speech below.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for coming, it is a pleasure to see you all this evening.
For the last few months, I have definitely been enjoying the looming “eight year” milestone. It just feels good to nonchalantly say: “Yea, we’ve been at it for eight years now”, “Yea, we were the first ones to do x, y and z," “Yea, The Armoury is older than your kids” or in the case of my kids: “Yea, The Armoury is older than you”.
Today, really is the 8th anniversary. We would have started a few hours earlier on the 20th of October, 2010. The shop was not three but one. We had a lot less product. We also had a lot fewer lights. It is surprisingly difficult to sell things that are hard to see. I think this is why moles never developed a capitalistic economy.
A few weeks ago, The New York Times called me for a quote. They were writing a story on the final closing of Henri Bendel, an upscale department store that started in 1895, grew into multiple locations throughout the US but finally succumbed to the pressures of the market. The journalist is a regular at our New York location and for the story, she asked me what it was like to be a modern retailer that was thriving rather than struggling, where might Henri Bendel have gone wrong and in contrast, what were we at The Armoury doing right?
I’m not qualified to comment on someone else’s business but I think what keeps us going is we value our human connections. And spending liberally on coffee. But mostly because we have stayed true to an important principle: to form a real connection with a customer and do our best for them. I love this business because we are at a scale where we can know our customers. We can know them on a first name basis, we can chat with them, we can talk about our products and craftsmen, and if they buy something, we can feel they have gone away with an item that will be useful to them and that they will enjoy.
For us, a human connection is not just a goal, it’s an impetus as well. When we put collections together, when we develop products, when we introduce craftsmen, we do all these things with the Robs, Johns, Chris’s, Peters, Dereks, Joels, Benjamins, Jasons, Hibbis and Marks and everyone else here tonight, in mind. Yesterday, we had a customer who comes in occasionally and who we know to be a bit prickly. My colleague Marcus was dealing with him and he ended up buying two hats we had just finished development of. Marcus said he was surprised the customer bought them since he could be difficult sometimes, but I told him it’s because 我哋畀心機 (to give one's heart and mind to…). We tried our best when we developed the product and Marcus tried his best when he took care of that customer as well.
Nobody is a statistic. The Armoury’s customers are not summarized as disposable income, market segment and geographic location. The Armoury’s team members are not glorified vending machines. Our business is hard won and our ability to scale is limited at best. While this may not be the approach you should take if you want to be the next clothing juggernaut, I have to say: “so fucking what?”. Would it be worth it for The Armoury to lose touch with the people who make it what it is? I am proud that The Armoury remains what it set out to be: a discreet, sophisticated men’s store that develops great product, brings in amazing craftsmen and is lucky enough to be appreciated by a wonderful audience.
In this social media age, we are becoming obsessed with numbers, likes and followers, but what does that mean? I recently observed on Instagram: an acquaintance, a female blogger with hundreds of thousands of followers, write about a fresh tragedy and encourage her followers to try and get involved and improve the situation. She included an image of her in a green top along with a sincere message to try and engage her followers. The majority of comments were along the lines of “THAT IS A GREAT GREEN TOP.” “I LOVE GREEN.” “YOU LOOK GREAT.” My first thought was that these people were morons. Hundreds of thousands of morons. My second thought was how relieved I was that on any given day, I could speak to any number of our good customers and feel like I was engaged and I would learn something new and interesting and insightful. I feel The Armoury has been extremely fortunate to have cultivated this type of community around it and I thank you for being our customers, you truly make us what we are today.
I would like to touch on one more subject. It has been eight years and many of the customers in this room have been with us for about as long as well. Over the years, you have accumulated countless beautiful garments, shoes, bags and so on. However, sometimes their suitability will come to an end. In Alan’s case, an aggressive gym training regimen has allowed him to shed pounds and he is no longer able to fit some of his larger garments. In my case, an aggressive eating regimen has allowed me to gain weight beyond my wildest dreams and I very much do not fit in some garments anymore. With this situation in mind, we started a new project, “Drop93” which is a consignment service for bespoke and high end men’s clothing. I think almost everyone in this room has already availed themselves of this service and I want to thank you for trusting us with your clothes. Money aside, I want these great garments, that were made with love and care, not to go to waste, but to find new owners who would appreciate them as much as you did. If you don’t know about Drop93, the three young ladies over there, Jasmine, Kahei and Joyce do a great job running it and they can answer any of your questions.
Finally, I want to say thanks to everyone here for their support.
We are joined not just by some of our favourite customers, but also our suppliers, such as the great Fukushima-san, president of Ring Jacket, who makes much of our tailored clothing, Phillip Law, who makes a lot of our sportswear, and Nakata-san, from Nakata Hangers, who makes our beautiful shop hangers.
I want to thank Kanae-san, Kosone-san and Yamashita-san, who came all the way over from Tokyo to join us. They are three of the leading Japanese journalists in our field and they have given us endless support over the years.
Last but most importantly, I want to thank my friend and partner, Alan See, who I think have actually passed the ten year friendship milestone with now … All my colleagues, Joey, Connie, Jan, Sam, Alice, Marcus, Starry, Kian, Hilary, Raidy, Jonathan, Jasmine, Kahei, Ivan and Anthony. Thank you for your hard work, for doing your best, for believing in our work and for putting up with my bullshit. Also, a special thank you to my family, especially Emi, who has loved me and supported me through everything. If you think I’m annoying at work, you should see me at home.
A toast to everybody here tonight, once again, thank you for eight great years!
We will be having an afterparty at Foxglove. If you’d like to come, please let Alice know so we have some idea of numbers. Armoury team, if you want to stay till after the trains stop, I’ll pay your cab fare home, haha!
Photos by Randy Lai for Lifestyle Asia