Ellis Kreuger and Alex Daye for Moustache, November 2011. Photographed at the Moustache Shop on 31 Aberdeen Street in Hong Kong by Carmen Chan for HOW I MET YOUR STYLE. Interview by JJ.Acuna for theWanderlister+ Asia
The gentlemen pair, Alex Daye and Ellis Kreuger, the masterminds behind Hong Kong’s most creative sartorial brand, Moustache, peaked my interest already earlier in the Summer when I was formally introduced to them at XXX by Julie Shah. A few months later, I bumped into them both again, and was told by Ellis that Moustache had just signed an exclusive partnership in Asia with Kurashiki / Betty Smith Jeans from Japan to offer a made-to-order denim line, called BESPOKE DENIM, for men and women at quite a reasonable price point. Personally, I always find shopping for the perfect jeans an eternal journey, so I too was interested in Moustache’s new direction, especially with Betty Smith, which is Japan’s first denim mills/factory/brand, and regarded as one of the best denims in the world.
A personal service.
Lucky for us, the director of the Betty Smith made-to-order line, Mr. Oshima, was in town mid-October to promote their new collaboration with Moustache, and we were able to grab a nice little interview with Mr. Oshima alongside Alex and Ellis, of which the contents of the interview are published below.
A little friend says “hi”.
As for our shoot with Moustache, It was a nice crisp November Saturday morning at the store. Carmen and I were invited to go in, take a walk around, had all access to photograph the items, goods, and details, while I was getting fitted for my own pair of BESPOKE DENIM Betty Smith “JJ” Jeans for the Holiday season.
Alex explained the multitude of choices available and that customers can choose either a slim or regular fit, making any alterations to the size necessary, in a wide variety of denim qualities, both selvedge, woven on hundred year old looms, and non-selvedge. After choosing top stitch colors, rivets, buttons, and pocket styles, the order is put into work at Betty Smith’s factory in Okayama, Japan’s “jeans belt.” Orders take approximately 3-4 weeks to complete and start at 2900 HKD.
Choice of washes on offer for BESPOKE DENIM.
Ellis then took my measurements and made the fitting, and overall it was very relaxed no pressure, and fun experience. Even their lovely pup was a great host for us. After ordering the jeans, they then styled me in two signature Moustache looks, one in corduroy shorts and light sweatshirt, and the second look in a full corduroy suit.
W+: Hi Alex and Ellis, thanks for sitting down with us and with Mr. Oshima to discuss a new direction for Moustache. But first before we get there, some readers may STILL not know about Moustache. For those who don’t know, Moustache JUST celebrated their 3rd year of operations in Hong Kong, located on NOHO’s Aberdeen Street. To me it seems like a very successful business endeavor for you both, which is providing your take on the ultimate bespoke made-to-fit menswear experience and product. How does it feel to wake up in the morning and say… wow… I’ve succeeded!? And was it easy to get here?
Moustache: Thanks JJ, it’s great to be chatting with you and nice to hear we’ve succeeded too! I suppose that in the sense we’re here still and have some very cool, loyal customers who love what we are doing, we have succeeded, but we are always pushing to reach the next level, so we’re a lot more likely to wake up in the morning and say “WOW there’s a lot to do!” But it feels really great to hear you say it!
We were given full access around their shop. It was lovely. They change their interiors every year. This year it’s about ships and a maritime theme.
W+: You are now diversifying your offerings in the shop and taking more variety of services, like your collaboration with KURASHIKI BETTY SMITH and KONZEPP. Please expand on this…
M: In a place like Hong Kong, you obviously get a lot of people walking in the shop from faraway places. Even the people that live here tend to spend a lot of A LOT of time in faraway places. People constantly asked if we’re selling MOUSTACHE in any other venues. While of course that’s very flattering, we have been hesitant for a variety of reasons to become a wholesale brand. Our DNA is bespoke tailoring and retail, so when we were approached by KONZEPP and then LANE CRAWFORD, it was a lot more interesting for us to do a collaboration, to make something just for them, than it was to sell them bits of our collection. We like to offer our customers something they can’t get anywhere else and so should any shop worth it’s salt. What we are doing with BETTY SMITH is very much in that spirit: working with a really cool, pioneer Japanese denim brand to offer our customers a completely bespoke pair of jeans handmade by skilled craftsmen in one of the oldest denim factories in Japan. We are the only shop in Hong Kong to offer this, and one of only two in the world outside of Japan.
Interior details on all BESPOKE DENIM.
W+: Mr. Oshima, welcome to Hong Kong! Please tell us more about your brand KURASHIKI BETTY SMITH. It offers a tailor made to order jeans line for men? Tell us the process for the user. Also what kind of Man is interested in custom-made denim?
Mr. Oshima: : Thank you. I am happy to be back to Hong Kong and to meet you at Moustache. Our order jeans customers are looking for something different from ready made jeans: jeans perfectly fitted not only to their body but also to their style. Customers can come to Moustache to try on a sample pair of jeans in their size in either a slim cut or a regular cut. They can make adjustments to all the measurements: the waist, the hip, the inseam, the hem. Then they choose from hundreds of different denim qualities- from Indigo dyed selvedge denim woven on hundred-year old looms to cashmere and silk blends to patterned denims, colors, washes. Then they choose the topstitch color, the buttons and the rivets, the pocket styles. So you see it really is a bespoke pair of jeans! I think people who want a truly individual product and want to enjoy designing the jeans, people who have trouble finding the pair of jeans that is the perfect fit, people who love Japanese denim, all will be interested in the bespoke denim.
Choices on offer for BESPOKE DENIM. Rivets and Buttons.
W+: Also KURASHIKI is famous for its denim making history, does everyone offer bespoke jeans in Kurashiki? If so, how is your jean process different? And can we visit Betty Smith in Kurashiki and see the process for ourselves?
Mr. Oshima: I got a phone call from a customer looking for the perfect jeans for him in 2000 and we made it especially for him. After that, in the year 2003, we started order jeans as our project. So Betty Smith is the first factory starting order jeans in Japan. There might be a few others but not like in our scale, I think.
Luckily Betty Smith is one of the pioneers who started jeans production in Japan and we still have our own factory in the same place as it started in 1962.
Please visit us at Kojima, Kurashiki in Okayama. You can look around Jeans Museum, Jeans workshop, Betty Smith factory and outlet shop. And do some sightseeing in the beautiful countryside too.
Available stitching for BESPOKE DENIM.
W+: Mr. Oshima, speaking of custom denim, what made you feel like you should expand to Hong Kong? Also, you’ve partnered up with Moustache as a sole partner here in the City, why Moustache, and does producing for Hong Kong inspire you if it all?
Mr. Oshima: I love Hong Kong and exhibited at Hong Kong Fashion week twice already. Fortunately we met Ellis and Alex and know Moustache is perfectly matching to Betty Smith order jeans as partner in Hong Kong. Because we also work with lots of high quality tailor shops in Japan and Timothy Everest in London where we can meet nice quality of customers appreciating individuality.
A tailor’s touch on BESPOKE MEN.
W+: Thank you guys for the interview, and one last thing, what does Moustache have in store in the future in Hong Kong and Asia? Give us your thoughts on your role as creatives and designers working in this city.
M: We will keep trying to think of creative ways to expand, projects to keep us both interested ourselves and interesting to our customers.. We are starting to work on a small range of accessories- small leather goods, travel accessories and the like.
Additionally we’re trying to get a little Moustache online shop up and running for all our overseas fans, and those that might not have the time to make an appearance in person. We’re also really interested in printed matter. We do a Hong Kong Guidebook that people really love, so much so we’ve had a hard time keeping it in stock. It’s extremely personal and not at all exhaustive but for whatever reason it really hits a note with a certain type of traveler.
It’s so easy to self-publish in Hong Kong it’s almost rude not to! So we’d love to start doing more of it. A little magazine, maybe a print catalogue- the sky really is the limit. It’s such a great time to be working here in Hong Kong, there is so much that’s possible here, while not impossible other places but certainly a lot harder, that it seems silly to limit ourselves in any way. We’re always surprised that there’s not more going on here- the streets should be lined with independent designer boutiques, there should be stacks of zines: we’d love to inspire other people to take that chance. We moved here 5 ½ years ago and in that time Hong Kong has gotten so much more interesting; I can’t wait to see what it’s like in another 5!
W+: And we’ll be here documenting it. I’m sure about that! Thanks so much all for this interview. I cannot wait to get my first pair of Kurashiki Betty Smith Bespoke Jeans from Moustache!
I love the lining in all their jackets. That touch of design makes all the difference.
Our signature Moustache looks, styled by both Ellis and Alex.
Additionally this Saturday, December 1st, Moustache is taking part in the SOHO SHOP WALK. Get tickets and make sure to stop by and say hello and have a drink with these fine gentlemen, and see for yourself the bespoke difference at Moustache.
+ ABOUT theWanderlister+ Asia X How I Met Your Style (HIMYS)by Carmen Chan Collaboration
As part of my new collaborative project with style photographer, Carmen Chan and her niche style blog, How I Met Your Style (HIMYS), we mapped out a general (flexible) list of creatives within Hong Kong/Asia that we both would like to profile together; me with my (digital) pen, and her with her camera. Im intrigued by by those who create and how they live/work/utilize/arrange their spaces, and while this can only be captured so much in text, the right photographs are really necessary to give our readers the rest of the story.
Carmen and my busy schedules pretty much limit our work to one focused creative a month, and at most two. And even though I profiled personalities behind the labels, such as Tangram, Monocle, Konzepp, and Kapok before in this website, I felt that these profiles were limited in scope (5-6 questions) and intimacy (events). That said, theWanderlister+ Asia will continue to capture the Zeitgeist (as architect, Jason Carlow, calls it) via those means, but I thought it would be a really great opportunity to go beyond that and to dive into the creative caves to document their working environments. It was quite serendipitous to find out that Carmen Chan, who had already profiled world famous bloggers within their spaces with HIMYS, had a similar project in mind in her head, so I was happy that the cosmos wanted us to synergize.
All comments moderated. To get more info on comment moderation for this personal blog project, please visit http://www.wanderlister.com/DISCLAIMER