Interview with AlbertMing

Last week we introduced you to the Berkeley-based menswear line AlbertMing, and co-founder Albert Shyy was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work.

How did the idea for AlbertMing first come to life?

We actually first came up the concept when Ming came out to visit me in Singapore, where I was working at the time. Wearing nicer clothing for work or play was challenging there because of the weather there: hot, humid, and often rainy. At the same time, we realized that a lot of the slimmer fitted suits that people in Asia and Europe liked to wear were a lot harder to find in the US, and it was personally very frustrating to go to retail and department stores and not find the styles I was looking for, at a price more affordable than than the $2000+ suits from Europe that sometimes had the style I liked. We thought there was a great opportunity to do something a little bit differentiated in tailored apparel and make clothing that would hopefully resonate with young guys who are looking to dress up.

The core concepts behind AlbertMing seem to be tailoring, functionality, and affordability. How do you find that perfect balance, and have you ever been forced to sacrifice one aspect for another?

Fortunately we haven't yet, although we're always trying to improve on each of these aspects. It requires some patience, as we have to look for the right partners who can offer what we're looking for in terms of quality and performance - for example, when we both went to Shanghai looking for tailors last year, we spoke with over a hundred, made samples at around a dozen, and ended up with a couple of tailors that we were happy with, but this process continually evolves and we need to invest a lot into our relationship to ensure that the quality and output remains consistently high. In a sense, we've had to make some sacrifices on speed to market by making sure we have the right product, but I think that's a trade-off I'm more comfortable making.

Could you please give us a rundown of what a typical day as the manager of a fashion start-up looks like?

Given our current size and scale as a very young start-up, it's probably more diverse than ideal but I have my hand in almost every part of the business. Ming and I split up our responsibilities so he would focus on web development and managing our supply chain, while I work on general business administration and marketing & sales, but given how often we talk we've both very up-to-date on the various parts of the business and do a lot of planning together.

Thus, my day-to-day varies a lot but broadly speaking involves significant amounts of communication and coordination with the people on my marketing team, with our various business partners and potential partners, answering inquiries from potential customers, and planning for / executing on the different projects we've got going on to help build our brand and expand our business. We've got some great undergrads from Berkeley who are working for us, mostly in marketing, it's been a fun team to work together with.

Have you always been interested in fashion?

To be honest, I wasn't too big into fashion until I started working in the professional world as a consultant, when I realized it felt pretty good to dress well, while noticing it helped me be taken more seriously in meetings with clients often much older than myself. Of course it was also helpful that I could also afford to dress up a bit more as well!

When Ming and I started our business, however, we did so without a deep understanding of the industry, and so spent our first year really soaking up as much as we could - going to trade shows, talking with lots of people in the industry, and going through dozens of prototypes to find the materials and the style we wanted to make.

Why do you think it's important (or maybe not important) for men to dress well?

Dressing up is obviously a personal choice but I do believe looking nice and wearing nice clothing can affect both the wearer's self-confidence as well as how they're perceived by others (in a sense they go hand-in-hand). If you can present yourself well while looking (and feeling) comfortable, I think it goes a long way towards giving off an aura of being confident in your own skin, which others can really respect.

What are AlbertMing's plans for the future? Any chances of extending into womenswear?

Haha we've actually a lot of requests from women and think there's a great opportunity to make a women's line, but we want to continue building out our men's line first - there's obviously a lot more we can do to expand on our existing product selection, through adding more styles of suits, blazers, shirts, and probably starting to do some accessories later this year. We're doing a bit of initial preparation on the women's side just to understand the market better, but if things continue to go well then we may be expanding sooner rather than later!

Thank you Albert for your time, and best of luck to AlbertMing in all of their future ventures!

All images courtesy of AlbertMing.

Aimee Shimizu is currently the Editor of BARE Blog. Right now she is absolutely obsessed with the BBC show Sherlock, which also happens to be an excellent source of menswear inspiration.

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