For the sartorially minded man, Hong Kong has always been a destination to look forward to. With a strong tradition of tailoring, for many years it was the international hub that well-heeled business types would pass through, using the strength of their western currencies to bulk order bespoke suits from tailors no less skilled than those on Savile Row or from Naples. My former father-in-law, a lawyer, did exactly thus. Taking his Savile Row suit with him, he would drop it off to his Hong Kong tailor, who would proceed to reiterate the cut five or six times over with different clothes, all for less than the price the single Savile Row suit cost him. While the ‘Made in China’ label doesn’t have anywhere near the same cachet as Made in Italy or Made in England when it comes to suiting, one Hong Kong brand is making a serious attempt to change all that. It’s called Magnus & Novus.
Founded by former city-planner Ethan Rye, Hong Kong-based Magnus & Novus is putting Chinese artisans back on the map of sartorially superior menswear with a sustainable approach, the likes of which has never been seen in Asia, where the manufacturing modus operandi has generally been of the pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap variety. Magnus & Novus champions ethical, sustainable, artisanal craft, built on a goal of preserving Chinese craftsmanship, something that was buried in the industrialisation of its textile industry over recent decades. “Historically, China has been synonymous with quality and hand-craftsmanship for the past one thousand years,” says Rye. “Look at the skill and the detail that was put into the beading of the emperor’s robes six hundred years ago. It took hundreds and hundreds of hours of handwork - China was famous for having the talent to do it. It’s only since the cultural revolution that came through in the 1940s that a lot of the artistry and beauty of Chinese craftsmanship began to disappear and became replaced with mass manufacture. We want to recapture that.”