紳裝起義

經典不敗
:::

2018 / 7月

文‧鄧慧純 圖‧林格立


若將時空倒回20世紀初的台北大稻埕,你可能看到李春生、辜顯榮、張東榮、陳天來等商紳穿著三件式的西裝,穿梭街頭的光景,那是台灣剛西化不久,衣著首度發生大轉變的年代。

2014年3月,由「頂級宅男」部落格版主,同時是高級男士訂製服專門店「高梧集」品牌經理石煌傑所登高一呼的「Suit Walk」活動,將台北街頭化身為伸展舞台,上百名男士以紳士裝起義遊行,打破大眾對男士西裝刻板的想像。2018年Suit Walk已舉辦第五屆,有七百多位紳裝愛好者參與這場嘉年華會,紳士裝成了台北春季訂製的風景。

西裝或許是許多人認知的老派時尚,惟經典不敗,近年隨著風潮再起,台灣西服訂製店林立也別具一格,悄悄撼動在地的穿搭文化。

 


文史作家陳柔縉在《台灣西方文明初體驗》中,描述1910年代初期,台北大稻埕的茶商最早開風氣之先,剪髮易服,台灣西服的初體驗就發生在這街廓。2015年,范樓達在昔日西裝發跡的所在──大稻埕,巴洛克樣式的六館街尾洋式店屋裡創立「凱恩洋服」門市,在老空間裡繼續講述西服的故事,重振當年的榮華光景。

老店翻轉,吸引年輕客群

16歲從苗栗上台北當學徒的范樓達,從事布料批發已有38年了。他經歷訂製服大好的時代,消費者排隊挑布量身,布匹跑得飛快;也親睹訂製市場受成衣品牌衝擊而一路凋零。但范樓達仍堅守著本業,更創業自立門戶,買下「凱恩洋服」品牌,「真的就是喜歡布料」,他說,所以自己跳下來做,他相信訂製服市場仍有可為,就看如何經營。

老行業要翻轉得從心態上轉變,傳統西裝師傅剪裁沿襲舊有版型,只強調做工細緻,卻不了解消費者的需求,使得每件西裝看來都一成不變,自然不敵時尚趨勢。而范樓達深知訂製業要走出谷底,必定得跟著消費者的喜好,他邀請昔日凱恩洋服的班底鄭師傅留任,15歲當學徒、18歲出道的鄭師傅,在這行業逾40個年頭。鄭師傅經驗老道,客人指定的款式他看一眼就能作,他說:「現在的客人都要求要有設計感」,他的工作檯旁貼了許多客戶找來的西裝照片,「客人讓我們學習,有要求我們就去研究。」老師傅與時俱進的觀念和積累數十年的工藝,讓凱恩洋服能在蕭條的訂製市場站穩根基。

網路上有人稱范樓達為「布料界的軍火之王」,擁有價值超過七千萬台幣的布匹,為消費者提供繽紛亮眼的多樣選擇,加上善用臉書、IG經營社群,亦是凱恩洋服能吸引年輕族群的主因。

一開始,范樓達以55歲以上的長者為目標客源,卻發現他們雖然可以投資高單價的品項,但鮮少二度消費;反而是年輕世代很勇於投資自己。目前凱恩的消費族群年齡平均約35歲,回客率約有八成,每個月的新鮮客至少有30名。更有一群朋友把凱恩當據點,幾乎每周三到門市報到,聊西裝、談配件。Chris是凱恩的常客,服務於餐飲業,西裝是他的工作服,他接觸訂製服後,發現成衣常見的褲子太短,或袖長不足,或領圍過大,對訂製來說都不成問題,因為消費者的身體就是西裝師傅的版型,衣服貼合著身體的線條,修飾身型,再加上布料的質感,讓外表大大加分。穿得體面,增加自信,也提升工作上的專業感,是他最切身的感受。

在台灣穿西裝總被認為老派,或被調侃「要去喝喜酒」、「要去相親」,西裝被視為很目的性的服飾,Chris說那起因於「不了解」。其實西裝的發展已融入不同風格混搭,不用拘泥於成套的呈現,Chris常利用單品組合,展現個人風格,並化作他日常生活的穿搭。

Suit Walk緣起

讓紳士裝成為台灣男性一貫的日常,是Suit Walk創辦人的石煌傑的心願,有人問他舉辦Suit Walk的目標,「我想的是有一天不需要Suit Walk,紳士裝已成為一般男士穿搭的品項,就不需要大張旗鼓的走上街頭了。」

30歲前都在百貨零售業工作,西裝是石煌傑的工作服,但身材瘦小的他,在成衣市場買不到適合的尺寸,讓他探入訂製服的領域,才發現「『訂製』說來頗是一件事情的」,從樣式、布料、配件任何細節都是考究,均須思考。再加上以前的西裝師傅對消費者想要的變化與樣式總是Say No,這個不行,那個不好看,石煌傑為了完成想像的樣式,常常下班就往西裝店鑽,和師傅溝通,也更知曉西裝的細節和故事。之後因工作上的需要,他勤讀西方文獻並翻譯成中文,成立「頂級宅男」部落格,在部落格上與朋友分享, 2013年在PPT開設西裝版, 2014年舉辦「Suit Walk」。

2018年,Suit Walk第五屆了,有七百多名精心打扮的紳裝愛好者參與。石煌傑分析來參加的男性年齡層多在35歲以下,20~35歲的比例約佔八成,以電子科技業最多,「這與台灣產業現況相符合,也讓我們了解這群人在工作場域中,穿著的自由受到很大壓迫。」石煌傑解釋道。因為社會大眾對西裝的刻板印象,他改以「紳士裝風格」取代西裝一詞,談到風格,彈性大了,可以加入POLO衫,或搭配牛仔褲,腳踩球鞋,如此一來,讓紳士裝不再被制式化,讓想穿出個人風格的慾望不再被壓抑。

談到穿衣風格,石煌傑提供他個人有趣但未經證實的社會觀察,他發現以35歲和65歲兩個時間為切點,台灣35~65歲間的男性普遍不重視穿著,但65歲以上和35歲以下的男性卻能穿著得體,穿出個性,他提出這可能與產業轉型有關聯。台灣昔日是一卡皮箱走天下的貿易時代,談生意,外表、穿著一定得講究,「對外貿易強調的是跟人溝通,但電子產業的發達讓我們從與人溝通變成跟機器溝通,漸漸地我們就放棄了這件事情(穿著)。」他舉香港為對照,「香港一開始也是做三角貿易,後來轉型為金融營運中心,他們穿西裝的風氣就保存著,但台灣消失了。」35~65歲的男性成長於產業轉向電子加工的時期,成日與電腦打交道,與人互動的時間銳減,自然也不在乎、不思考自己外在的呈現。

思考過的穿衣選擇

石煌傑曾聽過一位日本社長對台灣的觀察與疑惑:「台灣的男性不是不買衣服,是不為了上班買衣服。」但工作是支撐生活的重要來源,對於工作時要呈現的樣態更應該被重視。面對如此現況,石煌傑想要去「搖晃」台灣35~65歲這世代的穿著意識。

他常說:「紳士裝是你面對世界的第一張名片。」外表是無聲的語言,透露諸多隱而未現的訊息與線索。身為Suit Walk的創辦者,石煌傑並沒有強迫大家一定要穿西裝,在他的觀念裡,重點是「思考過後的選擇」,自身經過思考後,選擇以何種樣態面對世界。

「訂製西裝是一個『問自己』的過程,你是什麼樣子的人?處在什麼樣的環境?你生活的樣態是如何?」在全訂製服的世界中,消費者首先要習慣的就是「做決定」,而這源自對自己的了解。

「我們對這件事情思考得太少。」石煌傑說。35~65歲這個世代,求學時期被校方嚴格管束外表,脫掉制服之後,缺乏練習與選擇,社會上缺乏可仿效的icon,工作裡沒有可模仿的前輩,整個世代普遍匱乏穿搭的意識;但台灣這群不太懂得穿衣的世代擁有的消費力,卻是翻轉訂製市場最大的契機,石煌傑因此認為「這個世代需要被晃動」。

石煌傑創辦「高梧集」,想從市場端提供消費者更多品項與選擇。以中文為名,因為他認為裁縫是貼近人們生活的在地化產業。「高梧」的典故來自《儒林外史》的:「鳳止高梧,蟲吟小榭。」「鳳」是雄鳥,屬百鳥之王,鳳只棲於「梧桐」的神木,因此「高梧集」意指「屬於男性高檔選品的集合」。

「高梧集」的選品不過度奢華,只秉持事物的合理樣態。他推薦男士使用吊帶,只因吊帶能完美固定西褲的位置,讓褲型線條好看;紳士裝的禮儀不能看到裸腿,因此襪子的重點在於長度,長筒襪能固定在膝蓋髕骨下方,不會發生鬆脫掉落的意外;店裡只販售有尺寸的襪子,是為確保襪子的薄度,不影響到鞋子的尺寸(單一尺寸襪子為滿足其伸展的拉力布料做得較厚)。這不是過分講究,只是合理的標準,成就一名男士合宜的樣態。

除了從市場面晃動消費者對紳士裝的想像外,石煌傑也從製作端革新。觀察國外市場現況,可見裁縫師優雅地工作著、知識豐富的業務員則提供專業諮詢,整體產業充滿對訂製西服的美好想像,但台灣卻不復可見。在「高梧集」,一套訂製的紳士裝完整的工時一定足兩個月,其中包含兩次的毛胚試穿和一次成衣試穿,店家不替消費者趕製衣服,這不僅較接近國際上全訂製西服工作的時程,也是一種較合理的工作狀態,希望能讓投入此產業的後進者對未來有願景、有想像。

把市場做大、培育訂製人才

舉辦Suit Walk是希望從市場面晃動台灣男性的穿衣文化,讓紳士裝不再只是特殊的存在,而是優雅自信的展現。當有消費者願意穿上紳士裝,走上街頭,才有廠商能嗅到商機,媒體發現端倪,進而採訪報導,有更多人知曉紳士裝的精神後,才能形成一股浪潮,撼動市場,石煌傑說著自己對翻轉市場的想法。

凱恩洋服的范樓達則從製作端努力,他不計成本地培育工班,學徒多是二十多歲、有志於此的年輕人。一名紳士裝師傅的養成約需兩年,店裡兩位資歷豐富的師傅坐鎮指導、傾囊相授,學徒已可親上第一線,為顧客量身,累積各種特殊體型需求的實務經驗,希望將訂製文化、工藝繼續傳承。

范樓達希望讓紳士裝的風格成為台灣男性每日必備的時尚。對石煌傑而言,紳士裝展現的就是一種合宜的生活樣態。對穿著的覺醒,意味著自己已裝備好面對世界的樣態。需要時間等待才完成的訂製服,經過對自我的質問與了解,方能透過總總細節,呈現最合宜的自己,而這或許能提供當下快時尚的消費型態另一種思考與解答。   

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近期文章

英文

Classics Never Go Out of Style

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

In March of 2014 Tai­pei hosted its first Suit Walk, an event organized by Brian Shih, brand manager of the Gao Wu Collection, which is a bespoke men’s apparel line and boutique. Tai­pei’s streets became fashion runways as more than 100 men paraded down them, breaking stereotypes about suits. Since then the pageant of gentlemen’s attire has become a regular spring ritual, with more than 700 dandies participating in 2018, its fifth year.

Although the suit is a traditional and familiar form of clothing, a classic never goes out of style, and recent years have witnessed a renewed interest in it. Taiwan is unique in featuring so many shops offering custom-tailored suits. They are quietly awakening a vibrant men’s sartorial culture.

 


In her book Taiwan’s First Experiences with Western Culture, Chen Rou­jin describes how, when teahouses were first becoming popular in Tai­pei’s Da­dao­cheng area around 1910, men began to cut off their long braids and trade their traditional Qing-style garb for Western suits. In this same neighborhood where Western suits had their start in Taipei, Daniel Fan in 2015 established ­Kaien Bespoke Tailoring, which has opened a new chapter in the glorious history of tailored men’s suits.

Putting a youthful spin on classics

Fan moved from ­Miaoli to Tai­pei when he was 16 to work as an apprentice, and he has been involved in the wholesale fabric trade for 38 years now. He experienced the boom era for tailored uniforms, when consumers would line up to choose their fabric and get measured. He then witnessed the damage that branded ready-to-wear clothing caused the made-to-measure sector. Yet Fan remained determined and adopted a more entrepreneurial approach, buying ­Kaien Bespoke Tailoring. The decision bore witness to his confidence in the market for tailored clothes if only the proper approach were taken.

To transform any old-established industry, one must start by changing attitudes. Traditional master tailors who simply follow the old styles, stressing the fine quality of their work but not understanding consumers’ needs, will naturally not be able to keep up with the trends of the time. Master ­Zheng was one of ­Kaien’s old tailors whom Fan asked to stay on. In the business for more than 40 years, ­Zheng says, “Current customers all demand a sense of design.” He has affixed many customer-supplied photographs of suits next to his workbench. With a glance, he can figure out how to make them. As an old master tailor with both up-to-date ideas and craftsmanship that has been honed over many decades, he has helped ­Kaien to gain a stable footing despite a depressed market for tailored clothes.

Fan has also made good use of social media such as Facebook and Instagram. What’s more, he holds an immense stock of select fabrics worth more than NT$70 million, which allows him to provide consumers with more choices. That’s also a key factor in why ­Kaien is attracting young people.

At first, Fan was designing for customers over 55. He discovered that although they could invest more money in a suit, they rarely were repeat customers. The younger generation, meanwhile, were boldly investing in themselves. Currently, ­Kaien’s average customer is about 35, and 80% of its clientele are repeat customers. The shop typically has about 30 new customers in a month. And there are even a group of friends that treat ­Kaien as a hangout spot, coming in often to touch base and discuss suits and accessories. Chris Chu is a regular who works in the restaurant industry. Suits are his work attire. A tailored suit that complements the lines of his body and that has a nice feel to its fabric makes him look good and adds to his confidence and sense of professionalism at work. The transformation it imparts is keenly felt.

The idea in Taiwan that suits are old fashioned or suitable only for going to weddings or to meetings with matchmakers and potential wives, says Chu, is based on misunderstanding. The truth is that suits have absorbed many different styles and fashions over the years, and one needn’t always wear a complete suit. Chu often mixes and matches different pieces. It’s a way for him to express a little personal style in his everyday life.

The origins of Suit Walk

Brian Shih’s motivation was to make gentlemen’s clothing a regular part of daily life in Taiwan. He says that when people ask him what his goal is for organizing Suit Walk, he replies: “One day I want Suit Walk to be unnecessary—­because tailored suits will have become such a basic part of a typical man’s wardrobe and life that taking to the street for them with great fanfare is no longer necessary.”

Before Shih was 30, suits were his work attire. Yet Shih, who is small and wiry, couldn’t buy properly fitted clothing on the ready-to-wear market. That pushed him to the realm of bespoke tailoring. It was only then that he discovered that “ordering custom-tailored clothing is quite a long and involved process.” So many details—from the style, to the fabric, to the accessories—require attention. Afterwards, because of the demands of his job, he translated some Western documents about suits into Chinese and shared them with friends and on his Office Dandy Blog. In 2004 he launched Suit Walk. 

Shih notes that most participants are under 35, with the 20‡35 cohort accounting for 80%, and with most of those working in IT. “This matches Taiwan’s economy overall, and it has allowed us to understand that this group of people are not at liberty to wear what they want in their workplaces,” Shih explains. Because the Chinese word for suit—xi­zhuang or “Western wear”—is a term loaded with stereotypical associations, he has substituted the term shen­shi­zhuang—“gentlemen’s garb”—for it. In terms of style, it allows the suit greater flexibility: You can match it with a polo shirt, jeans or sneakers. In that manner, suits are no longer standardized, so that one’s individual sartorial freedom is no longer suppressed.

When speaking about clothing styles, Shih offers his own personal observations about society. He draws major lines at the ages of 35 and 65: Men between 35 and 65 typically don’t put much emphasis on what they wear, but men over 65 or under 35 are concerned about being well dressed and having a personal sense of style. These tendencies are connected to industrial transformation. At one point, when Taiwan’s economy was dominated by trading companies, it was important to dress well for business purposes. “The export trade put an emphasis on face-to-face communication, but the rise of the IT industry moved us from communicating with people to communicating with machines, and we gradually forgot how to dress well.” People from 35 to 65 are the age group that experienced that shift from industry toward information processing. When one is spending most of one’s time in front of a computer and rarely interacting with people, one naturally grows not to care much about one’s outward appearance.

Considered sartorial choices

Shih says, “Your suit is the first name card that you present to the world.” He doesn’t try to force people to wear suits. Rather, in his view the important thing is that “the choice is made after proper consideration.” One must decide which look to put on for the world to see.

“Getting a tailored suit made involves asking yourself: What kind of person are you? What environment are you in? What is your lifestyle truly like?” In Shih’s view, “We don’t consider these matters enough.” When the 35‡65 cohort was in school, educational institutions strictly controlled the students’ appearance. Once they set aside their uniforms, they lacked practice and experience with making sartorial choices. At work, they saw few good examples among their seniors. That entire generation lacked a consciousness about wearing clothes. But their spending power still presents a great opportunity. Therefore, Shih has resolved, “This generation needs shaking up.”

The concept for Shih’s Gao Wu Collection is to provide consumers with more products and choices. The name “Gao Wu” is an allusion to a line from the classic Chinese novel The Scholars: “The phoenix perches high in the Chinese parasol tree while the calls of crickets resound in the pavilion.” The phoenix is a male bird—the king of birds—and it lives only in tall Chinese parasol trees. Hence, the meaning of the Gao (“high”) Wu Collection is “a collection of high-quality products for men.”

Items in the Gao Wu Collection aren’t overly luxurious. Rather, they are simply reasonable. Shih recommends that gentlemen wear suspenders, because only suspenders can perfectly keep suit pants in their proper position. According to etiquette, one shouldn’t catch a glimpse of a gentleman’s bare leg. Consequently, the key issue regarding socks is their length. Long socks are traditionally worn to the top of the calf so that they don’t slip down. Because “one-size-fits-all” socks are thicker in case they need to be stretched, the shop only sells sized socks to ensure that their thickness won’t affect shoe size. This isn’t an unreasonable approach. These are sensible and appropriate standards that shape the reasonable appearance of a gentleman.

Apart from shaking up consumers’ ideas about gentlemen’s wear, Shih has introduced reforms on the tailoring side as well. The Gao Wu Collection doesn’t hurry the process of making a suit. It requires a full two months to complete a custom-tailored suit—first with two basted fittings, and then with a trial wearing of the finished suit. It’s close to the process used internationally for bespoke suits and is a more reasonable mode of working—one that Shih hopes will give those entering the industry greater optimism about their future.

Enlarging markets, cultivating talent

Putting on Suit Walk allows tailored suits to transcend the narrow confines of traditional spaces and enables their wearers to present themselves with elegance and confidence. Only when consumers are willing to wear suits to walk down the street will firms smell business opportunities and the media take notice, explains Shih as he discusses his vision of market transformation. Only when more people become familiar with the spirit that animates tailored suits, can this newfound understanding turn into a wave that shakes the market.

Kaien’s Daniel Fan, meanwhile, is working hard on the production side, sparing no expense in cultivating his team. His apprentices are mostly 20-somethings who aspire to work in the field. Two senior masters in the shop give instruction, drawing on their wealth of experience. Under Master ­Zheng’s guidance, these apprentices can now handle the first stage in the suit-making process by themselves, taking clients’ measurements. They have accumulated much real-world experience about the needs of different body types. It is hoped that these apprenticeships will help to pass down both the skills and the culture of custom tailoring.

Daniel Fan aims to make the wearing of gentlemen’s clothing an essential part of daily life. For Brian Shih, these clothes serve to demonstrate an appropriate lifestyle. In truth, when one’s sartorial sense is awakened, one is better equipped to face the world. Needing to wait for a tailored suit to be completed means that one must pass through a process of self-doubt and self-­understanding that leads eventually to revealing the most reasonable version of oneself. In comparison to the instant gratification found through fast fashion, this process offers alternative solutions and ways of thinking. 

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