For Good Measure
by Alexandra Chiu / Images: Courtesy of Ascot Chang
World-renowned bespoke tailor Ascot Chang has been keeping the art of classic Shanghai men’s shirt making alive and in the family for over 70 years.
In 1936, 14 year-old Ascot Chang left his family home in rural China, where his parents worked as farmers, and headed towards the glitz and glamour of Shanghai – known then as the ‘Paris of the East’ – to apprentice under a shirt maker.
At that time, the city’s tailors that catered to its growing Western population were predominantly Chinese and quickly rose to fame as they dressed Shanghai’s fashionable and influential elite.
Having mastered the finest details of tailoring for over a decade under his si fu (master), Ascot Chang moved south to the Kowloon peninsula in 1949 with just US$10 in his pocket. He went straight into business, initially knocking on doors, before his skyrocketing popularity prompted him to finally open his first store on Kimberley Road in Tsim Sha Tsui in 1953. Alongside men’s shirts, Chang produced intricately crafted luxurious robes, pajamas and boxer shorts, filling a unique niche in the local market at the time. Chang’s founding principle – “my customers select their own style. I give the style substance” – continues to this day.
With Tony Chang, Ascot’s son, and Justin Chang, Tony’s son, now at the company’s helm, Ascot Chang remains a family-run business with the character and heart that shot it to success in its early years.
The beauty of the dying art of family-run businesses is that customers are treated like family. Ascot Chang’s meticulous attention to detail and loving, thoughtful approach to shirt making, counting each client as a unique individual rather than a number, is a touch that has been miraculously translated to its 14 stores across Asia and the United States.
Even when it comes to measurements, Ascot Chang knows that it isn’t just about numbers. “We observe the client’s posture, and ask him about the kind of lifestyle he plans to wear the shirts in,” says Tony. “From this, we create an initial pattern which we’ll adjust until the client is satisfied with the fit.”
Bringing Shanghai men’s tailor craftsmanship to international acclaim, the family opened the first American Ascot Chang store in New York in 1987 closely followed by Beverly Hills in 1989, quickly garnering the attention of the country’s highbrow from politicians to trendsetters and industry leaders including the likes of President George H.W. Bush, financier Henry Kravis, NBA player Grant Hill and film director John Woo.
As most bespoke offerings go, Ascot Chang doesn’t skimp when it comes to options, providing its clients with a dizzying albeit spectacular and inspiring selection of over 6,000 fabrics with varying weights, weaves, colours and patterns.
The company categorises its fabrics based on price; naturally, the better the quality of the yarn, the more expensive the fabric will be. The store’s swatch books feature fabrics from the likes of Loro Piana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Albini, Thomas Mason, and one of the world’s most expensive, David and
Once a fabric has been selected, the client is shown more than 25 different collar styles – spread, pointed, rounded, button down, high, stiff, and everything in between, with highly trained staff in-store to help clients choose the most flattering design for their face shape. Buttons are made only of pure Australian Mother-of-Pearl with the option of white or charcoal and hand-sewn personal monogramming in 30 thread colours is optional.
While exquisite custom made men’s shirts are still at the company’s heart and soul, Ascot Chang stores serve as a one-stop shop for the dapper gentleman with an assortment of ready-to-wear or custom suits, jackets, slacks, pajamas and robes, as well as pure silk ties, elegant scarves, braces, socks, cufflinks and cashmere sweaters in striking colours.
As a New York Zagat reviewer once famously exclaimed:
“If you meet a man in an Ascot Chang shirt, marry him!”