One thing we have tried to do to keep Moustache an interesting store to visit, whether or not for shopping, is frequent redecoration. To this effort, we have always, since the very beginning, relied on James Dignan, a true founding partner of this company. To mark our first year in business, we enlisted James to paint a mural on the back wall of the shop. I’m shocked to find that I do not have a photograph of this mural, other than the action shots of James painting it- how can this be? If someone does and can send them to me, I’d love to show it off properly. Oddly, owing perhaps to the murky period between digital cameras and iphones, I seem to be lacking photos of quite a few events in this period.
In those years, we built pretty elaborate window displays, a practice we have sadly become too harried to continue. This was a particularly stunning one, in my humble opinion.
It was also around this time that the bespoke side of the business really took off. For a while we had maintained Moustache as the shop for the ready-to-wear, while doing fittings and consultations down the road at our studio. After a while, this became impractical, as it was quite confusing for customers to shuffle between the two, and also expensive, as Hong Kong real estate ain’t cheap, you know! As busy as the bespoke business became, we created some really nice ready-to-wear shirts at this time – from dress shirts to tees: I still thrill from time to time when I see a man on the street in a Moustache polo from this collection, all these years later!
Here’s a nice photo shoot we did with Zosia Zacharia in Wan Chai, a neighborhood we’d end up moving to a few years later, just as it was having its renaissance moment. I hate to be a broken record about how well made Moustache clothing is, but I own and wear and have been wearing many of these pieces since the day I wore them for this photo shoot!
One nice day in the spring of ’09, Ellis and I and our colleague Brandice Chau took a lunch time stroll around Sheung Wan to see what the real estate scene was like for a ground-floor retail space. At that point, the world’s economy was tanking pretty quickly, and though it didn’t turn out to be a severe downturn here in Hong Kong, it was early enough that everyone was freaking out, and maybe as a result there were a lot of vacant shops and the rents were freakishly low-ish for about a week. We jumped. We’d spent a few nights in the gay bar next door- long since relocated- and it was a stone’s throw from our place on Hollywood Road, and those black tile floors- if you’ve spent anytime evaluating real estate in Hong Kong, you know how hard it is to find a good floor!
It was kind of a lark, to be completely honest, but I suppose if one doesn’t throw in for something like a lark in life at least sometimes, then big changes will never come. Spoken like an eighty-year old man! Ellis and I just happen do things like that quite frequently. To some people it might seem reckless, but sitting on the other side of five years, it seems like it might be worth something.
As is the ability to make a space look amazing without having to completely demolish it and rebuild- which, for the record, is one of the rudest things a new business can do to its neighbors: I can’t tell you how many gut renovations I have had to endure, how many jackhammers and concrete drills day and night for a shop that won’t even make 6 months in business!
The local delivery trucks inspired the colour of the wall; the antiques emporiums of Hollywood Road and the rest of the neighborhood inspired the decor, a mix of old city maps and standing screens purchased, in fact, in nearby Zhongshan and not-so-nearby Beijing and Calcutta. We got a lot of attention those days for the Chinese-ness of our decoration style as well as the novel for the time brightness of our knickers and vests. One of the great things about manufacturing underpants is the never-ending supply of underpants one can acquire- I’d encourage anyone to try it. Failing a start up, I can heartily endorse Moustache underpants! We bought a great big box of vintage cufflinks and other haberdashery mainstays from our old friend from New York and now famously of Miami, Keni Valenti. We also did a bit of crafting, as you do in this era! We bought a whole pile of cheap Chinese canvas plimsolls and had a proper shoe painting party. I can’t tell you how popular these were, but we couldn’t keep them in stock because they were too much damn work! (a sad note about the below photo, our dear old cat Pusskins, standing proudly and beautifully at the end of the row of shoes, who came with us from New York to Boston to Hong Kong and even fell from the roof of our first apartment here in Hong Kong, passed away just as we were packing our bags to move from our flat in Wan Chai. May he rest in peace.)Here are a few shots from a photo shoot we did with Rensis Ho, a very friendly and talented photographer who introduced himself to us early in our days at the shop. It follows the same Shek-O / Sheung Wan, town & country vibe, as our last, but with a whole new slew of friendly faces.
Yes, that is Jen Spencer Kentrup, in a chic silk linen suit, looking very much the lady-of-the-canyon!
And of course Ellis, posing here with Waffles, who joined just at the beginning of this adventure and is still as cute as ever!