Ever-stylish Justin Kwan knows a thing or two about helping people look their best. He is, after all, founder of Beijing-based Principle M, a brand that offers bespoke tailored suits and image consulting services to its male clientele. Minnesota-born, half-Chinese Kwan isn’t your typical fashionisto, however. He studied entrepreneurship management in university and worked both in retail as well as for his parent’s Chinese restaurant before moving to Beijing in 2007 to study Chinese and explore opportunities in the menswear industry. After running a small business producing tailored clothing in China and selling in the US, Kwan entered the Chinese market with Principle M, this time sourcing only the finest imported fabrics. Kwan tells Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS) students why he’s not into fast fashion and all about the merits of timeless style.
Cesare, 12, Italy
Why did you choose this type of fashion and style?
Before I started Principle M, I wasn’t satisfied any more with the product I was selling. I wanted to do a better – in fact I wanted to do the best – product. When I entered the China market, I completely changed and focused on suits because I really like timeless style. I could wear this in ten years or I could have worn it five years ago and it would look nice. I really enjoy this business because it’s permanent style.
Alfie, 10, Malaysia
What is your dream?
The dream is to create an experience, to have a product, and to wow people with a service. I want to be known in Beijing, if not China, as the go-to place for sartorial menswear. If you want fast fashion, there are a lot of other places. But if someone needs a suit for an event, or if they need help with their image, I want them to think, “Go to Principle M. Those guys know what they’re doing in terms of good value, good service, and an awesome product.”
Kalsie, 11, Australia
When you first started Principle M, did you use models to advertise?
Yes, but we didn’t use professionals. We like to showcase the product, rather than the person wearing it. When we make clothing, we take more photos on the body or on a mannequin. And if our clients are willing, we love to take pictures of them in our suits and showcase them.
Annie, 10, Korea
What are the steps involved when you make a suit?
Let’s say a guy is getting married. Before I ever show him any cloth or design, I’d ask more questions like what time is the wedding. Depending on the time of the day of his wedding, it will define the rules about what to wear. Then we can break those rules a little bit. Based on a lot of the questions we ask our clients, we then suggest how to design. The design process would also depend on the guy’s body: if he’s skinny, tall, a little short, fat, or very muscular. Then, we’d look at cloths and maybe sketch something.
Taeyeon, 11, Korea
How long does it take to make something from start to finish?
We say about six weeks for first time clients, but we can usually do it in less than five.We have an initial consultation, choose fabrics, and talk. We find out why he’s looking for a suit, do measurements, and choose a pattern and design. About ten days to two weeks later, we have a first fitting in a dummy suit. Once the cloth arrives from Italy or the UK, the tailoring takes about three weeks. Within those weeks, we do another fitting.
Douglas, 11, South Korea
How can you tell what colors will look good on someone?
It’s part of the image consulting service we do at Principle M. Every person is uniquely different – it’s the beauty of what we do. We have hundreds, if not thousands of choices of fabrics and everything we create is special to each client. We give recommendations and they have to be correct because if our client doesn’t like how they look, it’s bad for our reputation.
Samuel, 11, US
What’s your logo?
We don’t have one. That’s a good point about the brand. It’s not about showing somebody a big flashy label; that’s not what I’m selling. I’m selling a good product: it’s more about the value. Something is a good value if it’s a high quality product but maybe the price isn’t as high Armani or Hugo Boss.
Titus, 12, Malaysia
Who inspired you to do this job?
I sort of knew what I wanted to do but I didn’t know this was the road I’d go down; I took many turns along the way. Nowadays though, there are people in the industry I look up to who aren’t necessarily famous like the guys from The Armoury, a shop in Hong Kong, and some tailors in Korea I keep my eyes on like B&TAILOR. They’re around my age and I think what they’re doing is really interesting.
Emmie, 11, US
What’s your favorite part of the process?
Hands down, it’s when a guy puts on the suit and looks at himself in the mirror. I don’t know if you guys have this sort of phenomenon when you are meeting your friends on the weekend. You look at yourself in the mirror before you go out and you look swag or dapper and you kind of smile at yourself. When I see my clients do that, I know they’re satisfied. That the clothing I made them brought them confidence and made them feel good.
Asia, 11, Italy
Where do your ideas come from?
They depend on the individual client. We first take into consideration personality, face, and body shape and then we think about design. In terms of men’s sartorial clothing like shirts and suits, there’s a general outline and then we make small changes. For example, depending on the cloth I may suggest a different shape or design of a lapel on a suit. There are peek lapels, notch lapels, and something called a Parisian lapel.
This article originally appeared on page 46-47 of the beijingkids October 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email email@example.com.