From theDesk of ...
Co-founder of The Armouryand co-owner of Drake’s
Mark Cho is a man of many talents. Stylish, whip smart and clearly skilled at brand-building, he's not only the co-founder of the highbrow menswear emporium The Armoury, but he is also the co-owner of the luxe label Drake's. To say he's influential in men's retail would be an understatement. How did he do it? It all sprung from a deep love for tailoring early in his life, he tells us. “I found all the rules around how to wear a suit, all the history around its development and all the technical aspects of how they are made just fascinating,” Cho says. “I grew up in the UK and when you turn 16, you are allowed to wear a suit to school instead of a uniform—I wanted to emulate my dad and I wanted to grow up fast, so I started looking into how to wear a suit and I was hooked.”
He and Alan See (The Armory's other co-founder) actually met on Style Forum and after hanging out in IRL, it was clear that they needed to seize the opportunity and try their hand at building out the brand of their dreams. A dozen years in, there's no stopping them now. Cho is renowned for his taste—not just in suiting but with everything from music and cocktails to music and watches, so we had to get a peek inside his workspace. Here's how the man works these days.
My workspace in Hong Kong has an interesting story.
Last year, I completed The Armoury's most ambitious project yet: the Pedder Arcade. It's a conversion of one floor of a 100-year-old building in Hong Kong into a cozy little shopping arcade. There are five stores on the floor as well as a cafe/bar. We have: The Armoury's HK flagship, a pop-up shop comprised of Fox Brothers and Drumohr (soon to be Drake's and KEF), Phillips Perpetual (the auction house's watch department), a Nigel Cabourn pop-up and The Armoury Study, which is our cigar shop/lounge concept in collaboration with Davidoff cigars.
I spend a lot of time at The Armoury Study.
I designed it as a quiet, calm environment where you can enjoy a smoke while you work in the day and also relax with friends in the evenings. There is one desk in the corner that I am typically working at if I'm not with customers. Anyone is welcome to use it, I just happen to sit there the most.
I smoke a lot of cigars while I work.
My go-to is usually a Davidoff No. 2 which is a smooth, light cigar.
I really like audio gear, especially the no-bullshit variety.
I don't believe there are magic cables. I do think good quality studio gear which is designed to give a neutral presentation is a great way to go. You no longer worry about equipment, you just focus on the music. My main headphones are Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro. I also use Genelec, Dynaudio, KEF and Dutch & Dutch in our stores.
I really like our mugs.
We sell some nice double walled stainless steel mugs that are great for coffee or beer and I really do use them all the time. It's trivial, but I enjoy having fun branding items for ourselves.
Recently, at this desk ...
I have been working on a pop-up with Drake's and KEF at the Pedder Arcade. I'm excited to put these two great British brands side-by-side and seeing what might come of it. They fit well together, both idiosyncratic, design focused and with a great heritage.
I keep an old bank bond certificate on the wall that belonged to my father.
It's a very old certificate from the early 1900s—I think my father bought it in Hong Kong in the '80s. I actually never saw it hanging when I was young, but I found it in a box of his old things a few years ago and decided to hang it up. I use a specialist who hangs all of my art, an older man named Simon in his 60s. When he hung the bond for me, he said he used to work for the gallery that my father bought the certificate from and he had been to my dad's apartment in Hong Kong to hang art for him as well. Funny how things come full circle.
The newest item on my desk ...
Is this great desk lighter from Houseplant called the Block Table Lighter. It was a gift from a friend and I love the overall form and how hefty it is. I just wish the ashtray was big enough for a cigar.
I have multiple calendar/reminder systems.
Google Calendar, Google Tasks, Evernote and endless scraps of paper. I still can't keep up. If something didn't get done, I have to resign myself to the fact that if it didn't get done, it probably wasn't that important in the first place. And I still use pen and paper a lot. I have terrible handwriting, but I do like to write and sketch.
I hate being so reliant on my phone but I begrudgingly admit it is invaluable.
I use the camera constantly, I take notes constantly, I keep in touch with people at all hours and the phone enables that for better or worse.
“Inbox zero”, for me, is about staying on top of everything.
I try to get through all my e-mail, all my IG DMs, all of The Armoury's YouTube comments. It's important to be in touch with what's going on in and around the business.
I don’t mind eating at this desk.
Honestly, sometimes it's just necessary, right? Unless it's lunch with other people, then I'd rather just eat quickly and get back to work.
Routine can be nice.
Generally, I work mostly the same schedule everyday. I am almost always at our stores or our offices and I rarely take days off or go on holiday. I really like my work. There are so many interesting things to do and so many interesting people to meet.
In order to focus, I try to push myself hard.
If I feel like I'm losing momentum and getting frustrated, I try to reframe the situation in my head and look for the positives. Often it is simply trading short term pain for long term gain.
It’s not always a good quality, but I rarely give up on things.
Sometimes it produces amazing results, but other times you can waste a lot of time. I also care a lot about relationships. I think a lot of The Armoury's success is due to the friendships we built within the company with each other and also with our suppliers and our clients.
The only thing that really takes my mind off of work ...
Is computer games. I especially love games by little indie studios. I was really into Slay the Spire, Faster than Light, Hades ... the list goes on. Maybe because I deal with a lot of craftsmen in my line of work, I have great admiration for single individuals or small teams doing great work despite very limited resources. I think you can really tell when a product has had real love and care poured into it.
This desk is certainly a lot nicer than my first one.
I started out at a bank, doing financial analysis. It could be quite dry, but I liked the math aspect. I remember I used to spend a lot of time on the visual aspects of the documents I'd have to produce. Silly little things like making sure the right fonts were used, the sizes were consistent, using borders and color-coding, etc. My higher-ups would always tell me to move on and spend less time on things like that, but I just couldn't. I really cared about these details even if other people thought they were minor.