China is not known for its artisanal, crafted menswear. Thankfully, however, this is starting to change, and key to this trend is Brio – a Beijing store specialising in the finest tailoring, footwear and accessories from Europe’s heritage manufacturers.
Brio was opened in January 2015 by ex-financier George Wang. Having previously worked for a Hong Kong investment bank, he became fascinated by bespoke tailoring as he travelled more and more to Europe. “I’m a very detail-orientated person, and tailoring is particularly susceptible to that minute analysis,” he says. Wang’s selection includes shirts (Rmb2,380, about £270) from Puglia atelier G Inglese, whose handmade details go beyond the more common hand-attached collars and hand-stitched buttonholes by including delicate pick stitches under the collar and along the shoulder seams. There are hand-lasted shoes (about £1,256) from Stefano Bemer that can be made to order to a specific last – and in the chosen leather and style. And the fine cashmere scarves (from about £190) are from 150-year-old Scottish weaver Begg & Co – in navy and grey, as well as seasonal designs in colour blocks and checks.
Brio also promotes some non-European makers; from Japan come Resolute jeans (about £190), which are dyed, sewn and finished by hand, and Coherence outerwear (from about £680), whose designs are inspired by artists and intellectuals of the early 20th century.
Most of these brands are not available anywhere else in China – and certainly not in Beijing. “Our core customer base is local and relatively young,” says Wang. “These guys are keen to learn, to know what differentiates one suit from another and why a Neapolitan jacket is so special. This is wonderful for us because we want to curate the best product but also help men understand the value of what they’re buying – and they have responded with real enthusiasm to the service we provide.”
Brio’s engaged and curious customers also make an attentive audience for the trunk shows Wang holds regularly for visiting artisans. Italian tailor Sartoria Dalcuore (bespoke suits from about £3,650) and his soft, light garments have proved particularly popular, since they are well-suited to the dressing habits and climate of Beijing. Another recent Italian visitor was fourth-generation Neapolitan trouser maker Salvatore Ambrosi, whose signature style features a thick waistband and turn-ups.
Unusually, Brio keeps a skilled alterations tailor on site, so that small adjustments to those bespoke jackets or trousers can be made without having to wait for Dalcuore or Ambrosi’s next visit. “We also work with Hong Kong tailors WW Chan and Sons,” adds Wang. “They don’t construct their jackets with the same softness or have such a well-established house style as the Italian masters, but I’d say they are the best in China – and being closer to Beijing, they can deliver faster. This way we can offer the best of both worlds.”