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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

GarconJon meets...Karlmond Tag - GQ x GAP

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Karlmond Tang is the London blogger who's style is never short of impeccable. At the London Collections, he always has swarms of photographers shoot is every sartorial move, however it's his humility and charm that truly need capturing.

We met up and discussed the London menswear scene, which has flourished since the launch of London Collections last year. Karlmond wears Ernest Alexander for GAP backpack and shirt.

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Karlmond Tang, Menswear Blogger and Social Media Consultant

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I grew up in Watford and I’m currently living in Hoddesdon, a random village in Hertfordshire.

You perform many professional roles, how would you describe your job title? A bit of a creative I suppose? I mainly balance my time between social media and blogging for Mr. Boy. Then there’s the odd styling, modelling and contributing here and there. It sounds like I’m being a bit wishy washy, but everything I do, I do love.

What's your star sign? Aries.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A chef, like my dad. Then I wanted to be the richest man in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is where your parents are from – have you spent any time there? I’ve been there a few times but it’s tough as it’s on the other side of the world. I do really like it there – it feels just a bit more care-free. The food is incredible as well. I’ve actually spent more time in Shanghai – now there’s a city I’d move to.

You've made a big career shift from finance to fashion – was there a distinct turning point when you realised fashion was for you? My friend brought me to a presentation held by a luxury PR in Shanghai, where a photographer started talking to me and wanted to introduce me to this “top stylist” in Shanghai. After a tour of his incredible studio, he gave me some advice and told me to assist him for a day. It was sort of a domino-like effect – he then introduced me to a designer, who introduced me to some models and big journalists. In three days I was surreally given this quick tour of the industry (in Shanghai to add to the story). They all told me I was doing the wrong thing and I knew I had to take the leap somehow.

Does your experience in finance influence your work now in any way? The financial and consulting industry is very professional, and I like to think when it comes to work I retain that professionalism. That and typing really fast is super useful.

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Your Mr Boy blog has really made an impact quite quickly – I feel like I see it everywhere. What's the journey been like so far? Ha – thanks! It’s not where I want it to be yet but it’s definitely a work-in-progress. People have been incredibly supportive and meeting readers who I’ve never met before has been very, very humbling. I started the blog because I’ve always enjoyed writing and it’s a great platform to convey my message of promoting personal style. I think there’s definitely an increasing demand (there goes the economics terminology) for menswear blogs, so as long as people keep reading I’m really more than happy to keep writing.

How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Logical, inquisitive, impulsive, a big foodie, and smiley. I’m always told I’m smiley.

That was my first impression! You marched right over when I saw having a meeting in FIX Coffee in Shoreditch. You introduced yourself with a big grin, as you'd seen my work and I was really impressed with your enthusiasm. Do you have any city hang outs you particularly like? I remember! Feels like such a while ago now but I’m pretty sure you had the ol’ tartan trousers on. I’m definitely more of a central London guy – I know I’ll always find a seat in Starbucks on Conduit Street to tap away on my laptop. I love Sloane Square though; the whole area near there is visually amazing.

How long have you lived in London? I’ve always lived in Hertfordshire, which is so close you might as well say it’s London. London definitely feels like an international hub when you hear all these different accents. You get to meet people from all over the world. And the architecture is beautiful too; you can find some amazing streets by randomly exploring, which feel quintessentially British. I’m sure when you yourself street style photograph that people can recognise that they’re shot in the UK somewhere.

The London Collections have brought a huge amount of attention to our city – for you, what is the menswear scene in London like? The attention is definitely here. Guys who aren’t exactly fashion enthusiasts are beginning to take an interest in what they’re wearing and what other guys are wearing. I think it’s sort of funny at the same time – a lot of guys have always wanted an excuse to wear suits. Now they can just for the sake of looking good. I think what makes the scene so great is that there’s accessibility to good clothing across all price levels and that strongly includes high-street. That and the fact that caring about the way you dress is becoming more and more socially acceptable.

Any underrated designers we should be looking at in the coming seasons? I really like The House of Nines. It comes across as very modern but with an Asian influence. I have to give a shout out to Jessica de Lotz though, who’s a jewellery designer. Her stuff really needs more recognition.

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If money were no object, who would you buy clothes from? Burberry is always going to be one of my favourite luxury brands – if it isn’t their trench coats it’s their Prorsum range. To me they exude British luxury, with true signature pieces. Then I’d get my suits from Savile Row, ties and other accessories from Hermès, shoes from Mr. Hare, outerwear from Ermenegildo Zegna and all sorts of other goodies from Acne. Generally though, visuals and quality are more important to me, not just the price tag.

In reality, where do you shop? I’ve got a few bespoke pieces from my time in Asia, where it’s much more affordable. I like having control over the clothing from the get-go so I know it’ll turn out exactly how I want. I love places like COS and Uniqlo, where everything just fits and it isn’t outlandish in crazy colours or crazy prints. The pieces are simple, great for layering and seem to always remain classic. I’m a massive knitwear fan, and that’s something you can’t just spend cheaply on, else you’ll notice the bad quality and the holes forming at the elbows. I think you can find something in any shop though, and I’d never sign one off just because of its associations.

Your style is quite detailed – it's often the glasses, bag, pocket square or umbrella that makes the look for me. Is there something about accessories you particularly like? What do you takes a man's outfit from good to great? There’s so many clichés such as “the devil is in the details” or “it’s all about the detailing”. Really though, I think details are just that extra step in showing your personality with what you wear. Any guy can put on a suit and will probably look good if it fits well, but it’s the accessories that he chooses which will show how much thought he put into the outfit. I’ve always loved pocket squares (scattered around my room like Elmer the patchwork elephant), and bags, despite them being the bane of my life sometimes.

What takes a man’s outfit from good to great? Evidence that he’s put the effort in, without trying too hard and ending up over the top. That and confidence. Nothing is cooler than being confident with what you’re wearing.

Who are your style influencers? Every time I get asked this question I always have the same answer, despite it getting a bit more embarrassing each time. My mum has always dressed very well, and when I was a child she picked out all of the coolest jumpers and turned-up all of my jeans. These days we bicker about it though. I remember the other day she said to me “You’re wearing that coat? And you’re supposed to be in fashion?” Individuals aside though, I love films. People have always dressed so well in cinema, I think it’s part of the reason you get wrapped up in it.

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What blogs are you currently reading? While I try not to read other people’s blogs so I don’t get ideas blurred with my own...

Yin&Yang did a very cool post on Adidas recently styling a few pieces from their collection, if you’d call them a blog.

I really like Robot Monsieur’s writing style when he contributes to Mademoiselle Robot’s site. It doesn’t try to come across as “this. is. fashion.” – if you get what I mean. It’s just very readable.

Schoolboycouture – how could I forget? He’s a really nice guy too. I like how his website has a lot more colour than your average morbid black-and-white blog (i.e mine).

And I read yours too, I also very much dig a very clean aesthetic.

What’s an average day like for you? I’m constantly on the social media channels. Shamelessly though – I’ve met some very cool people and equally been spotted by many cool others. As many cons as there are, it does its job well of connecting people. Once that’s out of the way, I’ll think about what to blog, chit chat to friends in the industry, and those out of it to keep sane and realise there’s things out there besides fashion and style. Oh – and how could I forget about the bombardment of emails? Always have to stay on top of those ones. Then if I’m in London (which is essentially every day) I’ll grab my coffee, do some window shopping and listen to blaring music.

What’s the most challenging thing about your job? Not giving false expectations. I wish I could say yes to every job request but from my previous experience with styling, I really do not envy stylists. Getting the clothes, returning the clothes, feeling the rain, dealing with commuters while lugging around your suitcases – it’s really a tough job that people don’t realise. That’s why I keep it to the odd occasion, and I get to think of my own concepts. The blogging part – the most challenging part is accepting the fact you cannot get on with everyone and that there are some who are very fake or very pretentious, and I’d like to think no matter how big Mr. Boy may become that I won’t adopt those attributes. Else no one would be describing me as smiley anymore.

What do you like most about your job? The creativity I never got to experience being in finance & consultancy. I love that I can write whatever I want, and if I don’t feel like writing any more I’ll be brainstorming that next shoot, putting all the vivid imagery in my head together to form some kind of story. No day ever feels the same and I’m really very happy in the industry, especially when I’ve made many close friends. Sounds soppy, I know, but when you meet people who you just get on so well with, it makes it so much easier when you end up having to work with them.

If you weren't in fashion or finance, what would you like to be? I'd still like to have been a journalist I think, I'm quite into my writing. If not I'd like to have been a teacher, but something like English. I was a bit of a teacher's pet growing up and I can remember practically all of the teachers I had vividly. I think education is a great way to broaden someone's opinions and views when they're young - and English teachers were always the best at that. Education definitely isn't for everyone though - I think I learnt that the hard way during university. Yikes.

This GQ x GAP collection is all about supporting new American Designers? What is great about American design to you? While I'm not really an expert on American design, I did used to be a bit of a preppy boy. Maybe I'm stereotyping but you sort of know what to expect, with "classic" American brands like Hillfiger or Ralph Lauren. And then there's all those iconic American designers like Tom Ford or Marc Jacobs. The Americans have done very well at building extremely prominent figures, which hopefully provides new talent with that "if they can make it I'm sure I can make it too" idea.

Why do you think it's important to support new talent? I'm all for new talent and I'm always looking for new brands, designers or photographers to promote - it's great that so many get in touch. I was offered many lucky opportunities when I was starting out, so if and whenever someone new wants to work with me I'm usually very open-minded. We all need a break some time!

What's on the horizon for Karlmond? I’ll keep powering on with Mr. Boy and hopefully more and more people will begin to notice it. I’ve got big goals and ambitions – I don’t want to throw away all the business acumen and it’s something I definitely plan on picking up in the future. For the moment though I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and see what doors open up along the way.

Finally, leave us with some words of wisdom...If GarconJon decides to interview you, be prepared to put your thinking cap on. If you’re looking for something wiser though – confidence is the ultimate ingredient to personal style. Trends are there for people who need guidance (hope my name doesn’t go out to hang for that one).

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