Away from the cacophony of the Central CBD, nestled comfortably in the epicentre of NOHO (“North of Hollywood Road”), lies Prologue Hong Kong – the city’s newest retailer of classic craft focused menswear. In a city where 500 metres constitutes a gauntlet, the store feels out of the way, especially when compared to other luxury clothiers (think Attire House & The Armoury family) on Hong Kong Island. Far from a superfluous detail, this is integral to the store’s strategy for differentiating itself from more traditional retail spaces. “In spite of the obvious foot traffic, we concluded there were too many limitations to setting up shop in a mall you’d see cluttering Queen’s Road” says Jerry Tong, co-founder of Prologue Hong Kong.
Part of the Shin Hing Street enclave that is home to many of Hong Kong’s cosiest neighbourhood restaurants – such as Back On Track Coffee & Figaro – what Prologue lacks in visibility it makes up for with charm and irreverence. Intentionally conceived as a “destination store”, Prologue evokes an ambience akin to the small sartorias Tong & co fell in love with whilst travelling through inland Europe. From the ground floor work room (where a pensive sifu presses and finishes the store’s made-to-order garments) to the reworked landing (replete with whisky and vintage fabric bolts) it is clear that what limited space the store does have has been thoughtfully maximised. The warm wooden interiors are pleasantly scented with cassis – courtesy of Florentine parfumer Dr. Vranjes. “It’s a fantastic place to while away your weekend. Come in, with a bite from next door, for a chat. Maybe even buy something” beams Tong. With enviable proximity to the action of PMQ & Aberdeen Street, it’s easy to comprehend what he’s getting at.
The store’s brand roster also compels interest. Prologue eschews the vast majority of well-documented names for makers slightly off the beaten path. Alongside a minority of well-known European ateliers, customers will find execution slash detail focused Japanese artisans such as Clematis Ginza and Coccinella. The team at Prologue are particularly enthused by the Japanese makers: citing their national reputation for excellent management, transparency and, above all, a desire to engage customers in the creative process. For Maslow So (co-founder), it was pivotal to curate products that showcased a varied perspective on classic menswear. “When you select something from one of our artisans, you’re buying more than a product.”
Not all of Prologue’s inventory is shipped from afar. Equally, there is an emphasis on innovating local tailoring with diverse Italian influences. This is readily apparent in the store’s house suiting. Throughout their travels to Italy, Prologue Hong Kong founders patronised some of the region’s most famous tailoring houses; counting the works of Panico, Liverano and Miyahira amongst their closets. The result is an in-house style that is (in its visual vocabulary) inclusive. The Prologue jacket’s foundation is undoubtedly Neapolitan, with slim proportions and a soft shoulder line. That familiar structure is carefully embellished with more novel features: a lowered gorge here, a clean but enlarged sleevehead there, and lapels that roll into the “crescent moon” (a characteristically Florentine coat making technique) everywhere. Trousers made in-house evidence a similar range of influences. While chatting to Maslow I spied him wearing a typical example of Prologue’s house trouser: tapered through the calf with a substantial cuff that ended cleanly above the shoe. At the same time, the seat was full and pleated, resplendent with the bar tacks and hand-finished buttonholes that are endemic of popular Neapolitan trouser makers. “We’re always refining our base patterns. We’ve only been open a few weeks but already have updated those four to five times” comments Tong.
There is every chance such obsessions will pay off. As Hong Kong’s social climate gradually relaxes, the popularity of soft tailoring will inversely grow. The city’s infamous humidity remains a factor, but young men are beginning to see the additional allure in buying lighter less constructed garments. In other words – a garment to transcend multiple social settings. For Maslow, the reason for this seems glaringly obvious. “The oppressive formality which people associate with colonial Hong Kong is all but gone. Nowadays if you’re going on a date or doing something similarly social you don’t want to show up wearing a box cut double breasted. Our social context has changed. What hasn’t is the demand for smart and unstuffy clothing that makes you look as good as you feel.”
I bloody well hope that context remains permanent.
Prologue Hong Kong
3 Shin Hing Street
Central, Hong Kong.
Prologue’s MTM programme starts at $7,500 HKD per suit (subject to fabric availability & customisation).