JE Interview with….the founder, Mark Khan – October 2018

Mark Khan, founder of J & E

Well, this was not meant to be about me, but the photographer (JE below, for the purpose of the interview!) who was doing some product shots for me suggested it as I was chatting to him about the business – I’d done a suit for him and he liked my story!!! So here goes….

JE – Why did you start the business?

Well, for 2 reasons really. Having worked for other larger clothing companies for quite a while, I wanted to work for myself so I’d have the flexibility to work with clients on a real individual basis, and help them to achieve the STYLE they want.  I think my success in the past has been my ability to connect personally with a lot of clients – after all I have been them in one form or another over the years : corporate employee, entrepreneur, student, husband, father…. and a lot in between! More and more men are interested in the way they dress – not necessarily in a fashionista kind of way, but a bit more REAL. I have always been passionate about dressing well, even before I was in the business. I had my first custom suit at around the age of 7 – a navy blue mohair by my grandfather’s tailor! My other grandfather was a master tailor also (which I never knew until recently). I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the end product of a well put together wardrobe that I have worked on with a client, whether it be a wedding suit or a whole new business wardrobe. I love the creative process of essentially designing the garment with the client. Clients really do feel better in garments that fit well, and has a dash of style. The second reason for starting the business, and just as motivational, is the ability to spend time with my young family, even though the work is intense at this stage of the business.

JE – What is style to you in that case?

I read somewhere that “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak”, and that kind of sums it up. It is very subjective and individual, but the right combination of fit, colour and subtle details (and the way you wear it of course) defines your style. Let’s take a standard navy suit, but with a sharp fit and natural shoulders, Loro Piana cloth with rich colour saturation, complementary patterned lining with contrast piping detail, slim trousers just “kissing” the top of the shoe, shorter jacket length and vents, with a white slim fit shirt and dark navy silk knit tie. Those simple touches add a little (of my personal) style in my opinion.

JE – How is business?

I’ll be honest and say that I started the business and planning it at the same time – I say that somewhat sheepishly as I did not spend too long analysing, as I did not want to suffer the clichéd paralysis by analysis, which had kinda been my approach previously. We’re into month 4 now, and so far so good. In fact month 1 was my best so far!!! But of course, the focus is on getting new clients, which is challenging. I see that my previous clients, and new clients, really do appreciate working with me on a more personal basis. And a suit may not be required as much in the workplace anymore, but those guys who still like that business look are now willing to spend a bit of time stylising it somewhat. Why go cookie cutter, when you can have one of mine turned around pretty quickly? Also, I see these tech execs who want a stylish, tailored jacket to wear with their skinny jeans and designer t-shirts! And of course, most guys still want something a little special for their weddings. I recently produced a beautiful cashmere/wool, dark blue houndstooth tweed 3 piece suit for a winter wedding.

JE – why J & E?

I see myself as a bespoke stylist, meaning that together we decide on the details of the garment in a very personal way. Think of me as your “stylish” mate! Then I simply get it made for you, pretty quickly – within 3 weeks sometimes. Don’t hold me to that, but I have done it. I also don’t have any sneaky add-ons on my pricing – all the styling, tailoring, alterations, design features, enhancement features etc. are included in my fixed prices on the fabric ranges I have. Most of my mens styling experience has been as a brand ambassador for Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren at Saks 5th Ave, in New York City – those two brands do it really well. A recent article in Gentlemen’s Journal (by Josh Glancy, the New York correspondent for The Sunday Times) brought a smile to face (entitled An Englishman in New York – I’m London born and bred, with a 15 year stint in NYC), especially his comment, “the contrast in dress is indeed stark”, referring to how New York men dress. I have to come to the defence of you guys in New York, especially the ones I wardrobed….a lot of you do ok!

JE – what influences your personal style?

The 1960s in a nutshell. That mid-60’s period with the likes of Sean Connery, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman sporting those sharp lines in their suits. Just look at the films they were in around that period (Goldfinger, Thomas Crown Affair, Torn Curtain) and check out their suits. I bring that sensibility to my house cut, and my background with Hugo Boss brings it all up to date, I think anyway. So let’s dress like it’s 1965 shall we?