Monokel Berlin is the made to measure tailor for the new generation of suits, shirts, coats and chino trousers. The three co-founders are convinced that every man should have access to high quality and perfectly fitted clothing. The brand aims to provide apparel which feels like a second skin. Their garments won't cost you a fortune but will certainly emphasise your personality. Today you will find their stores in Berlin, Munich and Riga.
In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Monokel Berlin Co-Founder Alexander Davaroukas about his working background and the founding story of the brick and mortar focused men's tailoring brand. After a personal frustration of not being able to successfully guide Berlin-based tailors towards the type of look he wanted, he decided to combat this by starting a made to measure business with his friends. Our host Peter Brooker and Alexander also chat about educating men on clothing, how the consultation process works, and making garments suitable for all occasions.
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Hello and welcome to another episode of The menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker on this episode I'm going to talk to Alex, co founder at Monaco Berlin. Monaco is spelled mano ke L. And I'm going to pour a short clip from the website which you can find By the way, at www dot Monaco Berlin dot d. Welcome to Monaco Berlin We are the latest generation of bespoke clothing stores with shops in Berlin, Munich and Riga. With us you will find Suits, Shirts, coats, jeans and chinos made to measure which we customise according to your taste. we equip you with the finest selection of men's accessories such as ties, bows, scarves, men shoes and pocket squares. So that interview with Alex to come, and I really enjoyed it. Alex is a very measured tuned in young gentleman. He has over 200 ties in his personal collection and appreciates the importance of dressing well. And dressing comfortably, too, I might add. But before we get to Alex, don't forget to check out the show notes at menswear style. www. men's wear style dot coat UK and on the social we're at men's wear style. If you want to tell us about your brand, come on the show and tell us your journey. You can email us here at info at menswear. style.co.uk Okay. Let's let's get to it. This is a good one. I hope you enjoy it. Here is that interview with Alex, co founder at Monaco Berlin. Well, it's my great pleasure to introduce Alex DeMarcus, co founder of Monaco Berlin to the podcast. How are we doing today? Alex? doing very well. Thank you very much. Thanks for having me. Thank you for coming on. And thank you. I was gonna say thanks for dressing up. I imagine this is your everyday attire or something to that effect. With wearing a pair of jeans, this is my casual wear. But thank you very much. Yeah. Pretty good casual. Alex, For the uninitiated, for the people that may not have heard of you or monocle Berlin, please give us a thumbnail sketch of yourself and how the company started? Yeah, well, my name is Alex, I'm founders of Monaco, Berlin, founded five years ago, and yeah, end of 2014 by the three of us by below Philip and myself, and funding in Berlin. And wouldn't want to call it an act of defiance, but sort of a contrast to the current Berlin situation where we're most of the new companies founded and has nothing to do with brick and mortar and more of the most scalable business idea that you can find and then launch online that we started Monaco. And to kind of take take the Yeah, slow it down a little bit and trying to find a creative place just for ourselves, but for clients to relax, and, and, yeah, sit back a minute. And mostly talk about life and tailoring as well. Are you talking about like the rise of E tailoring and how people can kind of virtually get suits made these days are not just the tailoring. I mean, clothing in general, something that's mostly bought online. And people do go to shops and try on things. But the convenience, especially now, during Corona, and most people buy their stuff online. Which is something that I still can't do, the only thing I can buy online is ties. Because I know enough about them to kind of understand what they would feel like and how they behave and how they behave. But anything else like I still can't buy online. Because you don't have that trust capacity, or you want to feel something and try something before you actually wear it. And well, I mean, buying clothing, I mean, it's still it's just clothing. So it's not that important, but it's not just about how it looks but more about how you feel wearing it. And then something you can only find out by by touch and feel and understanding the cloth and the makeup. And that's something you can't do online. I mean, if if one day somebody finds a way to properly serve it online, and I'll be the first to jump on that train, but until then, I believe it's something it's something very personal. So Want to feel comfortable and well aware and don't want to have 15,000 things in my, in my cover that I'm not wearing, simply because I saw them online and bought them after whiskey. The impulse buys I think people are suffering for a lot of fun. Tell me about it. I've had a bunch of myself. I bought a Thai bar. I wish I had it to hand I bought a Thai bar that was shaped in a horse whip. Because I was reading living Let Die by Ian Fleming. And they described one of his tie bars as his horse whip Tiber. That sounds really cool. So googled it and found it straight away. And just bought it. I wasn't I wasn't drunk, I don't drink but I spent about 30 quid on a time when it turned up as I Oh, yeah, I did order that shit. Anyway, Alex, maybe tell me a bit about your background. So is it fashion related? Did you go to any particular fashion school? Were you a pattern cutter by trade? Not at all, I was kind of undecided after leaving school. And I was always fascinated by architecture and wanted to study architecture in in Milan at the time. But my best subject in school was economics. So I thought that's the way to go, since we weren't destined everything else, just an RV. And so I sat back and said, Oh, can we do an internship tried architecture and get another standing for this first before I you know, start their journey over a five year university course. And from there onwards, I went on to to work for in for a carpenter, and to understand materials much better. And then that was back in Nuremberg. And then my sister was living in Berlin at the time said, I should come see you in Berlin and actually move over there because she thought the city might tilt me. And I've never been to Berlin at that point, I was I was 18 at the time, and I've never seen our capital city. Let's go and take a look alike to learn and then applied for a job at a time on a factory, one of the most oldest common effectors of the Berlin of Germany at the time. And to get a feeling for fabrics understand colours and applied as an assistant designer, not having worked in design prior to that. But yeah, it worked out in the end, I sold myself quite well, and then started working for them. And that's my entry into fashion. And kind of went its way from there onwards. I never ended up going to university or studying architecture. But the other kept on working and turn this three month internship into an almost one and a half years there. I think that Yeah. Until Unfortunately, the company went bust. No. manufacturer in Germany has got is No, I don't think it's actually the oldest one of the oldest, yeah, was founded in 1908. And yeah, I mean, they only a few people left wearing ties on a daily basis, so it's probably not. Anyway, and yeah, it's quite a sad story. But working for that manufacturer got in touch with quite prominent tailoring houses and menswear stores, not just in Germany or in Berlin, but all well, German speaking countries. They used to be an all over the place selling ties from New York to everywhere, really. And, and they were quite big in Scandinavian markets. And so I was kind of thrown into this fashion world of high quality and very well made tailoring. Pretty much everything I couldn't afford at the time. And I mean, there are a few different stores around Germany that you could go to, but they're mostly focused on. Yeah, I mean, if you if you're oddly shaped, or there's not that tailoring culture that you have in the UK, right. Okay. Yeah, it was very commercial. And I went to Berlin last year in terms of what I was looking at for clothes, obviously have all the marquee name shops, and Hugo Boss and everything is very much off the rack when you go there. Yeah, but I I did a lot of walking around Berlin and didn't see a whole lot of tailoring, ateliers there. You have to look very hard there. There are still a few very good ones around but none of which I could afford. And so few that I could afford I gave them a try and not understanding much about tailoring are not enough and I couldn't you know, guide the tailor in a way that sounds weird, but I was hoping for for guidance from them, which I never got. And I shared this experience with my coworker at the time Lila, which is now one of my co founders. And, you know, he, he understood and so the three of you know, there's three, three of us yet, yes. philippou. Quite as a, as a side, he's a photographer, and studied communications. And I collaborated with him on photo shoots just now we can just for the fun of it. And that's how I got to know him. And, and he liked the idea of it, understood what it was about. And he more so I think he still sees it as a project. more interesting than anything else he did prior to that. So that's how we got together and and maybe we can just dial back a little bit and and talk about what Monaco Berlin is about for the people that haven't heard of it is more tailored towards bespoke, made to measure, is it a mixture of both? Could you elaborate on that, please? Well, it's mainly made to measure and because we're not focused mainly on, on dress, dress shirts, and suits and jackets. And we always try to the idea that beginning I mentioned earlier that when we were still quite young, we couldn't afford this proper tailor, let's go with that. And then look for a cheap entry level, which was obviously made to measure and not bespoke. And since most I mean, we get most of our clients of new economy clients, and so they don't have to wear a suit. So we never looked for a business that mainly sells suits or dress shirts, but look for a business that could cater the entire wardrobe range. And from a talent perspective. So we're still quite formal, but he's casual from my perspective, and feel sure we don't just sell suits and shirts will sell over codes that have been sending over the beginning, introduced jeans and Chino trousers 13 years ago. And we're currently working on a new pattern for over shirts, introduce a car code for this winter. And so it's especially living in Berlin wear suits is something that's quite rare. You stand out of a crowd wearing a suit. I was I was gonna touch upon that do you get? Do you get quite a reaction when you turn up? Or when you arrive to say, pubs or bars? Is there something that people notice that's different about you in the way that you dress? And do you like that? Yeah. Yeah, I mean, quite often been asked if I'm going to a wedding or where I've just come from, right. And uttermost exam. I'm from work now. Oh, you're a banker? So yes, they are quite obviously. I mean, you do most of the politicians working in Berlin. And there are many suits walking around the city, just that you don't see them very much. You know, what I really liked? When I was on your website earlier, Alex was there's almost covers quite the canvas. Pardon the pun from if you're coming there to learn about tailoring. If you're coming there to learn, say the difference of what is bespoke clothing. And what is bespoke tailoring difference between major measure and bespoke, I think a lot of these terms, people kind of hear, but they never, you know, if you held a gun to their head, they're never be able to give you the proper explanation for this as well. So I was gonna ask, how did you manage to get the website looking so good as it is now? And what were they? What were the steps in the in the process of getting that up and running. And, I mean, we try to remodel the website after the usual appointment that you have at our shop, which takes most of the time up to two hours. Right? Meaning that we try and make it as educational as possible. I mentioned earlier that I was kind of left alone by the tailors that I visited earlier, or prior to founding. And we tried to make it as educational as possible for the people to understand their clothing to understand what they're buying and why they're buying it. And which hopefully makes them appreciate it more and make them understand it's not just about fit and on finally getting that red pinstripe suit that you've always wanted and could never find anywhere else but finally found a tailor that supplies the fabric and but get them to understand what work went into it and why it went into it. And that was the main idea behind the website, which is why it's Such a long read. But it's so informative. And it does feel that you can fall down a few rabbit holes. So you look at some of the information articles. But then you also open up a different blog set kind of focus on certain areas of why you'd want to wear a suit to a wedding, why you'd want to wear suit for businesses capture. And so I really enjoyed spending about an hour on that today when I should have been doing something else. Thank you very much. No, no, it's great. And I'll get the website a shout out in case in case people don't know the place to go Monaco Berlin de is and Monaco is spelled m one o and k l Berlin. We'll put this up on the show notes so that people can visit and spend some time over there and get some really good information as well. So it sounds like you've got quite the community going do you have a sense of that? When people come in? And, you know, get tailored? Did they then become friends and say, let's go for drinks later. As it worked for you now? Well, it happens. It happens quite a lot. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, because we did most of the time doing started the shop. But yeah, that's that that's the idea behind it. I mean, we're not trying to sell you that one suit that you might need for the rest of your life. And that's it, but shine create your community is a strong word. But I mean, we thrive on recurring customers. Yeah. And enjoy people phoning us up and or sending us pictures of what they've just bought. And automotive, they should keep it or how they should wear it. And, and if it's the right thing, fit or look for them. That's quite interesting. And for people that are based in in Germany, some of our listeners in the UK, can they reach out to you as well and say, Look, I'm interested in having this look, they show you a couple of mood boards, maybe actors and films, can it can it work like that? Sure, yeah, we've done that a lot in the past. I mean, some people do bring inspirations that we always try and take into consideration when we actually tell them something for them. And but setting those inspirations aside, it's more important to get to know that person. And if they want to create a persona based on somebody in a film, yeah. It's, then that's fine. Usually that, that, that look in a certain film, or they look on the bringing a picture from and just famous actor or politician, or whoever. And then it works for them, for that politician for that actor for that celebrity. And for that blogger or Instagram. influencer or, yeah. And but it doesn't necessarily have to work for that client. Right? Which is why we spend so much time with our, with our clients and getting to know them. Yeah. And if that look would even work for them. And if it turns out it doesn't, we tell them often a bit, too, honestly. And they accept that or at the end, he could overrule my opinion. But yeah, we try to be as honest as possible. Because that's an interesting conversation to have. And I remember working as a tailor as an intern at a tailor here in London myself, where you're there to kind of service a customer's needs without really gilding the lily as much, but also pointing them in a direction where you feel like they need to go. But if there is a crossroads that you meet with the customer, that there's I mean, I wasn't in a position that I could say no to them, because I was just an intern, I was just working there. But there are certain moments where I saw the head Taylor just say this is not possible for you. It must be quite a difficult bridge to cross sometimes when you do meet those obstacles. And yeah, I mean, we rely on our clients, obviously. And we're not in a position. I mean, we're so fine. And we don't have a big brand standing behind us, or a big investor that shoots money into the company whenever we need it. So we are reliant on them. But most of us actually take it quite well and are rather happy that we are honest about it. So that I mean, that's the benefit of talking to a sales representative or a tailor or somebody who knows what they're talking about compared to you buying online. Yeah. And that we can tell you honestly, if that actually works for you or if it doesn't, and I myself I always I love the suits worn by the now Yeah, he's no longer. Akihito used to be the Japanese nontidal state Prince, not King, Ming, the Providence and the main royal or of Japan and he used to wear I mean, he's, he's very short man. He's a 50 torso now. And but he wore double breasted suits like like nobody else could maybe Prince Charles decide to Prince Charles, nobody else could wear a double breasted suit second, so I always wanted to wear a double breasted suit. But it never worked for me. It just simply doesn't work. So why didn't it work? Is it a frame or a design issue? It's the way I'd like to wear my clothing is usually the two challenges are too short jackets a bit too loose. It's a mixture of Yeah, my personal pedantry when it comes to tailoring and and the look I was going for that I was striving to achieve, based on that integration picture I've had. Yeah. It's interesting. I've had that sort of notion as well, a huge James Bond fan, Alex, and particularly Roger Moore, I thought he was one of the best tailored and one of the he he just was, he knew how to wear suit. But there is a certain look that will work for Roger Moore, and Roger Moore being over six. And there's a certain look that will work for this podcaster all of five, six in heels. You know, I doubt I'll be able to carry off such flares on on the trousers or maybe the double breasted jackets like you say, but that, again, that maybe comes up as perhaps a different conversation because you can still enjoy clothes. I mean, I have bespoke Safari suits made. They could borderline into cosplay, they could look like James Bond from the 70s. But there's a part of me that doesn't really care about that because I enjoy wearing it. And I enjoy having that feeling of what it was like to wear a more being like an invisible James Bond as it were. So there is that there's a weird line in the sand where people can wear stuff, even though the preps know it's out of place, or it's not for them. You have to write about that. Yeah, that's what I meant by about. I said, if you want to create a persona based on that character, then you can do that. I have a similar story with George Lazenby who I loved his suits. I mean, he only that one James Bond film, but usually whether it's flamboyant shirt, Russell shirts. Yeah. I thought they look brilliant on him. I tried one myself and, and looking in the mirror. And yeah, Alex, please just tell me maybe what's in there. What's the future holds for Monaco Berlin what we working on now? And what can we envisage in the next few months down the road? Well, I mean, COVID, in a sense, kind of sped up the process that that was going on for years. And of I don't know that the word on the casualisation of industries, you oddly find those old economy dress codes and put him in your in your onboarding process when starting a new job telling you to wear certain shades of grey and, or a midnight blue suit that always has to be worn with a black pair of shoes with a matching belt, and you only get those anymore. And so, we've been working on this process for about three years now trying to create a wardrobe. Going back to I mean, if you think of madmen, and I always love that series, but obviously, it's outdated, because people never change, they got home and unless they dressed up even more for a formal occasion. They never got changed. People nowadays, they come home from work, strip and put on something comfortable. Something I never understood. So we've been working on that trying to create a wardrobe that works for you on a Tuesday afternoon, on your date night with a wife, as well as your Sunday afternoon. And something that is entirely you and works for you for as many occasions as possible, which sometimes means Yeah, taking off the jacket and just putting on a jumper so dressing up or dressing down a suit. But also something that that doesn't make you feel you dressed up for a certain occasion. occasion being your job, and then having to be you are dressing down to be yourself again, and when it comes to the weekend. So yeah, we'll be introducing less formal shirt or not not letting introducing but expanding our less formal shirts, and introducing overshot. And we've worked a lot on our man constructed jacket to make them more wearable and make them look more formal. And it gives you the possibility of dressing them up further. Because they're not unconstructed jacket can can easily look like a cardigan, glorified cardigan. Yeah, so that's what He's been working on especially I mean, our to wear something I've always been interested in. And because outerwear to me or either you're very cold or your way your barber jacket. Yeah, so. And, yeah, it's something we've been looking into for a while. But we're still undecided within the team, every process has to go through the entire team. In the end, which defines our style and what we stand for. There's not just below the level myself, but it's the entire team. And do any of these garments, like the skills and the processes of designing and making them Do any of them kind of dovetail into each other, like, I know that shirt making in like, the process of designing shirts, and making shirts is almost like a skill that's very isolated to itself. But then, sure, the nearest thing to that could be over shirts, and then beyond that, outerwear and coats, the things that you can, like transfer from one to the other. It is I mean, the the the overshirt is more of a mixture of our dress shirt and the unconstructed jacket that are making for for the beginning. And so that transformed into the overshare that we'll be introducing at the beginning of next year. Same thing that happened to our genome browser, we made cotton suits in the beginning and called them once you've lost the jacket, call them Chino trousers, but they're obviously not Chino trousers. So once we looked further into chinos, and we've got a better understanding of the fabrics used and and suddenly learn more about denim as well. And which is, yeah, bespoke denim trousers that must feel to itself, right. Yeah. I mean, you have brands dedicated to that, and you're just, it's very true. Yeah. And that was probably the longest process that took us one and a half years to understand denim properly. And, and that was mostly with the help of our clients. Because we got the feedback and we started with the most formal pair of denim trousers that you can get in my opinion, which is a raw salvaged denim which is something that hardly anybody wanted. In Berlin anyway. And in Munich is a different story. They understand the quality of salvage and they want to work on their their child was so raw denim with something that they think is very interesting, and they really want whereas in Berlin, you must be have skinny jeans, something you can't do with a karaoke, 14 hour dinner. Doesn't work. She's going to end up with bleeding legs. So yeah, that was a very interesting process, from from cotton suits. And down to chinos we ended up selling selling jeans and custom tailor dinner. sounds terrific. Well, are you going to be opening up any other stores outside if you've got one in Riga, two in Germany, Munich? Any, any clues of coming to London anytime soon? And I'd love to go to open up a shop in London or one point. And but I mean, Berlin, and Munich was, it happened by chance. We had a trunk show, we held a trunk show twice or thrice a year in Munich. And then and on the way from after the end of the trunk show on the way from the location that we rented. And to about a friend of our own. We walk past this record store, which was not going out of business, but they were close enough moving down to a smaller location. And we just saw their place and said, yeah, this works for us. We want to have that. So that's how we ended up in Munich. So if something like that happens along the way in the future, then we might end up in different places. But as of right now, there's nothing planned, especially here with COVID. At the moment we've focused on Yeah, our core business for now. Right. Well, I, I hope you trust your come through the other side of COVID. and wish you all the best with Monica Berliner. I do hope that you'll make it to London sometime soon, either. Just for business or pleasure. And we'll hook up for a coffee and talk some bond. I'd love that. Yeah, we're going to show you some show you some bond locations if you do. Yeah. So Alex, thanks so much for taking time out especially on a Sunday. Monaco Berlin de is a website that you go to also Instagram check out Monaco Berlin on the Instagram and tell him we sent you and say hi and check out some of the wonderful imagery over there. Meantime, Alex Take care and I'll speak to you soon. My pleasure. Thank you very much. Thanks me. Oh, how about that, as you could appreciate, I could have talked to Alex for hours. And I didn't even get to talk about the East Side Gallery or the spy museum or the bust of Nefertiti, these wonderful things you can see and do in Berlin. Lots of wasps in the summer in the city of Berlin, recommend a winter visit. I digress. Make sure you're supporting the good guys head over to Monaco Berlin. De and treat yourself or your loved one to some good clothes and some equally good advice on clothing. In the meantime, thanks for tuning in. If you like what you're hearing, leave us a review. It does help our egos around here and until next time.