Om Malik: Tell me me a little bit about yourself: Where are you from and what do you do; what excites you; and what are a few of your favorite things that bring happiness to you? Does where you live influence what you like and what you care about?
Mark Cho: My name is Mark; I am Chinese and was born and raised in London. I work in menswear and own two brands, The Armoury and Drake’s. I love my work, which includes sourcing and developing great products and taking care of amazing customers, craftsmen and colleagues. I split my time between Hong Kong, London and New York as I have shops in all three cities. The frequent changes in scenery are welcome for me. I feel my thinking shifts a little bit in each city, London being a bit calmer and more contemplative, i.e. useful for planning and writing; New York being quite socially focused, i.e. building connections and relationships; and Hong Kong, being where my family lives, is my “roost” and gives me a feeling of relief.
OM: Tell me the last time you read a book and enjoyed the book. How did you find out about it and what was your process to read it? What do you do that makes book reading a unique experience? Do you have a schedule, a favorite spot or favorite place? Tell me more about the ritual of reading a book.
MC: I almost always read on the plane; I never really have any other time to do so. The last book I really enjoyed was The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis. I think I saw a review for it in the back of The Economist. I read it over the course of a few plane trips. I usually fly Cathay Pacific, which does not have onboard wifi, so the long haul from Hong Kong to New York is one of my most unreachable and peaceful periods, good for focusing on what’s on the page. If the book was enjoyable, I love to talk about it. It’s like eating, you have to chew the food to get a better sense of the taste. In the same way, talking about what I read is a necessary additional layer of enjoyment for me. I tend to read a lot of nonfiction, so I like to think and talk about real situations and practical applications of what I read.
OM: When you are waiting for a friend at a coffee shop or are in between meetings, what do you read? How do you find it and how do you read it?
MC: In between meetings I read whatever’s new on The New York Times. I used to look at Instagram more but I prefer something a little more wordy.
OM: What are your two to three favorite blogs and why?
OM: Tell me about the three publications — magazines or newspaper you can’t live without — from a personal and a professional perspective.
MC: The New York Times, I generally like its reporting and some of its opinion pieces. The Economist, I grew up reading it during high school as part of economics class and it just stuck with me. I actually look at their book reviews carefully because they often have interesting nonfiction in there. Also, I find their special report sections are thorough and well researched. World of Interiors, because I love what they do. They never feature flashy or cookie-cutter type homes; they’re always places that have a lot of unique character. You get a sense of how much love went into putting those environments together. I think a lot about store design and I always try to design The Armoury’s stores with a warm, personal, homely feeling in mind.
OM: What are the top accounts you follow on social media that make you better informed and smarter about your work?
MC: Social media is fun for seeing what my friends are up to, but I can’t say any of them are particularly work related. There are some great furniture dealers on there, like @danskmobelkunst, and some awesome photographers like, of course, @om and @a_gaut.
OM: Who are you favorite writers and why?
MC: I can’t say I’m well read enough to have much of an opinion. A lot of my reading is directed more by interest in an area than by a writer necessarily. That been said, I do love Haruki Murakami and I also have a lot of (newfound) respect for Michael Lewis.
OM: What are you favorite reading apps? Tell me more about how you use them and when you use them.
MC: I use the Kindle app fairly often but I find myself usually buying both a paperback copy and the digital version of whatever I’m reading. I much prefer reading on paper but reading on your phone can be quite convenient.
OM: How do you find news and information? Tell us about your process — from finding, to reading, to sharing.
MC: I seem to have an interesting group of friends on Facebook; the things they share are quite varied and worthy of attention. I recently had a conversation with a younger colleague and was quite surprised to hear that she did not get anything out of her Facebook feed. For me, it is probably the best source of eclectic information, but I suppose it is completely reliant on who your Facebook friends are. I generally don’t friend anyone who I don’t know reasonably well and want to keep up with. I really dislike it when people who have just met me try to be my friend on Facebook. I purposely chose a ridiculous profile picture to try and put people off my scent. For finding information, Google is obviously a great help, but actually just reaching out to trustworthy and personally-known sources is the best.
I like the idea that sharing knowledge allows for it to be built upon.
OM: Why do you share? What do you share and who do you share information with?
MC: I think there are a lot of reasons. Sometimes it’s a nice ego boost; I’d be lying if I said my vanity was not a factor. Sometimes I want people to know about something that I’m interested in because I really think it’s worth paying attention to. Sometimes I try to share my own experiences with technology, books, restaurants, etcetera. I like the idea that sharing knowledge allows for it to be built upon. Maybe a little software bug that I found a workaround for could be the first steps to a longer-term solution. Being in fashion, I also share a lot of selfies. I think I die a little bit inside every time I make one, but looking back on them, I like having a record of what I wore, and they are of interest to some of my followers.
OM: What is your top tip for better media and news consumption you have for my readers?
MC: Read less and read better. Every time I find myself zoning out on Google News, going down a rabbit hole of content junk food, I later shake my head and feel like I wasted my time. Real, long-form writing is just so much more rewarding to absorb.