Packing Wars: A Week in China with Michael Andrews
June 19th, 2011
As much as I like collecting & styling clothes, shoes and accessories, I hate carrying them. So when it’s time to travel I try my best to pack only versatile pieces that can be mixed-and-matched in order to keep my bags as light as possible.
As documented in our most recent video episode Micheal Andrews and I traveled to China this March to oversee the production of our new Ready-to-Wear collection (which will be available exclusively on thestyleblogger.com in early-mid July).
Mike and I used this opportunity as an experiment in packing light. The challenge: How little could we pack for a week long trip to China and still have a different outfit each day?
Here, what each of us packed and a daily record of the outfits we put together, along with a few of our best packing tips.
What I Packed
- LAYERS: wool/silk patterned blazer, tweed waistcoat, navy lightweight wool cardigan
- TOPS: blue oxford shirt, brown gingham shirt, linen crewneck knit, white v-neck t-shirt
- BOTTOMS: light wash jeans, navy chinos, light blue chinos
- SHOES: navy suede loafers
- ACCESSORIES: brown alligator belt, tortoise shades, watch, 2 pocket squares, tie bar, navy socks, brown socks, navy linen tie
- BAGS: duffle carry-all, briefcase (carry-on)
What Michael Packed
- LAYERS: lightweight flannel suit jacket, patterned blazer
- TOPS: white/blue check shirt, lavender shirt, light blue shirt, blue/white check shirt, white short sleeve shirt, blue/white bengal stripe shirt
- BOTOMS: lightweight flannel suit pants, camel corduroys, indigo jeans, dark wash jeans
- SHOES: dark brown loafers, light brown wingtips, navy boat shoes
- ACCESSORIES: brown leather belt, aviator shades, watch, 2 pocket squares
- BAGS: heavy duty roller, duffle, briefcase (carry-on)
Day 1 – Takeoff & Landing
This trip in particular was a little tricky to prepare for since we spent the first part of the trip in northern China (weather similar to Toronto) and the second part in Southern China (weather similar to Miami).
Bonus Tip (from Michael): “I usually have plenty to carry when I’m going on a business trip to the workshop [samples, patterns, fabrics, trims, etc]… The airline allows you to check two bags under 50 pounds, but it’s a little inconvenience to carry both. So after picking them up from baggage claim, I throw my smaller duffle into my larger heavy-duty case and roll with ease.”
Bonus Tip II: Whenever I’m taking a long flight I try to wear a few layers. It helps keep your load light and allows you to adjust to those sporadic airplane temperatures. Also, the best way for your jacket to fly is on your back.
Bonus Tip III: A few hours into the trip and I already found a new scarf. It’s the free airline-issued blanket.
Day 2 – Fittings at the Workshop
When meeting with business partners and/or employees, it’s important to look presentable and “in charge”. Even if the situation doesn’t necessarily call for business attire, a jacket or waistcoat sans-tie can look casual but serious-about-your-business at the same time.
Bonus Tip (From Michael): “Have the items your bringing dry cleaned or washed & pressed before you leave. Leave them in the plastic dry cleaning bags, fold them in half, and pack them. It’ll save you from having to press them again once you arrive.”
Bonus Tip II: A tweed waistcoat is the perfect layer when you’re not quite sure what to expect from the weather. It keeps your core warm without making you feel overly hot.
Bonus Tip III: A navy suede loafer may be the most versatile shoe available. These are the only shoes I brought – I figured it would be okay since I’ve already worn these with chinos, shorts, jeans, suits and even tuxedos.
Bonus Tip IV: A brown sock breaks up the navy-on-navy pant/shoe combo – and plays well off the other browns in the outfit.
Bonus Tip V: Here’s that airplane blanket again. It’s becoming one of my favorite scarves.
Day 3 – International Textile Show
The world’s largest International Textile Show. A day full of technical terminology and number crunching.
Bonus Tip (from Michael): “A patterned sport coat goes a long way because it can be dressed up or down and is heavy enough to wear as a coat when it cools off at night.”
Bonus Tip II: Well said Michael – dressing my sport coat down here. Wool and silk is a great blend for a light – but not too light – jacket.
Day 4 – The Forbidden City
Ok, I cheated. I picked up this sample from the workshop – the brown/cream whipcord seersucker suit. I also bought a silk scarf from a street market for a couple dollars too.
Bonus Tip (from Michael): “A suit that you can break-up into separates is key when traveling. This jacket is specifically designed for that purpose: patch pockets, gun metal buttons and cut from a lightweight flannel fabric that has enough heft and texture to work with jeans.”
Bonus Tip II: A lightweight scarf (like this silk number) takes no room in your luguge and can completely transform an outfit – not to mention help balance the unexpected changes in temperature.
Bonus Tip III: It rained a little this day – which made me rethink my shoe strategy. Probably should have thrown in a pair of topsiders or something. (In my defence, I checked the complete weather forecast before we left for the trip and we didn’t expect any rain).
Day 5 – A Long Day at the Shop
This one was a more low-key day. In the workshop from 8-8 working sh-t out with our pattern makers and cutters.
Bonus Tip (from Mike): “Ever since my first pair of custom pants with side-adjusters, I’ve never gone back to belt loops. Not only are they more efficient [perhaps Michael’s favorite word] but they also add a nice sartorial touch – not to mention I don’t have to search for a belt to match this particular shade of brown shoes.”
Bonus Tip II: A lightweight cardigan is a no brainer. It’s another versatile piece that can easily transform an outfit.
Day 6 – Meeting with Fabric Vendors
We spend the first part of this day enjoying the beautiful city of Hong Kong. Out first real downtime all week. Of course we couldn’t take a full day off, we also had to meet with our vendors to order all of the fabrics and trims we needed for the collection.
Bonus Tip (from Mike): “Don’t forget to pack a versatile and comfortable casual shoe. Something you can walk a couple miles in, and preferably something you can slip on and off. If it’s waterproof (like these topsiders), that’s another bonus.”
Bonus Tip II: Linen knitwear gets no love. I have a handful of linen knits (the white t-shirt from above and this striped pullover for example) and love wearing them all. They have a nice casual drape and never give you that sticky feeling on the skin.
Bonus Tip III: If you’re going to be walking far in some serious heat, it’s probably not a great idea to go sockless in your loafers – both for comfort and odor reasons.
Day 7 – Wrapping Up
One more round of fittings followed by a celebratory Pekin Duck feast and we’re on our way home.
Bonus Tip (from Michael): “I usually can’t find the time to do laundry on these trips, so I pack a nifty sealable bag called ‘The Funk Trunk’ for my dirty laundry. You want to make sure you keep it seperate, and sealed.”
Bonus Tip II: I pack at least one tie on every trip I take. It takes very little space, and you just never know. Usually it’s a solid navy (like this linen herringbone) because it works with just about anything.
Bonus Tip III: Of course it’s okay to wear an item on back-to-back days. We’ve all done it. I’m light on my clothes and I don’t sweat that much, so some pieces can go a few wears until they are physically dirty (or smelly). Also keep in mind that undershirts can help elongate the lifespan of your button-up shirts.
Thanks for reading.
Yours in style,
Photography by Michael and Dan.