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 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,

Dan Trepanier

Photography by Michael and Dan.

  • Erica Spencer

    Thanks for sharing such a nice travelling tips. I really like your duffel bag. In few months ago, my brother purchase a travel bag for business trip from Copper River bags having wide collection of travel bags with life time warranty.

  • http://

    Hello! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Humble Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the fantastic work!

  • Samantha

    Fantastic outfits, you are really rocking the plaid!

    Here’s a travel tip in case of future beach trips: huge, yet lightweight linen towels that roll up into tiny tubes and fit perfectly inside a suitcase! Check them out at

  • Shannon

    Can we take a look what inside you and Mike’s carry on and luggage? It would be very helpful to know hot to pack and what to bring on like a business trip like this?

  • peru tours packages

    Very nice! I am looking for this type of info and sometimes I get lucky like today…:-). Thanks for your post.

  • J. N.

    Ugh ! I’m not one that believes in regret. But i really wish i had seen this post prior to Christmas. I took a trip to Paris…. and totally overpacked ! Especially considering the shopping i did there.

    Now i have a guide line to follow. Thanks again.

  • Bill

    So I’m trying to do my own version of day 2 (blue chinos, with the gingham and waistcoat w/ navy suede loafers). The closest gingham shirt I have to this one pictured is brown and black instead of brown and white. Do you think the black element will throw off the whole thing?

    • SB

      Hard to say without seeing it, but my inclination would be yes.


  • NaturallyStyledLeah

    I love this feature because I enjoy packing and finding ways to create a chic, minimal wardrobe for travel! I can adapt the style suggestions here to suit me since I’m a woman who wears the sort of classic looks that are featured on this blog. Your blog is awesome, keep up the good work!

  • Brian

    I love this post. What size duffle is that from Filson?

  • Step

    Part of packing light works very well when you allow yourself to be okay with wearing some clothes repeatedly. What is a rough guide about how often you can wear a certain button-up or pair of pants within a one-week travel period?

  • StyleInTheGenes

    You dressed superb, however I am dismayed by two of Mike’s outfits, easy to see which ones (first and last), they look like they’re from Structure.

  • paul fredrick

    Great post

  • Chris

    Were you at all disappointed at how your Chinese colleagues dressed? I have been to China seventeen times for business and every time I feel extremely overdressed.

  • Catarina

    This a great post!
    Great tips, great looks, great ideas. Packing is a issue that everyone should know about, not only because the weight, but because the combinations we can create with only a few pieces.

  • Publius

    Dig packing lightly, the post and the blog. But, could you not have found a manufacturer in the U.S.A.–perhaps N.Y.C.?

    • SB

      As we explained in the video episode, we sampled a number of workshops, including a couple from NYC. We didn’t think the product justified the price. Our suits will sell in the $700-900 range, rather than the $2,000+ range. That is where I want to keep them.

      Keep in mind that we hand-pick all of the inputs for the garments (Italian and English cloths, genuine horn buttons, nickel zippers, etc.) The garments are only SEWN in China, in a state-of-the-art workshop – again, as documented in video episode 4.

      Thanks for reading,

      • Publius

        Appreciate the rebuttal.

        Looking forward to seeing what you all put together.

      • Kip

        I recall several years ago a lot of suits were coming out of Canada where you are based. I assume that was not a viable option?

        • SB

          We are based out of NYC.

          There is some good product made in Canada, specifically in a well-known tailoredwear workshop outside of Montreal. The CMT there, however, is similar to the cost of producing in the US. I simply don’t want to sell $2500 suits. I want my suits to be accessible. (I know, it’s all relative, but you know what I mean).


  • Kip

    Depending on the purpose of the trip will influence how I pack. But as a rule of thumb, I assume my luggage will be lost or stolen. Therefore I will use the trip as an excuse to cull my closet. Thus said, it’s a given all undergarments, socks and shirts will get left behind. I once traded a pair of jeans and a polo shirt for a two hour cruise on a Dar Boat in Zanzibar! Now legally, this was a crime for which a foreigner (me) could have been punished.

    While it didn’t surprise me in Thailand or Zambia; it shocked me in Chicago when I was contacted by the Hotel Manager on the 3rd day of a 5 day business trip wondering if I had intended to throw my clothing out everyday or was it my intention to have the hotel launder it!

    On another business trip; my business partner and I decided to tack on a spa in Sedona for three days. I intentionally left the following footwear behind: running shoes, dirty bucs and sandals. Although I had been throwing clothing out my entire stay, I did not place the afore mentioned shoes in the proper receptacle. About a year and a half later a package arrived at my office via express mail. In addition to the three pairs of shoes, there was a note from the owner indicating that he had hoped I would have returned for them myself. But since I hadn’t, he offered me an extra night for my next visit!

    • SB

      Hah. Great stories Kip. So does this mean you only wear the bottom-of-the-barrel of your wardrobe on the road?

      Cheer and thanks for sharing,

      • Kip

        Generally it is stuff I will not wear in NYC anymore. I will also give a lot away to friends and in-laws. A lot of my stuff will only be worn a few times because I will buy most of a collection and many multiples. I’ll change designers from one season to the next if I don’t like their next collection.

        • Alex

          Wow, Kip. As impressive as you’re trying to seem, you’re just coming off as arrogant and boastful. I’m sure plenty of people would find your stories neat, but not on a site run by an intelligent guy who tries to lengthen the life of his pieces (versus intentionally shortening them).

          Just frustrating being on the other side of the spectrum and encountering someone like you.

  • iis of Faith

    Quick dial 911 people are taking airline blankets! LOL (that is why airline tickets are increasing in price!!)

    • SB


  • New Yawk

    Love this piece, and love the navy suede shoes. I’d be worried about coordinating them with a belt. What do you suggest? Thanks.

    • SB

      Dark brown belt is fine with dark navy shoes, in my opinion. Although I went beltless often as well.


      • New Yawk

        Thanks for the reply! Great stuff.

  • remus

    are the ralph lauren jeans in sec’ picture slim or straight fit ?

    • SB


      Thx for reading,

  • Lol

    Peep the fake Louis vuitton curtain in the day 5 pic… that’s when you know your in China..

    • DCRob

      Or, China..Town.

  • JMRouse

    I have to admit I laughed when I read you took suede loafers. Spent two weeks in Beijing and remember that it could turn to rain in a heartbeat. haha

    Looks like a fun trip. Glad you got to go.

    • SB

      Haha. We did get caught in a light rain – they didn’t melt.

      Cheers JMR,

  • Calvin S.

    Great post on the versatility of a few key items in your wardrobe. But I’m shocked that you only packed one pair of shoes for the trip. That can’t be good for the life of your shoes, right? And while the blue suede shoes are sharp and certainly versatile, I think brown or burgundy loafers are more so.

    • SB

      True. One pair for a week straight is not great for the life of the shoes – but these were brand new and needed to be broken in anyway. In the months since we’ve returned from the trip, I’ve probably only worn that pair two or three times.

      Brown loafers are certainly a great option – just would have been easy, and not unique enough for me.

      Thx for reading,

  • Gary-A

    Agreed with all the above, I love “challenges” like this one. I did two weeks in Italy with one bag and man if it wasn’t fun!

    Had a question, but mostly for Michael Andrews. Side tabs are cool – they show people you’re not messing around in the clothing department – but belts can be an accessory as well. I understand the redundancy (e.g. belt and braces), but having belt loops on a pair of pants at least opens up the OPTION to use a belt to add interest to an outfit.

    Agreed or disagreed?

    Also, @Jeff: I packed two blazers for my Italy trip (because I’m crazy) and here’s what I did: Punch one of the shoulders inside-out, and tuck the rightside-out shoulder inside of it. Then straighten the sleeves/pocket flaps and whatnot, and fold once to make a rough square. The lining of the jacket (assuming it is lined) will be the only face showing.

    This also helps if you pack clothes that don’t mind taking the beating. Handmedown hopsack blazer: check. $20 CK cotton sportcoat: check.

    • SB

      Hey Gary.

      I agree about the versatility of loops – side adjusters are simply Mike’s preference.

      Thanks for sharing!


  • HarrisonK

    This was great timing since I’m going away in a few weeks. I’ve been looking through your blog and a few others several times a week and no one ever posts on beach wear. I’m going to Aruba soon and would love some suggestions on what you’d suggest to bring for a casual vacation.

    Great work as always.

    • SB

      Beachwear coming soon!

      Thx for reading.


  • Anonymous

    Looking sharp, Dan.

  • sincere

    Michael Mantegna looks a lot like Tom Ford!

    • SB

      Haha, I agree, a little.

      Thx for reading,

  • Chris

    Brilliant post. It’s great to see that you can pack such a small number of items yet mix them together to create unique yet stylish outfits. You wear the same shirt and loafers in pretty much every pic but it never looks like you were short of options.

    • SB

      Thanks Chris. I hope this goes to show that you don’t need a lot of clothes to make several outfits – just the right clothes.


  • cam

    dan….awesome! suit coats/sport coats and blazers…center vents or side vents?

    • SB

      Thx Cam

      My preference: single vent for blazer/sport coat or casual suit, and double vent for sharper suits.


  • James Lettiere

    Did you guys do any exercise while on this trip? If so, in what? Thanks.

    • SB

      Yes we did, forgot to mention it. Mostly push-ups/sit-ups in the hotel room and cardio in the pool (packed one pair of swim trunks).


  • mcr

    Nice timing on the post, as i’m traveling in two weeks..

    PS. Quick question, What button hole do you recommend putting a tie bar in that’s not too high or nor too low?

    • SB

      The button placement depends on your height. I usually slip the tie bar right below my chest.


  • Bosun

    Such a great post, packing for holidays are always a major issue for me, never know what is not enough or what is too much!

    Love your look on Day 2 as well as the suede loafers you took. Loving the work

    • SB

      Thanks Bosun!

  • TechJetSet

    One of my all time favorite posts. I live in Thailand and enjoyed seeing you guys travel and deal with the practicalities and cultural issues of dressing for the occasions you encountered. I also have my own “airline”scarf. :O)

    • SB

      Those free airline “scarves” are a nice pick-up :)


  • Emanuel Iuhas

    Very good tips for packing Dan!Thank you , as always!
    I love your 2d outfit and Michael’s 3rd!That vest and those brown-camel pants are awesome!
    Godd luck & my best regards from Romania!

    Emanuel Iuhas
    Visual Merchandiser/Fashion blogger

    • SB

      Thanks Emanuel!


  • Jeff

    Great post Dan (and Michael). Great to see the versatility of those navy loafs, and a wonderfully timed post in my case since I’m traveling shortly.

    Any tips on the best way to pack/fold a blazer? Of course wearing one on the flight helps if you are planning on bringing on, but having a two versatile ones is nice.

    Keep up the great work!

    • SB

      Thanks Jeff.

      As far as packing jackets, I usually put them on hangers, in garment bags and fold it in half. If your bag is too small for that, turn the jacket inside out, fold it in half so that the shoulder pads are touching, and them fold it twice down.

      Hope this helps.

      Thx for reading,