Myat Kaung Min
Jessica Mudditt talks with Myat Kaung Min, Managing Director of men’s tailor’s Scott & Co. about the changing face of fashion in Myanmar.
Myat Kaung Min was interning at Yoma Strategic Holdings when he was struck with an idea for a new business. “My trousers were loose so I took them to a tailor’s and asked for them to be fixed. The tailor messed it up completely – they came back looking like farmer’s pants, with the hem way above my ankles.”
Needless to say the trousers never saw the light of day again, but the experience convinced Myat Kaung Min that there was a gap in Yangon’s market for a premium tailor. He set about finding investors and was determined to have his business up and running according to the schedule he set – which was just three months after first conceiving the idea.
“I’m a stickler for meeting timelines – by hook or by crook I told myself it would happen. I even waited outside an investor’s house for a couple of hours just to get a signature on the paperwork. I made it happen because I don’t like things to drag along. That’s the way things work in Myanmar, so you need to be thick skinned if you want to do things differently,” he told InDepth.
Part of the urgency was driven by an awareness that the clock is ticking towards the beginning of Myanmar’s involvement in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
“I felt that if I waited until I graduated and didn’t have a sizeable business by 2018 [when Myanmar joins AEC] the market could be flooded,” he said.
Myat Kaung Min took a semester off his studies in business and liberal arts at the National University of Singapore in order to ensure that Scot & Co was registered by mid-January. The 23-year-old businessman is confident that there is a significant number of men who will seek out Scot & Co’s services.
“A lot of foreign investment is coming in and Myanmar will start to change at a breakneck pace. Maybe the mandarin collar and lungyi will be worn forevermore, but I feel that the more we go overseas, the more important sartorial will become. The suit may become the next in-thing. I want Scot & Co to be associated with the journey Myanmar is making from pariah state to international partner.”
Myat Kaung Min described himself as a “patriotic person who is proud of Myanmar traditions.” However, he said that the lungyi has practical limitations in the modern era.
“Lungyis are very comfortable, but if it’s raining heavily and you have a phone in one hand and an umbrella in another and your lungyi is about to fall off… Well that becomes very inconvenient.”
He added that the lungyi will remain a quintessential symbol of Burmese culture but that some change is simply inevitable. “I see it being phased out of non-essential events. I know that’s a very controversial thing to say. But my question is: how long will we hold on before we make this transition?”
He cited Yangon City Development Committee as an example of having switched from lungyis to trousers for staff for purely practical reasons.
Scott & Co is named after the Scottish journalist and colonial administrator George Scott, who helped establish British colonial rule in Myanmar and introduced football to the country. He is also the namesake of Scott Market, which is nowadays better known as Bogyoke Market. The fact that Scott’s heyday was almost a century ago is irrelevant, he said. Scott & Co prides itself on not being a slave to fashion. As Oscar Wilde once famously mocked, “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”
“For us, style is timeless – we offer the classics. When it comes to our tie offerings, for example, we don’t have the skinny ones.”
Double-breasted suits that hark back to the 1920s have been adapted to the local context, with wool, linen and cotton used in favour of a heavier material, such as tweed. Scott & Co has 700 different types of fabrics, much of which comes from Australia.
The boutique store on University Avenue Road is tastefully designed and filled with old world charm. It even features a sliding bookshelf that leads to a ‘secret room’ changing room – it’s like something straight out of a James Bond film.
Scott & Co’s creative team is also comprised of Yin, who studied at Singapore Academy of Fine Arts and General Manager Ye Thway Aung, who was trained at Saville Row in London. The famous street is where the word ‘bespoke’ originates from and its history of top-end tailoring dates back more than 200 years.
When asked who the world’s best dressed man is, the reply comes immediately and in virtually in unison: Prince Charles.
“He out-dresses everyone in the Royal Family. All his clothes are tailored by Anderson Shepherd from Saville Row and his personal sense of style fits his personality perfectly,” said Ye Thway Aung, who is adamant that he dresses far better than both his sons.
Scot & Co has plans to “expand aggressively”, with trunk shows held in cities such as Mandalay, as well as launching a collaboration with Spanish shoe-maker Yanko. By the end of the year, Scot & Co will reveal its ladies corporate suit line – which will no doubt please the fussiest of dressers.