For Bo Yang, it was dressing for business that first got him interested in sartorial style. Born in southern China, Yang moved to Canada when he was 12 and decided he wanted to pursue a career in finance while at university. He started his career as a private equity analyst at Macquarie, where he looked at assets and investments and analysed risks; skills he would later use for more creative ventures.
Yang co-founded his first commodities trading house, BWD Gold Corp, in 2012 and also partnered with a macroeconomist friend to set up a macro-global situations fund that trades on worldwide trends. In 2016, he bought Italian shirtmaker Marol, a company founded by husband and wife team Luciano and Rosanna Avenuelli in 1959, which has now been passed down to their daughter Manuela, who remains co-owner.
‘I took a trip to Italy with my friend, founding editor of Parisian Gentleman Hugo Jacomet, to look at different makers and, from a commercial standpoint, I was looking at value creation,’ explains Yang. ‘Marol was one of the ateliers I visited in Bologna and the owner, Ms Avenuelli, has no children, so there was a succession issue, and it seemed like a natural fit.’
While Marol has a northern Italian heritage, with craftsmanship characterised by sophistication and precision, it is still rooted in Italian passion, and each shirt is designed and made in the Bologna atelier by a team of 25 craftspeople, many of whom have been working with Marol for generations.
‘People in Bologna grow up with art, it’s part of their daily life,’ says Yang. ‘Not only do they make beautiful things, they also take pride in themselves. This mindset translates directly into their creations, because the artisans themselves have a set of values, and values cannot be taught. You can learn the skills, and learn to sew perfectly, but it will never have the same spirit.’
Despite his finance background, Yang is heavily involved in the creative side of the company. Rather than call himself a designer, he explains his main role is influencing the collection by knowing what a well-travelled business man of taste would like. He therefore caters to men who expect the same level of craftsmanship from their casual weekend shirts as they do from their more formal suits and white shirts.
What makes Marol’s shirts particularly distinctive is the finesse with which the shirts are made. ‘The stitching is much finer, as are the fabrics we use, and the length and width of the hems – on the side and the bottom – are much shorter and thinner than normal,’ says Yang. ‘The way we hand stitch the buttonholes is also much finer than other shirts.’
The brand has also recently partnered with Neapolitan master tailor Pino Peluso of Sartoria Peluso, to offer refined suiting and tailored separates in addition to its signature shirts.
Marol holds appointments in London once a quarter and offers four levels of service for its shirts: ready-to-wear; made to order – enabling customers to pick the style, model and fabric but follow standard sizes; made to measure – where the house-cut block is adjusted based on your measurements; and bespoke – when a pattern will be created specifically for you, taking around 5-7 weeks from start to finish.
When asked how he strikes the balance between preserving Marol’s heritage and modernising the brand, Yang replies, ‘There are many challenges in this industry, as many of these companies are run on very dated systems. If there’s one thing you should contemporise, it’s the business system. Of course, you have to create a beautiful product, but there has to be a whole system of working behind it to ensure it’s also a financial success.’