Roderick Tung is a modern-day jack-of-all-trades: cardiologist by day, and in the evening, when the scrubs come off and he heads to his West Hollywood, Calif., home, he takes on the role of fashion designer.
“I have always had a thing for fashion,” Tung says, naming Paul Smith, Tom Ford and Domenico Vacca as some of his favorites. But with a true passion for dressing, he wasn’t satisfied with just shopping for clothes, he wanted to make them better.
“I started doing some custom shirts for myself because I believed there were lots of issues with ready-to-wear shirts,” he says. He thought that most looked sloppy off the rack, so he started taking his own darts and re-tailoring them for a better fit. From there he decided it was time to go all the way and design his own line.
Tung’s friends served as the guinea pigs for his new business, and the designer duds that hung in his closet were just a starting point on his quest for the perfect shirt. From French cuffs to small, unique details, he wanted his product to be better than what was on the market. “Paul Smith does patterns underneath the cuff but you can’t seem them,” he says. “I wanted a fully Frenched cuff with some detail that also preserved a rich Italian look.”
Tung knew there was only one place to go when it came to the design and manufacturing of his shirts: Italy. With masters such as Gucci and Paul Smith in mind, he used his frame as a model for the fit of the shirt and had several patterns made and sent to a fabric house. “I flew to Northern Italy and I met with a fabric house,” he says. “They showed me what Gucci buys from them, and I was really impressed with the quality [the fabric house] had to offer.”
Never one to cut corners, Tung started at the top, selecting a higher thread count for his fabrics than what he saw in stores. At that point he honed in on the four principles that would guide his burgeoning shirt making business: cloth, cut, collar and cuff. “Those are the four things that distinguish a dress shirt.”
To say the market has responded to Tung is an understatement. He has secured placement for his shirts in some high-end boutiques in Los Angeles where he has been a customer for years. And his second collection is available at both Scoop NYC in Miami and Las Vegas—a sweet victory since his whole family now resides here.
“I want to do things on my own scale because I am my investor,” he says. “I am hoping this dress shirt line gains considerable momentum. I am hoping this takes on its own life and I can hire someone to supervise the day-to-day operations. You could give me a billion dollars and I would still be a doctor.”
But for right now, Tung is working two jobs, one of which doesn’t usually start until midnight when he can Skype with Italy, noting that since most of his shirts involve multiple fabrics, it takes a lot longer to understand what he wants, what with the language barrier and all.
“Every stitch is made in Italy. A lot of brands just get fabrics from Italy and make it in China. Mine is all about quality.”
Visit RoderickTung.com for details about the collection.