Bow Ties Sydney, Australia - Le Noeud Papillon - Specialists In Self Tying Bow Ties

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

This Is Seriously Funny And Americans Should Pay Attention To It - Sacha Baron Cohen's New Television Series

I have sat at dinner tables in New York and heard some seriously well put together arguments on why Americans should have the right to bear arms. But I never bought them and I held my tongue out of respect for these predominantly men. And they were not uninformed, and many of them had come from the top US universities. When we mentioned too many times guns and gun laws in front of the New Yorkers that we were staying with (it was mostly my ex partner who had the most to say - she is a left leaning journalist), our host got fairly snippy and I had to ask her to pull back, I did not want to sleep on a New York sidewalk in January.

The argument for guns was better understood by me when I watched Ken Burns' documentary on The West. It suddenly became a practicality. If you wanted to move west in territory occupied by hostile natives (who had every right to be hostile), where there was no rule of law and men behaved like savages, well then, you had to defend yourself. The land was yours if you were willing to fight for it. As crazy as that sounds, it made sense to me that I would want the right to bear arms in that situation.

But America reached the West Coast. So the reasons behind those constitutional rights no longer made sense post that event. 

It is not for Australians to discuss US gun laws in a self-righteous ad nauseam manner but I do find this comedy extremely funny, tongue in cheek and very very naughty. It reminds me of the Australian comedic character Norman Gunston. I remember seeing Sacha Baron Cohen in London at a book launch. I could see him behind a screen and he was preparing, totally normal as one would expect a human to be, and then, as they announced him to come out I saw him don his mask as though it was literally a mask that he lowered, and from that point onwards he did not break character. He is truly a genius and to think these ideas up is marvellous. More importantly, the idea that those that he interviewed did not cotton on suggests something about their own intelligence. 

I love all my US customers, but to those who love the right to bear arms, I simply say, let's agree to disagree. 

Charvet Of Paris: Interview With Jean-Claude Colban - Head Of One Of The Revered Menswear Institutions In The World

When I managed to get through to Jean-Claude Colban on the phone he was as quiet at a church mouse. The snow filled wind around me was howling which made it even more difficult to hear him. But I did not dare ask him to speak up. He was a God of the world of menswear, especially of silk, and with these types you show nothing but deference. When he was finished he put down the receiver and was gone. And now I needed to get myself to Paris by Friday.

The glory of entering the Place Vendome

The famed Charvet window display

Charvet is diagonally opposite the Ritz Carlton

Charvet is located at 28 Place Vendôme, diagonally opposite the Ritz Carlton (where Princess Diana was last seen alive) and next to the jeweller Boucheron. It is an institution of menswear or what I like to call the ‘Mecca of shirts and ties’. It has been referenced in so many great novels that I stopped counting the number of pages I’d dog-eared over time. Its clients were also so famous that they had their own Wikipedia page divided into categories like ‘heads of state’, ‘royalty’ and ‘film stars’.
So, what is Charvet? In its most basic analysis it is a menswear store skewed towards shirts and neck ties. But, for the enthusiast menswear devotee, it is the most comprehensive arrangement of cotton shirting for bespoke shirts in the world along with one of the most exclusive and vibrant collection of woven and printed silks which are predominantly expressed as both long neck ties and bow ties. And whilst Charvet offers a wide range of other products, this remains their core.
The Charvet brand has a long and rich lineage, tracing back to the curator of Napoleon Bonaparte’s wardrobe, Jean-Pierre Charvet. Then came Louise Charvet, a relative who was Napoleon’s linen keeper at the château de Malmaison. It was her first cousin, Christofle Charvet, who would eventually start the first shirt shop in Paris in the year 1838, coining the term ‘chemisier’ in the process. Until then, shirt making was often the dominion of the linen keeper or customers would take their own fabric to a tailor or seamstress. Charvet changed all that by assembling the cloth and the makers in one house and performing a complete bespoke service for their customers. In doing so they perfected the art of shirt making and to this day some of their fabrication techniques are still considered the best in the world.

Jean-Claude's office and meeting room which was once occupied by his father

Archived silk designs by Jean-Claude

‘Probably our reputation as a shirt maker was bolstered in the 1800’s by the association with the Jockey Club, a group of wealthy Parisians and their aspirational friends who were known as ‘lions’ or what we these days call ‘dandies’. Basically, it was young men who perhaps had too much of their parent’s money and those people that hung on to them or wanted to be like them.” And those that wanted to hang the periphery were the painters, writers and poets of that time. Eventually this would create the ultimate cache in menswear kudos over time. In Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder’s first introduction to Lord Sebastian Flyte has him in a Charvet neck tie with a print of stamps. In Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Razor’s Edge’ the aspirational aristocrat Elliot Templeton had Charvet embroider a count’s crest into his underwear. The list of literary references is long, but my personal favourite is that of Jean Cocteau who said that Charvet ‘is where the rainbow find’s ideas’. ‘But’ says Colban, ‘there does exist a bunch of nasty English writers that would like to put us down. They can be so, how shall I say “Queen Victoria” ‘.

Archive fabrics often used for bespoke orders. 

And this quote humours Jean-Claude Colban when I tell him, and he responds with “we at Charvet are always impressed with how knowledgeable our customers are about our history”. He sits lightly reclined in a somewhat worn red leather timber framed chair with a coffee table of books and baubles between us. He is dressed in a navy suit, a paisley green silk neck tie, a white shirt with Windsor collar, horn rimmed glasses that belong to another period. One eyebrow is bushier than the other and flicks out and over the rim of his left frame. He goes without a pocket square, a surprise for me. He’s corpulent and has a light stubble and thin lips. When we begin talking he is again very softly spoken. “These long-term customers of ours, they register each time we make a new silk, that we make a wink and to what it is we make a wink at, because our customers know back to front the Charvet silks. There is an immediate fraternity that is developed with the Charvet customer once he purchases from us”.

The office we sit in belonged to his father, Dennis Colban. It is timber panelled in a light honey oak colour. There are statues of jaguars, books on chairs, gold framed photos still leaning against the wall unhung. Colban bought the business from the Charvet family in the 70’s. He was their chief supplier. Jean-Claude had studied political science and had thought of another career but then began working with his father and picked up skills in Photoshop. He explains that he still uses this programme today to design silks as he opens a book with all his last collection of silks. It is at this point that I realise the level of commitment he has to his craft. Every silk he designs goes through multiple iterations before it is realised, and each change is carefully documented in his artisan styled notebook with meticulous and tiny hand-writing. But perhaps this Old-World way of doing things has hampered the brand and I ask him why they never went online. ‘Around 2007 I thought seriously about the online world – is this screen able to well enough render colour. And, can people be stupid enough to spend a lot of money on something they cannot touch and feel. And so, I decided not to proceed in this manner. I am more obsessed with doing well what we are supposed to do well.’
And what they do well is to make predominantly neckwear made of silk and to make shirts for both off-the-rack and bespoke customers. Where possible they wholesale to other retailers who then place their ties on their websites, but they stay well clear of this sphere and their website is and has always been merely a placement holder page with their address and phone number. ‘My job is to remain focussed on running our own warps, our own patterns and our own colour combinations’. All this, and might I add that running your own warp with a silk loom is prohibitively expensive, is to protect the product from being replicated in the 21st Century.

I ask him what goes through his mind when he begins designing a new silk collection. “Firstly” he says, “I have to consider that every silk must work across a variety of products from a silk neck tie to a bow tie, to a cummerbund and a vest”. He tells me that he often studies primitive tribes to better understand repeat patterns and that it was as important that the silk should look attractive on the bias (how you cut a silk neck tie so that it has spring in the silk when tying) as it should on the warp or selvedge of the fabric roll.  ‘And really, unlike the English, we do not seek out these animal prints and designs. We find this to be less than masculine’. Colban also works directly with luxury shirt cloth companies in England, Italy and Switzerland to deliver possibly the most comprehensive range of shirting bolts assembled anywhere in the world. There are over 400 whites on their ‘Mur Des Blancs’ (wall of whites) with over 104 varying shades of it. In solid blues they carry over 200 shades from the babiest of blues to the inkiest of them that you cannot tell the difference between it and black.
Jean-Claude Colban is interrupted by his sister, Anne-Marie, momentarily. She is the other half of the business as it stands today. Although the designing of fabrics remains the exclusive dominion of Jean-Claude, it is clear Anne-Marie is an integral part of their daily operations. I ask Jean-Claude if he intends to bring his own sons into the business. He softly responds, ‘if they show and interest in the business then yes, otherwise I would never force them to work in a job they did not want to do’.
As I peep out of the room onto the Place Vendôme through the half floor window (this building has a traditional Mansard façade creating half floors internally) I am struck by a thought about progression and succession.

The wholesale division of Charvet makes for some of the most reputable menswear and department stores in the world. 

“How does an institution like this survive in the 21st Century?” I asked, given all the traffic that is now digital and less human.
“Our customers best respond to creativity and quality and we have built up a good rapport with our customers over time. This is what we concentrate on”.
And for them to make you a bespoke shirt, you had to turn up too. Charvet was, is and probably will remain, very much a hands-on experience.

Jean-Claude Colban in front of his cutting table. The seamstresses collect sheets of silk and finish them off site before dropping them back as finished ties. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Testimonials - We Need Them And We Receive Them Graciously

One day soon I will die, by soon I hope it will be 45 years, but in the scheme of the billions of years our planet has existed, I mean really soon. And all that I will leave behind will be some digital photography and some ties in people's drawers and as they get old, so too may their collection of bow ties if they don't look after them. Then one day, some day, I will be a period piece and somebody will rummage through 'The Old Internet' and discover some wonderful portraits of our customers and they will somehow think that this represented the manner in which people of a sub-sect of society dressed in that period. And, maybe, some historian will use a cache of the images somewhere and in turn it will become a minor exhibition within a larger exhibition which talks of the early days of the internet... I might be getting away from myself but stranger things have transpired. I mean to say, there was an exhibit in the city of Sydney of 1920's gangster mug shots, why not our images? Our portraits might be just as alluring in years to come to people who want to hob nob around a museum one lazy Saturday.

And so the point of it all is that our images are not enough. Just like my favourite Instagram handles that I follow, the best of them are always a mix of pictures and vignettes, well crafted and thought out, to add some background and story to the image to really romance us.

Those same words, when applied to our products, obviously help the customer on the other side of the world decide that we really are who we say we are. And the honour, it seems, is that because we wrote a blog that attempts to talk about matters in an attempted high-brow manner, when our customers write in, they often seem just as high-brow and with an even great eloquence than the author of this blog. How can you tell an American that a little Studio in Sydney really does make the best luxury satin silk bow ties around, or that we offer the best quality woven jacquard silks from the best looms in Europe? The simple answer is, you get another American to tell them in their own words.

In short, we love your testimonials, keep sending them in. :) 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Ken Burns - The Vietnam War - Superb Netflix Television

I would have thought that in my current frame of mind, watching a Ken Burns documentary might be the wrong thing to do. However, it's had quite the opposite effect on me. It is so enlightening and shows so much of the spectrum of humanity that I find myself glued to it every evening and last night I could not wait for a futurist to get off the podium at an event so I could get home and watch the next episode. 

Ken Burns breathes life into the subjects he tackles. I have been enamoured with his work, having never heard about him until last year (I can't pretend I was there since the beginning). I started with a documentary he did on the Roosevelts that had me streaming with tears. Then last year whilst stuck for things to do in the evening on a ski adventure I tackled The West. After that I tore through The American Civil War sucking up as much of the history of the country as possible and felt at the end like I was starting to get a real grip on how the States formed into what it is today. I fell asleep too often on his Jazz and World War II documentaries that I think I finished neither. 

Last week I saw that Netflix Australia had released The Vietnam War and of course I put everything aside to consume as much of this as possible in as short a frame as I could cram it in.

What a documentary! The soundtrack is just magic, the footage so much more dynamic than what could be mustered for The Roosevelts and The Civil War. Photo journalism and video that makes you privy to some of the most disturbing warfare that I have ever witnessed. The savagery of both sides, what human beings are capable of doing to one another, and the bungled judgements of successive US Presidents and their cabinet and advisers compounding the problem. 

'There is a solution to everything but death" I was once told by an ex-girlfriend who quoted her father before he passed away unexpectedly. And in the case of Vietnam, the solution was that it was in fact unsolvable and unwinnable but still the US government pursued it's cause. Whether the domino effect might have come into effect had they gotten out sooner, nobody will ever know. But they didn't and since Macnamara knew the war was doomed from 1966 it is understandable how angry and upset those veterans are that saw the war continue to go on until 1975 (note combat troops left 73).

For me, having studied the Vietnam War in modern history at high school and having a teacher say 'now turn to the chapter titled Operation Rolling Thunder' was so limited. What Ken Burns and Lynn Novick do is to make it a tale that often feels like it is the documentary version of Forest Gump. Such wonderful music and such remarkable footage from both domestic USA and on the battle field and in the streets of Saigon. I just feel like I am finally getting the modern history lesson I did not get in high school. 

The Gift That Keeps On Giving - A Bow Tie Is Something That Can Be Passed On For Generations If You Care For It Correctly

Very few of our customers ever go to our HOW TO CARE PAGE of our website and subsequently get frustrated when, after a few wears, especially with a grating clear shaven face, they start to get frays on the edges of the bow ties. It can be remedied with fingers scissors and a small bic lighter in less than two minutes but for those without finger scissors and who don't smoke, this can often cause alarm before an event. However, coupled with dry cleaning occasionally and pressing the silk correctly with cloth between so that the silk doesn't get scolded, your bow tie, cared for, might last more than two generations. And that's not a joke. There are collections of bow ties from men who wore them in the 1920's that form parts of estate auctions that still look beautiful today albeit with a certain vintage feel for them. It is our job to make the best bow ties, but it is the responsibility of the customer to maintain them. So, if you haven't thought about some noeud papillon TLC lately, perhaps, in the depth of an Australian winter, you can sit by the fire and prune your bow ties one lazy Saturday afternoon.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Please Don't Listen To This Unless You Feel Like Breaking Apart For The Evening - Who Knows Where The Time Goes ?

I walk with a particularly smart fellow, one who can talk derivatives and mathematics before switching to film and literature and then on to music. Yesterday morning I had to ask him to stop. He was in the middle of giving me a run down on the latest Russian films he'd watched and I turned to him and said 'enough, I feel like my brain has been pruned'. Incidentally, I had done the same to someone in my life last year and she would stop me in my tracks and say 'Nicholas, stop, I just can't absorb anymore'. Sometimes we get like that, don't we.

But, he did steer me to one particular song after we got onto the topic of Nina Simone and her voracious appetite for men accompanied by her very serious bi-polar condition and bi-sexuality. I was quoting her journals that were quoted in that wonderful Netflix 'What Happened Miss Simone? ' , the title, I believe, being a reference to a Maya Angelou poem. He said softly to me as we made our way along New South Head Road, just near the part where you get a big glimpse of the harbour, a very clear and fresh morning ' of all the songs of Nina Simone, my favourite must be 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes?' .

I was at home in the evening, still suffering that general malaise of taking stock of my life when I decided to put on my air phones and listen to the song and I got lulled into an emotional Sunday night considering all the things that had transpired in the last decade and wondering where all the time had gone. Two weeks earlier I was writing all this sort of optimistic gratitude sort of stuff, which I believed then and I believe now, but no, now it was catching up. And having been sober for 4 months with one night off for my birthday, I was processing it all in a very raw manner. Normally the tears would flow as the whisky bottle reached half way, but in the morning in a haze and smelling of cigarettes, you make you way to the shower and try to scrub it off. But when you are perfectly sober and come up against the same currents, well it cuts much deeper.

I do not encourage you to listen to this song unless you are in that mode where you are ready to shed a skin. It has that melancholic cadence and haunting suffering that sits behind the voice of Nina Simone and it almost demands that you take stock of life and weep.

Who knows where the time goes, who knows?

Creed Viking - New But Old - Going Out With New Dispatches

Creed Viking is the latest scent to be released by Creed and I picked up a bottle recently so I could get our customers to experience the masculinity of the scent. It's not something that is a natural fit for me but I think it will resonate with our customers, even if just to get an idea of the scent. Creed does not release fragrances often, the last one being Aventus 6 years ago. The notes suggest something which does not exactly marry with my experience but I am told that Viking goes on strong and then mellows over the hours. 

To my mind the fragrance reminds me of new but old sunglasses. The kind of eyewear that was perhaps designed in the 80's but looked so interesting for the time that they still look modern in 2018. That's my impression of Viking. But you can be the judge when it heads out.


Top note: Calabrian Bergamot, Sicilian Lemon, La Réunion Baie Rose (pink peppercorn) 

Middle note: Peppercorn, Bulgarian Rose, peppermint 

Base note: Indian Sandalwood, Haitian Vetiver, Indian Patchouli, Lavandin Absolute

A Few Portraits From Our Portrait Competition Which Closed Off 30th June

The portrait competition has closed. Participants were asked to tag us on Instagram with our handle @lenoeudpapillon or else with the hashtag #lenoeudpapillon. The winner will receive a $1500.00 gift voucher. 

The portait competitions have always been fun because it allows us to see how our customers wear our products, it gives us a window into their respective worlds, a glance at their character as well as their sense of style which reflects that.

I get a thrill because the images come from far and wide. Zac posted in from Venice, David from Sag Harbour, Andy from California and some of the enthusiast bow tie wearers of Sydney. 

In one post the customer said he felt he was wearing a little piece of art around his neck and that he might like to sleep with it on. I wasn't sure I could do the same but I was chuffed he loved it that much. 

And finally, the thing I love about the portrait competition is the same thing I love about psychology and group therapy - that roughly speaking, though we are individualists, we are all interconnected as human beings and though our stories will each tell a different tale, joined together they are stories of one broader life experience.

Thank you for sending in your portraits, I will narrow down a select few and then choose a winner.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Terence Trent D'Arby's Gift To All Of Us - Holding On To You

There is a song called 'Multi-Colored Blue' by Wynton Marsalis' band which reminds me of an unrequited love I held for a woman back at the end of the last century. I think it was the December of 1999 to be specific, or at least it came to a head then. It was a deep yearning and a hidden desire, strong enough to inspire me to write my first novel which was called the Bunyip Aristocracy. Never got published but I can understand why. Late last year I saw her,  eighteen years later, and I felt nothing. The zest and spark were gone. Something which had lacerated my heart and which had caused me to withdraw from my daily routine and isolate myself, go completely introverted, lose ten kilos and walk around like a zombie, had passed. In fact, often I saw her on my morning runs in Bondi, and if anything, I just thought she had poor taste in socks.

In March I met up with the first of my unrequited loves for dinner in Los Angeles. She had also evolved and changed. In fact I had spent time with her mother by coincidence when on my work trip in January. I could see the reflection of the mother in the daughter. The moment had passed too. If I were to ascribe a song to the period it would be Fleetwood Mac's ' Dreams ' and Carole King's 'It's Too Late' .

I promised myself in the early 2000's that I was done with these childish things and would put them away as if I had read, understood and processed Paul's letter to the Corinthians. But as fate would have it, it would happen to me again. This time, in processing myself through it, I will admit, it's probably been the fight of my life, stronger than any illness I've had to overcome, because it's just mental. It often has nothing to do with the other person at all. It's merely a glance at oneself and a feeling of inadequacy and lack of self-love. I recall in a documentary recently called 'The Defiant Ones' that Bruce Springsteen said of Jimmy Iovine that his drive and determination and creativity were probably based on a deep sense of insecurity which Springsteen says he himself felt too. Well, that's what I took from it. And certainly I think that a lack of self-love and self-esteem will shape that insecurity, some managing to turn it into art, others converting it into business and money. Regardless of how it manifests, there is always a reckoning.

In finishing a journal the other week I wrote that I am grateful for all these experiences. But in truth, I am not always sure that going down a rabbit hole helps a human being. In March, whilst in a hotel room in Los Angeles I got a phone call from a Californian bow tie customer who felt compelled to tell me something. He said "you must understand, with these types of women, their desire is only to capture the heart, like a trophy, but they do not wish to nurture it.' . It seemed too Odysseus siren-like to my mind. He went onto tell me an anecdote of his own life and there were some overlapping parallels. In fact it was a movie script his story and I'd pay handsomely to go and see it. A tale of a taboo love, extortion, blackmail, deception, theft, subterfuge and a lot of sex. It was one of those moments in time and space that I will not forget anytime soon. I thought I was on the set of an adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel, especially given my choice of hotel.

But it was a guest at the Studio yesterday in Sydney that really gave me some fodder. It had been said to me by a friend earlier in the year whilst in a snowy ski village 'you might do yourself a favour and read up on Petrarch. His love for Laura was unwaivering, it's one of the great stories of unrequited love'. And Petrarch's story had lead Petrarch to believe that a chaste life was one that was beyond love. There was a tapestry on his Wiki page of the Three Fates (which I love so much) treading on love, suggesting that the trumph of the death of love leads to chastity.

And on reading Petrarch's words I felt as though there was no gap in time between what his eyes saw and what mine might see:

Breeze, blowing that blonde curling hair,
stirring it, and being softly stirred in turn,
scattering that sweet gold about, then
gathering it, in a lovely knot of curls again,

you linger around bright eyes whose loving sting
pierces me so, till I feel it and weep,
and I wander searching for my treasure,
like a creature that often shies and kicks:

now I seem to find her, now I realise
she’s far away, now I’m comforted, now despair,
now longing for her, now truly seeing her.

Happy air, remain here with your
living rays: and you, clear running stream,
why can’t I exchange my path for yours?

But now in the Studio came a friend with a more contemporary reference. He was such an odd messenger. He dismissed the idea that my concerns were about a woman, singular. Instead he suggested my issue was a compost of different problems acting on me simultaneously. And then whilst I tried to cut silk, he reclined on my chesterfield and said 'can I play you a song that I used to listen to a lot after my brother died?'

And a few moments later as I stood over my cutting bench, my eyes welled and my heart felt heavy as Terence Trent D'Arby sang this song.

And these lyrics, they just come to life with the music and tell a story that is repeated time and time again down through the ages of ages. As D'Arby says, 'they say all poets must have an unrequited love, as all lovers must have thought-provoking fears, but holding onto you, means letting go of pain'. Well, if that's the case, I've had my share and I would like, by the Grace Of God, to be done with it.

Holding on to You
Sananda Maitreya

I left the east side for a west coast beauty
A girl who burned my thoughts like kisses
She was down by street decree
She swore she'd pull my best years out of me
Fat painted lips on a live wire beauty
A tangerine girl with tambourine eyes
Her face was my favourite magazine
Her body was my favourite book to read
They say that all poets must have an unrequited love
As all lovers must have thought-provoking fears
But holding on to you means letting go of pain
Means letting go of tears
Means letting go of rain
Means letting go of what's not real
Holding on to you, oh
I left the rough side for a seaside baby
A chamomile smile that pouts on cue, ha
For every moment I breathe her sigh
Her bosom contains my sweet alibi, yeah
In an emotional mist she breathes in fog
And breathes it out as garden flowers
Why me of all the tough-talking boys?
I guess she heard my heartbeat through the noise
They say that all poets must have an unrequited love, yes they do, ha
As all lovers must have thought-provoking fears
But holding on to you means letting go of pain
Means letting go of tears
Means letting go of rain
Holding on to you, ha
Means letting sorrows heal
Means letting go of what's not real, yeah
Holding on to you, yeah, woo-hoo!
Wah, heard some people say that all poets must have an unrequited love, ha
As all lovers I'm sure must have thought-provoking fears, yeah
But holding on to you means letting sorrows heal
Means letting go of what's not real
Holding on to you
I left the east coast for a west coast beauty
A woman who wet my thoughts like kisses
She was down, down by street decree
She swore she'd pull my best years out of me
Fat wet lips on a sea salt canvas
Goodbye Picasso, hello Dolly
The soil is fertile where her footsteps trod
She's my new religion, she's all I got
They say that all poets must have an unrequited love, yes they do, ha
As all lovers, I'm sure must have thought-provoking fears, yeah
But holding on to you means letting go of pain
Means letting go of tears
Means letting go of rain
Holding on to you, ha
Means letting sorrows heal
It means letting go
It means letting go of pain
It means letting go of pain, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, whoo
It means letting go of tears, it means letting go of rain
It means turning the page
And letting go of pain
Woo-hoo, yes it does, yes it does, yes it does

Songwriters: Terence Trent D'arby

Michael Hope Plays At The Roast And A Reminder Of The Closing Days Of The Portrait Competition

Sometimes you feel that the world is conspiring to give you a difficult day. I had one of those yesterday, when those that you wished to have a working relationship with just can't seem to figure out how to work with you. Then there are other days when everything is smooth sailing and all the elements come together. That day, about three weeks ago now, was as blissful as Van Morrison's 'Days Like These' .

In the lead up to The Roast I called in many favours and one of which was asking Michael Hope who ordinarily I would find on the ground floor of David Jones in Market Street playing piano, to come and do the same for me. I asked him to come and cover my favourite jazz songs for the evening and I sent him a list which included some of the best of Cole Porter, Nina Simone, Jimmy Durante, Dave Brubeck and more. 

It was one of those things which adds polish to an evening and sets a tone of men behaving more like gentlemen than savages. A big grand piano, a grand old pianist. Often I had dropped Michael a bow tie or two, especially when I was in the city dropping of stock to stores. He was always so gracious and once when I was with my daughter he played something for her, Over The Rainbow if I recall correctly.

What a privilege it is when the elements come together, as though it was a kiss or a wink from the Gods. I wish every day were like this, but sadly, once the moment is gone, there is silk to be cut, orders to be processed, designs to be pushed up with the loom, emails to be written and so forth. And it's only when you get a quiet moment that you can write a blog post to thank those that have added value to your life. And thank you Michael, you certainly have.

A reminder to our blog readers and customers that the portrait competition for June is in it's final days. A gift voucher of $1500.00 AUD for the winner. All you have to do it post it on your wall on Instagram and tag us. We'll choose the best one. So, if you have a superlative portrait of yourself in one of our bow ties, get cracking. :) 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Creed Aventus And Virgin Island Water Plus Tom Ford Scents - New To Le Noeud Papillon

Allow me to wax lyrical about perfumes for a moment on this cold and soggy sao morning in Sydney. I feel like if it gets any wetter right now my lungs will start getting moss on them. It is cold in the Studio this morning and I don't want to put the heater on because I am following this Wim Hoff chap and looking for any opportunity to have cold therapy, be it in the ocean at 6am or at the Studio with cold hands typing out a blog post.

Perfume, that's what I want to talk about. The magic of it. I spoke yesterday with the agent for Creed perfumes in Australia. For years now I have been writing and praising their scents and using them in every bubble mailer or carry bag that left the building. I first fell in love with Virgin Island Water. I will say this, I was the first to find it, though many of my friends try to tell me the opposite.

As part of my birthday gift I was given a voucher to one of those menswear stores that sell so much bullshit 'art as fashion' clothing that when I went in I cared not for the menswear and went straight to their fragrance section. Of course, it is the one thing that never goes on sale, at least not to my knowledge, and so I used up the entire thing on what will mostly benefit our customers.

Why do I do this? Why fragrance in every bag? Because for me a fragrance can send me on a mini holiday in my mind. It can remind me of suntan lotion on a beach with bare brown legs. It can take me back to a working holiday in Hong Kong. I can become seventeen again and trying to persuade a bouncer to let me into a nightclub with fake identification. It can remind me of a woman's bedroom and I can look around to see her Sonos stereo under the chair, her linen sheets or the skin on her neck. It can place me in a bathroom I have been familiar with since my childhood and I can look up and see that same plastic vanity that housed my perfumes for much of my teenage years and the first time I tied a bow tie in black satin silk from Charvet and the Chanel Egoiste that resided in the top right shelf. And my hope is, that if it does that for me, it might do the same for you. Maybe you will stop dead in your tracks and say 'oh my God, I remember when I opened up that bubble mailer, it was the first bow tie I ever bought from them and whack, I just had to have that scent, so I wrote to the guy and he said .... " . And from that moment on, you and me, we have a personal relationship bonded by a scent.

That being said, I finally learned a few things about Creed. Firstly, it was founded a long time ago, in 1760 to be precise, by a chap called James Henry Creed. It became so successful that Queen Victoria made it the official fragrance supplier to the Court Of England and of course, it then spread throughout the courts of Europe. Then Napoleon III got a hold of Original Santal, which to my mind is a little too heavy for my liking, and championed it as well. And now it is essentially considered the most revered fragrance house amongst many menswear enthusiasts, myself included, a brand that has founding principles of quality, refinement and originality. And yes, they live up to all three. 

Of all of them my three favourite scents must be Original Vetiver, Virgin Island Water and Aventus. And today I wish to give you my opinion of each and to contrast it with the offical lingo.

1. Virgin Island Water - what originally got me into Creed. One whiff and I was gone. I felt transported to somewhere that the Beach Boys described in Kokomo. Rum, coconuts, coconut suntan oil, bronzed skin, the shapely calf of a beautiful woman, a long dinner, sex, looking out of a window over an expanse of water, the moon rising, the curtains lightly billowing in the sea breeze.

Officially this is what they say: A cirtus style of fragrance with bergamot, green lemon, lime, mandarin, jasmine, ylang-ylang (I've no idea what this is), herbs, musk, tonka beans, coconut. A fragrance launched in 2007.

2. Original Vetiver - a fresh weekend in the country with green grass and tall trees. Wet lawn. A place where you feel active and full of life. You do yoga in the morning, you swim and walk through a beach heath to return to the house. In the evening there is a fire, you go to bed early after some pinot noir at dinner and some lemon and ginger tea just after dessert.

Offically this is a bergamot, mandarin, bitter orange, herbs leaves (green), coriander, pink berries, cedarwood, amber, musk (tonkin) sandalwood and pepper. Wow, I think I actually came close with my own experience.

3. Aventus - The nape of a neck, the sound of a certain voice on the telephone. 

Offically this is a 2010 fragrance which is based on bergamot, apple, blackcurrent, berries, pineapple, jasmine, rose, berries, patchouli, oak moss, amber gris, musk and vanilla.

So there you have it, three fragrances, three experiences. So the next time you open your bubble mailer, remember that a scent is very personal, that we associate it with so much content that we go through in life and that it can act like a marker, of a moment in time and space, distilled in a bottle that we can go back to time and time again. God love perfumes and God bless the human nose. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Le Noeud Papillon's 10th Anniversary And My 40th Birthday Roast

A decade in business! Who would have ever thought. I recall a Woody Allen documentary where at the end of the interview he says something along the lines of  'I had wanted to be a comedian and I set out to do that and I became famous for it, I wanted to make films and I managed to do that too. And finally I wanted to be a clarinet player in a band and I did that too - but as I approach death, I still can't help but feel I'm being ripped off'. And sometimes I feel the same. I have achieved so much from a small idea and really not the faintest idea on how to achieve it, and through a decade of refining and redefining I managed to keep the ship upright (though there have been many times when I was ready to throw in the towel). And just like Woody, I set out to make the best bow ties, and I am sure we are near enough to allow myself that accolade. I had wanted to be a writer originally and now I am being published in Robb Report - well, it's not The Great Gatsby as I thought - but it's close enough for the time being. And, I wanted to create art along the way, and in that respect, the silks are often in that vein. But, just like Woody, as my hair thins out, as life shows more signs of wear and tear and the stamina and enthusiasm can sometimes peter out, the creativity comes to a stand still, well, I can't help but feel somewhat ripped off.

It is our 10th Anniversary and I will share with you a small tid bit from when we started. I walked into a tailor in the city of Sydney and I said to him 'can you make me a bow tie the way I want it' and reluctantly he agreed and I drew a shape and asked for black satin silk and white piping. He charged me an enormous amount at the time. Probably the price we now charge for bespoke bow ties but ten years ago and very ordinary fabric. And when I picked it up I was really happy to see it come to life. So I said 'do you want to make a line of bow ties with me and I will split the business with you and I will do all the work to sell them, you just make them'. And he said - NO. Firmly. Not interested. And the only reason I went to see him was because there was such a rotten selection of bow ties in our then doyen of retail - David Jones. Nothing but polyester crap. Bow ties were so far off the menu that I had the whole market to myself if I chose to develop it. And so I did. And the beautiful thing was, I had been developing websites for clients on the side, so I thought to myself, why not put these online whilst nobody else is doing it - and see what happens. Then, by chance, we got picked up by the Wall Street Journal and the American menswear writer Will Boehlke, and we were on our way. 

But like any journey, it has its ups and downs and to be frank, those first years I was really pushing shit up hill. No men wanted to own a bow tie, let alone tie one themselves. No men I knew were spending much time on their wardrobes, no bespoke tailors, no blogs analysing the styles of each tailor around the world, no MTM services existed like they do today, Instagram was yet to emerge, nobody knew who Lino Ieluzzi or Luca Rubinacci was, nor did they know anything about Pitti Uomo. It was just a totally different landscape. But as each new medium emerged we jumped on it and slowly we built, especially with Instagram, a fraternity of bow tie enthusiasts. And by this time we had a strong set of American customers, many of which are still with us today.

This year, in March, I suffered a huge crisis. I was totally worn out and I just wanted to break free of everything I had worked so hard for. It all seemed to me to have no meaning since the mother of my child and I had chosen to live apart. And there are often times, especially during the quiet times, that you question whether you made the right choices and if you are content with your purpose in life. But in those darker moments I sought help and I got back into regular exercise on Bondi Beach in the morning, ocean swims almost every morning at six. I formed a routine for cutting silks and processing orders and I started to lift my chin up and see the world for all it had to offer rather than the reverse. 

At the point where I started to regain my enthusiasm for what we did, I reached out to Philip Carr who is a bow tie customer, a friend and an extraordinary events planner. Would he be interested in working on our 10th Anniversary and my birthday concurrently with the theme of a Roast a la Dean Martin and Don Rickles? We decided on a venue, the Centennial Hotel, which had a long dining table, and slowly the elements started to come together. I asked Mark Travers to come back from Thredbo to play his cover songs on guitar. I reached out to Michael Hope  (another bow tie customer) from David Jones' ground floor to see if he would play piano. I also called Dominic Lorrimer who shot me for the Australian Financial Review last year to see if he was free on a Wednesday night. Yes. Then Peter Howard to see if he could paint me a portrait for the evening.  Then one morning, still mulling over an MC, I saw Vince Sorrenti, the superlative comedian (also a bow tie customer) walk past the Studio and I asked him if he was right to do the MC job, and to my surprise, he said yes. 

And it was all these elements coming together along with the professional service of Megan Sullivan at Merivale that made it one of the most special nights of my life along with ten wonderful roasts which were roughly 2 minutes in length each and tempered by a huge gong brought in by my cousin. Of those roasts, three were particularly well crafted and left the audience in hysterics and I was charred black by the roasting. But, as I wrote on my Facebook wall, after forty years of overeating, I had developed a thick skin.

There are markers in your life that sometimes are in a grey area, at some point you stopped being a teenager and became an adult. For me, turning forty in the manner that I did seemed to really punctuate the closure of my thirties.

A wiser man than me listened to my diatribe a month or two ago as I said 'I feel like I am having a mid life crisis, I'm half way to 80' . He turned to me and said 'it's arrogant to think you should make it to 80. There's no guarantee of how long you have left, make the most of every day.' He was right. It reminded me of our Three Parcae pocket square.

But, in a small moment of self-praise, I wrote in my journal the other day, contrary to so many pages of self-loathing that had been written over the past year, that I had turned a fantasy into a reality. I had built something for our customers that was different. Markedly. And whether from this point onwards I fail, if I die a nasty death, if I should fall into despair again, I am proud of the last ten years and that we (and I include in that statement my customers, friends, family and supporters) created a bow tie company that was more like a fraternity. Those Pink Floyd lyrics go:

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

But at least for this last decade, I cannot say they hold true. I am grateful. For the time not being misspent. For those that read our blog. For those that helped us along the way. For those people that were willing to share their stories and photos with us. For the men who tagged us when they wore their outfits wearing our bow ties. For the silk mills who worked with us instead of turning me away. For the seamtresses that sewed our bow ties and for those that taught me how to hand-stitch. For the psychologist that helped me through the times when I didn't think I knew what the hell I was doing. For being blessed with such a beautiful daughter. For her mother who is such a good influence on her. For the friends who propped me up when I was self-flagellating. And for every person that helped to make last Wednesday night such a special night. Thank you, thank you, and thank you. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

New Yuzen Online Shortly

A small batch of yuzen silk bow ties have been placed on the website. If you want to see them, please contact me directly on Whatsapp on +61413140994 and I will give you the code to access the website.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Black Tie Patent Leather Shoes - What Is The Right Shoe To Purchase

For years now I have only ever worn slipper styled shoes for formal evening wear. Slippers have a wide and varied ambit as to what constitutes a slipper. By my reckoning it is a shoe that has no laces and a small and less pronounced heel. Slippers can come in a variety of forms, from 'at home' velvet slippers, which have become very fashionable in recent years, then there are regular leather slippers which are also called loafers but effectively they are of a similar format to a slipper, and finally you have evening wear slippers, which are effectively patent leather loafers, but at other times they can be referred to as pumps. 

Of course this is just my opinion - there will be shoe specialists that will tell you that I don't know what I am talking about - but across the internet and from my interviewing shoe makers I will say there is a fair bit of ambiguity in terminology. For example, an Italian loafer for evening wear is usually constructed in the blake-rapid methodology whereby the sole is attached directly to the upper with no Goodyear welting. These are made more like 'at home' English slippers but for Italians they edge more towards loafers. Some, especially the English, consider this an under-constructed shoe, but the results can be very sleek and in fact my staple evening wear shoes for the last decade have been blake-rapid evening patent slippers by YSL.

But over time I have wanted to replace these slippers because they were getting old and my style had evolved. I used to love a more pointed shoe for evening wear but as my style changed I had wanted a more rounded and classic toe box. I also wanted what I considered a more robust English construction.

In my search for shoes in Sydney's CBD I found that there were few companies that offered luxury patent leather shoes for evening wear and still fewer that offered that kind of Northampton English construction that was famed by makers such as Foster & Son, Gaziano & Girling, Edward Green and George Cleverley. Although I am sure that you could find them at Double Monk in Sydney's Strand Arcade, it's not often that they hold a deep amount of stock because the price of such shoes is prohibitive and because they often offer bespoke and made to measure services for such shoes.

Recently I settled on my evening footwear. Gaziano & Girling make wonderful evening shoes and whilst my preference would have been to get them to make a custom made pair of their Sinatra model shoes for me, I was not in the least bit worried about compromising with their Forsyth model of shoe. Sleek but classically elegant, the top line and quarter of the shoe are edged with grosgrain whilst the throat is met with only two eyelets on the quarter. And whilst my favourite toe box in the world remains George Cleverley, I am actually quite glad that these shoes are less bulbous on the toe box and relatively understated (they are still patent leather shoes).

Friday, June 1, 2018

Peter Overton's Custom Made Royal Blue Mogador Satin Silk Neck Tie At 9.5cm

Getting Peter Overton to wear a bow tie on the news is a lifelong pursuit of mine. He is adamant he has his style down pat and won't accept any of my flamboyant ideas. To be honest, I just want to Corky St. Clair him in a pink suit and bright emerald bow tie, just for a night, take a picture and then tag it and bag it. But I will have to wait. He prefers solid power ties which won't strobe on television and so recently, as he walked past the Studio, I invited him in to choose one of the new silks and he chose a brilliant one. This is a sharp royal blue mogador satin silk, finished here with a pink slip stitch and rose gold medallion hand sewn in. I had attached a how to tie instruction card for an Old Bertie and Double Four In Hand knot, but Peter, sticking to his guns as usual, only wears a four in hand knot. Again, I will have to wait. 

If you need a custom made luxury silk neck tie made in a jiffy and you would like to rummage through our new and old silks, come and visit us at Le Noeud Papillon or Whatsapp me personally on +61413140994.

The Beauty Of A Beautifully Woven Jacquard Silk Turned Into A Bow Tie Or Tie By Le Noeud Papillon Of Sydney

One of the most peculiarly enjoyable things to do in Como is to stand around a factory lined with roaring warps and wefts busily ratt-tat-tatting silks until they come out the other side as fabric that you instantly recognise as your tie silks that you've come to love. Each machine has roughly 15,000 needles which sit on top of the warp threads to stop the machine should one warp thread break. They go 24 hours a day from my understanding, weaving silk at roughly the rate of one metre per hour. I do love seeing the machinations of the fashion industry. It is so far removed from the catwalks of London and Paris. It's so real, so visceral and the people are so genuinely passionate about creating the best of silks.