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

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Woven Silk Jacquard Vest For Private Client Sydney, Australia

It would not be too difficult to work out whose vest this is based on some recent posts but I will make the assumption that we don't need to disclose their name.

We have been doing vests for a while now but mostly in wool. Presented with the opportunity to try making one with our woven jacquard silk we threw ourselves straight in. The fabric chosen was our 'Wimbeldon' woven silk jacquard in green satin ground and orange tennis ball motif. It was lined with a bright orange silk twill. If you would like to stop past the studio and make your own vest we have plenty of samples and plenty of silks in stock from which you can cut your own design. Enquire here.

Le Noeud Papillon woven silk jacquard custom ordered vest. 

Gaudi #2 - For The Man Who Loves Architecture

The other night I watched a report by Lara Logan on Antoni Gaudi. It coincided almost exactly to the day that our Gaudi inspired silk arrived in Sydney. Logan's report was fascinating and almost certainly I am now going to indulge myself over Christmas in reading Gaudi's biography.

The Argument For A Stylus

Some time ago I was told that Steve Job's greatest pet hate was the stylus. Allegedly he killed off the Newton, an early 90's Apple personal assistant, just because it had a stylus. I am also informed that Jobs worked tirelessly on the iPhone and iPad screen technology to ensure that it never needed a stylus. I would tend to agree with Steve Jobs that it's better to not need one that to need one but these days I find that despite the wonderful advances in technology, nothing beats a stylus in terms of adding productivity and dexterity to your touch screen.

We all remember the blackberry qwerty key pad these days like it was our first true romance that we had a hard time breaking up with (some never got over it). It followed that we were forced to endure a period of withdrawal as we worked our way through the first iterations of touch screens. I am here to tell you that the withdrawal is over for me. The reason it is over is the stylus. I used to always carry a pen with me in my jacket so it wasn't something I wasn't already carrying and now I have been able to find two pens below, the Online and the Caran D'Ache which incorporate both a pen and a stylus in one. 

With respect to the productivity I mentioned earlier, I say that from experience. I have an iPad mini on which I use Procreate to draw, I type from my Android Samsung s4, I write emails from my iPad and I am now starting to use my desktop with a stylus (albeit very rarely). When I type I am much faster using a stylus than using my fingers and I look a helluva lot more professional than those wobbly 40 somethings who barely manage to put down one character at a time. 

Whilst the ideal pen I have in mind is still not created, these interim pens are very user friendly. In the instance of the Online pen, second from the bottom, the mesh nib is exceptionally good for interacting with touch screens. In the case of the Caran D'Ache the pen is slightly too long and heavy for my liking but there is a sense of refinement which makes it so much more alluring than the Online pen. If on the other hand you don't have money to throw at a stylus, the top two can be purchased from JB Hi-Fi for approximately 17.95AUD. 

If you, like me, enjoy having a pen in your pocket and want to get a stylus too, both the bottom pens can be purchased from Pen Ultimate in the Queen Victoria Building:

Bottom: Caran D'Ache multi-purpose pen; Second From Bottom: Online Dual Function Stylus And Pen

The Art Of Writing - An Interview With KJ, Barbara And Company From Pen Ultimate In Sydney's QVB

I was in North Sydney the other week waiting for my other half as she attempted to merge our Medicare cards together when, more than a little frustrated and agitated whilst waiting, I raced out of Medicare saying that I was going to get some cold water and come back. All the stores were closing and I wasn't having much luck with the water when I stumbled upon a very earnest and kind faced man who was working behind the counter of a pen shop. I walked inside and there was an explosion of visual exquisiteness as I scanned the room and noticed elegant papers, paper weights, diaries, pens, lighters and cabinets filled with limited edition writing instruments. I have been loyally following the Mont Blanc writers edition for many years and I own a few now. I had thought that pens began and ended with Mont Blanc until I discovered this store, Pen Ultimate.

I talked with the man a while and I couldn't help myself and I began to tell him that I made bow ties. He liked my business card and suggested I call the owner of the business. I called the owner of the business the following day. She liked the sound of what it was I said I do. 'Can you make me a vest in silk?' she enquired. "Well, it's funny you should say that, we have just started working on our vest collection". "Well you must speak to my other manager KJ at the QVB". "Well, I will go and see him".

It turned out that KJ is not just any man in pens. He is the the supreme master of pen salesmanship. I felt the pull of his sales gravitas the moment I walked into the eloquent and elegant Pen Ultimate store in the QVB. What draws you to him is the natural authority you hear when he speaks. Not for one moment do you think he doesn't know the answer to your next question. I actually felt I had to withdraw before I spent any money.

There was a rather large revelation to me that Mont Blanc, whilst still being close to my heart, is not after all the only pen company in the world. I was introduced for the first time to Sailor pens, Online, Montegrappa, Graf Von Faber Castell, S.T. Dupont, Cartier and Caran D'Ache to name but a few. And in the end, as it seems I often do the moment someone fascinates me these days, I set about drafting an interview. So here is a composite of answers from the team at Pen Ultimate.

Our company Pen-Ultimate began in1980 in Brisbane, where we are still operating to this day.  Like our Sydney flagship store in the Queen Victoria Building, Brisbane Arcade is an historically significant building, and we are pleased to represent our most important brands from these cultural hubs.  Everyone who writes is our customer, regardless of any age.  Our team are highly educated, enjoy writing and love pens and penmanship.  We consult with our customers to find them the right writing instrument - and they then write with the pen of their dreams.

KJ, for years I have been obsessed with Mont Blanc’s limited edition writer’s series and I have never even thought of writing with another brand of pen. When I walked into Pen-Ultimate’s store I was quite shocked that there were as many other brands of pens as you offer. Why do you think Mont Blanc has dominated the market of writing instruments for so long and what other brands would you suggest an existing Mont Blanc user to explore?

Our company introduced Montblanc to the Australian market in 1980.  We mostly sold the Montblanc 149 fountain pen, often to members of the legal profession.  This was a time when the Montblanc pen was not advertised widely, however its reputation grew by word of mouth as it was chosen by the legal profession as their standard in writings instruments - the 149 was commonly known as the "Judge's Pen".  The Montblanc pen was not made solely by marketing - it was judged to be the best.  At that time the only other major competitors in Australia were Parker or Sheaffer.  Since then a number of pens of remarkable quality, such as S. T. Dupont, Caran d'Ache, Faber-Castell and Sailor have had their reputations grow in a similar manner, with enthusiastic pen collectors recommending them to each other.  Each brand has a creative team specialising in a particular material and aesthetic - for instance, S. T. Dupont is one of very few companies still offering a wide range of Lacque de Chine products, a notoriously difficult material to work with.  Lacque de Chine barrels take over a year to finish.  Highly specialised, artisan fabrication is what fascinates the connoisseur - and we love introducing these things to the appreciative customer.  Today we sold the Montegrappa Chaos by Sylvester Stallone - the watch, fountain pen and cufflinks - a collection which showcases Montegrappa's expertise across sterling silver, enamel, and natural celluloid.

The stylus has overtaken my life in the sense that I can’t get away from my phone or tablet and accordingly I find myself writing less and less with writing pens these days. Do you see the stylus as eventually playing a much bigger role in the world of writing instruments and can you recommend a decent stylus for our readers who don’t want to use any old $15.00 stylus from your local computer store?

The splendid Caran d'Ache "RNX" (Round and Hexagonal) in the Multi-Function mode, priced at $450, is our recommendation.  It follows Das Style - a modern take on Art Deco.

Caran D'Ache RNX

Is your estimation, can you tell us which brand of writing instruments best fit each of the following categories and explain to us why?
a)      Unique Style
b)      Classicism
c)       Value For Money
d)      Timeless properties
e)      Quality of workmanship
f)       Functionality as a pen
g)      Working lifespan

Our recommendations are as follows:

1. Unique style: Montegrappa, Cartier, Visconti, OMAS
2. Classicism: all our major brands
3. Value for Money: Waterman, Parker, Online Germany
4. Timeless properties: Sailor, Graf von Faber Castell
5. Quality of workmanship: Caran d'Ache, Graf von Faber Castell, S. T. Dupont and Sailor
6. Functionality as a pen: Lamy, Cross
7. Working lifespan: Pelikan, Sheaffer, Diplomat  - and all our pens, because it's all about how you look after them .

Caran D'Ache Caelograph

Caran D'Ache Year Of The Dragon limited edition pen

I was told that you recently sold a pen worth more than $100,000 AUD.  Can you tell us about this side of the market and what drives people to spend that kind of money on a pen? Are they using it to write with or does it merely sit inside a cabinet? Can you tell us about the time it would make to make such a pen and the materials it would incorporate?

Customers in the market for a $100,000 pen are always particularly interesting.  The gentleman who bought the 2012 Faber-Castell Pen  of the Year in Solid Gold and Diamonds is actually a very down to earth person, and someone who has been shopping with us for some time now.  He certainly enjoys all of his writing instruments - he loves using them for his daily writing and for special occasions.  There are few pens that can satisfy this kind of customer - it needs to be something that combines heritage, workmanship and a unique style.  The Pen of the Year series started in 2003 as a way for Faber Castell to pay tribute to its 250-year-old heritage, its expertise working with amber, jade, sting-ray leather, and hand applied gold-leaf, amongst many other remarkable materials.  The 2012 Pen of the Year features a 4000-year-old technique that dates back to the ancient Egyptians - obviously something of great interest to the seasoned collector.

What is the best desk to own if you are someone who enjoys writing? Do you suggest timber? Leather? Do you recommend laying something over the surface of the desk to write?

The most important thing is to sit at a desk that is at the waistline.  The ideal height of the desk will depend on the length of the user's upper arms.  The most comfortable desk has a lift-up writing slope.  Today, the standing desk has the most health benefits, as the human body is not designed for long periods of sitting down.  A cushioned leather desk pad is a great addition to any desk, protecting both the elbows and the desktop.  The appearance of the handwriting will be improved, as a single sheet on a hard desk will pick up the grain or finish of the desk, not to mention the damage done to the desk.

Sanjay writes standing up. He sports a Le Noeud Papillon 'Javier' bow tie and pocket square

Being a left hander, I must ask you this question, is there a fountain pen out there that we can use?

The Sailor pen with multi-directional left-hander nib never misses the mark for left-handers - we would recommend it without reservation.  Sailor is a 103-year-old company, making nibs in 21ct gold.  Their nibs have a proprietary design with conical shaped tips to ensure that the nib never catches the paper.

Can you recommend four different pens (brand and model) for a budget of:
a)      $50.00 b) $200.00 c)$800.00 d) $2000.00

$50: Online Germany; $200: Waterman; $800: Caran d'Ache or Montblanc; $2000: Sailor, especially the King of Pen range (fountain pens only)

Lastly, I have often found that I cannot write more than three pages without getting some cramping in my hands . Is there a way in which I , as an adult, could somehow retrain myself to write so that I don’t get these cramps? Is there a trick to overcoming this cramping?

In order to solve this writing problem you are best to come and see handwriting specialist Barbara Nichol, as this kind of cramping should not occur if you are holding the pen correctly.  Ms. Nichol can suggest specific adjustments and exercises to remedy this.

An example of the refined art deco approach of S.T Dupont

The limited edition Mont Blanc writer's edition this year paying homage to  French writer Balzac

You can contact the friendly team or visit the QVB store with the details below:

QVB  : Shop 15-17, Level 2, QVB
455 George Street Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9264 4991  Fax: (02) 9264 4434

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Australia - Where Everything Wants To Kill You

Source:  SBS

To Our Foreign Readers,

The other day I made the comment on my Facebook page that Australians ought to band together right now to do a rain dance. The hard hot winds were brutally taking embers all the way from the Blue Mountains west of Sydney all the way into the beach waters of Bondi Beach (according to one unverified report). That comment got me thinking about this so called 'Lucky Country' that everyone seems to want to come to. Which, to me, seems absurd. For it is my humble opinion, having now seen a fair few parts of the country and having spent some time working agricultural farms, that everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - in this country wants to kill you. If you are still interested in coming to live here, then pack your bags. However, before you do, let me give you a few observations.

In the Kakadu National Park a few years ago I asked the tour guide as we went down the river 'how long would I last in the water before a croc got to me?' The indigenous guide answered 'you would never make it to the river bank'. She was not even slightly joking. My fears were bolstered when a few days later I was fishing in a Creek a few hundred kilometres away and the guide asked me if I'd like to feed a croc. He lowered a medium sized barramundi over the side of the boat about five feet above the water and two minutes later two small, barely perceptible little bubbles on the water came moving down the creek until a medium sized croc leaped out of the water and went BAM BAM and snapped it all up. On the way home as we made our way through an estuary a terribly big bump thudded the side of the boat and almost knocked me out.... Don't worry, it was only a huge bull shark that looked so murky in colour you would never see it coming.

Which brings me to my next little story. One day I was lying under a truck whilst we were filling an orca (spell check?) to get the grain into the silo around 40 kilometres west of Wagga Wagga (do you like these names? That's what you need to get used to!). Because I was a lazy so and so during these work experience programmes I used to try and nod off here and there. I fell asleep on my Akubra and as I was in that half sleep I thought I felt the dogs licking my ear. But the tongue seemed very narrow. I was really quite uncertain as to what the hell was licking me and so I gradually began to fear it wasn't a dog so I jumped up and lo and behold, it was a six foot red belly black snake that was licking my ear. Scared like the city boy I was I shreiked for help. I won't lie to you, I took the rest of the day off.

A few days later the farmer gave me a task to do - 'go check on the watering troughs in this paddock' and he pointed to somewhere distant on a map. 'Check for red backs' he said in parting. Well, they were the biggest red backs I had ever seen. The size of your palm.

But I am not done. When you go up north you need to be careful of the Irukandji jelly fish and always wear a full suit even though the water is just like a bath. You need to be careful of bull sharks in estuaries. You need to watch for tiger sharks if you spearfish. You need to watch for great white sharks if you surf. That is if the surf didn't drown you first. When you go to the country you need to clap before you walk anywhere too grassy to avoid snakes. That is if you didn't get caught in the bush fires or drown in the recent floods. But whatever you do, don't stay out there too long because our sun is extremely cancerous. Oh, and in case you were wondering - possums are nasty, kangaroos can rip your guts out and koalas are not cuddly little bears.

Yes, I do love Australia and we do call it the 'Lucky Country' but sometimes I do wonder what is so 'lucky' about it when you spend most of your life just trying staying alive.

Oh, and just so you don't think I am telling you a 'long' story I am attaching a photo of said croc below:

Photo by Nicholas Atgemis - Copyright

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Post Impressionists

I stumbled recently upon this painting by Theo van Rysselberghe, painted in 1918, of Madame van Rysselberghe . The painting stuck with me because the subject was a) female b) wearing a woven silk jacquard bow tie and c) it was 1918. I find that interesting in terms of fashion for women.

After impressionism had had it's moment (Manet/Monet etc) , the post impressionists attempted to bring structure and order back to the world of impressionism. Hence the name. Among the post impressionists were Toulouse Lautrec, Cezanne and Gaughin. I am quite sure if you spoke to them individually they would not wish to be banded together under one umbrella of 'post impressionism' but the reason why I am referencing this painting is because, if you look at it, you can see the beginnings of a new silk design.... don't you think?

Too Many Cooks Spoil The Broth

I have an instagram account and when new bows come in I post the photos up onto my feed ( . When I post the photos I notice that people like them and often I click on those people to see what they are up to themselves. Recently it seems that the first to like my photos are indeed other companies offering neckwear and more specifically, bow ties. One was even brazen enough to ask me where I made my fabrics - the same question a tailor asked me in New York. About a month ago I also noticed on my google stats that one of the referrals that someone had clicked on to arrive at my site came from a list that was produced for internet shoppers called 'The 100 Best Bow Tie Sites In The World'.

When I started my business in 2008 there was one website on the internet offering a range (ie: not just a black bow tie) of bow ties. That business was Beau Ties of Vermont, USA . There was also another company, Vineyard Vines that I found later, and another one, Tie Deals that I discovered a couple of years later which was selling Tom Ford bow ties at a discount. Further along came Mr Porter in 2011. That was then.

A woman I once was besotted with once wrote me an email from Japan in which she inserted a great one liner - 'In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king'. Whether I was making the best bow ties in the world, or whether we were dwelling in mediocrity in those first years, it didn't matter so much, since what we were offering, luxury Italian silk tie-your-own bow ties, had not been done before. Certainly not in the way in which we were doing it.

Sadly, today is a very different story. Watching the world of social media explode and people struggling to find something to do, it seems that the #bowties, #menswear, and 'bow ties are cool' kids have overrun the internet. I should not complain. I have made a brand out of social media and blogging, but it is sad to see that this frantic rush across the world lead us back into pre-tied bows. Yesterday I was shopping in the city of Sydney and for all my hard work, to encourage people to learn to tie their own bow ties and know the quality of their fabrics, I was disappointed to see that the trend had now come full circle back to cheap and nasty cloths turned into pre-tied bow ties.

The other week I sat at a bar in Sydney's Surry Hills drinking with a friend after doing a talk on the radio. As we drank our whisky sours a group of four Gen Y's took to the booth next to us. They were dressed in that very Gen Y fashion manner. The cheapest clothes to get the look. One sported clip-on braces and a pre-tied bow tie in polyester. The other wore a three piece suit in a cloth made of God knows what. For all the work that had been done by the 'Early Bloggers' to encourage people to choose carefully their fabrics, their tailors, their trusted brands - it was all in vain once the 'trend' took it's grip.

As one shop owner said to me a few weeks ago when he was between a rock and a hard place "We love your stuff, we know it's the real thing. We know how much time you put into the fabrics. We know it's unique, but there are kids now coming in and they want the look but they don't want to pay the price". Sadly, the said shop owner, once one of the titans of Sydney menswear, closed his doors this week after the liquidators were appointed and the vulchers swooped down to shop the final 7 days with 50% off before the stock was sent to the auction house. We wish that shop owner and his team the best of luck and hope that eventually, one day, people will shop for quality again.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Studio - By Appointment

Well, we have some news! I recently got told that my home office was going to become the nursery for our first child. I was told I had to go and find a creative space and after one month I have done just that! We now have a studio in Sydney's Vaucluse where you can come and see our jacquard silks on the roll, our shirting cloth, pick up some Bresciani socks, coat hangers, hat bands and more. Being a small space there is a small catch.... It is by appointment only. If you would like to stop past then please feel free to make an appointment either by emailing bow at or else by calling on +612 8001 6684 .

We are located at 36 New South Head Road, Vaucluse, Sydney, 2030.

Still setting up: The new LNP Studio

Interview: Unique Style And Setting The Emerging Trends, Janie Cai, Fashion Director Of Esquire Magazine Singapore

There is a certain Annie Hall-esque element to the personal style of Janie Cai. I have mentioned Janie Cai before when I had talked about emerging trends, one of which I thought would be women taking on the world of dandyism in their own right. Janie is the fashion director at Esquire in Singapore. She is not afraid of colour, loves three piece suits, loves bow ties and ties and a good old fashioned club collar. It was just pot luck that I managed to get in contact with her and I asked her a few questions which she answered below.

About Janie....

Prior to spending 8 years in the media industry specializing in menswear, she studied art and design and jewellery design at Central St Martins in London. Currently based in Singapore, she sets the fashion direction for Esquire Singapore, working with a talented pool of stylists, creatives and photographers to develop the style-focused content of the magazine. Her personal style is a mix of old and new, interspersed with tailored influences. Bright colours, graphic pattern and unusual detailing are elements easily found in her wardrobe.

Janie, a while ago I saw a photo of you on StreetFSN and it was a pivotal moment for me when women had taken up the ‘dandy’ renaissance and were adding their own accent. Can you tell us a little about that suit /gloves/ vest/ tie/hat combination? Where it was made and how you went about choosing the fabrics, cut and accessories? Where exactly were you when that photo was taken?

That image was taken outside the Tokyo Palais in Paris on a freezing winter's day in January -  I think it was just before the Neil Barrett show. The two-button windowpane suit was tailored for me by Chong Han San of Q Menswear, who with infinite patience and kindness went through the fitting process with me. In part because of my experience with menswear, I am particular when it comes to what I want for my suits. It usually starts with the fabric. I'll pour over the swatch books until I find one that inspires me and then I'll usually visualize the style of suit from there. I do go in with a rough idea of what kind of suit I might want but in the end it is really the fabric that finalizes the choice. That suit came about because I had gone to Han San intending to tailor a classic navy suit but then I saw the swatch and fell in love with it. I wore it in Paris with a pale blue herringbone vest and classic white shirt, both also tailored at Q Menswear, and a wool roll-neck to mitigate the cold. I'm very much into lapel pins and pocket squares. The tan leather gloves I borrowed from Jeri (my sister, who is also a fashion director). We share a lot of accessories but wear them differently. I think the photographer, Nam for Streetfsn,  really caught us in a perfect moment when we were relaxed. When the street-style photographers first started shooting me it must have been challenging for them, I was so awkward in front of the lens! Now its better...from practice haha. In this picture I just felt a huge urge to be bright and colourful and to have fun - I mean I usually feel that way. It has to be enjoyable, you have to just have fun. Make mistakes. Smile.

Janie Cai shot by Nam for Streetfsn
Janie Cai shot by StockholmStreetstyle.Com

The suit you were wearing was perfect for the climate of Paris on a freezing day, but I gather Singapore is a different story. What do you look for when dressing for around town in Singapore in terms of fabrics and construction?

Definitely natural fibres. 100% cotton, linens etc. I'm now very keen on linens and I've just tailored a pale blue linen shirt at this place called Bulli & Sons run by a lady named Dewi. She has some beautiful Japanese cottons and linens for shirting. We used the selvedge edge of the blue linen to finish the placket, which I loved, as it showed a little bit of the origins of the fabric. I’m pretty obsessed with blue linen at the moment, I just did another shirt at ‘k’ by Kevin Seah. Clinton and Matthew who are based there are very meticulous and extremely good at making shirts. They had this incredible piece of blue striped linen that I had to have. I think it is really important to respect the fabric. When you tailor something, the fabric is really is the start of something potentially incredible. It becomes your second skin and you have to choose something you feel passionate about. Tailoring for women is very different as compared to tailoring for men. This is a fact. Our bodies are different and a good tailor understands that. There have been some tailors who won't tailor for women - which I can understand, it's a different approach altogether and they prefer to specialize in menswear. Fair enough. Even with my tailors it takes a fair amount of time and fittings to get it right but a good tailor doesn't give up.

It's not just the overwhelming heat and humidity in Singapore, once you get into an office or a mall, the air conditioning is on at full blast and you end up freezing. For the workweek I'm usually in a shirt and either jeans or trousers with a pair of loafers and I'll build on that. Nothing that's too tight or constrictive, I look for well-fitting pieces that also allow for movement, although I do like structural pieces over anything that’s too drapey. For accessories it's usually my Hypergrand watch which was designed by a friend of mine and has a white face with a gold casing and navy strap, simple and perfect for complementing much of what I wear. I keep a few blazers in the office, mainly linen ones, to throw on if I have a meeting or event, those are better for the tropics. I also like the vest look... and a hat - usually a light straw one . If I'm not working I'm usually in cotton shorts and either a plain polo tee or casual cotton or linen shirt, my Rivieras and a watch - that’s it. Occasionally I'll wear a skirt or a dress, it all depends on my mood really.

Can you tell us a little about your own style and what have been the pivotal moments in that journey over the last five years? For example, what was it that first got you into suiting?

 I would say my personal style is pretty mixed. I like menswear and tailoring and to mix those elements with other pieces, especially vintage finds and unexpected accessories. I like things with a story, be it a tie handed down to me by my dad or a watch that is designed by a friend with its own story behind it. I've always been pretty androgynous in my dressing - preferring trousers to skirts. I used to go out with someone who was very much into sartorial wear and tailoring. He would make an effort to dress up, even in a three-piece suit in the Singapore heat. He also introduced me to Rubinacci and their gorgeous pocket squares, it was through him that I came away with a much greater appreciation for the fine art of tailoring and the details and heritage of menswear. I think it was my second year of working in menswear, at August Man magazine, that I started going into a more formal tailored look. It just seemed a natural progression. I also started collecting pocket squares and I realized that I could adapt a lot of those accessories to my own wardrobe.
Janie Cai by StockholmStyle.Com

The main lapels for a suit are notched, peaked, shawl and double breasted. Of all of these, which one do you most find handsome on a man? And for yourself?

The peaked lapel. You need character to carry off a peaked lapel, it's sharper and dressier than a notched lapel. Shawl collars are beautiful too but for me they should only be part of a dinner jacket or tuxedo. There is a certain glamour and elegance to the shawl collar that should not be diluted by everyday wear. I usually get a peaked lapel for my tailored suits.

Janie Cai in a peaked lapel and club collar: Tommy Ton for Style.Com

You seem to love your box check, which has been by far the most interesting fabric that has been developed over the last two years. But in terms of where the trends are going, do you see box check as having a long lasting trend?

Oh yes! I love the windowpane check. Especially in unusual colour combinations. It's so popular now because people are starting to realize how versatile it is. Most physiques can carry them off and it is patterned without being too much for work. Checks are such an iconic pattern in menswear and its firmly entrenched in the men’s style lexicon, the window pane check has been around for ages but it still feels very modern. I also think we'll be seeing more Herringbone and stronger check patterns coming in for the year ahead, not just on the runways but in terms of what men will be choosing for their suiting.

Janie Cai by Tommy Ton for Style.Com

About ties and bow ties – I gather you are fan – what do you look for when choosing your neckwear to relate to your suiting fabric? Are you looking for contrast? Something to complement? Patterns? Textures? Materials?

Both. I love interesting patterns and materials, textures, knits, embroidery even and embellishment. It's a balance between the suit, which is the canvas and the accessories, such as a tie or bow-tie, which form the elements that give the entire outfit its punctuation points. I have a soft spot for knit ties, they just look so great, especially the striped or polka-dot ones.

What blogs do you read regularly and who are the voices in fashion that you listen to?

Actually, I don't read any blogs regularly. Although for fashion sites I like Imran Amed's Business of Fashion site. Its tackles more than just a cursory glance at the fashion world and provides an interesting inside into the bricks and mortar side of the fashion business.

Janie Cai: Refinery 29 Shot By Jeri Chua 

If you had carte blanche to work with a tailoring house to create your ultimate piece – firstly, who would you choose to work with, and secondly, what would you create?

 There are so many great tailoring houses out there I wouldn't know where to start! They all have their own signature style as well and it would be very very difficult to decide. Maybe I could change the question a little and choose someone whom I would love to work with. I have a great admiration and respect for Alessandro Sartori and his work and what he has done for Berluti in terms of their RTW and the creative direction. He has a very strong, very clear vision as well as a thorough understanding of the art of tailoring. Ever since ZZegna, Sartori has been deeply innovative without being simply trendy and for me that is crucial. If I were given the opportunity to work with him to create something I would love to create 3 ensembles- a day look, an evening look and a uniform. The first two because his collections have a beautiful fluidity to them and it would be great to see how he would translate the transition between day to evening for the female form in particular. A uniform because it would be exciting to see Sartori's interpretation of what constitutes utilitarian workwear.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Winner Of The Self-Portrait Competition Is Entrant #9 Gabriella McVeigh, Adelaide, Australia

I have chosen to give the inaugural self-portrait prize to Gabriella McVeigh. Of all the wonderful submissions, this particular watercolour, for whatever reason, I found the most charming. Gabriella has won a prize of $500.00. We hope to run another self-portrait competition in the near future. 


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Custom Made Wedding Bow Ties - Le Noeud Papillon Half And Half Velvet And Silk Bows For Private Customer - Sydney, Australia


When this private customer sat down for a consultation on the ties she was choosing for her groom and groomsmen, I was first a little hesitant. I thought that perhaps it was a little bit lolly pop. But it turns out that her taste, probably stemming from the fact that she was an architect by trade, was in fact spot on. She chose to contrast black velvet on three of the bows with satin silks of lilac, turquoise and navy and on the final bow tie she organised our existing 'Ruby Black' model. 

The custom process can be very rewarding for me as much as it is for the customer, because their ideas show you a new way forward. Such was the case many moons ago when a man called Hunter enquired about making his grandfather's diamond point bow tie.

Four custom made bow ties for a private client in Sydney, half velvet, half satin silk

Packaging always makes these more exciting presents to give grooms

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pay Once, Cry Once

Growing up I had a friend whose father, whilst being a great provider for his family, always rewarded himself with great quality items. Whether it was a television, or a new couch, he would make sure that it was exactly what he wanted. In contrast, I grew up in a household where wearing a fake was considered 'thrifty' and for this reason, and to some extent a small amount of shame, I have always sought out quality and the real thing. I believe in what my friends father told him one day 'pay once, cry once'. That is, if you pay the price once, it may hurt in the first instance, but the product will last. By contrast, buy something dodgy and you will always be fixing it.

I am not going to throw bad light onto other companies trying to enter the bow tie market, but I will say this about the bow tie above. It is made of the finest orange mogador silk I have touched. On the contrast side is a black Holland And Sherry modal velvet. The velvet is cut separately to the silk, married together and sewn. What comes out the other side is a bow tie which when tied has hints of  the contrasting fabric. On certain angles the orange mogador will appear as piping to the velvet, on the reverse, the orange mogador will seem to be piped by velvet. It is one you will keep for a long time, not just because this bow tie is made from the finest fabrics, but because it was made with care and love and you can't put a price on that.

Pay once, cry once - it's good advice , you should take it.

You Can Take Your Hat Off To Him - Stephen Temkin Of Leon Drexler Hats - Toronto, Canada

I guess nothing is coincidental but the blog post below is of David Lee Meisenburg, a bow tie customer of Le Noeud Papillon who happened two weeks ago to pass on the details of an interesting hat maker named Stephen Temkin of Leon Drexler hats in Toronto, Canada. Stephen is a custom hat maker, sourcing exquisite felts and making hats to order, an art form, which for men at least, is very rare indeed these days. I have been very interested in his craft of recent, having just prepared an interview for an Australian legendary hat company, Akubra, a little over a month ago.

It is very fortunate that Stephen made time to answer some questions as he is currently behind schedule on orders due to a personal injury, which in a business like his, relying on his own two hands alone, can cripple your business. As a side note, it probably does need to be said, that supporting businesses like Leon Drexler is so important. When there are so few companies in the world that offer small scale, authentic production, well then, it is as the adage goes 'it is the duty of every wealthy man to give a job to the artisan'. When so much of the world is making the same same but different, men like Temkin are becoming such a rarefied commodity that they deserve greater exposure. Without further ado, here is Stephen Temkin of Leon Drexler in his own words:

Australian bushmen often use a generic word for a wide brimmed felt hat. They are referred to as an ‘Akubra’ and the word originates from the company that made them since the late 1800’s. If you could have one hat which was loved by all and sundry across Canada, what would it’s name be and could you describe what it’s style would be like and the materials you would use?

I don’t have a real answer to the question except to say that the beaver is a national symbol of Canada, so the material I would use, and do use, might be considered an act of treason. Canada, though small in population, is a very diverse nation that would rather see itself as a land of many hats, not one (wool hockey tuque excepted).

Can you tell us about your customers – is there a thread of commonality about them or are people who seek out a custom hat maker a certain type of person?

First, as you would expect, most of my customers are men, but I’ve also made fedoras for women. In terms of age, my customers have ranged from a teenage hipster who wanted the same style of hat worn by the members of his favourite band, to an octogenarian horse trainer who wanted a good, durable, wide-brimmed hat to wear while riding (but didn’t want a cowboy hat). There you also see the spectrum of why someone may want a hat; from something purely tied up with self-identity, to something decidedly functional. Between those two poles, I suppose my most “typical” customer is a middle-aged man who pays some attention to how he dresses, appreciates quality, and understands both the usefulness and fashionable aspects of wearing a hat. But I can’t say I’ve discerned any particular commonality beyond that.

Leon Drexler 'Budapester' in black

I noticed that you use ‘beaver’ felt and that you offer a few different weights – can you please tell us a little about how felt is made, why it is used in hats such as fedoras, why beaver and a little about some alternative fabrics that might be used in hat making? Can you, for example, make a fedora out of a cashmere? Can you cover a fedora in silk?

Felt is essentially the densely matted hair or fur of an animal. Some types of animal fibre mat more effectively than others. You get different results, both in terms of quality and character, depending on what kind of fibre or blend of fibres are used. Beaver fur has long been considered the finest material for making felt for hats. The felt it produces is very pliant yet structural, holds its shape exceedingly well, has great tensile strength relative to its light weight, is exceptionally durable, naturally repels water, provides warmth, is pleasingly soft to the touch and, assuming the hat is properly made, amenable to refurbishment.

Without going into the technical details, a “raw” felt hat body is created by forming the fine undercoat hairs of the animal into an initial, loosely matted cone, and then shrinking it with heat, moisture and manipulation causing the fibres to become more tightly interlocked and the material increasingly dense. The result is a strong and manipulable material, meaning it can then be blocked, pressed and molded into various shapes and styles.

Today most commercially available felt hats are made from wool or rabbit fur, wool being the inferior of the two. Occasionally one sees expensive felt hats that include some sort of “exotic” fibre content, including cashmere, but this is more about fashion than quality and sometimes a mere gimmick. Pure beaver is the long-established gold standard and the only type of felt I use.

The awkward process of trying to cover a fedora in silk is not the way one would go about forming a silk hat. Better to take good quality silk, fuse it to a stiffer interfacing, then cut and sew a pattern that forms a hat, much like a leather hat or the cheap fabric hats one sees kicking around only better. Alternatively, one can achieve a lustrous, satin type finish with felt. My “Venetian” finish is a satin finish, although I go for a less overt, semi-lustrous appearance.

Leon Drexler: A  'Londoner' with Venetian finish

In terms of construction, can you break down to us in words a simple explanation of how you might go about making a hat from measuring the customer to finished product?

Once it’s been determined what the customer wants and I have their head measurement, a sweatband is cut and sewn to that precise measurement. The appropriate sized hat block is then chosen that will best accommodate a well-fitted insertion of that sweatband. The felt is then blocked, a wet process that stretches the felt over the block. Various bits of tweaking may occur during the construction of the sweatband and blocking of the felt to ensure the best possible joining of the two.

While still on the block, after drying for a couple of days, the felt on the crown portion of the hat will be refined depending on the type of finish chosen for the hat. I offer three finishes and use various combinations of about eight different processes to achieve the desired result.

After the finished felt is removed from the block, the brim is pressed flat, finished in the same manner as the crown, and cut to the selected width.

The sweatband is then sewn into the base of the crown using a sewing machine designed specifically for that purpose.

Next, the dents and creases of the crown are shaped by hand and fixed with steam. However, for certain hats, the dents and creases are not fixed by steam, but simply applied “dry” and allowed to possess a more organic malleability.

Next, the brim is shaped—either pressed over a flange to form a typical snap-brim style of hat or, for curled brim hats, curled by hand using some antique curling shackles.

The hat is then trimmed, most of the time with grosgrain ribbon (some hats, the Rambler and Keeper for example, are trimmed with felt from the same hat body). A standard snap brim may be left raw, or is given a “galloon edge” of grosgrain using a brim binding sewing machine. The binding of a curled brim on a Leon Drexler hat, however, is much more labour intensive, much of it careful hand work to provide a beautifully tailored look with almost no visible stitching. After the brim is done, the band and bow are made and discreetly tacked to the crown by hand.

A pure silk satin lining is cut and sewn, and then basted (not glued) into the crown. My linings are individually tailored for each hat. For a more breathable crown—specifically intended to complement the lighter, “welterweight felt”—I also offer a lining made from a natural, un-dyed, open-weave linen.

Finally, the little bow at the back of the sweatband is tied and attached. These are typically made from inexpensive braided ribbon, but I use pure silk.

I read recently on another blog that the proliferation of cars and high backed chairs in cars meant that wide brimmed hats were rather clumsy for drivers which has meant that they have suffered a rather big decline over the last 50 years. I personally have found that wearing a fedora whilst driving can be cumbersome, is there a way to wear a fedora whilst driving and can you tell us on what occasions we should wear a fedora? For example, can you wear a fedora to the beach?

The notion that an entire generation of men worldwide would completely abandon the wearing of hats in just a few years due to some awkwardness while driving seems unlikely to me. I wear a hat in the car all the time without too much difficulty. If I do have a problem (wider brim), I simply take it off, throw it on the seat beside me or into the back, then put it back on when I reach my destination—hardly a zeitgeist altering inconvenience.

If the car had any impact, it is probably because in the 50s and 60s as the use of automobiles became increasingly common, more and more men were spending less and less time outdoors. Hats are, after all, outerwear, and these changes to our lifestyle made them easily expendable. Today, many men leave their home, go to work and return without being outdoors for more than a few seconds, if at all.

The tricorn and the powdered wig didn’t disappear due to inconvenience, but because of changes in culture and fashion, and I suspect the same is true for the fedora. By the 1960s, there had already been an inexorable decline toward increasing sartorial casualness going on for many decades. We also witnessed a new age of vanity regarding men’s hair. It’s important to note that women’s hats also suffered a great decline at the same time.

A man wears a hat outdoors to protect his head from the elements, and then removes it when he settles back indoors, much like his coat. Exactly which hat he chooses to wear is usually determined by the context of his wardrobe and the outdoor environment. A specific occasion may also influence what kind of hat he wears, particularly as it pertains to the degree of dressiness or casualness, but that too is a wardrobe related decision. And yes, by all means, wear a hat to the beach, but not a felt hat; a Panama is your best choice to protect your head from the summer sun.

Of your own range, I have been recommended the Budapester. Is this also your favourite? Can you tell is when we might be inclined to wear each of your models. The Burgunder, for example, looks rather like a plantation hat, is it intended to be used more in a rural environment?

Well, the Burgunder is like a plantation hat and, stylistically, has a rural connotation. How much these sorts of indicators matter today is hard to say, except to say not much to most people. The idea that a certain hat is worn in a specific context really relies upon the existence of shared conventions and expectations regarding dress, most of which don’t exist anymore, at least not in a strict sense. Still, I personally wouldn’t wear a Burgunder while strolling around downtown Toronto.

Leon Drexler 'Burgunder' in graphite with brim binding and crown ribbon in puddle.

I’ll wear a curled brim hat such as the Budapester, Londoner, St. Urbainer, or perhaps an un-pinched, bound-brim hat like the Stroller when I want to look a bit more “uptown.” For a more pragmatic appearance, say for a trip to the market, I really like the Keeper. The Rambler is a country hat, and a bit of a fashion statement these days, but falls nicely into place with a tweed jacket. The hat I probably reach for most often is the Forager because it is just such a useful, versatile, everyday fedora that occupies the neutral zone between dressy and casual. That territory would also include hats like the Gaffer, Handicapper, Scribbler, or perhaps the Autobahner.

Leon Drexler 'Rambler' in mustard
Can you tell us a little about your own style and how you like to pair your own hats with your clothes?

First, let me say that I consider quality to be the foundation of style, meaning it all begins with the textile. Well-made, functional, seasonally appropriate, durable fabrics composed of natural fibers are what matter most to me.

That said, I suppose I look dressed up compared to most men on the street these days with the exception of men in business suits. If I ever try to leave the house in a tank top, cargo capris, baseball cap and flip-flops, my wife has been instructed to shoot me as an act of mercy, for I have obviously lost my mind.

When I’m out and about, I am most often wearing a seasonally-appropriate odd jacket of some sort, paired with a proper cotton shirt. All of my jackets are custom made, as are my shirts which are usually a solid colour or only subtly patterned. I don’t normally wear a tie unless the occasion demands, and although I actually appreciate the look of a pocket square, I don’t ever wear one (two shortcomings that obviously need to be addressed). Trousers tend to be casual but never so casual as blue jeans or, horror of horrors, cargo pants. I never wear shorts. Jean-cut, cotton cavalry twill pants in grey, brown or navy from Loro Piana are my casual staple, although classic dress-cut wool trousers seem to be infiltrating to a greater degree. So I guess you could say my everyday wardrobe is quite simple, discreet, certainly conservative by contemporary standards and, although I shudder to use the term, casually elegant.

I resist conspicuity yet, ironically, I am surely more conspicuous than most men on the street these days. That is no doubt due, in part, to the fact that I am always wearing a dress hat of some sort.

I haven’t left the house without a hat on my head for over 20 years. This began long before the idea of making hats ever occurred to me. Hats are just so sensible. The hat I choose to wear on any given outing will usually depend on the jacket (or overcoat) that I’m wearing, the weather, my destination and occasionally just my mood. But I’m not always terribly specific about it. Often I flop a hat onto my head before I go out, take a glance in the hall mirror and decide if it feels right. If not, I’ll try something else. Generally, I avoid selecting a hat that matches the colour of my jacket or coat as this can look overly contrived. But I do find it can be pleasing when the colour of the hat, or the hat’s ribbon, ties into something else that I’m wearing such as a scarf or gloves.

Leon Drexler: Forager
Are you working on anything exciting at the moment that you would like to share with our readers? A custom piece? A new hat design?

I’ve always got some new model idea floating around in my head—the problem is finding the time to work on the prototype which may require the making of two or three hats—not a terrible burden, but when I have orders to fill, it’s hard to devote studio time to pure design. 

One thing I have on the drawing board is a formal evening dress hat, the ultimate hat for a modern black tie event. It is essentially a black Homburg style hat (centre crease, no pinch) but with two references to the formal top hat—a lustrous finish and a tight, sleek, flattened curl on the brim, properly bound in black, the sort of curl one never sees these days. The interior will feature a pleated silk lining and the crown ribbon will have some sort of signature treatment that suits the hat’s formality. I certainly wouldn’t anticipate too many orders for this hat, but it’s one I feel should exist in the repertoire for those men who really like to do it up right.

Leon Drexler 'Stroller'  with galloon edge in silk biscuit and black icecream ribbon

Lucky Last - Self-Portrait Submission #11, David Lee Meisenburg, Digital Pencil, Iowa, USA

Because of a time delay between the USA and Australia, this lucky last submission just came in from David Lee Meisenburg.