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

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Interview: Nathan Jancauskas, Founder Of Men's Biz - The Elegant Grooming Salon And Perfume Shop

Nathan Jancauskas founded Men's Biz which is one of the more exciting men's grooming salons and perfume shops in the city of Sydney. In fact, I am not entirely sure there is anything that surpasses it for men in Sydney. He has answered a few questions for us and it is well worth your while passing by and trying the scents on offer. They offer a comprehensive range and a dedicated team that know their product.

Can you tell us a little about how Men’s Biz came about a little about the products that you offer men when they come into your grooming salons?

Men’s Biz began in 2006 as a specialist online retailer. There wasn’t much available for guys at the time outside of the department store or supermarket and we saw the opportunity to create something better. We have curated a range of ‘best-in-class’ skincare, shaving, haircare and fragrances that span from the traditional to the modern, from affordable through to high-end luxury.

One of the problems I run into is that I often find it hard to shave the whiskers that are just below the nostrils at the start of our moustache. Do you have any tips for our readers looking to get in and around the nooks and crannies of their faces?

The Merkur Moustache & Eyebrow Razor ( is designed for detailed trimming and to get into those hard-to-reach spots.

I love going to the barber but I try to avoid going regularly for fear of mounting expenses – I also try to avoid gym memberships too… My gym instructor would say that I need to go to the gym every day for 20 minutes of exercise, what would the barber suggest as to how often a man should stop past the salon?

As a general rule, most guys come back every 6-8 weeks. But if you can make it back every 3-4 weeks for a tidy up that would be ideal. Our advice is to choose a barber or salon where you can afford to have your hair cut regularly - this is much better than an expensive cut that you only do infrequently.

How difficult is it to start shaving yourself at home with a traditional cut throat? I notice that you sell the blades and creams required to start giving yourself a cut throat at home – can you recommend to our readers what products that you sell that they’d need to get started?

Cut throat razors do require a certain level of skill, but all you need is a little willingness to learn and you will pick it up quickly. Chose a razor with a 5/8” or 6/8” blade, a leather strop, a shaving brush and a good shaving cream (a can of foam from the supermarket won’t cut it). Buy good quality tools and look after them and they’ll last you a lifetime.

I notice that you sell men’s fragrances in perfumes and colognes and everything in between. Specifically I tried one which smelt like an Australian bushfire. Can you give us a run down of some of your more unique scents that you offer and recommendations for our readers as to a selection of scents for 2016 that are worth trying?

We have a wide range of men’s fragrances that you won’t find elsewhere. I think we stock something for everyone. If you’re looking for a new signature scent, drop by one of our stores and we can give you a few suggestions and some samples to take home for a test drive. Here's two to get you started:
Penhaligon’s Sartorial was inspired by the scents of the workroom at Norton & Sons, a bespoke Tailors of the famous Savile Row in London. It’s great for work or the office. And then there’s Tauer's L’Air du Desert Marocain, a cult fragrance that speaks of the fragrant world of Morocco and the Maghreb desert. It’s fantastic.

I love having a beard but I really abhor it when some barbers trim or cut around it because it makes me look a little like, well, someone who might strap bombs to themselves. Is there a way to trim your beard and keep it looking tame whilst not having defined lines where the beard stops and your shaved skin is?

If you’re getting your beard trimmed at a barbershop, let them know you’d like a natural fade rather than a sharp, defined line.

For men who are starting to bald or thin out, do you have hair cuts that you recommend so that they can remain youthful without having to go down the full bald eagle path?

A neat slicked-back style with a bit of volume would work well. A matte pomade will give you added texture and volume. Or like you suggest, there’s always the bald look.

Of all the Presidents of the United States, which one do you think had the best hair cut?

John F. Kennedy.

MEN’S BIZ has stores in Sydney and Melbourne, and over 2000 products available online at

Strand Arcade
Shop 15, Ground Floor
412-414 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 8386 3577

Royal Arcade
Shop 49,
335 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9942 9308

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Simplicity Is Often An Arduous Task Requiring A Great Deal Of Forethought - Take Hot Air Ballooning For Example

Hot air ballooning and champagne are great friends, which is why at the end of a joy flight over the valley of Canowindra, the proprietor of Balloon Joy Flights, Graham Kerr, offers guests a glass of his home-made champagne and launches into his Montgolfier speech.

I have no doubt a form of his Montgolfier speech is replicated by hot air balloon tourist operators around the world in multiple languages every year. Effectively it is a small vignette, or perhaps a toast, to the pioneers of hot air ballooning, the Montgolfier Brothers, who carried their own champagne with them in those early days of aviation and offered the farmers below a bottle before landing on their farms to ensure that they did not mistake them for flying monsters or dragons. Champagne was also a drink reserved for the aristocracy, so a peasant was only too happy to receive a drop, and so, as Graham concludes his speech, which I had heard many years earlier, word spread amongst the countryside and hot air balloonists were welcome to land on peasant farms any time they liked. So the story goes...

My experience of hot air ballooning over the long weekend was just as wonderful as the last time, only this time I was stuck directly underneath the gas fired flutes of which I had forgotten how loud they were. My life had also taken many twists and turns since the last time I was up over the same valley so it was a time for quiet pause and reflection with intermittent loud bursts of gas fired flames shooting overhead and sending a heat down the back of my neck....

The sky was a bright cloudless blue, a shade much lighter than you seem to get in Sydney. Small patches of fog and mist hugged dams and hovered over the one river I spotted. The land was green from recent heavy-ish rains and lucerne was growing like strands of finely woven carpet whilst the ziggurat like markings of pivot irrigation systems put concentric circles across what were neatly and clearly defined plots of cropping. Up there the country that we'd just driven over, which seemed undulating at the time, now looked very flat and you could clearly make out the surrounding mountains which made up the valley which made this part of the country the air ballooning capital of Australia, or at least this was what we were told.

The previous time we had landed the air craft I recall that we got out and went directly back to the winery, there was no more to do than eat breakfast and drink champagne. This time our entire group of passengers were called upon to help Graham pack up the air balloon before we returned for our champagne breakfast. A hot air balloon, whilst floating through the sky, looks so very uncomplicated and unfettered, an air-craft that's like a floating cloud. 

It was only when we had to pack up the air-craft and when you ask a few more questions that you start to realise that  it's not just a balloon that you hang on to. Landing and taking off is complicated, there is the constant assessment of the winds. You need a car to follow you which can get through boggy country and a trailer which can carry both the basket and the balloon. The balloon weighs over 240 kg and so you need a hydraulic lifting arm on the back of the trailer which attaches to a custom made trolley which stows the balloon. The basket requires at least four people to heave it upright before loading it onto a custom track which slides the basket onto the trailer. Finally the vehicle needs to be able to take the same six passengers from the balloon back to the base. 

To fly a balloon you need the same accreditation from CASA as you need to fly a small air craft, the same safety knowledge and mostly the same safety checks. You need to know your winds, know your landing sites, have back up fuel stores and, most importantly, you have to do all of this whilst maintaining the expectations of your customers in terms of a tourist experience.

When finally we had lowered the balloon to the ground, we then had squeezed all the air out of the balloon and lined up to feed the balloon fabric back into it's bag. Then, after we had raised and loaded the basket onto the trailer and gotten back into the car to head back for our champagne breakfast, Graham launched into another pre-prepared speech about how it is being encouraged by Destinations NSW for tourists to become interactive in the experience. I was forced to chuckle on the inside, I was in an approximate after-exercise sweat from the activity of packing up the hot air balloon, and I couldn't help but think we'd done this man's job, but I was not unhappy for the experience.

The experience was in knowing that when I first snapped a photo of the balloon coming into land I had thought wistfully about a career I might have had as a hot air balloonist or perhaps as a French aristocratic aviation pioneer like the Montgolfier brothers. But then when you hear the amount of knowledge you need to own a commercial pilot's license, the maintenance and manual labour of your plant and equipment, coupled with the early starts required to get that balloon up and going on a below freezing pre-dawn June morning in Canowindra - I was left with a dry smile on my face - perhaps bow ties were not so bad after all.

In life, as it is in invariably all crafts, that which often appears to be simply elegant, is in fact somebody else's very hard work, intellect and efforts applied consistently over time to deliver something which is in fact quite arduous and complex.

Many thanks Balloon Joy Flights, you were a kill joy for my idea that I might one day become a commercial air balloon pilot but you have maintained my belief that nothing comes easy, not even a hot air balloon in the sky.

Once landed, the balloon takes sometime and some muscle to get it to deflate in a manner which can be folded. This is a vineyard in Canowindra, NSW.

Incoming: the passengers from a previous joy flight come slowly in to land.... somewhere....

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sloane Angell - The Hand Roll Stitched T-Shirt Specialist

There are many t-shirt brands and every conceivable t-shirt is somewhere out there in the world, if not on on a regular retail site or department store then you'll find the obscure and the bizarre on etsy. But between all these t-shirts I have never found a maker that hand roll stitched their t-shirts so it struck me as a pleasant point of difference when Sloane Angell explained to me the level of detail he went to in his own products to ensure that the consumer got something different and unique, even if to the average Joe it looked like a grey long sleeve t-shirt. The devil is in the details, so I asked Sloane to explain to our readers what goes into making a Mercer Market t-shirt something which can't be got anywhere else, not to this author's knowledge anyway.

Sloane, I once had a woman in Bali spend two full days’ hand-roll stitching a sarong for me after I showed her how to do it. It’s a difficult process enough on a pocket square, and despite the low costs wages of Bali, it still cost me $80.00AUD just to get this lady to do it. You do it on every t-shirt, both short and long sleeve – tell me how much labour goes into every t-shirt to get that kind of finish?

Our shirts are extremely labor intensive, even before the hand roll stitch. Our cotton goes through a lengthy process of washes and treatments after milling to achieve the required texture and aesthetic. Our sewers can hand finish approxi 12-15 shirts a day. It is a time consuming detail, but I believe it's an integral aspect of our shirts.

You seem passionate about Pima cotton  - which is higher great American cotton from my understanding – can you explain to me what qualities you look for in jersey to create the kind of premium streetwear look you find in Mercer Market?

We look for texture and the feel of the jersey. You needed that butter smooth texture in the jersey, as well a cotton that drapes nicely. I wanted it to feel like a natural material to the touch, without checking the label.  I was able to achieve the desired results with Pima and more. I think it's a fantastic fabric. We put the same amount of thought and effort into all the fabrics we use in our collections.

I am a huge fan of your crewneck sweatshirts but I see you don’t make XXL which means I am sized out of the market. I find this with a lot of contemporary streetwear brands, they don’t like us who only fit into rhino size ! Can you tell us if this is intended or whether it happens over time that people who look for this kind of urban wear just fall into a different kind of bell curve?

It wasn't my intention to directly exclude a demographic from Mercer. We are sized from XS to XL, the XS was intended for women's market. This brings us up to five sizes per style. If our wholesale outlets request larger sizes to fill a demand, we would happily look into adding them to our range.

Broadly speaking, and perhaps a massive generalisation, but I envisage many men in Los Angeles dress more in the manner of your style and designs than say those that wear suits and shirts. Is this true or is it merely my perception of Los Angeles through Hollywood and television?

I think overall, Los Angelenos are much more relaxed in their appearance compared to what I was used to coming from New York. You are right about that. It was a bit of a shock at first, but there is good and bad style everywhere. The nice thing about our shirts is they can be worn all day in a relaxed manner but also can be dressed up and worn when the suit and tie comes off at the end of the day.

The world seems to become more and more obsessed with urban street wear during times of economic prosperity, and more conservative and classically groomed in times of economic recession and depression. Do you think that progressive street wear is a somewhat a litmus test to the functioning of an economy or do you think, more broadly speaking, we are moving towards a permanent change in our perception of menswear and what constitutes clothing in the 21st Century?

This is a really thoughtful question. Its a bit of both. There is definitely been a recent shift in the perception of menswear, the needle has definitely has swayed to a more relaxed appearance and style. There definitely could be signs of a more conservative look during an economic downturn, but I think this would really only be felt by a white collar workforce.

A friend of mine is closing in on forty and until a few years ago he was becoming increasingly into Rick Owens, Haider Ackermann and other contemporary designers until he was hit over the head by his wife who demanded he dress more like a forty-year-old man. However, I have seen increasingly men in their forties buck the trend and continue wearing urban street style clothing well into their late forties. What is your opinion of age and streetwear and are they at odds with each other or can they be friends?

Age is in your attitude! If you like the way you feel in the clothes, that's all that matters. A large section of my customer base is 40+. My clothes are built on quality, both in materials and construction. I think a more experienced customer understands the importance of these qualities in garments, and is willing to spend more to get them.

The world of bespoke is often attributed to shirts, suits and shoes but almost NEVER for jersey in tops, long sleeves, polos etc. Have you ever run a bespoke programme for Mercer Market and would you consider taking on a rhino size like me for your first guinea pig?

We do have a bespoke program available for clients if they choose. we collaborate with the client to create an article of clothing, home accessory or concept that is completely unique to them. I really love this aspect of our business, its a great chance for me to get to know more of our customers on a personal basis, and it so much fun to see what they want to create.

Can you tell us three places/experiences that an Australian visiting Los Angeles might visit which ordinarily he would not know about if he was using a local guide book?

Definitely. If you are sartorial minded, you should definitely check out Maxfields, Just One Eye, and Church Boutique. They are three of my favorite shops in LA and are all each completely unique in to themselves. LA's shopping Meccas. I am huge of fan of LA's museums, so I think everyone should visit and support them. My favorites are LACMA and The Broad. Finally, make sure to stop by Musso and Franks, an LA institution, and have a martini.

Shop Mercer Market by clicking here or follow Sloane Angel on @sloaneangell

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Three Operators In Life Are Creation, Moderation, Destruction - At This Stage I Like To Dwell In Moderation

The indigenous Australians that occupied Australia for thousands of years before 'dem white folks' turned up had a wonderful world view which seems to be more and more frequently entwined in the speeches of Australian political leaders than ever before. 'Custodian' and 'custodianship' are words that are very soup du jour Down Under, especially as we try to heal the overwhelming gap between the two cultures that seem completely and diametrically opposed. One firmly didn't believe in private property, the other does, one believed in taking only what you need, the other believes that the only thing worth pursuing is growth.

The Vedic world view, as described by my old meditation instructor, is that there are three operators at play in the world around us. We have been obsessed in recent years mainly with one of them, creation, but the other two are equally as important, moderation and destruction.

Of the latter two, one is particularly dear to me, and that is moderation. In a world where most things are made to 'fuck and chuck' , some things are made to last, to nurture, to restore, to come back to.

Recently a man popped into my Studio. I knew him almost two decades ago. He had run a series of successful companies but had recently folded his most recent company and had divorced and remarried since I last saw him. He is an aesthete, a man who was always busy working hard in his companies but who enjoyed the fruits of his labour well. Cars, watches, shoes. That sort of thing. 

He arrived at my Studio with a pair of GJ Cleverley shoes, they had seen better days and were so cracked and creased behind the toe box, mingey and greying and a bit of leather scalloped from the vamp, that I really did not know whether they were able to be restored. 

It coincided with the delivery of two bottles from Wrist Clean , an excellent solution for cleaning watch faces as well as leather straps too. 

What was intended to be a day creating and cutting new products wound up being a day of 'moderation' or perhaps the better word is 'maintenance' - the operator between creation and destruction - the monitoring, nurturing or preservation of that which is still living or working. 

Like a cracked record I will explain the process, which ultimately never changes too much. Saphir renovateur, soak it in, beaver brush on black dye, let it dry, add black pomade by Saphir, let it dry, brush off, wax on Saphir black wax, wax off, high shine with water and excessive sweaty rubbing.

But then I decided to give the Wrist Clean a whirl too and it brought up the watch spectacularly. 

With luck and care the watch will survive another thirty years, the leather strap a year to five years, the shoes, whilst probably due for a coffin and a cremation, restored now, they will probably go for another three years. Okay, you won't wear them to the opening night of the opera, but paired with a dark grey suit nobody will notice. Or just wear them with dark blue jeans on a Friday night so that when those cocktails you ordered spill onto your shoes you don't care. 

If there is one pearl of wisdom to take from this blog post it is this: look after the things you have in your life, take an indigenous Australian approach, be a custodian, and nurture and preserve it for as long as you can. Not everything is about what is brand new.