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

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Freshening Up Your Watch For Summer And Fixing A Perlon Strap With A Deployment Clasp

If like me you fell for the Instagram daily watch porn of men who take their beautiful watches and add a perlon strap with bangles etc, then no doubt you might have succumbed and bought some perlon straps yourself.

The fact is, they are cheaply made and for such a wonderful looking product to the eye, they are in fact a bit of a disappointment when they arrive. But you get what you pay for. They are finished with little metal clasps which, if you look at them closely, have the perlon threaded back and over through the loops.

It seems odd then that men are in such a rush to have a 50k watch finished with a perlon strap but the simple fact is that they look wonderful on instagram and really brighten up and funk up a traditional looking watch and give it a certain kind of summer chic.

I did not last a day using my perlons, not because I didn't like the look of them, but because I hate unbuckling a watch - period. And I will do anything to turn any old watch into one with a deployment clasp, I even do it with my Swatches that I wear for work during the week.

To cut a long story short, I managed to use a needle and a thread to add a deployment clasp to my perlon and it has reinvigorated my watch for the summer and given me a disposable style band so I don't thrash my exotic leather ones. Not that I wear my leather straps in the water, but I tend to get water all over me in the summer, be it on a boat or by the beach or simply working up a sweat from the heat.

The process was very easy so I will just post the photos below with a bit of a note. A small disclaimer before we proceed. I did this in between my usual jobs today so this solution is not rigorously tested and I used my own shoddy hands to sew it with thread lying around so please, if you have an expensive watch, do your own research before you go diving into the ocean with your favourite watch on using my technique.

Remove the perlon strap from the below average clasp it comes with.

Here I removed the other perlon strap I had previously attached. Note the deployment clasp knob is poking through the perlon to secure it. This can come off but as of today it didn't - could be just a spot of luck, but it did seem to grip ok. 

Now get some thread and turn back the perlon strap so that you can load a spring bar. (20mm is ideal)  In this makeshift instance I have given myself plenty of space to move. 
Now stitch, don't be like me, I had little prince fingers and I was nearly in tears but we got there. 
Hooray, you have attached your deployment clasp, threaded the the perlon through the lugs and you have fixed it to the clasp, adjusting it to your required length. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Like Falling In Love - Our New Silk Scarves Are As Natural On The Skin As If You Were Wearing Nothing At All

A few weeks back I reached out to a company in Italy that specialises in making half cashmere half silk scarves with hand-fringed tassels. I wanted to experiment with our latest limited editions. Three weeks later these wonderful scarves turned up in time for us to photograph them for our blog and Christmas emails. 

The cashmere used is a Mongolian cashmere that is sourced from Zegna cloth and the silks, well, they need no real introduction, they are the very same silks you receive in your bow ties. At $995.00 AUD they are not cheap, but then, nothing naturally this beautiful ever is.

Nine scarves were made in total, a small batch, but you will love them and hand them onto your next of kin as I doubt very much you will either wear them out or that they will ever go out of style.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Ex-President's Portrait Series - Please Feel Free To Join In On The Fun - $500 To The Winner

We have not run a competition in some time so this one will be fun and doesn't require you to get off your arm chair.

We are offering $500 to the winner and entries close on the 24th December 2016.

To enter, simply download the attached image to your computer and then grab the bow ties on that you feel most suit each particular president and then email the image to us or tag it on your own Instagram wall. We will pick out the ones we like the most and re-post them but only one will be the winner.

Good luck and if you struggle with how to drag and drop our bow ties onto this image then don't be afraid to email us and we can show you how it's done. Or just ask a friend that knows how to use Adobe.

OBAMA OUT - Let's Hope You Are Not The Last Great President Of The United States Of America

Eight years ago when President Barack Obama won the election I was trying to make out with a girl who was not really interested in forming a sexual relationship with me. She was a very attractive somewhat bohemian looking jewish girl and she was very well educated but prone to superstition. She said that her grandmother had forewarned her of a great leader who would appeal to the people's needs but would ultimately prove evil, and that her fear was that Barack Obama was that man. It was one of those strange moments where someone who is highly intelligent says something incongruent with their usual day to day faculties - and to be fair, it actually spooked me at the time.

Eight years on I have never seen this man be anything but noble in his language, in his appearance, in his ideas, in his hopes. When our own Australian political scene was plagued by back stabbing, political assassinations, attempted coups, scandals and poor judgement, it was nice to know that the commander of the world's strongest military and, to my understanding, still the world's greatest economy, was at least something of a Marcus Aurelius when it came to governing.

He is to be replaced by what looks like to be the premonition of that little old jewish grandmother's great demon, an orange oompa loompa who is currently enjoying the fruits of success as his Washington DC hotel gets booked out with other slime balls soon to be petitioning him.

Thank you President Barack Obama for showing us an example of how to behave, how to hold oneself with dignity and for pretty much being the embodiment of a Maya Angelou poem formed into a President. 

With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Christopher Modoo Interview - Elegantly Dressed And Mannered

Christopher Modoo is the creative director of Chester Barrie and has of recent been working collaboratively with The Rake Magazine to produce unique pieces for their online store. I follow Christopher on Instagram ( @chrismodoo ) and have come to admire his personal style, especially his shirt and tie combinations and his ability to show restraint in dressing well.

He was kind enough to answer a few questions for our blog readers.

Christopher, out of all my suits that I have made with tailors I cannot definitively say which one out of them all I find the most beautiful, they all have their merits, much like a father finds it difficult to tell you which is his most beautiful daughter. Do you find this with your work as a creative director, that it’s hard to define which product is your favourite despite the fact that some sell better than others?

I create large collections every season and there will always be an element that will be my favourite. It could be a new style of shirt collar or a lapel shape, often it is a new fabrication. How commercial a product is rarely affects my emotional response towards it. There is always a surprise garment every season where a cloth “comes alive” in make, tailors beautifully and responds well to pressing or it may be that we were a little braver with the styling.

In my personal wardrobe, I have a lot of favourites and I am always looking for the perfect blue suit. I have tried different cuts and cloths but the perfect suit does not exist. But I enjoy pursuing perfection.

Christopher Modoo - impeccably dressed and sporting a four in hand knot with a dimple - the preferred knot of the refined Englishman.

In Australia the most revered days in our racing season are probably Derby Day and the Melbourne Cup. I am sure you have seen photos on social media of the event. Do you think you could offer Australian men a few tips for dressing for the races that might improve their elegance?

Yes, I have seen images on social media and the event is covered by the British press. I think elegance in dress is achieved by how you wear your cloths and behaviour. I attended Royal Ascot a few years ago and was fortunate enough to have tickets to the Royal Enclosure. It has one of the strictest dress codes for any sporting event but I was appalled by some of the behaviour.

In Australia there are fewer wool merchants that offer their bunches in the local market. Scabal, Dormeuil, Holland and Sherry are all present but many of those smaller and more niche wools are not commonly available through tailors. Can you recommend to our readers some wool cloth merchants that they wouldn’t otherwise know about, especially English mills that are likely not represented in our country?

The ones you mention are all very good and I have used all three. Dugdale are a typically English merchant that carry some really good honest cloths. They have a bunch called “New Fine Worsted” that is a great 2ply plain weave made with a robust fibre. It is a great workhorse and drapes beautifully despite only weighing 10oz/320g. They also carry a great traditional Cavalry twill which is traditionally used for trousers but makes for a great weather-resistant topcoat. Dugdale work with some of the best UK mills and are a proper merchant and not just a middle-man. William Halstead actually weave their own cloths but unlike most mills, they provide a merchant-style cut-length service. If you like mohair blends, they are certainly worth seeking. My particular favourite is a 60% kid mohair mixed with super 100s wool. We often use it for dinner suits.

I watched recently a video in which a man asked you whether it was not a faux pas to wear stripes and spots together and you responded that it wasn’t. Can you tell our readers what are some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to matching shirts, ties and suits which you observe and some of the golden rules you might adhere to when dressing in the morning ?

You should develop your own style and try different combinations. I rarely wear the same combination of suit, shirt, tie and handkerchief more than once. I like mixing patterns and textures but a good piece of advice is to wear something neutral to balance a strong pattern, such as a plain tie with a bold-striped shirt. One of the most neglected areas that can make the biggest difference is how well the tie is knotted; a good compact knot that arches away from the neck with a dimple. And clean, polished shoes are essential. I always wear a pocket square in my breast pocket, even when I am not wearing a tie. As for spots and stripes, I love mixing them. I used to wear a lot of polka dotted ties in the 1980s/90s and I am starting to wear them again…usually with a butcher striped shirt.

I am finding it harder and harder to wear bow ties during the working week, I go between gym and my Studio, then out to suppliers and workrooms, and, when I get the chance, I duck into the city. Sometimes I feel I need four outfits for the day. When I do get dressed properly it takes me a good ten minutes, especially if I am tying my laces, my tie knot etc. I notice you are always impeccably dressed, so my question is, how do you manage that on days you are off to the gym or off to corner store? And, if you do dress down, can you tell us what you like to wear when you are in a relaxed environment?

In the modern world, we do not have the opportunity to change during the day. The modern man needs clothes that are versatile and can work at different levels. This is a creative challenge that I have enjoyed. A few years ago, when I was designing with Edward Sexton, we created something we called a “change coat”…a simple, tailored topcoat that could be worn at the smartest of London bars or to watch a football match. The connoisseur would appreciate the tailoring and the details such as the roped shoulder and expression in the chest but it did not make you stick out like a dandy at Pitti. To the average guy it was just a nice coat. Worn with a roll-neck sweater, dark jeans and Chelsea boots you had a perfect metropolitan uniform. In my most recent collection, I have presented a “blazedo”…a hybrid of a dinner jacket and blazer. Again, the key is versatility and it looks very sophisticated at an evening event but not out-of-place in the supermarket. Of course, one of the pleasures of our profession is that we are allowed to dress-up for no particular reason and I enjoy taking my time getting dressed but at the weekend at home I am in High Street jeans and sweatshirt…If I have unexpected house guests I will throw a velvet smoking gown over the top of them.

James Sherwood in a video once suggested that the only knot is a ‘four in hand’ with a dimple and that even the Duke Of Windsor didn’t wear a Windsor knot… Are you as rigid with your knots and can you tell us what Sherwood means when he talks about the dimple? Are you an advocate of 8 or 9cm ties to achieve the kinds of knots your wear?

I, too, am a bit of a “four in hand” snob and avoid the Windsor knot. The dimple is the small fold in the blade immediately below the knot. Ideally it is slightly off centre, it is important to achieve a good dimple from the first time you wear your tie and it will fall in place naturally in time. I own and wear ties with blades between 7.5cm and 9cm but more important is the shape of the tie, I like a semi-bottle shape that gives a good sized knot even on a slim tie. I am a fan of balance in my dress and there should be harmony between tie, collar and lapel.

The four in hand knot with a dimple, finished with a collar pin. A very sophisticated English Savile Row look.
I noticed recently you created a superb ottoman weave dinner jacket which was exceptional. Can you tell us a little about the cloth and the design in that jacket and how you go about considering a new project?

Thank you. I love formal dress. Before Chester Barrie, I worked for Ede & Ravenscroft who are a very traditional London outfitter where I was able to learn about correct dress. To break the rules you must first understand and obey them. The Ottoman cloth which I use for the facing is made with Mogador which is a sturdy blend of cotton and silk. I actually got the idea from a bow-tie! I usually make the bow to match the lapels but this project started as an accessory. I took some Mogador to our workshop to see if it could be used as facing and the results were stunning. Our suits have a soft roll to the lapel and this can be hard to achieve on a silk-faced jacket but the Mogador actually improved the structure of the lapel. This gave me access to a wider range of colours and one of the first projects was with The Rake magazine where we created a bright navy dinner suit. It is incredibly Rakish and has divided opinion. Traditionalists are saying a dinner suit can only be black or midnight blue but I think there is a place for colour in evening wear. Velvet smoking jackets and slippers were once never worn outside of the home but are now seen at parties and red carpet affairs. If Savile Row does not move on, we will only be suitable for dressing costume dramas. I have nothing against black dinner suits. I have three.
Most of my ideas are cloth-based and I spend a lot of time with mills looking at new designs. This will be my main inspiration. I have no formal qualifications and learnt my trade selling and fitting suits on Savile Row. Working with customers such as The Rake is easy as it is the classic Savile Row client relationship. A man often goes to the tailor as he can’t find what he wants off-the-peg. This is what The Rake is doing but on a slightly larger scale by creating unique pieces that draw on the brands heritage but with a modern, often subversive, stance.

It started with the bow tie and wound up being a tuxedo. The Chester Barrie Ottoman weave silk mogador tuxedo and bow tie which can be bought from The Rake Online

This sophisticated alternative take on a tuxedo challenges the status quo of Savile Row standards by offering a palette that is outside of the usual confines of black tie. With a generous peaked lapel and roped shoulder, this tuxedo is well matched with an oversize bow tie in the same Ottoman mogador to complement the proportions of the suit.

Christopher has developed the blazedo as an alternative to evening wear, merging the best of a tuxedo with a more contemporary look of a blazer, such as the patch pockets. 

I am still concerned about the death of the suit, that each generation is suiting up less and less and where then does menswear head if the role of the suit is defunct in the workplace and in social settings. Can you tell me what you believe is the future of menswear and some concepts you would entertain if you were allow your mind to wander off into the future?

The suit is dead. It is no longer standard dress and is now considered formal wear. But tailoring will survive and will still be relevant. The ability to create something three dimensional from a flat piece of cloth is an amazing skill that combines art with science.
I have always found the concept of the modern suit quite strange in the sense that having the coat and trousers in the same material it is somehow more formal than different cloths. Yet contrasting cloths are considered smarter for morning dress and white tie and perfectly acceptable for black tie.
Although I am an advocate of properly structured suits and I prefer a coat with a clean shoulder, full chest and roped sleevehead, I also can appreciate softer, unstructured tailoring. When I first joined Ede & Ravenscroft in 1999, we had an Italian buyer who purchased jackets from Isaia. This was my first introduction to this style of tailoring and I have enjoyed wearing variations of these models ever since; usually as sports jackets but sometimes as a suit. This style of tailoring will become more mainstream. But there will always be a market for proper tailoring as there will always be a market for mechanical watches, single malt whiskies and good cigars.

Christopher says that the world may no longer require suits to go to work but that there will always be market for tailor made clothes, just as the world will never tire of great whiskey, fine wine, mechanical watches and good cigars. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Cambridge Christmas Markets, Sunday 27th November, Come And Get A Great Deal On Remaining Stock

This Sunday we will be practically giving away remaining stock at the Cambridge Christmas Markets in Sydney's Vaucluse. Come down and say hello and pick yourself or a loved one up something for Christmas. See you there on Sunday!

Skleer - All In One Skin Corrective Gel - Worth Trying!

I am not one to be in the world of men's skin tonics, I don't profess to moisturise and I seldom put sunscreen on unless its handy and I am at the beach. 

However, recently I had some sort of mark on my thigh. I didn't know if it was an in-grown hair or a rash or a bite and it would not go away. I tried vitamin e cream, I tried alcohol and antiseptics liquids, I tried paw paw ointment. None gave me any real results.

Recently I tried Skleer, a South African made product which includes eucalyptus oil, carraway oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon oil and cardamom oil in its formula. As a gel it seems to penetrate the skin and within a few days my sore was much much smaller and there seemed to be less inflammation and less visible irritation on the skin. I very much likes this product and I have since used it on my face and on my arms and feels good going on and really freshens up my face.

I very much suggest you try it and if it sounds like you, give it a go for a few weeks. It's not expensive and your skin will thank you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gone Fishin'

It is too easy to get trapped into a machine like routine and not stick your head up to enjoy that which you work for. I work to pay my bills and to enjoy life where I can. In the last few years I spend most of my time trying to keep up with my bills and not enough time getting right away from them. A friend, a few months back, explained to me the secret to his ability to make time to do things outside of work. He said “it wasn’t my idea, my cousin said to me, you book the trip, then, if you get close to the date and you can’t do it, you cancel, or you move the date out. But if you don’t book it, you won’t go. So, you need to plan it well in advance”.

The following evening an email came into my inbox inviting me to fish a remote part of Tasmania on a fly fishing expedition. I didn’t even think, I just booked the tickets and said to myself “if I can’t make it, I’ll just cancel”. But I had no intention to cancel.

We left very early one morning last week and arrived in Hobart just before lunch. There were four of us, old mates, on a road trip heading for the Central Highlands to a village called Miena where we were staying at a place called The Rainbow Lodge.

We arrived and found our bedrooms and within the hour a guide picked us up to head out onto our first fishing spot, Little Pine Lagoon, a place which says of itself on a placard located by the banks that it was the most famous trout fishing spot in Australia. I had fly fished since I was 15, having learned from an influential ‘uncle’ (he wasn’t really an uncle but more a close family friend) that in life two things that were really worth knowing about were fly fishing and jazz music. We were aesthetes, he and I, but he died of cancer some fourteen years ago and whilst I held onto the jazz he left me, I really didn’t give all that much attention to my fly casting.

My attempt to perfect the art of fly fishing had always been stymied by bush and trees since I had never taken the time to buy a boat. Trout fishing in Australian rivers or dams often means getting tangled and patience with untangling my line was never a virtue I held in high esteem, nor looking after such ornate gear. For a few years I switched over to spearfishing, a certain kind of Hemingway romance beckoned me, but after years of getting sea sick, as well as getting tangled in more lines, I had pretty much given up that art form too. Especially when I had come face to face with a three metre shark and if it weren’t for the fellow diver who pushed him off coming too close to me, I might not be writing this blog today.

It was quite refreshing that the first thing that was asked of me was to change into waders once we parked near the far dam wall, for I had never worn waders fishing before and I assumed it meant I would have less scrub to catch onto in my back cast. Some of the group, the more adept fisherman in our party, already had their own waders and were walking around like proud aristocrats in this somewhat similar landscape to the Scottish highlands - at least that was how I perceived them. I eventually got mine on and we began trekking through thick scrub made up of what the locals call ‘kerosene bush’ (because it smells like a fragrant kerosene and bursts into flames when you burn it) and another fragrant smell that seemed to be emanating from some form of an acacia. Through reeds, shallow brooks and more scrub, we penetrated our way onto the far side of the lagoon where we fished for rising trout who barely rose at all whilst a sporadic burst of sunshine followed by grey cloud made it impossible to work out whether to add or subtract layers of clothing.

The landscape I would like to describe as apprehensive, but really this is not the correct word. It looks more like an aftermath – as though the winter, the rain, the wind, the dry and the fire have all had their way with the landscape and what remains is that which was able to survive. Our guide, Craig, showed us photos of the landscape not six weeks earlier, where the entire lake and surrounds was covered in ice and snow and very little nature could be seen at all, enveloped in the kind of winter we Australians pay to go and see in the North.

This was a desolate place, so desolate, as our guide explained to us, that the native indigenous tribes only ventured to the highlands to gather possum pelts in the summer. So desolate that sheep were, as a general rule, only brought up to the highlands in summer for transhumance (the act of droving live stock from summer from lowlands to highlands – yes, it is a word) . As we fished the lake all I could think of was how hard the local flora and fauna had it. Not two weeks earlier I had been on the Great Ocean Road thinking the very same thing about a different part of our unforgiving country, that so much of what our flora and fauna endured in a typical year was outside the realm of what I myself would be willing to tolerate. I made a joke, to myself since there was no one in my vicinity as I cast my rod into a perceived fish rise, that if I were a wombat living in these parts I would certainly throw myself into the middle of the road and wait for the next passing car. And certainly, that is how I perceived the numerous road kills, from wallabies to wombats, that lined the roads in an around Miena and the lakes and rivers where the locals, domestic and international guests came to fish.

Towards dusk we realised that not one of us was going to catch a fish so we stopped for biscuits and some sterling hot filtered Illy coffee that our guide surprised us with. By now the hands were cold and everybody was craving mittens… I had a pair of soft brown leather gloves lined with cashmere that I had bought from Saks four years earlier. I was toasty and not relying on landing fish to make me happy, so I sat on a rock and soaked up the landscape whilst I gave my guide my rod. His casting was mesmerising, days later I was to find out he is considered one of the best in Australia.

At night we went to the local pub and ate a T-bone that was blue on the inside, washed it down with some lager, went back to a few more wines at our lodge and then crashed after a short but interesting conversation that ran in the vein of ‘locker room’ banter but falling short of anybody declaring themselves a ‘pussy grabbing celebrity’.

The next day we fished two lakes, one called Bronte, the other I forgot, and we were mostly unsuccessful but for a few piddly-diddley little trout too small to take home and bake. It was a magical day despite the lack of biting fish which were said to be reacting against changes in the weather and to a late start to the season. But a magic day fishing does not always require fish. There are the near hooks, the beauty of casting your line out to a soft rise just outside your range, then changing your cast moments later when another rise comes in closer on your left. The sheer beauty of looking at pines dotting the far bank whilst you wade between two tiny peninsulas of grassed soil that are met not ten yards off the bank by the stump of a tree that barely juts out of the brown tinted water. At your feet you see the rocks and the clouds your feet make as you tread carefully into deeper water. The art is to make sure you stay dry, stay focussed and stay untangled and with grace and poise you must flick your line, supposedly 11 to 1 on the clock (which nobody ever seems to do), hawling the line and whipping until you are ready to safely lay it in front of your fish. Then, depending on dry or wet flies, you have to employ patience or skill in seducing the fish. If then all these elements fall in your favour, if those skills and equipment all come together, coupled with a splash of luck, you will find yourself hooking a fish, but the journey does not end there, for bringing in the fish can sometimes be just as difficult as hooking it.

It was this aspect to fishing that I fell in love with once again, reminding me of that uncle that once spoke so fondly of jazz and recalling that there were some similarities. Like good jazz, a fly fisherman seems to hang softly in the wind, both gentle and sporadic, then aggressive and enduring. The way jazz is a sort of lofty idealism, so too is fly fishing, there are other, easier ways to fish, but none carry quite the same art or kudos. To catch fish on a lure, it’s still a skill, but to cash fish by a fly, is like asking a painter to sit down and paint en pleine air.

That night, without fish, without anything to cook back at our lodge, we once again headed for the local watering hole to order chicken parmigiana and sunk back beers, exhausted. I checked my phone to make sure Donald J. Trump hadn’t already been assassinated but as I feared, he was alive and healthy, albeit orange. I looked outside and thought ‘well, if all else fails, nobody will ever want to invade this spot other than fly fishermen’.

On our final day we fished a place called Penstock Lagoon which will be etched into my mind for a long time to come. Of course, that is because I had some mixed emotions on that day, some highs, something very low. At Penstock the morning looked and felt like another day of no fish. The weather was neither here nor there but we were told inclement weather was heading in our direction, which our guides told us was good for fish. By now, we were starting to disregard everything they said, about as much as the media needed to be disregarded as to who might win the US election. Yada yada, we thought, you guys said every time the ‘next place will have fish’. In fact, some of my compatriots were starting to look a little red with agitation. Meanwhile, I was still in my mode of being very laissez faire about the whole bit, suggesting I would be more than happy just be amongst nature. I was becoming that annoying pacifist that nobody wants on a hunting trip.

My old mate and I were on Craig’s boat when I stripped hard and felt my first trout fighting on the line. He was an aggressive little thing and for the most part I was doing everything right. I managed to bring him in reasonably quickly but when we got him onto the boat he was too small to keep and so I said hello and goodbye fairly quickly. I declared to my old mate, whose name is Mike, that my fishing trip was over. To catch and land one was good enough after three days. Then he hooked one and landed it. Then another. It was starting to look like the tide had turned on our expedition.

At lunch we all sat down for roast beef rolls and that winning but somewhat archaic hors d'oeuvre platter that you get on such trips of camembert, Jatz crackers, cabanossi and pickled onions and gherkins with a side of cashews. I am not being a snob, I was grateful to have food provided, but it does humour me when it’s served in those small plastic compartment trays.

After lunch both guides, Tom and Craig, were using the lunch break to practice their own skills. Deftly both would place their flies right in front of the trout and twice Craig brought in fish from the bank where none of us were able to secure a fish on the line.

There was a Telstra tower we were able to reach with our telephones and wanting to know about the US elections I had jumped onto Facebook. It was all the same news, it could wait. But then, as I scrolled down further, the photo of a recent acquaintance I had met, someone whom I had liked but had perhaps pushed away from me, had killed himself with an overdose of pain killers. Accidental or not, he knew the risks. Not four months earlier he had asked me to help him write his life so far on a timeline. It could not be said to be a straight out tragedy, there was much goodness in his life. But then he was bullied at school and his father had proven to be a great disappointment to him. I can remember how frank I was with him on the last time we spoke. I hadn’t had enough patience with him, in fact, I had told him to stop with the attitude and pull the tooth pick out of his mouth, enough with the smirk too.

It was after lunch that the weather turned very cold. As we drifted through the lake the fish were now more active with the weather choppy from wind and blurred from rain. My casting was now much more confident and I threw my line out and ripped my flies back as fast as I could. Without any particular reason and not being on any particular cast or rise, I found myself on a big fish, at first not recognising it’s size until it pulled at my line and make a run. Once my guide confirmed it was a big one I could not speak, as though everything from the last three days, the patience, the practice, lead to this moment, to bring in this one fish that by now I had glimpsed as he came to and from the surface waters. It took me near ten minutes to bring it into the boat, unable to utter a word with anyone that tried to communicate with me, feeling the line go taught and release, then taught again, but not too taught, carrying that pressure evenly to tire the fish rather than to over-wrought him with strength as my guide advised. There is a balance that must be carried out in your retrieval that is the art of showing restraint, of keeping the appropriate tension on to make sure your fish never snaps off.

Landed, my brown trout was 59cm and the biggest fish of the trip by 8cm. He weighed approximately 4 pounds. By far he was the ugliest fish of the trip, I hadn’t seen one less pretty. I loved it because it was mine and I was determined to eat him too. Slimy and forming bubbles on the skin I threw him into the holding tank. We fished on, this time my other mate was up front. He landed two more fish, bringing his total to four. The rain set in harder and we were now cold and rugged up under our waterproof jackets getting a good Tasmanian soaking with the wind now picking up too. The second boat pulled up and heard the news. They were resolved not to see me get the biggest fished and turned their boat back out into the inclement weather liked armed bandits.

We called it a day towards the early evening. We two got back to the lodge first and so prepared the first two fish with dill, butter and lemon.

When the others arrived the first fish came out of the over and we drank the last of the Asahi beer, poured out a bottle of Riesling and Pinot Noir and toasted the most successful least successful fishing trip that any of us had embarked on. We had intended to drink and talk crap until 3am but our flight was very early and, exhausted from another full day in the elements, we all crashed only to rise again at 5am to make our way to Launceston.

At the airport, one of my friends remarked “did you see Barry Humphries boarding the aeroplane?” . I had thought it might be him but I wasn’t sure. So when we docked in Sydney I made my way over to him at the baggage carousel and dropped him my card, explaining what we did. “I even once made a silhouette that looked like Dame Edna, pink on a lilac warp, it was stunning” I said, not mentioning that it took forever to sell because not everyone shared my enthusiasm for The Dame as a bow tie. He smiled “I’ll be in touch” he said, I hope by that he did not mean his property rights lawyer….

Tonight I am going to listen to jazz and think of fly-fishing and maybe spare a thought for my friend who didn’t get such an easy run in life.

Casting into risers off the lagoon bank

Preparing for the hike through scrub

My biggest catch. 

The scrub which lines the lagoons and lakes is often covered with snow. The kerosene bush permeates a lovely smell in the air.

Our guide Craig, a superb caster
First fish of the day.


Something tells me these guys would all be wanting to shut their eyes right now and pray that it doesn't all end in tears.... 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Merry Christmas From The First Lady ...

Over the weekend I posted a photo of Melania Trump both on my Facebook wall and on my Instagram account with the caption "Merry Christmas From The First Lady" . Ordinarily I think this is a fabulous photo and I would absolutely consider the products she was selling, be it eyeliner, diamonds, briefcases, hand-cuffs, stilettos or rugs... But Melania was now on path to becoming the First Lady of the United States Of America.

I was not 'slut shaming' her as one Republican voting type wrote on my wall, but pointing out the hypocrisy that if Michelle Obama, or for that matter Hillary Clinton, had been shot in such a manner, the whole remaining Republican voting white folk in the United States would be up in arms demanding an explanation. In fact, it was the Republican voting type that even had a name for it - until then I had no idea what 'slut shaming' was.

What I did find appalling, more than the Republican's comment, was that Facebook and Instagram removed both images without warning and with no explanation other than it did not meet their Community Guidelines. I think in the eight or nine years that I have been blogging and writing content on whatever I felt related to menswear and bow ties, this was the very first time I had been censored, and it did not feel right. It felt like my rights, and I am not even  a voting American, had been oppressed and compromised. Social media had meant that we are all connected to the same pipeline regardless of what country or continent we were on and yet here was a company willing to put a kink in that pipeline for the purposes of protecting the image of the spouse of a President-elect who had voluntarily been photographed for a GQ magazine shoot. I was not hacking her personal iCloud account, I was not using vulgar language. I was merely pointing out the hypocrisy and with alarming speed it was pulled down as content.

So, when a Republican voting type tells me it's none of my business to get involved in US politics I have to disagree. Your country has long used ours to follow you into conflicts we had no business in and your social media companies are now censoring my right to speak freely. It is all, sadly, interconnected.

As for Melania Trump, she is welcome to be my model for my bow ties any time she likes. I am just a little concerned she may not be the right fit for First Lady.

The Second Last Of Our Series Of American President Portraits - John F. Kennedy

It seems fitting to throw up John F. Kennedy for one of the final portraits of this series we commissioned. He watched as the Berlin wall went up, he presided over American involvement in the space race, he averted global warfare by negotiating a way out of the Cuban missile crisis and finally, he was on the right side of history with his involvement in supporting the Civil Rights Movement. 

All of this seems diametrically opposed to that which was spruiked by the Republican nominee in the lead up to the Presidential election. 

I was warned by a follower of our Instagram account not to get involved in US politics and to stick to bow ties. And whilst this is not a political blog and whilst I can see and understand most of the reasoning behind the choices Americans were faced with, both left and right of the spectrum, I cannot help but feel that many of the past Presidents, alive or dead, would be quietly appalled by the decision that American voters made.

Time will tell but I have included one small tear for John F. Kennedy, a tear shed for the country he fought for, and died for.

Our last portrait is yet to come. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Akira - Coy Up Or Coy Down - That Is The Question

For some time now I have been researching Japanese art and some of it has filtered into our backgrounds for bow ties. There is something so effective about their designs that translates so well into repeats for textiles and with that in mind I had initially tried to design The Great Wave Of Kanagawa as a silk. However, every time I went at it seemed too contrived. So, I found myself back in the realm of coy fish and the waves, which are similar in design structure to that of the The Great Wave Of Kanagawa but simpler, less white wash and bubbles which never get rendered well in woven jacquard silks. I was half way through when Alarico proposed his first iteration of the design and so I asked him to thrash it out and the result, which is probably more complex and more neatly finished than my own designs, is almost exactly what I was hoping for. The trouble is that as you try to finish a design there are so many obstacles that can occur between the design, the translation at the other end when it gets to Italy, the mills interpretations of your written instructions and then finally, what the actual jacquard loom spits out. This is not an exact science and there is room for error at every stage.

Today, however, I am happy. This is a very unique limited edition silk from us and I hope it will be received by our customers with the same enthusiasm. The first batch has been finished with our limited rose gold plated clips and you can shop them now on

Post Script: Incidentally, last night when I sent off a photo to Alarico he said that he was upset I had placed the coy downstream, when it was good luck to have them facing up, he was adamant that the Japanese would want it that way... so I did some of my own research. And this is what one website had to say:


You are currently in a battle or struggle and are still fighting obstacles but won’t give up.
You have overcome obstacles and have now gained the strength you need to continue against the current.


You don't yet possess the strength to make it against the obstacles and move towards success.
You have already achieved your goals and overcome your obstacles, and you are no longer fighting the current.

On that basis, I kind of don't mind our coy swimming downstream, as I think it sums up bow tie wearers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Adriano Carbone – Master Tailor

What is a ‘master tailor’ ? It is not something that is formalised by a degree or diploma in Australia. It is often, with the case of big international brands, the term used for the head tailor of a company, which in the case of Adriano Carbone is true. He is the master tailor of his workroom of which two other tailors work with him. And, unlike many of the other dying and struggling tailoring workrooms of Australia, Adriano is not short of work. So really, if being the head tailor of a company which employs tailors is what you are, then I have no problem in him calling himself ‘Adriano Carbone – Australia’s Master Tailor’ on google. It has a certain level of truthfulness to it.

Adriano Carbone 

It also has a certain level of colourfulness to it, which is what I found in Adriano. He is an anomaly in terms of tailors. Firstly, his workroom is full of work. Secondly, he is unashamed about working off blocks or replacing machines to use any work that others might pride themselves on doing by hand. One of the first machines he took me to was his basting machine, which might have some other tailors switching off by now.

“My attitude is, if I can get a machine to do mostly the same quality and allow me to get onto other work, why would I bother doing all of it by hand”. Adriano is busy, pumping out roughly 14 suits a week and making sure that he always has work in the room. It is the only way that he can afford to keep this two-storey workroom and showroom open in Melbourne’s historic Block Arcade, located at 100 Elizabeth Street in Melbourne’s CBD.

Suits start at $1400 AUD for a basic suit made off his block. The suit is mostly made by machine with very little hands-on work but it makes for a great sturdy basic suit and it is at a price point which roughly meets up with the offshore ‘bespoke’ suit by made to order tailors with showrooms not far away.

This is not to say that Adriano won’t do hand-work. As he has explained to me, very clearly, if the customer is willing to pay for the work to be done by hand, he is happy to do the work. However, in order to get into a suit using top-end Scabal fabrics with hand-sewing in canvas, top stitching, hand-made shoulders, button-holes and so on, you are roughly looking at $6000AUD which is a price he says is outside of what nearly all Australian men are willing to pay.

And that is where the problem of the Australian market lies. There are too few men who wear suits regularly who are willing to part with the correct price for a suit which adequately reflects both the price of the cloth and the price of the workmanship that goes into a hand-made suit.
Having now been around tailors long enough to see many of them go broke or live off the smell of an oil rag, there is something refreshing about his pragmatism, which also extends to his revenue streams. Carbone supplements his usual tailoring business with work from theatre and musicals in Melbourne and keeps a wall of signed memorabilia from productions which he points to. “If there is a theatre production or musical coming to Melbourne, invariably I get the work. They know me, they trust my quality and they’re always happy’.

Upstairs in the workroom I meet Adriano’s father, whose name escapes me, and through one connection or another we somehow find ourselves talking about a syndicate of criminals in the 1980’s whose batch of hashish was ruined when the vessel that was transporting it was flooded with seawater. The hashish was burnt off at a local tip, alerting the police when the locals were reported being stoned for no reason. In the end, neither of us could remember the name of the criminal we were trying to think of.

Later I meet another of Adriano’s tailors who is working on a custom jacket for a police officer.
Adriano’s wife also works in the business and in many respects, she is the gateway to Adriano, or his pitbull. She is fiercely loyal and sings his praises continuously and says that the reason that the customers come back is that nobody can do what Adriano does.

A blue wool and black satin silk shawl lapel suit nearly finished.

And whilst I am concerned there is an element of shill to all this, I am aware that this a rarefied thing – a two storey tailoring shop and workroom in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, still working with no prospects of slowing down. Adriano has great bunches too, which means he must be moving cloth. There are the bunches of Loro Piana and Scabal, whose agent in Australia, Tony Wain, is very selective about who he drops them to. He has Minnis, Holland & Sherry, Zegna and Dormeuil. In fact, there aren’t too many merchants that aren’t represented in his showroom.

But the quality? What about the finished product? I note that whilst I have heard all that Adriano can do, very little has been said of what he can’t do. As I check the garments and put my hands inside and out, I start to get the feeling that pragmatism has its price. Earlier that same day, I was in Henry Bucks and I saw the sculpted beauty of a Canali suit on it’s hanger and I put my hand across the suit and it felt rich and lithe. It looked like a thoughtful composition of a team that worked together to create a beautiful garment from the ground up, marrying the cloth with the linings, ensuring that the weight of the breast was not too heavy, not too light. By contrast, Adriano’s work looks slightly unfinished, slightly rough on the shoulder seam. The internals are finished in a relatively basic manner, there is no real artfulness to it. And whilst the chest looks fine, it doesn’t quite have that elegance that I witness in the Italian suiting labels.

I like Adriano Carbone and I think that he does a great job for his clients and a great service to this country just by staying in operation – but I have yet to find an Australian tailor that can do what the Italians do off the rack in a custom-made workroom in Australia. But this is not the fault of Adriano Carbone, but merely the reflection of a world which favours those who don’t touch the products they make. You are more likely to be successful running a beautiful Instagram profile and making your suits offshore than you are if you were to pick up some tools and try to craft something yourself. Whilst this phenomenon is not all negative and has given Australian men some wonderful new designers and has educated a whole new generation of men on the art of tailoring and tailored clothes, it has meant that nobody wants to make anything anymore and those that do won’t be able to extract the correct price for their work which often leads to them cutting corners in order to survive.
Sadly, for the time being anyway, one must remain pragmatic.

Adriano's father works on a jacket. 

Adriano behind two suits in the making. 

Adriano at a workstation in his workroom .

A red cashmere and black quilted satin fabric for both the collar, turned back cuffs and pockets.

Machine stitching for the canvas on Adriano's standard finish

Sized suits for Adriano to try on customers to fit for his block MTM programme which is made in house.

Notes From Melbourne And The Great Ocean Road - Part Three

Taking the Deans Marsh Road out of Lorne I made my way through a steep and winding incline until eventually it peaked and on the other side, once you had finished with the forested hills, you descended into lush green valleys of pasture dotted with dairy cows. The land looked very fertile, that all a farmer needed was seeds and something to prevent fungus from developing owing to the moisture content in the air and on the paddocks. I was also impressed by the architecture, it was not that usual stuff one might find in other parts of rural Australia, some of the houses were modern, clad with solar, timber, squared lines, glass panel viewing rooms and that more modern approach to fly screen doors and the like that give an architectural look to modern practical applications like harnessing the sun, keeping the sun out or cross ventilation.

My car was now free to hum along the back-country roads where there was far less traffic and onwards I spurred my car towards Warrnambool, trying to make this coastal town before dark so that I could bed down and start my drive in the opposite direction back to Lorne the following day. But country roads can get tiring, especially when you don’t know what to expect. The rains set in again, making it even more difficult and as I passed a car that was turning right off the road I noticed that a car approaching from behind had not seen the car stopped and with blinkers on. The Ford sedan broke hard and as it neared the stationary car it veered off the road and into a long green grassy ditch by the side of the road. I did not stop but noticed others that did. We always think of ourselves as so safe in our little bubbles as we drive along but there are always stark reminders on Australian roads that your safety in thinly veiled and it doesn’t take much imagination to consider what it must be like to be sitting in a smashed-up car, in a ditch, the cold wind and rain against you, wondering if the ambulance will reach you in time. I pray I never need know that feeling, especially on some of those lonely country roads.

Warrnambool was a quaint seaside village of 34,000, and derived its name from the indigenous Australian words for ‘volcanic cone’. It’s popular with tourists for being the first big town at the end of The Great Ocean Road, it’s history as a port during the Gold Rush, whale watching, natural spas and surf beaches. I found a motel and went for a walk as the sun was setting, but not where I was used to it setting according to Sydney beaches. From where I was standing I was looking, when I checked my compass, straight towards Antarctica, with nothing between. It was a frightening thought, that beyond this bleak sea which was churning lay nothing but a huge white mass across a heavy sea.

The following morning, I made my way along the coast road to the 12 apostles, stopping for a ‘big breakfast’ in a small town called Port Campbell. There, despite the temperature being less than 10 degrees, I found two women having an early morning ocean swim on a tiny beach located next to the tiniest of ports.

The road as I headed on was veering close to and away from the sea, revealing high cliffs which plunged straight down, sometimes onto small rock shelves and into the sea and at others onto narrow beaches. The flora was stripped bare, exposed to a menacing wind which must have tested its roots system day in day out. This was a very real form of Darwinism for me, only that which could survive the elements still stuck around. You could envisage that it had been like this, mostly unchanged, for millions of years. That if it weren’t for those soldiers having carved out this stretch of road, you’d never have known about it and it would have just kept on being so until eventually the whole coast line had been lashed away from the sea over millions of years. And, as guests, were here but for small blink of it as a show.

The Twelve Apostles was the most uneventful part of The Great Ocean Road regardless of whatever tourist brochures you read. Let me be clear, they are a series of rocks, once called ‘The Sow And Piglets’, a much better name if you ask me since there are only eight apostles left now. And that’s really all they are – like looking at big rocks in the sea – so if you go expecting something else to happen, you will be sorely disappointed.

However, the one thing I would suggest is taking the helicopter up and over the apostles, not that you care about seeing them from the air, but the coast line comes alive from the air and you see the vast, unforgiving sea which has smashed many a ship across the that strip of coast line and where many lives have been lost in times when there weren’t helicopters and nobody was coming to save you. It also gives you a wonderful perspective of the size of the cliffs which you can’t fully appreciate from the road.

Onwards I went along the coast road until I arrived at one of thehighlights of my trip – a curried fresh scallop and leek pie from a bakery in Apollo Bay which was one of the most delicious things I ate in my time away. It was a shame I had eaten a big breakfast because I would have liked to stash another one for the drive if I weren’t so full.

Towards Lorne, the final leg to complete the entire Great Ocean Road, the road became increasingly windy and rocks had recently fallen onto the side of the road from bad weather the day before. It was a reminder that this road is often closed, in parts highly dangerous and if that didn’t bother you then the sign that said “In Australia we drive on the left-hand side of the road” was even more alarming as you eyeballed the tourists that might have woken up that morning tired and not considering where they were as they pulled out onto the road.

From Lorne, I took the back country and drove to Geelong, what seemed to be one of the most boring looking places I have ever come across. If any of my readers can tell me where it gets good, please drop me a line, because I couldn’t find it. At Queenscliff, I bought a ferry ticket for my car and took a sandwich in one of those sea-side looking cafes that had a view both of Bass Straight and Port Phillip Bay. I was on my way to Portsea via Sorrento. It was a beautiful little trip across the bay giving me a perspective of Melbourne and it’s surrounds that I don’t think I had ever full appreciated, ferries were en route for Tasmania, other ships were passing through the bay with cargo.

I took dinner at the Portsea Hotel and had a glass of red in the beer garden which overlooked the beach and jetties in front as I considered my luck in not having had a punctured tyre or a mechanical problem with my car. I was happy and content with my own company and felt a sense of accomplishment, another Bucket List item was now ticked off and I could relax. I started thinking about future explorations – Adelaide to Perth, Sydney to Byron Bay etc. Especially with a long-range diesel engine with more than 1000kms to a tank – it seemed silly to waste that kind of fuel efficiency and the car journeys truly beat the hell out of airport check-ins, flight delays, uncomfortable seats, baggage carousels, taxis and ubers.

I stayed the next night in Sorrento and the next day I stopped into Melbourne to interview Adriano Carbonne, one of Melbourne’s few remaining tailors who own and operates his own workroom. It was fun, as I will explain in separate post.

I drove out of Melbourne in the afternoon and stopped for the night in the sleepy village of Tumbarumba on the way back to Sydney. This was beautiful country I was very familiar with. Years ago, as a student of the University of Sydney’s faculty of Agriculture, I had done some field work in the area. I went back to photograph the areas then drove on towards Batlow, the roads flanked by pine forests until Batlow before they gave away to apple orchards. I reached Sydney in the mid afternoon and parked my car at the car wash across the road from our Studio. It was completely black from insects on and around the grill. And when I went to pick it up after it had been washed, there was a punctured tyre. After 2500 kilometers, that seemed a small price to pay. :)