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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Beware The Pied Piper Of Hamelin

In my business life I have seldom reneged on my commitments to contracts and terms of trade. Occasionally I stretch things out past their due date if I can and if I have troubles with cash flows in particular parts of the year I let my suppliers know so that I can allay their fears about payment or having offered credit.

I would never venture to say I was the noblest of businessmen, I make poor decisions regularly and I often have a pragmatic 'trial by enough errors' approach in business rather than purporting to be the brightest spark in the room. So far in life it has got me thus far, what exactly defines 'thus far' I could not tell you, for I fear if we don't get to sell our businesses and assets when we are most confident about them then we might be severely thrashed by the gap between what we thought we were worth and or had created and what we were sold down for. 

The thing that really galls me in small business is managing supply lines and making sure that those that do work with you understand and respect your boundaries and your needs. But over time those lines are always blurred and recently one such exchange happened where, frustrated,  I felt that our work had been brushed aside whilst the supplier concentrated on milking other corporate customers and had ignored not only our production timetable but also our production quality. Clear instructions were ignored, phone calls and emails were not answered. Then Christmas. Then silence through January. In February when the supplier felt like things were slow enough, they produced the items poorly, as noted, and then demanded payment upfront before shipment. A stalemate ensued.

Recently on a morning walk a brothers Grimm story was re-told to me concisely by a friend. The story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, not that it necessarily has any bearing on my own recent experience, but it does remind me of what happens when relationships go south and toxic. In a nutshell the story is this:

Once upon a time there was a town in Germany named Hamelin that resided next to the banks of a river. The citizens were for the most part honourable and over a number of years the town had grown very rich from good trading and good resources. 

Then one day, the strangest thing happened. The town was infested by rats. They were eating through everything, the timber in the houses, the food in kitchens, pantries and cellars. The cats that usually took care of the rats could not handle the growing population of fatted black rats that swarmed the streets without the slightest fear. For if one rat was stomped down, another replaced him. 

The city elders, lead by the Mayor, called a town meeting. They thought an army of cats might quell them but the cats were now being killed by the swelling numbers of rats. They thought they could poison the food supply but the rats had eaten their way through all the food they could find. The village elders hung their heads in dismay and saw nothing but a bleak future. Then, just when they thought they would have to pack up and leave the town, in marched into the village The Pied Piper wearing a brightly coloured ensemble with his magical pipe. 

"So you have a problem with rats ay? I will remove all the rats from this village for a thousand guilders. Do we have a deal?"

The townsfolk were so happy that they said "we'll do anything to get rid of the rats" and the Mayor added "yes, if you can get rid of them we'll give you fifty thousand guilders! Why it's a cheaper price than giving up the whole town!"

So the Piped Piper took him up on the offer. The following morning a heavy fog descended over the town but the lofty haunting sound of the magical pipe pierced the morning air. All the rats began to follow the sound and as the fog lifted the villagers looked out their windows to see the Pied Piper slowly walking through the town and the rats were all in tow. He continued to walk down to the river until all the rats had followed him into the water and either drowned or else were sent on a long journey down river. By midday there was not a rat left in the town.

The Pied Piper presented himself at the Mayor's office for payment. "I am here to collect my fifty thousand guilders" said the Pied Piper softly. But the Mayor returned "I saw how easily you did that and the rats are all dead. You're kidding if you think that's worth fifty thousand guilders!". 

The Pied Piper was astonished. "Are you serious?" he asked searching the Mayor's face. 

"Quite!"said the Mayor. 

"Well then at least pay me the original fee of one thousand guilders" said the Pied Piper who was becoming visibly distraught.

"No! Here is fifty guilders and that's about as much as we will pay you for such a service. Now be gone!"

The Pied Piper's eyes were enraged but then he calmed himself and said simply to the Mayor, 'I can assure you, all the people of Hamlein will regret this".

The following morning an even heavier fog laid siege to the village than the day before and a chillingly haunting tune could be heard piercing the thick air from all the houses in the village. All the children began to rise from their beds and they walked out into the streets, enveloped by the fog, their eyes glazed over with grey, and they began to follow the Pied Piper who marched through the thick fog out of the town, through the adjacent woods, into the forest and out the other side to the base of a huge stony mountain continuing on around the base until they came to the mouth of a giant cave. 

The Pied Piper walked all of the children into the cave and then a rumbling began and a huge slice of the mountain began to slide down until the entrance of the cave could no longer be recognised at all. Only one small boy who had tripped some kilometre back, struck by a rock unconscious, had woken to see the carnage. He made his way back to the village to recount the story of the fate of all the little children of Hamelin.

It would take some years before the sound of children's voices flourished in the streets again but the memory of the town's loss would never ever be forgotten. 

I am not entirely sure how this applies to my rogue supplier, but needless to say, I think the residents of Hamelin learned to keep to their commitments after that. 



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Join The Mailing List - It's Worth It

Sometimes we offer our mailing list subscribers limited time code offers which give up to 70% off selected items when we are over stocked on one bow tie or we want to free up cash tied up in a very unusual silk so we can move onto another design. We are small and growing, so we can't always afford to hold onto a silk which is perhaps a design too outlandish for our American surgeons, or too purple for an Australian intellectual. Really, it pays to be on our mailing list.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Colin Hay Overkill Acoustic Version - The Great Afternoon Drive Song

There are some songs that I hope to have close at hand until the day I die. If women often clutch to hot water bottles, then the male equivalent must surely be songs by proper men, the gritty and emotive songs from men like Colin Hay, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Tim Finn, Leonard Cohen and Mark Knopfler.

Around about now as the weather gets cooler, drive time music often switches out from the fun and funky summer melodies to the more soul soothing songs which send pings to a deeper core in us. One such song that came on my car stereo, left on a mix tape that was a a parting gift from a woman I had had a moonlight tryst with many years ago, was an acoustic version of Colin Hay's 'Overkill'. I could not find the version that was left on my CD but I could find the rendition below which is near enough.

Dumbed down for meaning Overkill is probably said to be about a man who can't get to sleep and whose mind is going at a thousand miles an hour. To me Overkill is about a form of depression and anxiety that nearly every man must face at some point of his life. The stresses of a modern life, of sustaining income, curtailing expenses, of performing for others, of people that are gone from your life, those that are in your life now, what the future may hold, whether or not your will be successful, whether your life has any meaning and so much more are all laced feelings and emotions inside this one song. Especially for our international readers, if you have not listened to Overkill, do so. To my mind Colin Hay is somewhat an Australian national treasure.

Read more about Colin Hay


Marat/Sade - Perfect Easter Time Viewing

Easter time in Australia is quite different from that of the Northern Hemisphere as it is our 'Fall' and so the days are getting shorter, the sky a little more overcast, people are more conscientious about their work, people are taking their lives very seriously, back to your mortgage, back to holding the fort at the office, back to watching your calories Monday to Friday.

During these serious periods, coinciding with the more dour period of the religious year, when we are focussed on death and resurrection rather than births, stars, gifts and mangers, it can transpire that you tend to take in heavier films and content. I just spent the last week watching the Macbeths of Washington knife their way through to the Presidential election. And in that tone another gift was thrown into my lap by a friend, which I wish to share with my readers.

The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, usually shortened to Marat/Sade, is a 1963 play by Peter Weiss. I have always been partial to a play within a play and whilst I am currently only twenty minutes into it's 2 hours, I am already beginning to feel like I have found another piquant film for these more gloomy times.

If you have a spare two hours, consider watching it and falling asleep. Definitely one for the laptop propped up on cushions leading into an afternoon autumnal Sunday slumber.



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rare Ageless Beauties

Many of our customers often write in just after all our bow ties are sold in one fabric and say "I really wish I had snapped up X,Y and Z before they sold". The thing is, you have a chance to purchase them now.

And they will last many years to come, they will remain with you through thick and thin, you will come back to them, nurture them, restore them. Because you will love them.



Friday, March 18, 2016

The Complete Con-Artistry Of The Computer Industry - And My Love For All In One Desktops

I love computers so much so that if I could marry one I might just do it. I seem to have more of a relationship with them than I do with my partner. In fact, I think my partner would love it if I was as doting, caring, patient and passionate with her as I was to my computers. I don't think I have ever held my gaze at my woman as long as I have held it at a flat screen. I don't think I have ever been as patient with my woman when she's getting dressed to go out as I am with my computer when it's cold starting programmes in the morning. Sometimes I bang my hand on my desk when the computer manages to get something right, but how often do I slam my hand on the table and compliment my woman when she gets the schnitzel and roast potatoes right?

Most men really are arseholes. We do things to our computers we would never dream of indulging our women with. We prune and clean them of unwanted programmes, we arrange our icons and put everything neatly back where we found it. We run our desktops like we might run a great craftsman's tool stand, where our frequently used files are always where we need to them to be, orchestrated in a beautiful pastiche of videos, excel spreadsheets, images, word documents, applications and... sometimes.... pornography. Yes in fact, where we perhaps let our women down in terms of revealing ourselves we make up for this in our desktops. What's that you say ladies? You want a robust dynamic man with a hint of mystery whose a good communicator? Well just look through his desktop and you will find he's got all sorts of hidden files, that he's both a man of passion and savagery, daring but calculated, mysterious and yet for the most part he's open like a book if you know how to search his folders.

And amongst men themselves there is a great deal of comradeship and respect that can be earned just by using a friend's computer and looking at how he organises himself. Recently at a friend's house I was privileged enough to be able to use his computer to show him a product I had found on the web. The respect I had for him was only made greater by the telling functionality and speed of his computer coupled with the organisation of his file systems. I felt like I was staring straight into a beautiful mind which was part stiff compartmentalised British order, part German precision and a small amount of Salvador Dali-esque flamboyance and surrealism thrown in to boot. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a man runs his desktop badly and I am fortunate enough to be able to have a look at it, there is a strong chance I may not do business or continue my friendship with said person.

The tells are quite obvious for those that fall into the category of 'I don't think this person warrants my friendship'. Such things are stacking your desktop page with a mound of icons and including programmes that look obscure and unused is the first sign. Opening up a web browser bar and seeing it full of third party add ons and obscure toolbars is the second. Noticing that the computer is sluggish and unresponsive because it has been stacked with a ridiculous number of programmes is the third. Then there is the way a person files their music, dates their pictures, descriptions of folders, non linear folders, an absence of chronology to work completed and finally, the most interesting one of them all for me, the choice of photo for the desktop background.

How often have I opened a computer to find a daughter, a son, a family photo, a travelling photo or a trophy fish photo obscurely and poorly placed in the centre of the screen with a whole bunch of dead space around. It's the moment I think 'does this person have any appreciation for the aesthetic value of the desktop background?' For myself I choose an artwork I managed to photograph at the Musee D'Orsay in Paris but occasionally I switch out. You ought to have some great photos for your desktop background as it's probably the most viewed thing you will look at during the day.

All of this spew I write because I do have a point. The other day my computer had become extremely sluggish and was behaving like a Greek donkey. That is, it was not only being stubborn but occasionally it would altogether just stop working. I was very sad. This desktop had been my companion for so long and we had achieved so much together that I was feeling like it was the end of a marriage. I was considering how I would move my stuff out of the desktop and go set myself up on a new computer. I was considering my options and what it would cost. What would I get out of my new computer? Was it time to call last drinks? Was I going to have the same problems with the new computer? Could I not just make it work, even if just for the sake of the files and preferences we'd created together? It was still a computer was it not? It had a processor, ram, a solid state drive? Why now? Did I just try to thrash it too hard? There's only so much you can keep asking the same desktop to do until it breaks? What was the last programme that broke the back of it?

Man was I sad. Nostalgic even. I remembered the first day I brought her home and how when she turned on everything was working and she even came with a 3D blue ray player and the biggest screen I'd ever seen. She was the best looking Shiela I'd ever come across too, lighting up in all the right places and making all sorts of quiet noises that made me think she was a deep thinker. We'd photographed so much together, we'd watched so many movies, we'd seen Windows go from craptastic to somewhat excellent. We'd seen the Macs come and go and we'd seen so many people try to match my beauty but they never quite got there which meant I never felt compelled to stray.

Here we were, six years in. So much water under the bridge.

Time. Passing.

I went to the local computer store. The salesman showed me brand spanking new screens, some were curved, others were bigger in size, some had better resolution, more ram, bigger hard drives, newer features. Some were more expensive than my Shiela was, some were cheaper. They were dazzling, beguiling, seductive - but none seemed to have all the things my old Shiela had. 

The same way that married men and women managed to find love again is perhaps the way I saved my desktop. I went looking for what seemed to be bogging her down, my Shiela. On the spec sheet she had everything that Microsoft said she needed to run Windows 10. It was about finding out what was causing her to misbehave and it ended up being very simple. She had been attacked by ram sucking programmes that were running in the background of which one in particular, a reputable anti-virus software suite and a set of ancient programmes that were no longer being used or needed which were still operating in the background. Through a few uninstalls coupled with some regedit deletions and with a run of a very thorough malware programme, I was able to get my girl back up and running in a manner which resembled by old flame.

If there is a lesson to be learned, then this moron thinks he might be able to process it. I have decided to try the same thing in my home life. If we can try and untangle our home lives, remove the unnecessary pressures, work out what's in our lives that's malware, take out the distractions which prevent us from browsing this world freely, we might just have a chance. But, more importantly, there was a reason you chose to get a certain style of desktop to start with and switching out to a newer one might solve a few problems for today but in the long run you might get caught up in the same dilemmas only you'll also be paying for in by way of monthly installments. For the time being, I've decided I am going to look after my Shiela. 


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Urban Winery Sydney – Winemaker Alex Retief Creates A Unique Wine Making And Tasting Experience For Tourists, Locals And Corporate Australia

Our current Australian Prime Minister has been promoting innovation and disruptive technologies as a way for our nation to move forward but there is concurrently a movement towards returning to simple and artisan styled activities which pushes back on that theme in terms of production efficiencies. Perhaps the ultimate form of that disruption is to have Uber deliver your loaf of chia seed encrusted artisanal bread faster than a Domino’s Pizza.

One such new business in the ‘artisan’ space is Urban Winery Sydney which is opening up a whole new space – namely a winery set up in the middle of the city where grapes ferment in tanks and get turned slowly into wine which then matures in oak barrels whilst tourists, corporates and locals get to be a part of the process.

The concept has been developed by Alex Retief, a wine maker from the town of Wagga in southern NSW. His existing label A. Retief will now all be made on-site and sold at the wine bar and cellar door alongside other NSW wines, to showcase all that NSW can produce in our wines. This state snobbery extends to cheese, olives and charcuterie which will also focus on great artisans from Eden to Byron Bay through a tasting bar and lounge.

The winery is nestled into an old industrial warehouse that has been re-purposed to house budding small businesses. You will find in there small manufacturers, knick-knack retailers, screen printers, swimming costume makers, art wholesalers and framers and much much more. The winery is in many ways congruent with these smaller styled ‘artisanal’ businesses but in fact walking in reminds you immediately that the process of turning grapes into wine is an age old one. In the middle of this very rustic and bare basics space there are grapes fermenting in tanks giving off an immediate moist air filled with the scent of fermentation. Large industrial fans blow air across the factory floor and the team continuously turns over the tanks of grapes, some of which are in ¾ tonne fruit picking bins so that those involved in corporate days or taking tours of the winery can actively get involved in turning and plunging the grapes – a process I am told is called ‘keeping the cap moist’.

Alex Retief in his new Urban Winery Sydney concept.
Retief is no newcomer to the wine industry. His career so far has seen him spend nearly two years running a winery in Bordeaux as well as doing two vintage stints in France, one at Cheval Blanc, one of Bordeaux’s most prestigious wineries, as well as one in the Languedoc region. His own label of wines A. Retief is currently stocked in some of Sydney’s best restaurants including Quay, Aria and Guillaume. Now that he’s developed long-standing relationships with the same growers for over eight years, he feels comfortable for this next step.

Alex explains to me his hopes for the education side of this urban winery; ‘our aim is to talk people through the palate of a wine and then allow them to blend a wine to their own taste, you can’t make a good wine from a bad batch of grapes so our job is to source excellent quality grapes’.

Grapes ferment and the winemaker is plungeing - an experience that is also done by groups who work on their own wines at Urban Winery Sydney

To do this Retief goes out to his contract vineyards in southern New South Wales himself, tasting the grapes to see when they are ready to harvest and making sure the grape has achieved that ideal cross over point between the sugar levels and the acid levels of a grape.

Watch your wine mature and then bottle it and take it home. A barrel of French Oak wine will set your back $5000AUD but will generate 25 dozen bottles of wine making an average price of just under $20AUD a bottle. 

‘Every descriptive word people ascribe to a wine is occurring naturally in that grape. It’s not that we add anything like blueberries in at the end. This is a very natural organic process. In some instances we add yeast to some of the fermenting grapes but in many batches they are fermenting with yeast they are picking up naturally from the atmosphere.

I asked Alex why to my mind the Australian wines seem very heavy on taste comparatively to some of the smoother Bordeaux wines that I have had over the years. As he explained it:
“In places like Bordeaux there is less sun. Where grapes ripen under less sun there is a naturally lower sugar level at the balance point when the grapes are ripe. You need to balance this when you harvest. In Australia, by contrast, there is a lot of sun and accordingly the point where the acid and sugar levels cross over, that point of harvest, there is usually a lot more sugar. In France, because of this, wine makers are able to add in sugar but this is in a controlled manner. In Australia the bodies which govern winemaking do not allow you to add sugar but they do allow you to add in acid, whereas the French are not allowed to add acid”.

A place to sit and go over the wine making process prior to creating your own wine. Groups are lead through the process by the winemaker who guides them as they form their own barrels. The author of this blog tasted a chardonnay which was fermenting and it was like a cloudy sweet grape juice. Just superb. 

Even though I have had experience with vineyards and the process of wine making since my early days as an agricultural economist, one thing that Urban Winery Sydney does very well, is allow you to connect the dots between the processes from vineyard gate to bottle and that is something that is a real spot of luck for those that make the journey out to St. Peters.

The complete process starts with de-stemming and crushing the grapes, pressing, fermenting, maturing and bottling and Retief has said that those that actually want to make a barrel of wine in their French Oak barrels starts from $5000.00 AUD. A barrel, which is made from an imported French Oak cooperage from… France… costs around 1200 euros each and lasts up to ten years. The barrels which are stored on site have varying age related properties for imparting oak flavours. The grapes which Retief sources are from a variety of growing areas but predominantly he sources sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir grapes from Tumbarumba, NSW, his cabernet rose is sourced from Gundagai, NSW, and then a variety of red grapes come from ‘The Hilltops’ region of Harden and Boorowa where he sources Mataro, Grenache and merlot, tempranillo and petit verdout.
All of these varieties are available to wine hobbyists, tourists and corporate team building programmes as the winery builds its educational and recreational programmes and tours.

At the end of the wine making process you are able to collect roughly 25 dozen bottles of wine which roughly makes them less than 20 dollars a bottle. Take a short walk over to the screen printers and get a label made and you are fast on track to being able to say at your next dinner party ‘might I serve you some of my wine?’


See more at Urban Winery Sydney's website.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Yes, You Can Wear A Bow Tie Too

There is a cafe owner that exists next to my Studio in Vaucluse who only wears white t-shirts and a denim apron at work each and every day. It's a very consistent, functional and clean look which suits his style of being. However, recently he said he was interested in wearing a bow tie to an upcoming event. I wasn't sure if he was pulling my leg as there is at times some tongue in cheek argy bargy that goes on between the Gen X and Gen Y'ers.

I am happy to report he meant what he said and I was so happy to see the result. For those of you silly enough to overlook the Spencer bow tie during the early days of the sale, you will note why you missed out, the smarter set know what a fantastic silk this is and looking at the image below you will see that it has really set off this wonderfully strong and clean look of navy suit, white shirt and bow tie. You don't need much more than this to look elegant. Personally I would have added a pocket square, but there is still time left for me yet to work on my Gen Y friend.

Yes, you younger set can pull of bow ties too.


A Testimonial From Mr. Dewey - Another Wedding Bow Tie Goes Down The Aisle

I have been dealing with the team from Le Noeud Papillon for the better part of a decade now and when it came to selecting a bow tie for my recent wedding, there is only one place I had to go.
I needed a bow that was a cut above the rest, the team at LNP knew the style of suit I had, being dark navy blue tux with a black lapel and they suggested their elegant diamond cut, silk bow tie.

Instantly, the black diamond bow got my attention and I was hooked, I strongly agreed with them and when I ordered the bow it arrived extremely fast to my office in its incredible Le Noeud Papillon box, pre-tied, which saved me a lot of time and effort, as I have a busy schedule and did not want delays on the day.

Needless to say, when I was dressed on the wedding morning and the diamond bow was added, the masterpiece was complete, and it finished the tuxedo off better than I ever could have imagined. The bow was a  real show stopper, with people commenting on how beautiful and unique the diamond bow was at the wedding and I was extremely happy with the finished product.

Team LNP,  you are the grand masters when it comes to bow ties, I will only seek their second to none advice when it comes to that right choice with bows, men's suits and apparel for that matter.
I am very grateful and I strongly recommend their high quality products and outstanding services.

Yours Truly
Kyle Dewey
Associate Director
Commercial Property Group


Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Interview With One Of The More Robust Intellectuals Of Australia - Satyajit Das

I was very surprised that Satyajit agreed to an interview, mostly because we write predominantly about menswear, and it is probably one of the few subject matters I don't think he delves deep into. Below are a few questions I felt compelled to ask him and I hope all of our blog readers take the time to read his most recent book A Banquet Of Consequences, not because he asked me to plug his book but because I have almost finished it and I find it extremely interesting in giving a birdseye view of the global economy right now.

In backgammon you can’t strategise the unknown and you can only play the game whilst you are in it. Do you agree it’s impossible to work out or plan for a cataclysmic event until it’s actually upon you?

Answering a question at a news briefing on February 12, 2002 about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld said:

“there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.”

I would add there is a fourth: unknown knowns – things you don’t know that you know. It is the best way to think about risk.

Interestingly, the statement, which attracted much commentary and became the title of a documentary on Rumsfeld by Director Errol Morris, was actually not original. It was commonly used inside NASA. Rumsfeld himself cited NASA administrator William Graham as the original source of the statement.

In a more formal economic or financial sense, we distinguish between risk and uncertainty. English economist John Maynard Keyes explained it as follows in 1937:

"By, uncertain knowledge, …I do not mean merely to distinguish what is known for certain what is only probable. The game of roulette is not subject, in this sense, to uncertainty; nor is the prospect of a Victory bond being drawn. Or, again, the expectation of life is only slightly uncertain. Even the weather is only moderately uncertain. The sense in which I am using the term is that in which the prospect of a European war is uncertain, or the price of copper and the rate of interest twenty years hence, or the obsolescence of a new invention, or the position of private wealth owners in the social system in 1970. About these matters there is no scientific basis on which to form any calculable probability whatever. We simply do not know."

If the cataclysmic event you are talking about is an unknown unknown or uncertain, then, by definition, it is unlikely that you can plan for it. Mike Tyson put it fairly bluntly when he said that everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. It is a bit like that.

The interesting question is how one should live in a world which is like that. The idea that you should plan like you are going to live forever and live like you will die tomorrow has merit.

Bankers and the like always throw around the term ‘equities’ very loosely but there are so many uses of this term. What exactly do equities mean and how does this term correlate directly to the original etymology of the word equity?

Equity in finance traditionally refers to shares and stocks. Interestingly, it has now come to mean your capital or wealth; for example the equity in your property being the difference between its current value and what you may owe on it. In this financial context, it is of course a proxy for value or worth. Equity also of course means fairness and justness. If I remember correctly, then the word originates from the French equité, whose Latin root means even or just. So you are right. The word is ambiguous, like most language especially when it is to do with finance.

Equity in the sense of shares is synonymous with capitalism. But close examination highlights some interesting conceptual dilemmas.

Shares represent a residual claim. This means that their rights on a company’s earnings, cash flow and assets rank after all other claims or liabilities which must be first discharged in full. In effect, they are the last in line.

Today, due to low interest rates and low property rental yields, investors are looking at shares as a source of stable income (from the dividends). Financial advisors recommend them for this purpose. But as last in line for both dividends and capital return your risk is very high. The capital value of the shares can fluctuate a lot. In addition, shares are perpetual and you can only exit if you can find someone else to buy it from you. This is not assured. These uncertainties are ignored.

Another interesting thing about shares is that they are equated to ownership through voting powers. In reality, this is only relevant in very limited circumstances and few investors, even large ones, hold a high enough number of shares to be influential.

Ultimately, shares like all financial instruments represent claims on the underlying business, its earning, cash and assets. However, equity markets have increasingly decoupled from the real economy. Equity prices do not correlate to fundamental economic factors, such as nominal gross domestic product or economic growth, or, sometimes, earnings. Given that shares represent claims on the real economy, this is puzzling.

Increasingly, trading in financial claims, like shares, has become more important than the real underlying business itself; that is, financial engineering has assumed a more important role than real engineering. One indicator is that a greater proportion of the rewards now accrue to financial people rather than to engineers etc, in the real economy. That can’t be healthy in the long run.

So you are right equity as a term is very complex.

I notice my customers are like Pavlov’s dogs when it comes to discounts. How do you feel about discounting products and why do, according to some of my retail friends, Australian companies tend to discount too frequently and too heavily compared to their USA counterparts?

You are just highlighting the current reality that few businesses have pricing power. The reasons are complex.

First, there is now massive oversupply relative to demand in many industries. Industries over-invested anticipating stronger growth in demand than eventuated. Also in heavy industries policy driven investment in places like China created overcapacity which creates pricing pressures.

Second, wages adjusted for inflation around the world have not grown for most people. US incomes are at the level of the 1970s. Elsewhere we find the position to be similar.

A few professions and the better off have captured most of the gains. A winner take all is pervasive.

This means most people have limited purchasing power. At the same time, everybody is told every second of the day that they have to have certain things to be socially acceptable – live like the Kardashians (whoever they are!). So discounts are needed to match these very disparate forces. But, I guess, it is better than armed robbery.

Third, access to online shopping and comparisons has made markets which were local global. This is exacerbated by changes in currency values which create an environment of constant pricing pressures.

Fourth, a combination of factors, primarily globalisation of markets and supply chains, has created highly competitive markets, which drives down prices.

There is a dark side to this, primarily the exploitation of vulnerable workers in many countries. But most people choose to believe that the low cost of the things they buy is somehow disconnected from the fact that it requires below poverty wages for the people used to make it often in dangerous conditions.

Fifth, there has been a deep cultural change brought about by the Internet which is not well understood. Much of it is based on free services or things you don’t pay for directly or obviously. Now we all know you are going to pay or someone is going to pay but we choose to suspend disbelief. This leads to an expectation of getting something for nothing and also a lack of respect for intellectual property.

But this has consequences.

Take my work. I worked out that get paid a few cents an hour for writing books. I also write regularly for a few well known online sites but most of it is unpaid. This has two consequences. First, if I didn’t do it as a hobby then I couldn’t afford to do it. Second, just as importantly by writing I am displacing a paid journalist.

I get asked to speak. For example, I was invited to speak at the Sydney Writers’ festival. It is two 1 hour talks plus another event. I will not get paid but it will take me probably 4 weeks to prepare for these. The organisers and my publishers appeal to vanity. It for profile and will get my work better known – I know both to be factually untrue.

I am now reassessing my writing and speaking activities. I am not important and my ideas aren’t that interesting. But if all people with ideas withdraw in this way what is the consequence?

Take your work, If you cannot economically continue your business and cease isn’t that a loss in many ways to your customers.

I don’t think people make the connection. So ultimately they will have less. The model relies on other people coming along you don’t understand the dynamics. They lose happily and willingly. It is scorched earth strategy. I don’t know how long it can continue.

You say growth may end or stagnate - why do we have to fear this? Someone once told me that there was a period of 300 years that the price of milk did not rise in England. Yet these days we seem to find it alarming if prices don’t move up or down. Is it Armageddon if we choose to get off debt-heroin?

Growth isn’t important per se. Ordinary people would find little correlation between their personal well being and GDP growth.

Measurement is also arbitrary. Arguably it doesn’t measure anything really meaningful. GDP does not discriminate between income and expenditure on war, consumption, healthcare and aged care. Expenditure following war or a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, hurricane or storm, may increase GDP but produces no real net change, rebuilding what was destroyed. GDP does not take into account depletion of natural resources, especially non-renewable elements. It incorrectly accounts for environment despoliation, with the cost of causing and correcting the damage both recorded as economic activity.

But we have a society hooked on the idea of growth. It is seen as driving better living standards in the form of higher profits and wages.

There is a subtler reason as well. In most societies, redistribution of wealth is needed to keep social pressures in check. Redistribution is easier in a growing economy. The better off can just grow their share of the pie at a slower rate than less fortunate members of society to enable redistribution which is painless. If there is no growth then redistribution requires a real transfer of wealth which is more difficult as someone has to lose. The same process is evident between richer and poorer countries.

Once you have an over indebted economy, which is the case on average globally, growth and inflation become critical. It is needed to bring borrowing levels under control. As the level of debt stays unchanged if you don’t have growth or inflation your income doesn’t grow to be able to pay back your borrowing. Worse, if the economy shrinks and prices being to fall (deflation), then your ability to service your debt falls triggering bankruptcy.

So low or no growth is not necessarily a problem. In nature, growth is only a temporary phase which ceases at maturity. It may have positive effects on the environment or conservation of scarce resources. But the current economic, political and social system is predicated on endless economic expansion and related improvements in living standards. In his novel about the depression The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck identified this tendency: “when the monster stops growing, it dies. It can’t stay one size.”

An astute friend of mine said if the world shits itself again there'll be another World War to sort out the debts. Do you agree? Why do people always resort to such dire measures when they consider catastrophes? Do you believe in the Murakami quip that in every human's heart their lies a belief that the end of the world is coming?

Financially, it is important to understand that the improvement since 2009 in share and real estate prices is artificial, engineered by low rates and money printing activities of central bankers. Few of the problems that triggered the problems of 2008 have been resolved.

By postponing the inevitable, they have ensured that the adjustment will be very painful. A slow, controlled correction of the financial, economic, resource and environmental excesses now would be serious but manageable. If changes are not made, then the forced correction will be dramatic and violent, with unknown consequences.

So the day of reckoning awaits us. The current game is trying to defer the timing some more. As Ayn Rand put it: “you can avoid reality but not the consequences of reality”.

This time around it will be more severe for a number of reasons. Debt has actually increased not decreased. Policy weapons (like lower interest rates, more money being injected into the economy, more government spending) are constrained – the ammunition has been spent. Emerging markets (like China) which helped cushion the 2008 problems are now a source of troubles. There is now increasing scepticism about policy makers and governments and a loss of trust in institutions. The geopolitical environment has also deteriorated.

The real concern, I have, is how ordinary people everywhere will react. In advanced economies, the majority of people face increasing difficulty in finding secure jobs, earning a reasonable wage, financing and keeping adequate housing, and building up adequate savings for a life after work. Future generations face diminished prospects, and will be forced to bear the costs of the problems created by their predecessors. I am not sure you can keep doing this.

I worry that participation in the democratic farces around the world (voting) has plunged. I think that is part of the disengagement of ordinary people. But this anger if it’s not channelled into the political process is powerful and dangerous. Historian A.J.P. Taylor writing about the 1930s noted that: “the saving, investing middle class, everywhere the pillar of stability and respectability…was now utterly destroyed... they became resentful … violent and irresponsible…ready to follows the first demagogic saviour”. That movie didn’t exactly end well. But it is exactly what is starting to happen now.

A worrying thing is the elites, who move in their own circles and indulge in group think, seem oblivious to developments. This year, at Davos, Steven Schwartzman, the billionaire/ CEO of Blackstone actually said the following: “I find the whole thing astonishing and what’s remarkable is the amount of anger whether it’s on the Republican side or the Democratic side... Bernie Sanders, to me, is almost more stunning than some of what’s going on in the Republican side. How is that happening, why is that happening?” Given the decline in living standards of ‘ordinary people’, the reaction I would have thought is obvious and the harbinger of the worse things to come.

Now the question is how do you deal with these pressures? I think one option is repression. In Japan, the government had a number of vocal press critics of the government failed economic policies (Abe-nomics) fired from their jobs. Ultimately, refocusing attention away from economics to a common external enemy is an age-old and trusted political gambit. Without the Falklands, I doubt whether Margaret Thatcher would have remained in power. So the risk of conflict is increasing.

Murakami is probably talking about something slightly different. He is concerned about human beings, supposedly unique, self awareness of mortality.

I read your books and you have a tremendous ability to refer to loads of facts or what appear to be facts. How do you know if the numbers you quote or the systems you describe are indeed correct? For example - you said 85% of all debt raised was used for non plant and equipment. Why not 86%?

The reviewer in the New York Times of A Banquet of Consequence (it was released as The Age of Stagnation in the US to avoid it being confused as a cookbook) objected to the “blizzard of facts”. He also implied that I was a Malthusian, suicidal village idiot. It has ensured the book’s total failure in North.

I happen to think that facts or accurate data are important.

In Chapter 5 Running on Empty I look at the effects of scarce resources on future growth levels and the impact of manmade environmental change on economic activity. Perhaps the most interesting statistics are on fuel efficiency. Coal provides 50–100 percent more energy than the wood it replaced. Oil and gas provide 3–6 times more energy per weight than coal. In contrast, ethanol, a bio fuel, has 30 percent less energy density than gasoline and 12 percent less than diesel fuel. Lower energy density reduces the attraction of electric cars because a battery only has one-sixth the joules per kilogram compared to gasoline, reducing the range between recharging.

The precious nature of fuel is also not generally appreciated. 10 tons of pre-historic buried plant and organic matter converted by pressure and heat over millennia was needed to create a single gallon (4.5 litres) of gasoline. The human race is on track to exhaust the energy content of hundreds of millions years’ worth of sunlight stored in the form of coal, oil and natural gas in a few hundred years.

I think this data is very important in trying to understand how energy drives our wealth and growth. It is also important to understand how renewables can never be the complete answer which is important for understanding our prospects. A debate based on people’s feeling about these issues without data is unhelpful.

There is always an issue about the quality of data. It is never perfect. I try to check and calibrate data as well as possible. Importantly, the use of data forces people to examine the factual material. It places emphasis on them finding new and better data which can help challenge hypotheses allowing us to reach a better level of understanding. You can’t do that without data.

On your 85% or 86% point, you are right it is the order of magnitude that is important. But if the number is 85% it just is isn’t it?

I am out of tune with our times. Today, our debates are conducted on the basis of ‘truthiness’, a term coined by Stephen Colbert – “Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality.”

But as Aldous Huxley observed: facts do not disappear just because they are ignored.

Throughout the 19th and 20th Century and into, so far, the 21st century the cognoscenti have all dabbled with a bow tie at some point. Abe Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Walter Gropius, Groucho Marx, Winston Churchill - what's your take on bow ties and why do you think these characters chose to wear them?

My knowledge and interest in sartorial matters is limited. I dress the same every day, with minimal variation. I also haven’t worn a neck tie for year. So I am not a good person to ask this question.

Logically, I can say that a bow tie offer theoretical advantages. It is harder to drop food on or dip into a drink.

Correlations, such as that between an item of clothing and intelligence, may be sometimes misleading. For example, people pay too much attention to money. Galbraith was right when he wrote: “Nothing so gives the illusion of intelligence as personal association with large sums of money. It is also alas an illusion”.

Perhaps the people you mention were interesting and intelligent and just wore bow ties?

Can you give us a list of five influential thinkers you think our blog readers might benefit from following?

I don’t have ‘heroes’ or people who influence me. Friedrich Nietzsche’s observation is correct: “every philosophy hides a philosophy; every opinion is also a hiding place, every word is a mask”.

I have never been comfortable with over-arching theories or big ideas. Take economics/ finance theory for example. Many economists modestly consider economics the most important social science, applicable to all human behaviour as well as to financial and social problems. In reality, economics is religion, with different sects. Everyone professes faith in whichever prophet is fashionable as long as it is consistent with their ideological framework and delivers growth and rising living standards.

Also as Nietzsche understood the people who create gods are implicitly more powerful than the figures they conjure up. Nietzsche’s statement about the death of god is misunderstood. He was interested in what would take god’s place. All manner of scientists, philosophers, artists, business leaders and quacks, of variable quality, have filled the vacuum.

Everyone should try to know something about everything and everything about something. So I read different people and different things.

I find Schopenhauer and Nietzsche interesting. I also find Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jorge Luis Borges, Vladimir Nabokov and Werner Heisenberg’s work (on Uncertainty) insightful. I read a lot of history and science but little economics or finance. I can’t stand self-help and ‘the [x] steps to a goal’ books.

The most important thing is to read widely and critically. As Nietzsche wrote: “great intellects are sceptical”.

About Satyajit Das


Satyajit Das is a former financier with over 35 years' experience. He is regarded as a global authority on derivatives and risk. He anticipated the 2008 financial crisis and has been prescient in outlining subsequent developments. In September 2014, Bloomberg included him as one of the 50 most influential people in international finance.


He was featured in Charles Ferguson’s 2010 Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job, the 2012 PBS Frontline series Money, Power & Wall Street, the 2009 BBC TV documentary Tricks with Risk, and the 2015 German film Who’s Saving Whom.


Das is the author of two international bestsellers, Traders, Guns & Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives (2006) and Extreme Money: The Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk (2011). His latest book is A Banquet of Consequences: Have We Consumed Our Own Future? (2015) (published as The Age of Stagnation in North America).


Books.
A Banquet of Consequences (2015) also published as Age of Stagnation




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Extreme Money (2011)



“Like Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Extreme Money launches you into a fascinating and disturbing alternative view of reality. But now greed predominates, the distorted world of finance is completely global, and the people making crazy decisions can ruin us all. This is an informative, entertaining, and deeply scary account of Hades’s new realm. Read it while you can. ”
–Simon Johnson, Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan School of Management and Author of 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown

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Traders, Guns & Money (2006)
"Funny, readable and peppered with one-liners from Groucho Marx, "Traders, Guns & Money" offers an ideal primer for anyone tempted to take a walk on the derivative side." James Pressley, Bloomberg.com
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If I Ever Get Back To Italy I'd Like Sartoria Pirozzi To Make Me A Suit

If there is one thing I regret about being a small business in Sydney, Australia it's that I don't get to travel as much as I'd like to for work. Perhaps I over estimate the lifestyle of Europeans but I always feel like, if I were to be Europe or States-based, that I'd be jumping on a plane every other weekend to go see my suppliers. The simple fact is that if my suppliers were in Melbourne I'd find any excuse not to go down there so I don't know why I romantically ascribe such a lifestyle to New Yorkers, Londoners and Parisians. I think, perhaps it's because when I did a short stint of living in New York and London I used to see the same people in both cities which made me assume that they were always to-ing and fro-ing around, notwithstanding the recent Facebook trend to write something contrived on your status update like "NYC---->>>CDG" or some such thing.

Still, regardless of whether I whine or not, nothing will change the fact that I am getting older and such things as having enough free time to allow myself the opportunity to be measured and kitted up by an Italian tailor seems so far-fetched and elusive that the only people who might be able to bring it to life is Pixar. Which brings me to Sartoria Pirozzi. Located on the Viale Antonio Gramsci, 23, 80122 Napoli, Italy , the current tailoring house is run by Domenico Pirozzi whom I follow on Facebook.

Although I have not yet booked another trip for Europe and whilst I could not even tell you I have allocated the funds for my next commission, following Domenico for the time being on FB is sufficiently whetting my appetite for a day that soon might come when I am flush with money and a plane ticket.

What I have learnt from the people at Sartoria Pirozzi is that the business started with Nunzio Pirozzi attending the Master Sorrentino tailoring school in Casalnuovo in Naples. During his mandatory service in the Italian army he worked on Italian army officers uniforms as well as civillian clothing. He returned home after military service to train with De Bellis in Naples. In 1964 he opened Sartoria Pirozzi and today it still remains a small family operated business. The business today remains focussed on quality hand-cutting and hand-sewing on their suits.

In the interim, follow them on Instagram and Facebook



Domenico Pirozzi working at their atelier on Viale Antonio Gramsci, 23, 80122 Napoli, Italy

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Perhaps We've Grown As Big As We Can Get ? Maybe So According to Satyajit Das

This morning I sat down on the bus stop bench to put on my sneakers before my morning walk, it's become almost a ritual to turn up bare feet for my walk, often running late. There is usually on a Saturday morning either the vomit of a party reveller from the night before splattered beneath the bench or else the subsequent acidic stain of previous attacks left eating into the stone until a local council worker cleans it up. The sun was still rising on the bay and the air was still moist, summer was having a hard time leaving and autumn seemed rather shy this year. Ready to put my first sock on I noticed coming down the promenade Satyajit Das, my economics go-to man, one of the more erudite and free thinking men of Sydney, if not the world. He walks alone most mornings and is so very unassuming that if you don't know how to spot him, by way of his oblong glasses, 20 year old white t-shirt and equally aged sneakers, you'd never catch him.

Not that Das would want me to write about it, but I first saw him on the Matt Damon narrated Inside Job which documented the Global Financial Crisis - it's causes and effects. He also has a skewed view of the world. It wouldn't do him justice to label him a pessimist, nor would it ever be possible to call him an optimist. He's a realist at best and this morning, responding to my statement that "I think it's possible for a government to prop up an economy just by selling confidence", he responded with "no, that's just not possible. An economy also needs good fundamentals". Then the third person in our entourage, a mathematically minded aviation enthusiast added "yeah, Das is right, it's a bit like a pilot saying to his passengers 'we've lost the wings but I'm still going to try and fly this plane'".

The overarching feeling to these 'walk and talks' that I have between myself, my friend and Satyajit is 'what does the future look like for the global economy' - and these walks only ever occur when all the elements are right for us to all meet up on the promenade.

Whereas I often take an optimistic view towards the global economy, Satyajit's position is usually a given. So much so that he is listed 126 on a website which lists the 150 things that that the world's smartest scientists are worried about - namely, that economic growth will halt.

Certainly in my own experience we seem to have reached a plateau for our business and I can relate to this feeling that economic growth may be slowing or stagnating. Every year it seems slightly harder to make the same gains from sales, customer bases do not seem to grow but rather expand and contract to make the end of the year seem to have no real change from the last. Further, in the customer's pursuit for greater bargains both in bricks and mortar and on the web, and his/her newly founded web sourced authoritative product knowledge base, the preference seems to have become one of 'I want to pay rock bottom dollar prices but I want the same quality that I am accustomed to'. I am not one to ever look around and feel pessimistic about life, rather I am astounded at our ability to adapt and evolve and if I think about what was around when I was a child and compare it to the world today, we have gone ahead in leaps and bounds. But if every buyer is squeezing every last drop out of the seller, how in God's name is he supposed to grow? Certainly I pity both myself and other fashion brands in the Australian retail sector. I am in a niche, I can only imagine how much my flower might wilt if faced with stiff competition.

There's something in the talk below that seems like a truth that needs to be digested. Are we all a little too obsessed with growth and what price are we paying for it in the long run? You may not necessarily agree with everything Satyajit says below, but personally I've never met a man with a greater breadth of knowledge than him, so it's worth your time to listen to what he has to say. One observation that really stuck with me, which I assume is correct factually, is that 85% of debt raised from the early 1990's to today has been raised to finance things other than plant and equipment. Traditionally plant and equipment were the things that allowed us to grow our businesses and provide a return on an asset. Instead, much of the debt raised has been used, as Satyajit points out, for one person purchasing a house from another at a higher price, who then sells it to another person at an even higher price.

What do I make of all of it? I don't think I could really tell you right now. But if the Sydney housing bubble bursts, I will be sure to say 'I told you so'.

If you want to read more of Satyajit click here, or read his most recent book A Banquet Of Consequences, here


Thursday, March 10, 2016

It's As Though You Are About To Fall Off The Precipice But Nothing Can Stop It From Happening


We play a form of poker or brinkmanship with our customers during our Dutch Auction. We know our bow ties are worth every cent of their RRP but we also know the internet  is a place of fierce competition. We know who our customers are but our customers don't know who each other are. We know how many customers we have and what bow ties they have been looking at on the site, but they don't know we know. And, until recently, we didn't publish our stock levels, so our customers didn't know what stock we had and so it was a game. A trap. Who else is out there that might bid for YOUR bow tie and how much of a game are you willing to play in order to get a more substantial discount. It was a game I first witnessed as a university student at the Sydney Fish Markets observing a Dutch Auction on fish. If everyone colludes then perhaps they can extract a much better price, but if you can't collude, as we hope the world wide web offers in terms of bidders, then you are forced to make a decision, do I wait, or do I pounce?

On a more obscure bow tie like teal satin silk that is an easier game to play, because we both know that the world of teal bow ties is not a deep one. But on our limited edition silks where we know you just can't get this anywhere else in the world, well, that's a slightly different story. For example, left to right on the three bow ties below there are 1,3 and 1 units remaining respectively. What are you going to do? Are you  really going to wait? How many people will read this blog post today? Will they decide it's time to act? When is it time to act? Only you can decide that.




Tuesday, March 8, 2016

An Edward Green Navy Pebbled Leather Belt Which Is To My Mind One Of The Best I've Had In A Long Time

There is an Ebay store I sometimes use called Elite Forum . It is a 'best kept secret' which I am only too happy to share now because I have so little time to perform patina experiments for my blog these days.

Elite Forum was where I used to source pairs of Northampton English made goodyear welted shoes and mostly I used them because they often had a great deal of pairs of lighter tan colour shoes which one could use as a blank canvas for patina.

The other week I received a newsletter which offered me the belt below, an Edward Green pebbled leather belt in navy. I am very partial to navy belts and belts of good quality and classic taste, mostly because in Australia they are very very hard to come by. Belts in this country are always the wrong colour, the wrong make, the wrong leather or the wrong buckle. Honestly, I look out for a great belt all the time but in fairness, there just isn't the selection in this country and in fairness, when you do find a quality belt, nobody wants to pay the price tag.

The Edward Green belt below was a welcomed surprise. A great navy in a dauphin styled pebble leather which had been constructed to the highest standard (both sides of the leather were the same, not cheaply glued with the underside, further, the edges were done to a standard you would expect from Hermes) and which was finished with a most non-imposing simple silver buckle with a superb double stud so you could switch it out if you had other great buckles or you changed suits. This is how belts ought to be made and what seems to be missing from the market. 

As a general rule I wear most often navy jeans and when I wear a suit it's most often navy or a blue hue. Accordingly the navy belt for me is the most versatile belt I own because I rarely need to switch our for another colour. Even though I am most frequently observed with suspenders on when wearing a suit, the navy belt is also an exceptional accessory for all hues of blue trousers for smart casual and a sports jacket too, when you are wearing wool but not in a business environment.

I wax lyrical about the navy belt but it's just so much more alluring than a brown or black one for me. Black belts always seem to have too much contrast against a suit, brown ones frequently just don't look right unless the right brown shoe is complimenting the belt. And even though Rupert Murdoch wore a mid blue suit and brown shoe to his wedding last week, there are still those that won't do brown in town. Is not the navy belt therefore the bridge between black and brown shoes and a navy suit? With loafers? With blue jeans? To my mind, you always need a navy belt, and this Edward Green one is exceptional. 

A belt that outclasses most others, an Edward Green pebble leather in navy. Simple elegance and a very versatile solution.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Third And Final Margeurite Is Released

Surprisingly fewer men have adopted our Marguerite pocket square than her predecessor, La Belle Dame, and yet some of the textures and patterns that Marguerite offers are actually better than our La Belle Dame.

The silk twill has been printed in England and shipped to us here in Sydney where each pocket square is hand-roll stitched by our ladies who can spend up to 40 minutes on one square depending on it's size. 

Hand-roll stitching is not for everyone, in fact, for the most part most men do not care. But on a limited edition silk twill like Marguerite, it is not fair to her to finish her with a machine because she is a rare beauty inspired by the Belle Epoch artist Alfonse Mucha, so how could we subject her to a cheap finish.

Shop


Foster And Son London Are Having A Trunk Show In Tokyo

Emiko Matsuda our senior shoemaker will be showing in Tokyo from 6th to 11th April 2016 and will be pleased to see our valued customers and new clients.

Visits are by appointment only.

Please email: 
emiko@foster.co.uk
 By telephone:  +44 207 930 5385

Trunk Show Location:
ANA Intercontinental Tokyo 1-12-33 Akasaka Minatoku Tokyo 107-0052


The Archived Silks - The Release In 2016 Of All Those Wonderful Silks We've Collected Over The Years

It might have once been that a web business need only offer a product or service that was not available in many different countries and/or cities in order for it to thrive. It was a great time when we set up LNP because in the lethargy that was occurring in department stores worldwide, small web businesses like ourselves could offer superior product and service and we could develop and spread products faster. In those days it was a wonderful time making quality silk bow ties watching these behemoth institutions slowly catch on to what we were doing and start to try to steer their mother ships in a different course.

Over those years whilst we had the place to ourselves we could experiment and be far more flexible with our designs and acquisitions. Almost anything would sell since who was to turn their nose up at the best of Italian and English silks being offered on a well made self-tying bow tie you could not find anywhere else in the world?

Today the landscape is slightly different. The Australian dollar is much weaker, the retail institutions have tried to catch up, the big brands cottoned on social media etc etc. How much has the world changed in eight years? I think a lot. Just think of the volume and scope of choice now out there for consumers from traditional bricks and mortar stores, online web retailers, online resellers, grey markets and ebay second markets. Pretty soon you will be able to shop directly from Instagram too. It's remarkable. What a shift, what a world, what changes. I fear if my grandmother was alive today she'd promptly look around and die again. 

So the consumer wins it seems - there is not fighting it. This week we have released some bow ties onto the site from the remaining pieces of archived silks we have stored at our Sydney Studio in containers. The silks are exquisite and coming back to them has only served to remind me of how much money we sunk into materials over the years to ensure that our customers got a superior product from cloth to packaging. 

The orange and cream silks below are wonderful for those in the North looking for something fresh for spring. Paired with grey or navy wool, the orange bow ties below will pop any suit whilst the cream will work wonderfully for a summer tuxedo or, as I would want to wear it, with a bone suit.

In order to add some cheese and pepper I have today added a code word CATO which will give the first 5 users of this code 60% OFF when checking out of Le Noeud Papillon's collection THE IDES OF MARCH SALE . The code expires tomorrow.

We know you can't find our product anywhere else in the world, we know we use the highest quality silks in the world, we know our bow ties are world class, but what good are they sitting in our Studio when they can elevate your ensemble. 




Thursday, March 3, 2016

Why I Just Don't Care That Leonardo Di Caprio Won An Oscar

The internet didn't break when Hollywood actor Leonardo Di Caprio won an Oscar, all that happened was that his smarmy little pubescent face cropped up everywhere with females writing how they were the first that discovered Leo and that they had fallen in love with him 'ever since I saw such and such movie' which is an obscure title you never saw to remind you that you hadn't seen all of Leo's 'work' . Are you catching my drift? I don't dislike the guy, I don't know the first thing about him, but he does have the kind of following which viewed on certain angles, singes your nostrils.

I have always liked his films. I thought he peaked when he played the retard in Gilbert Grape but I can safely say I have never NOT enjoyed his films. They're usually somewhat cool characters, they have a certain level of charm about them. Probably my favourite, no girls, it's not Romeo.... was his role in The Departed where I think he played his second best role of his career as a fidgety undercover cop. One thing I have never felt though, perhaps maybe slightly in The Departed, is a sense of deep empathy for his characters. In fact, to my mind, and maybe for others too, I am more likely to feel a sense of empathy for Kevin Costner's characters than Di Caprios. Such is the nature of Di Caprio, he doesn't resonate with me emotionally.

At the Oscars the other night, one Hollywood type did. But he would never ever call himself a Hollywood type even though he has emotionally connected with me more times than I care to admit on a 'Hollywood' level. I am talking about Ennio Morricone, the composer whose film scores have brought me to tears so often that I sometimes flick to the next song when I hear his music to avoid breaking down at key times of the day. Such is the emotional connection I have to his music that I can't make a USB stick without dumping on one or two of his songs.

For many of our readers, I will be preaching to the converted. No man who loves his bow ties and loves fine clothing would not have stumbled across Morricone in his journey so far, his music rests on such loftier levels than his contemporaries. Soundtracks like Cinema Paradiso, Baaria, Malena, The Mission, A Fistful Of Dollars, The Untouchables and more recently The Hateful Eight are just a list that come to mind. But of all these, the two which strike a cord with me the most are Cinema Paradiso and Baaria. Scroll down his IMDB.

My love for Ennio Morricone is something I cannot fully express in words but as a more inner wellness, a spiritual gladness that transcends something as ridiculous as The Adademy Awards which we watch more for theatre and sport than for the genuine recognition of great international talent. However, it just so happened that the other night I saw one of the few people I really wanted to see get an Oscar, get his Oscar. And thank God he didn't feel the need to get up and talk about climate change. Bravo Ennio Morricone, I am so grateful for all that you leave behind.





Joseph Raskin Ties - Adding Swarovski Crystal To Evening Wear

As a boy growing up in Brooklyn New York,  Joseph Raskin was first  drawn into the world of fashion by regular visits with his stylish  mother  to  the finer clothing houses on the lower east side. Becoming more and more familiar  with the concept of dress, he was conscious   that, in contrast to the glamour of the girls, something was lacking in menswear,  particularly in  evening attire, and this gave birth to his idea to step beyond  the traditional  into something with a little more pizzazz.

Joseph’s love of fashion,  his desire for something different and  his innate creativity lead the now Sydney based, budding designer  to experiment with  fine silks  and high quality Swarovski crystals,  making some stunning accessories for himself   to transform his conventional look  into something more sophisticated. So enthusiastic was the  response to his dazzling new style  that  Joseph was swamped with requests for his work, but as each item was hand made,  the demand quickly became too time consuming.

Wanting  to continue with his new endeavor while maintaining  his full time career as  a successful real estate agent in Sydney’s prestigious  Eastern Suburbs,  Joseph was keen  to commence professionally manufacturing his designs.  In 2015, after much hard work to perfect his  range of  products, packaging and presentation, he  sourced  the right company to work with, and,  using only professional  labour and high end materials,  has created  a fabulous new line of hand crafted products including  neckties, bowties, skinny ties, pocket kerchiefs and the like . Though only new to the market, Joseph Raskin’s exceptional line of fine quality accessories has been welcomed by men ( and women)  of style  who want to step up and be noticed.

Following the initial success  the company is now on the path of expansion into a wider variety of accessories, introducing new colours and styles to compliment the current range. It is Joseph Raskin’ ambition to change the face of men’s fashion and give the guys a chance to add a touch of glamour to evening elegance.

Shop Joseph Raskin ties at Le Noeud Papillon


Joseph Raskin, centre, is flanked by models wearing his Swarovski crystal silk neck ties.