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


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Friday, August 11, 2017

The Pocket Square As A Neckerchief - Another Way To Wear Silk More Casually


With regards to my previous post I thought I would elaborate on the pocket square as a neckerchief. As a general rule, bandannas are to the best of my knowledge around 56cm squared. So when you tie them around your neck not only can they be hot but they can also be quite cumbersome. The same can be said of traditional ascots or what we call cravattes in Australia. They can look lovely on a man in his 60's but younger than that and you can get quickly type-casted as a Matt Preston look-alike . Especially someone that looks like me .... And it has happened a few times.

However, I have found the Goldilocks of the casual silk neckerchief in the 42cm printed silk twills that we use for our pocket squares. If you fold our 42cm pocket squares on the diagonal and then roll them neatly you can achieve enough length to tie them at the front of your neck and then tuck them under your shirt or t-shirt. 

And because pocket squares tend to have such vibrant art (as do ours) on them, once rolled they reveal hints and colours and textures that make them so much more interesting than traditional ascots and bandannas. 

So, as spring approaches, and as the world becomes increasingly more casual - consider that your pocket square collection might double as your neckwear in a more casual setting.

As for me, I wore them under a ski jacket and whether or not they had the desired effect on my audience I do not know, but certainly I liked the look of them in the mirror, and pleasing myself when I dress is paramount. I certainly don't dress for others as much as I do for myself.

Be brave, add a little peacock and try it out for yourself. I promise you, it will bring our your inner Romeo.



Right, entertainer Harrison Craig is wearing our new Moth Of Sydney shirt with our latest forest green silk grenadine tie. I am wearing Marguerite 2 pocket square as a neckerchief. 



Martin Greenfield Interview For Robb Report Australia

Before I departed on my trip to see the silk mills in May I was given a green light to write two feature articles for Robb Report in Australia by its editor, Michael Stahl. The two articles, one which follows an Australian bale of wool from the time it reaches Italy until it becomes fabric for a suit; will be followed by the second which covers Martin Greenfield, the celebrated New York tailor.

Greenfield, a holocaust survivor, was there in their Williamsburg factory when I went to visit. At 88 years of age he had the good looks and charisma of an Old World movie star and he seemed to be the personification of Viktor Frankl's 'logotherapy' - that Greenfield had found purpose and meaning in his life by creating suits with intrinsic value which had kept tailors, retailers, bespoke customers and costume designers coming back again and again for their services and attention to detail.

The article will appear later this year. 


Finding Your Inner Peacock Again

There is a possibility that I am or was having a mid life crisis. If it weren't a crisis then it was certainly a renaissance or a resurrection. My micro crisis involved a lot of skiing and some other things which I must keep from this blog - I have a tendency to over share - or so those dear to me like to tell me.

Anyway, so it got me thinking, that with spring approaching, it's not really a crisis is it? I was reminded recently of that expression that psychotherapists seem to love "this too shall pass" - whatever we are feeling, whatever uncomfortable things we must sit with, whatever bliss or joy seems to be brimming over our cup of life, it will no doubt change, and change again. 

So you can view it as a crisis or perhaps you can see it as an agent of change and evolution. And with a very personal and real experience recently, which to some extent changed the colours I saw in the horizon, I found myself re-engaging with all that I love. Music, poetry, art, my clothes. 

And it was my music and my clothes that stuck out the most. I had simply forgotten how much I loved listening to music when I drive, or how much I loved spending time on my own. And then there was my dressing. For too long I turned up to the Studio like a slob because I knew by the end of the day I would either have silk threads all over myself or else I'd have stayed in my gym gear for too long. 

With spring approaching, rekindling your love for fine things again should be on your agenda. For me it was tying silk in new ways, one of which was to tie a silk pochette as a neckerchief whilst I skied down the mountain. It seemed like a small but impressive way to wear silk in a more casual and athletic environment. And it sure beat a bandanna. 

So maybe it's not a crisis at all. Maybe it's a resurrection. And spring certainly is a good time to think about resurrections.




Friday, July 21, 2017

Snowy Mountains High - The Mid Winter Beacon Of Light


When he first came to the mountains his life was far away
On the road and hanging by a song
But the string's already broken and he doesn't really care
It keeps changing fast and it don't last for long
But the Snowy Mountains makes him high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye
Snow Mountains high.... (Thredbo)
(With reference to John Denver)

Nothing quite turns me on like a great solitary car trip with great music and fresh country air. I have been driving through country Australia since I was a late teen but perhaps the years when I did the most kilometres were at University whilst I pursued a degree in agricultural economics. They were heady days of either deep winters and frozen fingers or of moleskin trousers and screaming down the highway listening to Paul Simon, hot winds and dry sweat.

The other morning as I drove towards the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales I remembered fondly those same drives and how much they had evolved. Back in those days you had to make fresh CD's regularly so that they wouldn't skip and the book in which you held all your CD's was as important as your luggage, stowed usually in the front passenger seat. There was one such journey on the Narrandera road near Wagga Wagga in the peak of summer, cockatoos congregating on the side of the road, hot dry air blasting through the window onto sunburnt forearms and the bouncing rhythm of Graceland blaring on the speakers.

The Mississippi Delta was shining 
Like a National guitar 
I am following the river 
Down the highway 
Through the cradle of the civil war 
I'm going to Graceland 
Graceland 
In Memphis Tennessee 
I'm going to Graceland 
Poor boys and pilgrims with families 
And we are going to Graceland 
My traveling companion is nine years old 
He is the child of my first marriage 
But I've reason to believe 
We both will be received 
In Graceland

And it was this very same song that I listened to, twenty years later, as I shot down the highway heading towards Thredbo this week, excited by the prospect of skiing fresh powder that had just fallen the night before. 

There is something so unique about our Snowy Mountains and I have never really been quite able to explain what that is. In part I would suggest that it is the Alpine Ash eucalyptus trees which I believe are not found in any other Alpine region. They have a manner in which they are suspended that is hauntingly beautiful and when they are laden with snow they remind me of Japanese wood block prints, as though their graduated trunk and ornate shapes of branches and leaves could only be interpreted and understood by a Japanese artisan's deft incisions of his bespoke carving tools. It could also be the drama of the landscape that leads into those mountains that form the Kosciuszko National Park. Prior to entering the mountains the landscape is sort of like a high plain of undulating land which seems to be dotted with large granite boulders and trees which look somewhat haunted, looking more like the marking of a burial site than something which offers life. It is a forbidding landscape almost all year round.

These moments, especially when I am on my own, offer up some of the most peaceful and joyful moments of solitude that I have found. It's in fact one of the reasons I romanticise about the country so much. I am certain that living there my problems would not go away - but to leave the city and go for a drive in the country invariably decompresses me. 

This time as I drove in I had found a new song to listen to and it was fast becoming a song which might define this winter for myself. I had, one night a few weeks back, watched Martin Scorcese's documentary 'The Waltz' on Netflix. And one performance stuck out a great deal. It was Joni Mitchell's 'Coyote' which had instantly grabbed me and for a week or two it has a significant grip on me.

Now, twenty years later as I drove down the highway, my phone was cabled to my aux slot, bluetooth enabled and streaming 4g data from my Spotify on an excessively large data plan. How heady. How times had changed. And this is what I heard:

No regrets Coyote
We just come from such different sets of circumstance
I'm up all night in the studios
And you're up early on your ranch
You'll be brushing out a brood mare's tail
While the sun is ascending
And I'll just be getting home with my reel to reel
There's no comprehending
Just how close to the bone and the skin and the eyes
And the lips you can get
And still feel so alone
And still feel related
Like stations in some relay
You're not a hit and run driver, no, no
Racing away
You just picked up a hitcher
A prisoner of the white lines on the freeway


It was like a solid meal for the soul. 

If you haven't listened to Joni Mitchell or Paul Simon for a while, if you haven't taken a drive through the country or put some skis on and tore down the mountain side, I highly recommend all of the above. You will decompress and I promise you your soul will be reinvigorated.






Sunday, July 9, 2017

Getting Nudes Right For Silk


One of the hardest things to get right in creating a new silk design is what will and won't work in the confines of either a bow tie or a pocket square. Getting this right is so important. It's not an oil on canvas, so you can't get the kinds of graduation and tonality as you get in the Tamara De Lempicka's 'Musician' below. Instead you are chasing simplicity and defined lines and colours.

I was not trained in textiles and so this has become my hardest obstacle in pursuing this as a business. I have taste but often I lack the conversion skills in both illustrator and in hand drawing that allows you to express yourself in an exacting manner. 

More importantly, fabric is not a blank canvas on which you can paint. Each form of textiles, be it digital, screen or weaving is constrained. Even yuzen silks, which are perhaps the ones that leave themselves most open to individual interpretation, are constrained by stencils. 

All this I write because there is one thing that has always remained elusive for me creatively, and that is the female form. 

Tamara De Lempicka's 'Musician' . 



Where's My Suit Roy?

I was warned that Roy was his own worst enemy prior to entering his tailoring and alterations shop on Union Street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York.

Zalman, the owner of a made to measure tailoring outfit from that area, had offered me to come back to Crown Heights for a different experience. Previously he has chaperoned me around to the local Jewish tailors who knocked out traditional kapotes, this time he offered to take me to a tailor that could knock out a suit in 7 days of a great quality at a very modest price.

I thought this would be a great piece for the blog but I didn't need a new suit. I had to think for a bit about what possible suit I did not have. I had just made two for the window of our Studio in Sydney and I really didn't plan to make another until spring. But it sounded like such a good blog post....

I immediately put in an order for wool from Barrington Fabrics to be shipped to Crown Heights. It was one of those international moments where you are on whatsapp talking to the UK on one time zone, I was in Los Angeles myself, and Zalman was in New York. These are the times when I feel like Jason Bourne and I love business. Dynamic, hustling, typing ferociously so that everyone can meet their goal.

Then when I walked into Roy's everything was reset. Roy wasn't going to be pushed around, this was his shop, his rules. Zalman told me that when Roy went to work he got stuck into it with the kind of relish you'd expect from Zorba the Greek, but just like Zorba, when his mind was no longer on work, nothing could drag him away from his other pursuits. I was told that sometimes Roy would go in there and get stuck into some rum and either come out at the end of it with a fantastic suit, or else you would hear him and his buddies laughing and arguing all night - and it was anyone's guess which one it would be.

Inside Roy's it was spartan. Those old timber slat walls, decor that hadn't been changed in decades, a time warp back to the 70's. There were strange characters coming and going every few minutes and an odd chap that was sort of an assistant, sort of just there to watch the old television that was above Roy. The noise from the television made it hard for us to communicate but when we asked for it to be turned down, nobody could find the remote control and the old volume button on the set wasn't working.

I tried to ask Roy about his life but he seemed like a man of few words. Zalman told me he used to be a boxer and when he stopped fighting he picked up a needle and thread. He certainly had the stature of a boxer and the look of someone whose joints caused him pain and frustration.

The suit was supposed to be ready after a week but I couldn't wait long enough after the first fitting for it to be collected. I paid Zalman the money and told him to ship it to me when it was ready. "This is where it can go wrong with Roy. Once his focus on the suit is no longer on it, it could be weeks before he picks it up again. I will stay on him for you".

Zalman did stay on him. But Roy, he works to the beat of his own drum, and what might be good for him, may not be right for some....

I learned a few things from this experience. Roughly it is this - the best custom tailor in the world is one that resides in the nearest city to where you live. Second, never rush a custom made tailoring experience. You will lose every time. Thirdly, never get greedy when it comes to making suits. There must always be a reason or a season as to why you will be getting anything new made.

I received a text a few days ago saying Roy and Zalman had fallen out about the suit. Roy was not going to be told when to finish it. He now sits on my money and my cloth and is in total control of both the quality of the finish as well as the delivery date. I could ring Roy and start a screaming match but he keeps a very big sign on his fitting mirror "NO INDECENT LANGUAGE" , so I doubt my call would last more than five seconds.

Oh, and I learned one more rather grotesque thing - I am going bald. Zalman, doing his best to capture the detail of my shoulders, managed to secure a rather awful angle that ordinarily I'd not have seen myself. Not every tailoring experience is fruitful and blessed. I am grateful that I had fun on this one regardless. And I hope that one evening soon Roy picks up a bottle of rum and finishes my suit.







Work In Progress - The Three Parcae By A Newly Unearthed Artist

I have an artist friend of mine who gets very upset with me when I don't name a new artist. He has a doctorate in fine arts, so I am not doubting that he has his reasons to be upset with me.

However, my experience is the moment that you tell everyone your trade secrets you are soon to lose your competitive advantage. One former illustrator of ours, Dick Carroll, now works for The Armoury in New York and I noticed that within a few weeks of being employed there he was sketching away for them in between selling suits and shirts.

In another instance, a chap who had done some graphic design for me in Sydney was visiting a tailor when he announced that he had designed a few silks for us. The first question the tailor asked after my graphic designer stopped bragging was "where does he get his silk" . In turn this caused a rupture between myself and the graphic designer who one week later announced that he simply refused to do another design for me without having direct access to the loom.

The old Greek adage, once relayed to me by an Irish Catholic who was enamoured with the merchant Greek class, was that the secret to success in business was to hold your supplier and your customer very close, but to make sure the two never met. The truth is, it's not that hard to find a silk loom. It's not that hard to make a bow tie either. But it's the relationships that you forge between your loom, your seamstresses, your graphic designers, your artists, your freight companies, your landlord and, most importantly, your customers, that keep you in business.

That is why the other night, when an illustration artist sent through his first sketches for my new pocket square and I was blown away with the first sketches, I asked him to come up with a pseudonym. For those of you who have read the blog for a while, you'll know that Carlos Oppenheimer is a pseudonym for a friend of mine who is the director of a public company and whose name can't be mentioned along side a running commentary on menswear and fashion. I love a good pseudonym - so I left it with said artist to tell me his when he felt he had found something he was happy with.

The work, which is based on the three fates, the Roman 'parcae' will take some inspiration from Greek mythology, something from Gauguin, a little from the graphic artist Dave Smith, and a touch of impressionism. Our aim was to continue on that theme we spoke about a few blog posts ago - that infatuation I had with the idea that our live's are like woven yarn; spun, measured and cut off by three fates. It makes me think of quilts, fabric, spinners, artisans and, most of all, women. My relationship with women has always been complex and most men would be reluctant to admit to it, but a part of me fears and dreads women.

They are beautiful and whimsical, they are ever-changing, never fixed in one spot. Rarely do we understand them. Most of us men are ruled by them from cradle to grave. I spent my formative years trying to dodge my mother's relentless nagging and reminders. Then later as an adult you spend your best years believing that you are in a desperate need to find the right sort of woman so you can marry and settle down - only she becomes just as domineering as your mother. Later still you have your own daughter and you think perhaps now, with this innocence in front of you, that you understand women and their role in your life. But it doesn't take long for her to learn the ropes and pretty soon you are running around to meet her needs too.

And so, for a simple man mind like mine, prone to conspiracy theories and easily distracted by story over fact, it's quite alluring to think that your entire fate is in the hands of three whimsical women who spin, measure and cut off your life.

We men, we think we are kings and that is our folly. We work for women our entire lives and as much as we enslave women, they enslave us back - they just play a longer and more thought out game. We are kings of a lifetime, they are the queens down through the ages of ages.

Here are the first sketches of the three parcae - and yes, my ilustrator has been informed that he was missing an 'r' on the banner.

Once the sketch is complete the artist will vectorise the entire picture, lay down colours and then it will go to the printers where, depending on the complexity and prices, we will choose between a digital and a screen printed process. Fingers crossed, this will be one of those pocket squares you keep forever.




Sunday, July 2, 2017

New Silks Are Arriving Each Week Along With New Shapes That We Are Working On - Bow Ties Galore It Seems!


Much of the silk that has been arriving these past few weeks is the culmination of working directly with my contacts in Italy over coffee and bottles of fizzy water to try and find ways to deliver more vibrancy to our silks. Looking at warps and wefts and working out which warps and which structure of making a silk will deliver the best result for our limited edition designs is not something that is clear cut. We rejected two silks, something we rarely do, because they didn't show the design up well enough. Sometimes, if you choose the wrong warp and weft, you can get a scratchiness in a silk and the colour comes out lacking lustre and depth.

It's for this reason that a lot of silk designers don't deviate too much from standard classics where they roughly know the lie of the land. In that instance, take a pin head for example, one only needs to change the colours the following season based on the new warp colours available.

But then there are the unique designs we run, like the tiger below, or the virus centre. Both are exceptionally different which means that you run a greater risk when realising them that either you lose definition in the design, or you lose richness and lustre in the ground. As these designs are very much unlike anything else that the loom is weaving at the moment, it can perplex the technicians and in some instances, the samples come back and are rejected.

In between these limited edition silks we also work on existing silk weaves in plain colours which are often already sampled by the loom. New garza and grenadine weaves that arrived this week, for example, are not designed by us. These solids are usually developed by the loom each year with only the colour changing depending on new thread colours and warps that are being offered. This is the usually the easiest part of any buying trip - when it's merely the weight and handle of the silk along with the visual and sensory texture of the silk which decides it's fate. 

The beneficiaries of these explorations are our customers. Where once you might have seen four bow ties in a collection each season from a brand, now we are able to build a collection once a week, post them online by Friday afternoon and be sold out by Monday. 

It is a wonder whether the consumer does appreciate this? I can recall that not ten years ago you could not find a self-tying bow tie of any reputable quality on the internet. The companies that did produce silks did so once every six months. There was no opportunity to order a different shape other than what they told you you could have. Neck ties weren't that different either.

These days a silk arrives on Monday morning. By Tuesday afternoon it has been cut and is almost sewn. By Wednesday it's in a Fedex bag. By Friday it's in New York. 

What a wonderful world for consumers it has become!



The Conservative Tie I Still Grapple With


A few weeks back when I had the privilege of being in front of the cloth design team at Vitale Barberis Canonico, a company which makes over 10 million metres of cloth each year,  I was interested to know what exactly the designer's designers wear?

The designer's designer? That was the expression used by G Bruce Boyer to describe the role of VBC in the fashion industry. The designer offers you a new cut of suit each year, but mostly they don't get to design their own cloth, it's up to the team at Vitale Barberis Canonico who put together seasonal cloths which get picked up by designers who then knock them into suits, jackets, skirts, overcoats and more.

So when I met Michele Papuzzo below, a conservative man in his forties, salt and peppered hair, a melange wool suit - I was interested to see that his choice of shirt was a conservative windsor collar Oxford weave in white with a double four in hand knotted tie in the most conservative silk. 

The designer's designer was not like the designer - he was far more measured in his approach to fashion. And it kind of made sense. When you are in charge of designing 10 million metres of cloth, you are not likely to be staying too long in business if you go long in canary yellow and electric blue like some designers might (guess who don't sue). 

As for the tie - I had mixed feelings. It so suited Michele but as I travelled Italy and the silk mills I have this funny feeling towards Italian silk designers who never ever ever deviate from these conservative designs and colours. On the one hand, I appreciate that it looks refined, neat and tidy. On the other, I wish someone would shake up those Italians and tell them to stop trying to look so conservative all the time. 

A few days later I was at a wedding expo in Milan looking at all sorts of makers and designers who were pitching at grooms and groomsmen across Europe with regards to the menswear on display. Now the pendulum was totally on the other end of the spectrum, brazen, gaudy, over the top. Vibrant polymer based designed fabrics on jackets, bright patent leathers, silky trousers. 

This was Italy, two diametrically opposed cultures operating in one theatre. And what was in the middle was usually boring and lacking in enthusiasm.

This is how I feel about neck ties and what I still grapple with. For me, it is still an area of menswear that I have not really found my groove. I have found wearing a tie like the one below makes me feel like I have grown old before my time. But when I go for something too vibrant I feel like I am lacking in sophistication.

I am a bow tie guy, first and foremost. But I like neck ties. And the one thing that is still exciting for me is that long neck ties are still very much unchartered waters for myself. 
 



Friday, June 23, 2017

How Do You Make God Laugh? Tell 'im You've Gotta Plan

These were the famous lines delivered to me by an Italian Australian farmer at the end of a period in which I had been working in the bush. He then laughed one of those husky farmer laughs that is part chest phlegm from tobacco smoking, heaving in his chair almost, one of those rustic big leather recliners you might find in the spartan furnishings of a farm house where everything is practical before it is aesthetically pleasing. 

I am sure this phrase has been used many times before by many different walks of life all over the globe, but this was where I first heard the expression and it's impact has been long lasting. I can still see that farmer sitting in his chair, happy with his own joke. And it seems to be a joke he shares with the Gods.

The Greeks were the first to come up with the three fates. They were called the Moirai and included Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. Clotho spun your life, Lachesis measured it, Atropos cut it off. The Romans, because they loved to copy the Greeks, and who can blame them .... - called them the Parcae. 

Nona, Decima, Morta. In the painting below, which I found on that wonderful Google Arts And Culture which I think is one of the best things to come about on the internet since Wikipedia, the artisans of the court of Madame Pompadou plead with the fates to spare the life of their patron.

The painting serves to remind me that we are not guaranteed success, longevity, a following, an income, love, children, a vocation or even a passion. And even if we find it, nobody will be able to tell for how long we get to keep it. The Gods are a capricious and whimsical as the three parcae - spinning and measuring and cutting off your life at their whim. 

A reminder this week was that I became ill. I had a hundred plans to put into place, a thousand chores that needed reminders, a new computer I wanted to spend time with, doodling here, writing notes, adding this file to this folder and on and on. And then I became very ill. Suddenly. And it got pretty violent as my body shook itself senseless to get rid of the fever. The nightmares swirled around in my head and I kept waking up feeling like I was being choked and couldn't breath. Over and over again.

In moments of chaos like that we forget the old adage 'this too shall pass' and instead are overcome with fear and dread. What if it goes on like this forever? What will happen to me and my business?

I had set up new suppliers that were now taking longer than expected to deliver, the fabrics were arriving in the wrong order, there wasn't enough time to get this to marry it with that. And in that chaos I could hear that old farmer laughing until his voice felt like it was winding up a croaky engine. Yes, you are right, God must be laughing, because I thought I had a plan. 

We forget to remember that we are not here forever, that quite frankly, we barely have any control over how our bodies digest our food so how are we to think we know what will constitute the nature and course of our lives. 

My advice to all of you out there who haven't been sick in a while is this : get sick for a day or two - see how you realign your goals from complex ones to very very simple ones. Prior to getting sick I had 436 mini plans to execute. After a day of being sick I had but one plan - get better.

I wish you all a pleasant weekend. I am back up and running now. But, we should never take it for granted that we'll all be here tomorrow. Maybe I won't. Maybe you won't. Only the parcae seem to know. 



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

These Are Some Of My Favourite Things ...

The movie that formed the soundtrack to my formative years, apart from Grease, must be The Sound Of Music. It was such a treat. I watched it recently with my daughter and whilst I was shedding tears and emotionally daubing my face, my daughter seemed to find it boring and preferred to watch Sing or The Secret Life Of Pets. How did that happen? I thought the Sound Of Music would be intergenerationally adored and revered. That I would go on to watch it with my grandchildren, still crying. I would sing to them as we all lay in bed: 

Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

Sadly, life is not as romantic as the movies. I recall reading about the real Von Trapp family in my adult years and it seemed a far stretch from Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews. We can kick a few things into place in life, but the truth is life is often far less glamorous.

Which brings me to my point. As I age and as my body seems to be having a hard time dealing with the long term effects of gravity and indulgence, one of the few things we can do is to pepper up our ensembles so that we can create the theatre of what we'd like to look like as opposed to what we really look like. 

At a wedding recently it struck me that if we were all forced to undress and go nude, I'd have been inclined not to attend. The art of clothes and wearing them well allows dumplings like myself to carry a certain swagger, maybe even a drop of rock n roll.

All this I say because I want to mention a few of my favourite things which helped on this trip.

The evening suit I wore I made with P Johnson tailors nearly two years ago. It still looks stunning and it's such a good tuxedo for spring/summer, half lined so its nice a cool as the evening heats up on a wedding dance floor. The bow tie is our limited edition Great Wave Off Kanagawa silk, homage to Hokusai and his wood block prints. The shirt is one of ours featuring a swiss cotton marcella bib. The pochette is Charvet which I bought from Richard's in Connecticut on the day of the wedding.

As we get older the incentive to dress more elegantly is in the fact that your body doesn't look good in a hessian sack anymore, leave that for the 20 year olds. These days, a well spretzzed pochette, a hand-tied bow tie, a suit that hides some of your girth -  these are things that are will carry you when your knees won't....

I would be inclined now to change those words of Julie Andrews to something like:

Pink polka pochettes and silks of high fashion.
A blue suit that makes you look rather dashing,
Hand-tied bow ties that make your ensemble sing,
These are a few of of my favourite things!



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

We Are Known For Being Capable Of Taking Your Dreams And Turning Them Into A Reality – Jack Sepetjian Of Anto's Shirts In Beverly Hills

Final Scene – Pretty Woman

Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don't; but keep on dreamin' - this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin'.

There is something about Los Angeles that is breathtaking – as though the entire city was built in a reflexive manner between art and life that mirrors itself across time so that quite often you have to pinch yourself and check your own reality. I’d find living in Los Angeles to be a heady experience and I’d expect to get lost in it pretty quickly. I have the kind of bullshit that is a strong currency in the City Of Angels – countless stories on me to tell of tailors and tid bits on cloth production and weaving mills, of costume designers and production houses I’ve visited. I imagine that with my ten years of blogging behind me I could dine out on textiles like Dominick Dunne dined out on crime.
As you stand on the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard you just feel that Pretty Woman feeling – that this is America and anything might happen today. Back one street away and the façade, just like a movie set, is gone. It only takes one street to be away from the over-the-top and decadent building designs of Gucci or the modernist and clean whites of Tom Ford, flanked by perfect palm trees. And its there that you can find the lesser known backbone businesses. Ones that have been there for quite some time and it is there, on North Beverly Drive, that you will find one of the most interesting stores in Los Angeles, Anto Shirt.

An ouevre of work for film and television, for the real and the fictitious - the work of Anto's of Beverly Hills is plain to see in their showroom

Left Anthony, grandson, and right, Jack, son of Anto, the master shirt maker. 

The story of Anto begins in Lebanon in 1955 when an Armenian named Anto Sepetjian began a career in making shirts. In those days, perhaps the art form of shirt making was less complex but it was a breeding ground for some of the best shirt makers in the world today. It was back then the Paris of the East. Civil war tore much of that apart and though he had a strong list of existing customers from Saudi’s to Lebanese parliamentarians, he gave it up and moved his family to Los Angeles in 1976.

At first, he occupied a space on the second floor of a building on the corner of Brighton Way and North Beverly Drive. The building was occupied by Beverly Hills Silks And Woolens – a business which is said to be one of those famous institutions that everybody in Hollywood used to use when making garments for movies. It was owned by a man called Herschensohn, and according to Jack Sepetjian, Anto’s son, this was how Anto got his break. Herschensohn, who had great contacts in Hollywood, began sending Anto customers to make shirts and soon his reputation became one of distinction.

The late Don Rickles has shirts made with Anto

Late in the seventies when Bo Derek was in hot demand post her raunchy movie ‘10’, it was said she came in to get measured for shirts and this was the turning point at which Anto and his shirts became synonymous with celebrity.

Today the business has an oeuvre of work behind them that includes heads of state, royalty, US Presidents and so on but it’s the work in both films and on film stars that have brought me here. It was an interview with Hollywood costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, a woman who is so accomplished in film costume design that I hung on her every word. When I questioned her where she went for a scalloped lilac shirt she put on Michael Douglas’ ‘Liberace’ in Behind The Candelabra, she said “I only trust Anto’s in Beverly Hills. “



A lovely evening shirt which I had really coveted whilst visiting though I was surprised that the store had more or less only pre-tied bow ties.... 

For a small store on North Beverly Drive, it is a very unassuming place to find a shirt maker of distinction and of potentially more importance than a Parisian institution like Charvet. Mostly because if were to watch a film with a character who wore shirts from Charvet, chances are it would be made at Anto’s workroom in Sherman Oaks, California and not at Charvet.
Coming back to my original remark about the reflexivity about Los Angeles, here to is an example of that working and breathing reflexivity. Michael Douglas’ patterns are on file in Anto’s factory which used to be a bank and contains a large vault. Inside that vault are over 12000 patterns of some of the world’s most revered actors and all the characters that they will most likely play in films, from Presidents to poets. So, when Michael Douglas plays Liberace, his shirt pattern is in the vault at Anto’s. They tweak it, find the fabrics required and voila, he’s ready to play his role. But when Michael Douglas is ready to get married to Catherine Zeta Jones – he’s once again calling up Anto’s – this time to make his pattern as a dinner shirt.

Cuff details and collars which were both exciting and innovative in construction. I would have loved to have had them make me a shirt if I had more time.

And Anto’s responds. In the case of Douglas’ dinner shirt, Ellen Mirojnick who got Douglas ready called Anto’s a day out from the wedding. Douglas’ wedding shirt wasn’t right, could they make him another one that same day and send it Fedex to New York over night? And Anto’s will oblige, because managing customers, especially Hollywood types, is what keeps them in business.

All patterns are still made in cardboard despite the team owning plotters and printers and CAD drawings systems. Jack says the company still runs better with cardboard patterns and they have over 12000 stored in a bank vault in their factory (which used to be a bank)

When you walk into the long oblong shape showroom you are struck by a few things. Firstly, there is little fanfare – it really is predominantly about shirts. There are a sprinkle of pre-tied bow ties (I hope to change that one day soon) and some nice but not exactly show stopping neck ties. But then you see a wall of whites and then columns of colours and sprinkled between them all are Hollywood styled signed portraits all thanking Anto’s for turning their dreams into realities. There’s Don Rickles (may his memory be eternal) smiling back at you from the wall in a tuxedo and over-sized bow tie, Will Ferrell has a funny sort of crazed look on his face, Russell Crowe looks like he’s ready to fight around the world, Brad Pitt is covering his mouth, Matt Damon is in mid conversation with George Clooney, Jeremy Irons looks stunned, the Rat Pack are all laughing, Kirk Douglas, Steve Martin, Robert Deniro, Ronald Reagan and Frank Sinatra all smiling and signed thanking Anto for his service.

Cuff details

These days much of that one -to-one relationship between the shirt maker and customer is becoming eroded by the rise of the ‘stylist’ who becomes the go between celebrity and maker but to this day Anto’s enjoys consistent business from a loyal celebrity database and the reason is simple – they can make a shirt from start to finish on a pattern they develop in a factory that is located in the same city. Brands like Gucci and Tom Ford cannot offer such a service and since celebrities like things just the way they want them, Anto’s still thrives.

Not two weeks earlier they had completed 50 shirts for Tom Cruise for the premiere of his new movie as he travelled around the globe to release it. Of Tom Cruise they said that the bulk of his shirts were the same cut all in subtle shades of navy.

For films they draw upon shirt collars and cuffs that date back to the 1800’s and more recently they recreated a bespoke Hawaiian styled shirt for Ryan Gosling in La La Land as well as Deniro's shirt as he played Bernie Madoff. Every time they make a shirt it is still made from a cardboard pattern, the cloth cut by hand, sewed by a single needle plain sewer via seamstresses at their Sherman Oaks factory.

When we had finished our meeting, I was ready to be measured for a shirt but an old friend from Sydney had arrived to pick me up. At $375 as a starting price for a bespoke shirt I thought it quite reasonable and I was quite enamoured with one of the more beautiful dinner shirts in the window. Pressed for time I had to let it go, we were due to take lunch around the corner. I took a photo outside the Beverly Wilshire with a chap that was dressed in green and whose job it was to be friendly and give directions. I was wearing my Oz t-shirt, it was gold and green, shiny and new, designed after the staff who take care of Dorothy when she gets to the Emerald City. It could not have been a more appropriate shirt to wear.
We sat down to lunch and watched men and women struntz the promenade with fatted lips, coiffed hair, three piece suits, dangling jewels. It was all here, on show, a movie in the making. Ruby pointed out a woman in the distance “she was on Melrose place, do you remember the one with the drinking problem” .

Some words sounded in my mind “Keep on dreamin' - this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin'.”

Cuff details

Find out more or shop Anto shirts ready to wear range here


https://www.antoshirt.com/

Sunday, May 28, 2017

More Portraits Please !

I love a good portrait sent in to us and this one is particularly wonderful. The subject is Peter Harris and he is wearing a lilac Le Noeud Papillon custom made shirt with one of our red lapel roses and a silk yuzen bow tie he purchased a month ago from us. One of the most alluring of the yuzen silks so far. Our customers are not just our customers anymore, not for the long term ones anyway. I have come to know them as friends because we exchange ideas like friends, we keep in contact like friends and we admire one another like friends do. 

Peter introduced me to the jazz musician Ute Lemper, he has given me quite a number of ideas for silks, for blog content and for my business. I can remember the first time I met him outside my store, he was impeccably dressed, so well spoken and mildly mannered. 

His jacket was a new linen silk commission from Ede and Ravenscroft and I think he did well not to use a pochette. The bow tie and silk lapel flower are more than enough and the use of solids to allow the bow tie to be the centre point of one's focus is a crafty bit of menswear. The bow is, owing to the Japanese artisans that made the silk, a work of art, and a work of art always is best supported by a border that complements rather than competes with the art.

Please, if you have a smashing photo wearing one of our bow ties, we'd love to see it.

Regards,
LNP.

It Was All A Dream

When Australians travel it takes a long time to get anywhere and in between you and your destination is this kind of in-between world of aircraft travel - of lights on and the rumble of jets, the serving of a meal, the pop of the first valium, then a groggy toilet run, a movie, back to sleep, lights off, shutters down, a snack, a glass of water, shades up, rubbery omelette and mushrooms and then the hellish nightmare of negotiating an airport at the other side. It reminds me of the slumbering in-between worlds in the Narnia chronicles but with some Nightmare on Elm Street added in for good measure.

You do your best to function at the other end but clearly you are not quite in your old world and not quite in the new.

My hotel in Los Angeles was delightful but I wasn't able to check into my room until 3pm and so I took a shower next to the bungalows and waited to be picked up to take my friend's dog for a walk and a frisbee. The dog was a Australian sheep dog, a ginger kelpie dog but for the moment I have forgotten it's name. But a beautiful dog, a beautiful coat. We played on a patch of wet grass underneath the Hollywood sign on a water reserve that seemed to be frequented by locals on one side and tourists on the other. I had arrived in a daze and yet somehow I had to pull through for an afternoon at the Soho House in Malibu. My friend was playing music there. I had a dinner back in West Hollywood at 8pm. I was in a new city, one which I hadn't visited since I was seven years old and one which I came to detest based mostly on the opinion of Woody Allen in Annie Hall, not through my own experience.

Yet as I drove around I felt this city was charming the pants off me. The flora was enchanting, jacarandas and bougainvillea, palm trees and cacti - all neatly organised to show off these wonderful houses which all looked so perfect and pretty. We moved from West Hollywood through Beverley Hills, then passed UCLA and Brentwood. I got caught up in the romance. I was having flash backs of Ford Fairlane, All Of Me, The Big Lebowski, 21 Jump Street, Booker, The Big Sleep, La La Land and every other influential bit of Los Angeles culture we'd come to absorb through the natural osmosis of television and cinema.

By the time I got to dinner I was just about a train wreck so I used a small nap, then meditation and alcohol to get me back into full swing and we went to some restaurant with some old friends at a place called Cecconi's in West Hollywood but not before taking some typical selfies in front of the Chateau. I returned to my hotel late that same night before trading my bow tie to see a woman take her top off at the bar, her gay friend egging her on. I popped a valium to help me sleep but it had the effect of making me realise I was human, that my body could only cope with so much stress, air travel, a full day in a new city, a big dinner and drinks - I was alone in a hotel where John Belushi died - what a sad death that would be - on your first night in a new city.

I was so happy when I awoke the next day. I was honestly surprised and I made myself a promise to calm down and get my head straight and focused on the trip ahead. I had to meet up with the family that ran Anto's shirts in Beverley Hills, and I was trying to line up an appointment with Cameron Silver from Decades in Melrose. I soaked in Venice and Abbot Kinney at some point, stood in a line for an organic coffee which seemed to take forever whilst a bunch of dudes who looked like they would otherwise be unemployable made absolutely no attempt to any kind of tempo.

The truth is we Australians live in these kinds of a rambling daze from the moment we step onto an aircraft until the moment we get home. And even now, still recovering from jet lag, I am wondering it it indeed all happened or whether it was all just some kind a dream.

One such evening was on a Monday night after returning from a wedding in Connecticut where I was fortunate to enough to have been invited and also to have made the bows for the wedding party. With the wedding all done and dusted I returned to New York to have my suit pressed and ready to meet a group of contemporaries at a bar of the choosing of Mr. James Andrew, blogger extraordinaire, one of the few who responded early on in the piece when I tried to get some international attention for our bow ties. We'd never met - that strange relationship you can have with someone on the internet - you talk but you don't really talk. You chat on whatsapp. You say hello at Christmas, add each other on Facebook - but you don't really know each other.

I had a certain nervousness. Not only was I meeting someone who had become a sort of modern day pen pal, but he was bringing along Scott McBee, his partner, as well as The Snob Report, The Italian Gent and The Style Professor. It was quite amusing, to meet all these handles as human beings.

It was a great night exchanging all sorts of ideas talking about who wore what and what bunches and which tailor and how much did they pay etc etc. It was just so nice to catch up with people who had an interest in the same things and who were genuinely interested in their clothes and not from a labels perspective, but from a make, construction, cloth, cut, texture, aesthetic perspective. We moved on from drinks to have pasta together at a local Italian restaurant, taking up one of their private dining rooms before we all disbanded without dessert. It was my last night in New York, my last night in the United States. You arrive in a daze, you scramble along each day, before you know if you have the moment you have been waiting for, the soiree you have been communicating about for weeks. Then poof, it's over, the moment is gone, nothing remains but a few digital images on an Instagram wall and some credit card slips you have stowed in your suitcase.

I sincerely thank those few that came for drinks. It was just so nice to meet you all and talk like human beings were designed to do.


The Rotunda at the Pierre


Left to right; The Style Professor, Scott McBee, The Italian Gent, The Snob Report (farthest back) , James Andrew and myself. 


I wore a Yuzen silk bow tie, Hermes pocket square and a royal blue barathea wool by Barrington Fabrics made by Leng Bespoke of Sydney. The shirt is a Le Noeud Papillon custom made shirt using SIC Tess fabric.  



Monday, May 1, 2017

A New Custom Backgammon Board For A Le Noeud Papillon Customer - Made By Geoffrey Parker In England


It is a very rare occasion that I am asked by a patron to make a backgammon board and it is such a privilege to see the result when it's finished. There was a lot of to and fro on this particular board with the end users wanting a board which was thematically in tune with their day harbour cruising boat. The logo and the name of the boat, which included a lyre, which pays homage to Orpheus, a passenger on Jason and the Argonauts boat, who plays music to subdue the sirens, needed to work in without cluttering the board. The story is better told by Wikipedia

Chiron had told Jason that without the aid of Orpheus, the Argonauts would never be able to pass the Sirens—the same Sirens encountered by Odysseus in Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. The Sirens lived on three small, rocky islands called Sirenum scopuli and sang beautiful songs that enticed sailors to come to them, which resulted in the crashing of their ship into the islands. When Orpheus heard their voices, he drew his lyre and played music that was more beautiful and louder, drowning out the Sirens' bewitching songs.

The embossing stamp was used on the cups, on the doubling cube and inside the right hand side pockets. 

If you would like Le Noeud Papillon to help craft you your ultimate backgammon board or poker set, do not hesitate to contact us on www.lenoeudpapillon.com






Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Interview: Dominic Sebag Montefiore - Creative Director Of Edward Sexton

The story of the Montefiores, as told by my underground informant Carlos Oppenheimer, began when Moses Montefiore, who made a fortune at an early age out of being the stock broker for Nathan Rothschild, began a life of philanthropy which still to this day benefits Jewish people all around the world. He died in 1885 leaving no 'known' children and bequeathed his estate to Joseph Sebag-Montefiore. 

The family, which by Oppenheimer's account is quite large, has never stopped striving to achieve and to contribute to British society and whilst the most famous living member is perhaps the historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore, whose documentaries (I've not read the books that form the basis of them sadly) are masterful tales on cities and empires, I recently noticed that another Sebag-Montefiore was putting his best foot forward at Edward Sexton.

Dominic Sebag-Montefiore (DSM) is the 'creative director' of Sexton these days, a title which, in a small tailoring outfit, doesn't really give the total picture. So I spoke with DSM a few weeks back to understand what his role is and from the angle of succession planning. Edward Sexton is now 70 and whilst he looks like a man who might chew his food well and live to 100, the tailoring business relies heavily on eyesight, shoulders, backs, joints and fingers. But finding the right younger blood to take up the slack is not easy, so there must be something rather promising in DSM for him to be chosen.

DSM is very proud of the Sexton history and intends to continue in that vein as Edward Sexton must inevitably wind back his role in the day to day operations. I asked him if he would take the business into a RTW line or expand it like some other more ubiquitous international brands we see today. He said he had no such expectation. Quality was paramount, so too was individual attention. DSM explained that whilst there may be a push in new directions and an expansion of existing services, he had no intention of Edward Sexton turning into a Giorgio Armani or a Ralph Lauren.

I think this is noble and exceptional. Here is DSM in his own words. 

Dominic, you have said that you would never want Edward Sexton as a brand to become a global behemoth in order to protect the quality and integrity of the brand, but could you see the style of Sexton ever being offered in RTW in perhaps the same way that Cifonelli has taken it’s creative and technical skills of tailoring into department stores?

We are proud of the Sexton signature look and want to help people who like what we do enjoy great clothes, beautifully made and a sensible price. We are keen to expand our offering, but at the end of the day we are a tailoring brand and that is at the heart of everything we do. Growth is a great thing but we do not want to get too far away from what we do so well.






The Sexton look is something which I myself have recreated but not to the same technical expertise and without a clear understanding of exactly what it was that I thought defined it. In my opinion, the look is defined by a slightly dipped and then clearly defined roped shoulder, generous peaked or notched lapels which extend near to the chest seams, a double-breasted front as preference, darker tones in blues, a cuffed trouser with pleat and a respect for the drape of fabric. Could you tell me in your words if I am right or correct me where I am wrong?



As what we do is bespoke we treat each customer individually and for that reason our house style is somewhat shifting, and over time our tastes change so we don't favour one thing over another. For example, recently we have been steering some of our more stylish clients to wider leg trousers with17”- 19” bottoms and full pleats, or even Hollywood tops on casual trousers. Shoulders have been moving from square to more pagoda shaped. But what I can say is we like a strong shoulder with constructed chest - with drape. We prefer a roped sleeve head and lapels that are long, low and leafy.

Dominic Sebag-Montefiore left with Edward Sexton right. 




I have always found that with sweeping lapels you require a higher collar stand on your shirt and I notice that you have often high collar stand peaked collars on your website with tie pins through them. Is this the only sort of collar you suggest that marries with the style of suit you make or are there others?

We are big fans of the peak collar as it works well for a formal Sexton look with our broad lapels, but it is not the only option. When choosing a shirt collar (and in-fact tie width and knot) you should consider the length and width of your neck in proportion to your shoulders and chest. That said the pin (and tab) collar can echo the sweep of our peek lapels elegantly and resonate with the 1920s reference of them.



The turtle neck sweater with an ES suit is a wonderful look. In Australia, however, the weather does not permit most men in major cities to wear a turtle neck to work because in the middle of the day, even in winter, temperatures can get quite hot. Can you tell me what you might recommend for Australian men as some light weight alternatives to a turtle neck that might give them a chic way to dress more casually with a suit during the week?


This is difficult because for me this is a classic winter look there are some good fine gage knitwear about with a high percentage of silk in which may wear cooler. If it is for more casual wear we have clients who wear their suits well with an elegant polo shirt or a nice quality t-shirt. A Breton stripe can be a good casual option. For t-shirts, something with a little line can add at bit of texture and make it drape in a way that lends itself more to summer tailoring than cotton. We also have some more flamboyant clients who will wear a soft silk shirt with the collar unfastened with their jackets.




Post Tom Ford and the spread of new MTM programs the oversized peaked lapel suit became so ubiquitous thanks to social media that it almost seemed like some chaps were flopping their lapel over their back before heading out for the evening (😊 ) . But this is not the Sexton way, and somehow your look has been persevered despite imitations. Can you explain what it is that defines proportions for you that makes the quality of your work stand out and why some of those that imitate tend to look tacky and over-stated?

We approach what we do taking inspiration from 1920s and 30s. We look back but don’t stare. Edward is old enough to remember seeing the films from this era before these proportions were reimagined in the 1970s - Edward was one of those doing the reimagining. So, I think we approach what we do with a direct reference to the elegance and style of the 1930s and perhaps others are going via the flamboyance of the 1970s. Don’t forget a lot of our clients are elegant businessmen who exist in a conservative environment so for some of them what we do is pushing the boundaries too far.


Matin Freeman wearing Edward Sexton in The Rake Magazine

You mentioned that you were interested in taking the web business in a new direction. Can you tell our readers about the challenges that smaller companies face when tackling production of stock for websites and about the changing way brands like yourselves have to evolve and change with the times?


The most important thing for us is to find workshops and manufacturers who want to work with us, and to look after the relationships. If I must deal with a shirt maker, for example, I don’t want to spend all day sending litigious emails and hassling them about little details. I want to work with someone who is nice to talk to and fun to work with, someone who gets excited about our new projects and pays attention to detail so I can trust in them and learn from them. Don’t forget I am a tailor first and that is what I like to spend my time doing, so if the business side of the web shop is not pleasurable it will get dropped very quickly. Because we are quite a small shop now, we struggle with managing stock of our shirts and find that we can be out of stock quickly on styles if someone writes about them, and it can take a few months to replenish stock as to make the project commercially viable we have to order quite a few shirts in one go.






What is the greatest piece of tailoring wisdom that Edward Sexton has imparted upon your since you began working with him and what is the most important business wisdom he has explained to you about running a bespoke atelier?

There are two. 1. A faint heart never won a fair lady.  2. Always stick to your knitting.

We spoke briefly about you wearing Chelsea shoes with suits, something which I adore myself. Can you tell us about your shoe and suit collections at the moment and if you are working on any new commissions over the coming months?

My shoe collection, I have a lot, but my tastes have changed recently so I am not that happy about many of them. I am loving my new bitter chocolate monk straps. I am working on for my next suit a light beige flannel suit with Hollywood top trousers.

Bianca Jagger - an icon of style - wore sweeping peaked and notched lapels that were cut by Edward Sexton under the directorship of Tommy Nutter in what is now a golden age of suiting which saw the likes of Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Ringo Starr and many more all wear the Nutters look which has evolved into the modern Sexton look.
The genesis of the Sexton look derived from Edward Sexton's days as the head cutter for avant-garde and showman tailor Tommy Nutter who died of complications from AIDS in the early 1990's.

Edward Sexton's relationship to rock n roll continues even today and many musicians still count on him to create the right sweeping look to wear on stage.