Sunday, February 28, 2010

The return of two Savile Row natives: E. Tautz & Bernard Weatherill

In 2009, Patrick Grant at Norton & Sons relaunched E. Tautz and is already into his third season of the relaunched brand as a RTW offering. Fellow blogger StyleSalvage covered the Autumn/Winter 2010 collection of Tautz.

The second return is more of a "soft" relaunch for Bernard Weatherill as Kilgour acquired this slumbering Savile Row native quite some time ago. The other week I received an email announcing that Kilgour's RTW store at No. 5 Savile Row is closing for refurbishment during May. The store will be relaunched under the name of Bernard Weatherill, long associated with equestrian and country attire. The new brand will apparently offer both bespoke and RTW clothing.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Alfred Sargent trunkshow: The new Handgrade line

Chay Cooper, the manager of the Alfred Sargent factory, has been in New York City during this week of wintery weather. If you were able to make it past the slush and snow, you were in for a treat. If you missed the trunk show, read on.

Alfred Sargent is rolling out its new Handgrade line of ready-to-wear shoes made in its Northamptonshire UK factory, which employs some 80 workers. Chay was given the go ahead by Paul and Andrew Sargent, great-grandsons of the founder, to design and launch this noteworthy new line of shoes. He's spent almost two decades working at Alfred Sargent and has played a key role in designing and producing the Handgrade line.

Alfred Sargent Handgrade

For those used to buying John Lobb or Gaziano & Girling, you might be familiar with A&S's previous shoe offerings made for other brands and wonder what the fuss is about. Simply put, the new Handgrade line is made to an impressively high standard and displays an unusual level of thoughtfulness in design, aesthetics and functionality starting with the last all the way to the shoebox (more on that later).

There are eight new Handgrade models ranging from slip on loafers to whole cuts based on three brand new lasts – almond shaped (AS19), soft square (AS48) and square (AS53). Despite the different toe shapes, the lasts are essentially interchangeable from the perspective of fit. So if you fit one of the lasts in a certain size and width, you should be able to fit in the same size and width in the other two lasts.

Alfred Sargent Handgrade

The introductory pricing is 450 GBP (inclusive of VAT). What you get for the 450 GBP is a host of thoughtful details, the sum of which I believe is unique at this price point: a bevelled edge (instead of the typical straight edge) along the sole, bevelling and shaping along the sole, a fiddleback waist, a three-layer set of nails instead of steel toe taps and the inner sock and liner in the same color or finish as the upper.

Each pair comes in an oversized box that has been intelligently redesigned so that each shoe sits on its sole (instead of its side) in its own subcompartment. At the front of the box is a leather pull, which allows the box compartment to be pulled out like a drawer. This is useful if you store and stack your shoeboxes and need to access them without pulling them off of each other and taking the lids off. It's remarkable that no one else has thought of doing this. And each shoebox is made by hand.

Finally, for an upcharge, AS can do a made-to-order variation of virtually any of their RTW models. If you have been pondering a move to high quality English handgrade shoes, Alfred Sargent should be on your short list. They have reentered the high end men's shoe market with a remarkably good offering especially at this introductory price (i.e. which will increase at some point in the future).

Updated May 2010

Additional links
- AskAndy thread on new AS Handgrade line
- AskAndy thread with Handgrade shoe pictures

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Neapolitan suits and tailors in NYC

The juggernaut of interest in Neapolitan suits and jackets finally has been answered. Sensing unmet demand, visiting shirtmakers and tailors from Naples have now made it to New York City. Hopefully we have now reached market equilibrium, supply has met demand and satisfaction has been attained by the masses.

According to this Styleforum thread, you will now have access to Anna Matuozzo shirts (450-500 euros per shirt - gulp!), Gianni Volpe for suits and jackets and ties by Matuozzo and Cappelli in the accessible metropolis of New York City.

And don't forget Neapolitan trousermaker Ambrosi, also visiting NYC these days. Sartoria Pirozzi had been planning to visit NYC in 2008 though it is not clear if it ever happened.

At any rate, I should note that back in 2007 I did a write-up on Nedo Bellucci and the availability of Neapolitan suits and jackets in NYC. At the time, I think he was the only one with a NYC presence.

Additional links
- Styleforum thread with photos of a Solito suit
- Styleforum thread on Napoli su misura
- Sleevehead post on my 2008 Naples visit

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tailors of the past: Earl Benham

Mary, a Sleevehead reader, recently posted a comment, inquiring about Earl Benham, a New York tailor who has long since closed shop.

Earl Benham (Evening Independent Feb 6 1937)
Evening Independent (February 6, 1937)

Curious, I did a quick search online and read a bit more about him. As Mary points out in her comment, he operated in New York City for decades and last operated out of a Midtown shop on 53rd St. Benham seemed to attract clientele from the performing arts, movies and entertainment. You can see him standing on the left in the photo above dated 1937, wearing presumably one of his own creations - a fairly trim jacket with full cut trousers and slightly extended shoulders.

Earl Benham dk blue suit (Ernie Kovacs Oct 1957)
Heritage Auctions June 2009

Above is a photo from the auction house Heritage Auctions featuring items of the 1950s comedian Ernie Kovacs. Among items from Benham, Kovacs also owned tailored items from the Savile Row tailor Dege (prior to merging with Skinner) and L.R. Ermilio of Philadelphia. Another customer was the classical music conductor Alfred Wallenstein, whose bill from Benham can be seen (purchased if you're so inclined).

Additional links
- Earl Benham on vests

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Danish levity and gravitas: Have white shirt and red tie, will make nothing of it

This is a bit of a thread resurrection from last year but instructive. Every once in awhile a new member introduces himself to the Styleforum or AskAndy by creating a new thread and posting a couple of pictures. More often than not, the results can be fairly entertaining and informative. This is the Styleforum debut of a well-dressed fellow from Denmark who goes by the moniker "Butler".

Butler's style is substantive, natural and unforced. He's perhaps one of the closest living examples of the 1930s Apparel Arts aesthetic that I've seen. For comparison, see this Styleforum thread for scans of the Fall 1936 edition. He subscribes to the school of thought which doesn't mind going to a couple of tailors. I find this is a philosophy that is very sensible for certain men. For his winter wardrobe, Butler uses Steven Hitchcock in London and for his summer wardrobe he prefers A. Caraceni on via Fatebenefratelli in Milan.

But his style, interestingly enough, doesn't start and end with his clothes. Unfortunately, the early criticism that Butler receives does. Hmm, perhaps something is rotten with the state of our sartorial criticism? The early comments in the thread are a bit misguided because they focus on the details rather than the fellow himself, his life, his work, his interests and his outlook. There is no balancing done mentally and aesthetically between the whole and the parts. Of course, an egregious error in wardrobe detail should cost something in our esteem but I think the rest of Butler's style more than outweighs his particular choices in shirts and ties.

As he discloses more information about himself, it becomes clear that the way he dresses is a corollary, an adjunct to the life he is leading. This is as should it be. But in these monodimensional threads we start and end with the person's clothes. A better and more interesting journey is to start with the clothes with a view toward the person behind the clothes. Or perhaps even vice versa - start with the person and end casually on the clothes.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Not feeling creative?: Let's blame the suits

There is a common belief that wearing suits is somehow antithetical to creativity and originality. From C-level executives to hedge fund masters of the universe, this belief reigns supreme. Gerald Levin, architect of one of the biggest merger failures in business history (AOL Time Warner) comments:

What most people don’t recall is that I had stopped wearing a tie and jacket for quite some time. Once we had a music company in our building, I thought it was a constraint to wear a tie and jacket, so it wasn’t planned but it was kind of a refreshing symbol.

So let's add design, publishing and music industries to the list of industries that have evolved to become anti-suit and jacket. Given the dismal state of the music industry (and the continuing doldrums of the movie business), it's tempting to say these industries might need an injection of more suits not less.

It's time to put an end, once and for all, to the peculiarly modern notion that wearing a suit is a burden, a blight upon imagination and creativity. It's simply a fallacy that suits constrain the intellectual and creative energies of the wearer.

the beatles mod suits

Almost every "innovator", performer or artist in a given field has seen fit to wear a suit or a jacket and tie. Pick your most admired creative artist or musician. Hmm, how about The Killers, The Beatles, Vincent Van Gogh for starters?

the killers

Vincent van Gogh

At the very worst, suits are benign accessories. They do no harm. At their very best, they add a touch of purpose and verve to the creative dimension of any profession.