Thursday, August 31, 2006

London trip

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote about what one should do on a hypothetical trip to London. Now for a brief report on my actual trip last month. I stayed in Mayfair and did quite a bit of walking along Conduit, Regent, Piccadilly, Burlington Arcade and Jermyn Streets.

Gieves & Hawkes

Anderson & Sheppard

Here's a list of shops I visited or window shopped:
  • Shoes: John Lobb St. James, Edward Green, Cleverley, Foster & Son, Crockett & Jones, Church's, Trickers, Berluti, Cheaney
  • Shirts: Ede & Ravenscroft, Budd, Turnbull & Asser, New & Lingwood
  • Tailors: Kilgour, Anderson & Sheppard, Henry Poole, Dege & Skinner, Gieves & Hawkes, Huntsman, Meyer Mortimer, Jones Chalk & Dawson, Rubinacci
  • Accessories: Lock's, Swaine Adeney Brigg
  • Outerwear: Cordings
I noticed the English certainly like their pyjamas and gowns (e.g. Cordings, Budd window displays). Around 6pm one day I was in front of Anderson & Sheppard and noticed a couple of sewers in the basement working on their respective jackets.

John Lobb storefront

I also had a long chat with a nice fellow at Foster & Son, which is the subject of recent StyleForum thread.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The subjective fallacy of clothing

There is I think a common fallacy about clothing. Most men (and women for that matter) dress to please themselves or to please other people. This quote from Epictetus in Richard Torregrassa's new style book, Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style, illustrates a rather more compelling take on clothing:

Know first who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.

In other words, your character and identity should inform your external accoutrements. I think most men do exactly the opposite (e.g. feel better about themselves through fine clothing). Or, they dispense with the first part of Epictetus' advice entirely (e.g. dress without reference to character or dress principally to "impress" persons of interest).

Why is this point important? Because your character and identity are rooted in principles, concepts and ideas that are external to you. To put it simply, the question is whether you relate yourself to something greater than yourself or is everything just about yourself?

Cary Grant I think epitomizes what Epictetus admonishes us to do. CG displays an admirable consistency of the interior and exterior that I wrote in my very first blog entry. True style is a principle of consistency rather than the pursuit of fashionable conceit.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A modest proposal: the archives of men's tailoring

I've recently wondered about the rather haphazard legacy of bespoke garments (suits, shoes and the like) and the unfortunate manner of their disposal, often in auctions to the highest bidder. The garments live on in the private collections of aficionados but their power to inspire and enlighten remain hidden to the public eye.

Then a curious idea of preservation settled into my head. Why not create a public archive and museum of men's tailoring? We learn in economics of the principle of supply and demand. How is supply and demand satisfied here? By definition, bespoke is fitted for the owner in question and may often be unsuitable for direct bequesting to family members. Hence, I would imagine that owners of bespoke garments could select and donate at least one ensemble, provide documentation of provenance and a personalized story (or stories) of commissioning and wearing said ensemble.

It would be a fascinating collection I think. This goes to the demand question. There is much to learn about men's clothing but very few places of sartorial learning. There are several thousand members of men's clothing discussion fora. They would be the target market, as well as students, trade professionals and researchers.

Our tailoring archive would be modeled after public libraries, which emphasize easy access, and research archives, which cater to serious researchers in the field. We would offer books and written materials on the technical field of tailoring, history of men's clothing and, of course, notable commentaries and creative works (film, documentaries) on the subject.

Perhaps most distinctively, in lieu of a reading room, we would offer a "fitting room" where selected garments would be available for close inspection.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Artisanal excellence: UK and Japan

Cottage industries have an economic stickiness in the factors of production, particularly in the supply of trained artisans. As a result, they tend to form organically and are difficult replicate (e.g. Savile Row for bespoke suits, Northampton for welted shoes).

However, there is an interesting case study of shoemaking excellence in one area (Northampton, England) being replicated and grown in another (Japan). Apparently a critical mass of Japanese cordwainers have returned from training in England to set up shop in Japan. The key driver of artisanal replicability appears to be the coexistence of a virtuous cycle of supply (trained artisans) and demand (discerning consumers).

This is discussed briefly in a StyleForum thread.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Self-diagnostic for dandies

I thought this AskAndy thread on dandies was rather funny.

I have been guilty of the following:

  • have to argue with store alterations about an 1/8th of an inch on the jacket sleeve.
  • add in extra time to your business trips in order to do some shopping at fine merchants, even if it means an inconvenient departure or arrival.