Thursday, 26 November 2015

Wright Bower - bags made in Manchester, England

Manchester is rapidly rebuilding its heritage as a major centre of clothing and fashion manufacture and the establishment of a maker of high quality bags, Wright Bower, adds to this revival of the city's historic reputation. Using high quality leather, cotton canvas and hand-finished British hardwoods they produce designs which are different, yet practical and hard-wearing.

Wright Bower Duncliffe Ash

Wright Bower Birnam walnut

Michael Perviz, head of Wright Bower, describes himself as a 'manufacturer who designs' and this approach shows in his products. I've been using one for a few months now and have found their Birnam bag nicely thought out internally and bulletproof in design. An understated elegance makes it ideal for those who prefer their luggage unadorned with initials and logos. A tiny union flag quite rightly boasts its British provenance.

Grey Fox's Wright Bower Birnam bag

Wright Bower offer several different sizes and shape of bag and a range of wallets and billfolds. Ideal for Christmas, here's a truly British product, beautifully-made in Manchester. Bags £215 to £325, wallets and billfolds, £76 to £119. See Wright Bower to buy and to read about the team who brings you these quality products. See the video below for more.

This is a video promoting the hand crafted bags made by Manchester manufacturer Wright Bower. Fighting against the throw away society of cheap imports, Wright Bower products are fashioned from English bridle leather, hand finished textiles and English, slow grown Oak, Ask and Walnut.
Made in Manchester is the proud boast for this company, and perhaps we should all value a company that is still producing British goods that really are great.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Tweed coats for real men: Sarah Gilfillan's huge guide to big overcoats

Sarah is so good at digging out desirable menswear that I thought I'd invite her to write a guide to men's tweed overcoats. This was for a totally selfish purpose, of course. I'm hoping for one for Christmas and thought I'd simply pick from her choice. I'm dithering between two of the selection shown below.

Sarah Gilfillan writes: Tweed overcoats remind me of Italy and my granny; the former because I bought one back in the 80's when I lived on the Amalfi Coast, and the latter because my granny used to have a very hairy battered tweed coat that she'd wear for tea at The Ritz and to walk the dogs. 

This may not sound like quite the inspiration you're looking for on a menswear blog, but I've always had a penchant for wearing menswear inspired clothing and my granny's coat just proves how very versatile tweed is whether you're male or female. So if you haven't yet got a coat for winter, then may we suggest you take a look at tweed this season.

The most fashion forward amongst you will be opting for an oversized, long style with raglan sleeves with a 40's film star /80's rock star style to them (Grey Fox's preferred look) but for the more classic look there are plenty of single breasted straight knee length styles around and, as you'll see from the selection below, pretty much everything in between.

Oliver Spencer (above) - £459

Oliver Spencer is master of producing clothes that look like they already belong to someone and have that vintage feel. This coat is perfect for getting that "something I just threw on" super stylish look, and I love the unusual half belt cinch detailing at the back which lends it a slightly military slant. Click here.


Toast (above) - £545

The oversized herringbone pattern and slanted pockets make this coat just that extra bit special. It will look just as good over jeans as a 3 piece suit. For any one feeling especially generous this festive season, Grey Fox tells me that this is one of those on the list that he'll be sending to Father Christmas in a month or so! Click here.


Private White VC (above) - £895

How cosy and cool does this look?! Based on their traditional motor trench, Private White VC have combined all the trench detailing with modern elements to come up with a uniquely styled jacket. Shield yourself against biting winter winds with the cosy shearling collar kept in place with the adjustable throat tab. Click here.


Cordings (above) - £595

This is the daddy of Donegal tweed coats is it not?! Reassuringly long and heavy, it's also made in England which Grey Fox approves of (this is his other Christmas gift choice). Your offspring will benefit from it too, as according to their blurb, it'll last for generations. So for just £595, you'll not only have a fabulous tweed winter coat but an heirloom too. Click here.


E Tautz (above) - £1295

As we saw in the photo shoot Grey Fox and I did a few weeks ago, E Tautz opts for extreme shapes. This is certainly true of this dressing gown style extra long coat, but the softness and ease of wearing something like this is sure to win you over. This would be an ideal shape for a tall, large man with the simple detailing and wide lapels which would perfectly balance a big physique. Click here.


Dashing Tweeds (above) - £1450

This mohair and wool tweed raglan is made of the softest, most luxurious tweed you could ever imagine. Tailored in Dashing Tweed's own herringbone Donegal Tweed woven in Ireland, this coat is an all time classic. Lined in silk and with horn buttons, this is a modern, luxurious take on a traditional design. Click here.


M&S (above) - £199

You can always rely on M&S to come up with a good looking, traditional piece and this coat ticks all the boxes. If you find black and navy coats too dark and harsh  against your skin tone, then it's likely you'll find brown more forgiving and the check overlay softens it further, giving an elegant and refined look. Click here.


Folk - £450 

Folk always provide their customers with earthy, raw, natural fabrics which somehow still manage to look urban and contemporary. An ultra-simple silhouette on this coat lets the fabric take centre stage, and in this shorter length it'd be a great choice for a shorter guy. Click here.


Richard James - £875

Super chic and smart, I'm about to recommend this coat to a client of mine. The peak lapels are a great tool to use to widen the shoulders and the fitted shape gives a very sleek look. If you work in the city but like to stand out from the crowd then I'd definitely be trying this coat on if I were you. Click here.


Ami - £478.75

Having a coat with a great texture is the perfect way to add some variety to your wardrobe, if you tend to wear a lot of plain dark colours. This nubbly alpaca blend tweed coat would look perfect over a plain charcoal roll neck and slim black jeans for a cool 60's vibe. Click here.


J Crew - £595

An excellent coat from J Crew with raglan sleeves and an unstructured shape. The unlined nature of it means it would be an easy piece to layer over a suit or a denim jacket on the weekends with no risk of overheating then having a cumbersome coat to carry around. Click here.


Acne - £580

Acne's styling over on their website is of the "too cool for school" variety, but what I love is that they also produce some brilliantly wearable things like this coat. You can be assured that although it looks very classic it'll be cut in just the right way to give it a modern edge. Click here.


Johnstons of Elgin (above) - £450

[Grey Fox writes] Finally I'm going to add a final coat to Sarah's selection. This lambswool tweed overcoat is made in Johnstons of Elgin cloth woven in Scotland. Fully lined, it provides a sophisticated, stylish, tailored town or county look. Click here.


Styling a tweed coat is easy. Such a classic will go with anything from a business suit, through semi-casual jacket and chinos, to a roll-neck jumper and jeans. The most suitable footwear would be brogues, but boots, trainers, loafers, Converse and wellies all go well, showing the versatility of the tweed overcoat.

NOTE - We've received nothing from the brands mentioned above. Please mention us to suppliers if you buy. Thank you.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Check out checks for autumn and winter menswear

With winter's chilly grip arriving at last we need woven and knitted wool to keep us warm in the form of coats, suits, knitwear and trousers. And checks are the design of the moment. I collected these images from the AW15 shows earlier in the year. 

Geometric is the way to go. In addition to checked tailoring, try checked accessories: ties, socks, pocket squares, but go carefully if you want to mix checks. 

Mixing checks: how (L-R) Ralph Lauren, Nick Wooster and Tommy Nutter have done it

Mixing checks (for example herringbone or houndstooth with Prince of Wales checks) works well when the different checks are identical colours, or if individual elements of colour or pattern carry over between the designs, or by using different-scaled sizes of the same pattern.  Experimentation will suggest the best approach; if the result screams at you (or maybe your children or partner), try something different.

Finally, here's a wonderful Prince of Wales check coat in wool/nylon mix from Reiss for you to check out. Below you'll find links to other suppliers mentioned here.

Brands pictured above:
E Tautz
Turnbull & Asser
Ede & Ravenscroft
Margaret Howell
Tiger of Sweden
Joshua Kane
Lou Dalton

This post has not been sponsored by any of the brands mentioned.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Interview: Ally Bee Knitwear, made in the UK from British wool

Ally Bee makes scarves, gloves and armwarmers for men and women. They are made from wool from British alpacas and blue-faced Leicester sheep - grown, spun and knitted in the UK.  I spoke to Alison Baker, whose passion for her products and for ethical, sustainable production comes across very clearly on her website at Ally Bee. Read the interview below.

GF: Tell us something about your business and how long you've been going?

AB: Ally Bee Knitwear produces collections for men and women using natural fibre yarns grown, spun and knitted in Great Britain. The first Ally Bee collection was launched in October 2014. This was the culmination of nearly two years researching and testing British alpaca and wool yarns and making connections with suppliers who helped turn the concept into a reality. Alpaca yarns in the collection are spun in a small spinning mill in Dorset from the annual clip from flocks reared in the region. A small supply of Bluefaced Leicester yarn is sourced from Yorkshire. Ally Bee collections are designed in London and crafted in a small knitwear factory in Hawick in the Scottish Borders, mostly on manually operated knitwear machines machines - the ‘old school’ way, continuing a long heritage of skilled knitwear manufacturing.

GF: What is your background and why did you end up in the luxury knitwear market?

AB: My background is in the law, so setting up a fashion label was a leap of faith, into the unknown. Several years back law [training] contracts were a bit hard to come by and I took an opportunity to sell alpaca knitwear for a Peruvian company. I was no good at this at all - but it gave me the simple idea to develop a small, high-end knitwear collection from the fleece of the alpacas reared in the UK. When I discovered both the quality and sustainability of this local fibre, my idea quickly turned into a passion and that is when my real journey into fashion began. 

I saw British alpaca’s potential as an alternative to the imported cashmere and merino fibre so ubiquitous across the spectrum of knitwear. All British - from fleece to fine finish - is a natural alternative, there are zero-airmiles in production, it supports skilled local production and the UK’s fine heritage of knitwear manufacturing.

GF: What influences the designs of your knitwear?

AB: When I design the Ally Bee collection with my knitwear designer we seek to develop pieces that are beautiful, understated and useful. I am influenced by a need for comfort, practicality and longevity in what I make. The alpaca arm warmers, for example, are very soft but remarkably durable - they make a great glove for cycling in all weathers, and seem to get softer with each wash. I design with timeless style in mind because I want Ally Bee to be worn often, and well beyond one season. The natural, undyed colour shades possible with alpaca fits perfectly with this notion and I do not want to be constantly chasing seasonal colour trends. I am firmly of the opinion that we should buy well, and buy less.

GF: How do you see that the menswear and womenswear collections will develop in future?

AB: I see both the men's and women's collection evolving rather than radically altering each season. Menswear launched this season with as a small accessories line and I am currently sampling a mens alpaca sweater in several colourways for next Autumn/Winter to build on this, along with several scarves to add to the collection. The styles most popular with my customers will continue, adding a colourway or tweaking a design element each season.

I love working with alpaca yarn in knitwear - despite it being technical and requiring time, patience and love in yarn production and knitwear sampling. For the timebeing there will be only Autumn/Winter collections in mens and womenswear but I have launched a homewares line recently and this will be perennial. Knitwear and the idea of ‘slow’ fashion marry well!

In the future I am also open to design and marketing collaborations on alpaca knitwear collections with other designers and brands who share a similar design and sustainability ethos.

NOTE: Ally Bee's photoshoot above also used products from surf and outdoor brand, Finisterre, who also use British-produced yarns for some of their products. See, for example, their Bowmont jumper here.

Monday, 16 November 2015

The House of Fraser Christmas advert (and a short appearance by Grey Fox)

Just released is the House of Fraser Christmas advertisement. The theme is 'Your Christmas, Your Rules'; in other words, you celebrate as you want to. They kindly asked me to take part. I was a tiny cog in a huge and highly impressive machine. The dancers, crew, producers etc were all supremely professional and I enjoyed every moment of the two part days I was on set and watching the production being made.

I'm biased of course, but this is the best of this year's Christmas adverts. Enjoy it:

To read more about how and who, see The Daily Mail here.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Ten reasons to wear a roll neck this winter

The roll neck, polo neck, turtle neck jumper sometimes gets a bad press. Don't let that put you off. As can be seen from this surprisingly contemporary-looking image of Michael Caine, it's a classic that has never really gone away. Here are ten images to inspire you to wear one this winter. For suppliers see the end of the post.

Michael Caine - a shot that could have been taken in 2015

How a roll neck can look good

From soft, fine cashmere to thick, chunky knit, the roll neck can be worn with everything from formal evening wear, through blazers, tweed jackets, bombers and suits to waxed jackets and anoraks for windblown walks across the moor. Best of all, they save ironing shirts, as a luxurious cashmere or merino roll neck can be worn with or without a simple base layer in place of a shirt in colder weather.

Grey Fox wears an N. Peal cashmere roll neck, as worn in the Bond film, Spectre. Image Nick Maroudias

You get what you pay for in terms of quality and durability with knitwear. Here are a few suppliers of roll neck jumpers of varying styles and materials and at various price points (if the link doesn't take you direct to a polo neck, search the site for what you want):

Johnstons of Elgin
N.Peal mens collection
John Smedley [Thanks to a reader for prompting me to include this great maker of knitwear]

Friday, 13 November 2015

Is the menswear industry overlooking an affluent market; the older man?

Like many men over forty I've found that choosing suitable clothes can be difficult. I don’t want skinny cuts and low waistbands, nor do I want the shapeless designs so often sold on our high streets and online. What I’m looking for is stylish, well-made, properly-fitting clothes that enable me to reflect my personality.

Such clothes exist, but they have to be searched for. Brands in general don’t advertise to the older man. When did you last see a menswear advert featuring a model over 25 years of age? I’m not talking about the folksy older models used to sell boxy tweed jackets and corduroy trousers in Sunday papers, I mean cool, stylish older men used in a non-patronising way to sell quality menswear.

Image from Men in this Town image by Joshua Lawrence

The failure to try to sell to older men can mean we don't buy. Unfortunately, we often give up on style after 40. As we we no longer have to compete for jobs, love, a partner, the need to look good is less pressing. Furthermore, the absence of inspiration and role models showing how well we could dress does nothing to encourage us. The clothing industry seems to have given up on us and the rarity of older men in fashion advertising is symptomatic of the problem.

Image: The Sartorialist from The Sartorialist X

I’d like to see the menswear industry wake up to the fact that the older man is the most affluent and fastest-growing demographic. Retailers are losing money by failing to market themselves effectively to us. If they sell to the older man, we will buy.

I wanted to show that older men are interested in style and to encourage others to explore the possibilities. I decided, with some reluctance, to start showing images on the blog of myself wearing clothes I like. This has snowballed recently and I’ve arranged or been invited to take part in a number of photo-shoots (see, for example, the image below of a Marks & Spencer photoshoot).

If this encourages other older men to look again at their wardrobes and to recognise the power and importance of dressing well, I will be a happy man. If it encourages menswear brands to use images of older men in their sales and marketing, I will be even happier.

Grey Fox in a collaboration with Marks & Spencer

I first wrote a version of this article for Men's Style Fashion and have adapted it for this post.