Saturday, 10 December 2016

Geoff Stocker Pocket Squares and Ties to Support Grey Fox Blog

The pocket squares and ties shown below were designed by Geoff Stocker and use #blogdog Harry as the model. It's this blog's fifth birthday this weekend and, to mark this, a proportion of the sale proceeds come to me to cover blog costs. Naturally, they are made in England of high quality silk and have hand-rolled edges.

Harry #blogdog

They come in a wide variety of colours (some are shown below) and are available here and here. Both Harry and I would appreciate your support by buying one for yourself or a friend for Christmas.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Holdall & Co Briefcase: Made in England & a Christmas Reader 15% Discount

It's about time I brought you up to date on Holdall & Co, whom I first featured on this blog on its early days and have mentioned occasionally since. Founded by Rai Navickaite, who received support from The Prince's Trust, it produces some of the best made leather folios, briefcases and accessories you'll find. Rai set out to educate herself on the complexities of leather working, trawled the country for manufacturers who would make the product to her high standards and, by her early twenties, was running her own business selling goods made in England.

Carrying a Holdall & Co brief case (image Jonathan Daniel Pryce/Holdall & Co)
14" Slimline Briefcase Black

I started out with one of Rai's folios; simple and plain, they hold documents with panache and without fuss. The development of the product has been slow and careful, as Rai is keen not to move far beyond her original concept of a basic but beautifully made leather bag. By the simple addition of a handle and shoulder strap (both optional items) she has retained the basic shape, but ended up with a briefcase (pictured above - available in various colours) with a slightly different function to the original folio (shown in red, below).

You know you own a classic piece: these will outlast most of their owners and the straightforward, robust and clean nature of their bridle leather design lifts them above the fussy and over-detailed quality of lesser brands.

Holdall & Co's clients can order bespoke pieces, selecting colours, choosing whether to have handles or straps, monogramming and pattern embossing or different sizes and styles. I've ordered a slightly deeper brief case to fit a blogging camera, and I'll report on that in due course. 

Holdall & Co offer a 15% discount for Grey Fox Blog readers; ideal for Christmas. Rai is also offering a free monogramming service (and free UK and international shipping for all orders over £50). To obtain the discount quote GreyFox at checkout. Click here to browse and buy.

Rai now kindly supports the blog by advertising here and, while I would feature her work on the blog whether she did so or not, I mention it here for total openness.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Chinos that Fit from The Savile Row Co.

Why is it that most off-the-peg trousers are total pants? They are the one area where I feel that I haven't been able to find the perfect fit since I started my search for style on this blog. Shirts, jackets, suits, socks: all fit fine. And, of course, bespoke and made-to-measure trousers. But off-the-peg trousers or chinos are often not quite right. Too fitting around the calf, nearly always too low in the waist (why? most shirts are too short, so how are we meant to keep them tucked in?), shapeless, too long, too short and so often too tight. If they do fit well, they can be eyewateringly expensive. I recently came across an exception at Savile Row Company. 

Available in classic and slim fit in navy and brown

I was given a pair of chinos by Savile Row Company. Based in Savile Row, the company has been family-owned since 1938. They sell a range of formal and smart-casual clothing as well as made to measure shirts online. As for the trousers, although inexpensive they fitted well, avoiding many of the shortcomings I've identified. 

I selected a pair with a flat front and a slim, but not tight, fit. Ostensibly non-iron, I haven't tested that claim yet, but the cloth is more robust than many chinos, so at £40 a pair (£70 for two). Several readers have asked me to mention more affordable clothes from time to time and I'm glad to have found something here that is good value. Savile Row Company.

This is a sponsored post.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A Blogger's Day - Timed by Seiko

As the blog approaches its fifth birthday I get busier and busier. The relaxed approach of the early days has been replaced with the need to meet schedules and deadlines and be on time for meetings. A good watch is essential. In this feature, sponsored by Seiko, I look at the place of a watch in my busy life and on a relaxing weekend in the country. 

Wearing a Seiko Premier watch at a meeting last week

I've been wearing a watch from the Seiko Premier collection for my work and a recent weekend away. It's been ideal for all outdoor activities: cycling and walking my dog Harry as well as social events such as lunch at a Michelin star restaurant and the more formal requirements of work. While not a sports watch, it makes an excellent all-round stylish and robust timepiece. Its slim shape makes it discreet and elegant.

Relaxing between meetings - a watch should be worn discreetly but elegantly

As a blogger writing about a search for style, a good-looking watch is essential. Simplicity and elegance of design are what I look for. Sadly so many watches are not well-designed and, even when very expensive, can look cheap. Style, proportion and classic good looks are certainly not the preserve of the expensive watch. Just as pricey watches can be ugly, so affordable watches can be attractive and well-made. 

A watch also needs to be practical. Legible, robust, accurate and easy to use. After all, a watch is a tool for telling the time, so function is as essential as good looks. The Seiko Premier collection fills these requirements in a busy life.

A weekend away - lunch at a Michelin star restaurant

Getting in the firewood during the weekend away

Seiko quartz Premier

Time for a walk

This post was sponsored by Seiko whose Premier range I was wearing. The collection is classic in style, using both quartz and mechanical movements. The watch I tried, pictured above, was on a well-made bracelet with understated looks, elegant blued hands and nicely-proportioned dial with Roman numerals. List price £299. See Seiko.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Wilson & Co: A British-Made Menswear Brand

At Best of Britannia this year I came across a recently launched brand, Wilson & Co. As they manufacture menswear in the UK, I wanted to introduce them to you as a young startup brand. I asked the founder, George Wilson, a few questions:

Please introduce yourself and the brand. How long have you been going? 

My Name is George Wilson, I am a graphic designer and I am the founder of Wilson & Co England. We are a brand that's dedicated to designing and manufacturing all of the collections in the UK. The brand idea has been in the works for around a year now but we officially launched on the 1st August 2016. 

How did you come to start up Wilson & Co? 

Around 4 years ago, when I was 18, I started designing a streetwear brand. This consisted of t-shirts, beanies, sweaters etc. But, after a few months of trying to get noticed, I realised that it was a very popular trend as I was getting at least 5 follows a day on social media off similar brands, so I parked the whole idea. Around a year later, I decided that if I was going to do something I wanted it to be worthwhile. The concept of Wilson & Co was born. With no knowledge of, or any education in fashion, I knew this would be a challenge but with pure passion and drive I learned everything about the process of designing clothes myself. Luckily enough I was able to design the logo and all of the branding myself and a couple of years later I launched the first collection.

Do you design the clothes? What is you aim in terms of style and types of product you offer? 

Every item in the first collection was designed by me. One of the main reasons I started the brand was for my love of clothes, so I base the collection on what I would like to wear. The whole aim of the brand is to provide quality men's clothing that is made in the UK. I stand by that and I will do everything I can to keep all of the manufacturing in the UK. I base the design's on traditional English fashion with contemporary twists, something that would appeal to men of all ages. Detail is a huge thing at Wilson & Co and I am a massive fan of small details that distinguish us as a brand. Our leather patch branding and pocket details are examples of this and I will continue to incorporate small details across items in the future.

What sort of man do you see wearing your clothes? 

I don't have a specific man in mind because the ethos of the brand is to appeal to men of all ages. I would say that they would have an interest in well made clothing and they like to stand out a bit, or favour items that differ from the norm. I love the idea of a younger man and older man both being able to wear the brand comfortably together. As Wilson & co progresses I would like to create a broader collection which will make it a lot more diverse, without compromising design or quality.

How would you describe you own style? 

I love to down-style with a pair of selvedge denim jeans, a pair of boots and an overshirt or work jacket. I also like to throw in a knitted jumper when its cold. I am definitely going to include similar items in future collections to make the brand more diverse. 

Where does Wilson & Co go next? 

I am currently designing the next collection for spring/summer next year. It is going to be bigger and better and we are launching a Kickstarter campaign after Christmas to help fund it. This will allow larger scale production and will also give me a budget for marketing and advertising which will really help get the brand out there. As Wilson & Co is only a few months old, there isn't anything too extravagant in the pipeline but with everyones support we can continue to grow and hopefully open a popup shop somewhere in London next summer. 

Visit Wilson & Co to browse and buy. For Grey Fox Blog readers there is an exclusive 15% discount with the code 'greyfoxblog15' at the checkout.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Aston Martin DB11: Grey Fox Drives a Grand Tourer of Style

Car reviews tend to be written by experts. They talk knowledgeably about torque, track width and turbo-lag, then film smoking doughnuts before returning the cars, tyres ruined, to the PR people. And that's how it should be; possibly. It certainly makes good TV and videos, but does it really tell a man what he wants from a car? I recently had the pleasure of driving an Aston Martin DB11 and I now know what I want.

Grey Fox and his Aston Martin DB11 - for the day

There is the dream, of course. The pleasure of owning something rare and precious. In reality a man knows what he likes, reads the occasional motoring magazine or blog and laughs with Clarkson as he drifts around airfields in impossibly powerful cars. Otherwise a car buyer like me probably doesn't really know how a modern car works or what makes it good. He just knows that he loves the pride of ownership, the urge as a car accelerates, the growl and thunder as he guns the engine and the insistent nudge of gravity as he corners hard. He also loves the sinuous lines of a beautiful motor car almost (of course) as much as he admires the body of his lover.

Nowadays, in terms of performance, the distinction between a pure sportscar and a grand tourer is blurred. The sportscar is still a stripped-out machine, saving weight by sacrificing comfort. But, unless you drive your car on a track, when will you really want to drive a car like that at its screaming limit? Far better to go for the grown-up option: the grand tourer.

The name GT is still redolent of idle saunters along the Corniche to Monaco, the scent of luxurious leather mingling with that of the roadside pines, the engine thrumming gently as a counterpoint to the sound of the cicadas. And British car manufacturers know best how to make GTs, as the glorious role of names such as Bentley, Bristol, Jaguar, Aston Martin and many others testify. Driven by gentlemen (cads drive sportscars) the GT hides its power under a cloak of elegance and luxury.

I recently drove an Aston Martin DB11 through the golden leaves of a Cotswold autumn. I don't think (well, I'm not totally sure, as its smooth progress at speed hides its pace) I drove the car at more than 60mph, but the style in which I did so, the supreme comfort and the ease with which it manoeuvred through the twisting lanes, the agility with which it held onto the leaf-strewn bends and the aural rewards as I accelerated onto the straights was an experience I'll not forget easily. And the sound is sensational, gentle when idling in GT mode and becoming progressively more strident in S and S+ modes, the engine note barking back off the yellow Cotswold limestone as we wound through the narrow lanes of the village to our hotel (sorry, residents of Painswick).

There are three kinds of male car buyer: the man who buys one to show off to his mates, the man who simply wants to experience the joys of owning a highly-engineered thing of beauty and (most of us) the man who comes somewhere between the two extremes, with the emphasis on the appreciation of an engineering masterpiece.

I also had the pleasure of seeing this masterpiece being crafted at Gaydon, Aston Martin's home. From the upholsterers cutting and sewing the leather upholstery to the delicate mating of chassis and running gear, the impression is of a hospital where pride and skills ooze from every phase of the manufacturing process. 

Speechless for once, I gaze in awe at a motoring masterpiece

The history of Aston Martin is fundamental. A huge graphic display of photographs greets the visitor which spans the hundred year history of the marque and a beautifully restored collection of cars underlines the racing and luxury heritage. From a very early Aston Martin Lagonda to James Bond's DB10, the tale is consistently one of quality and performance.

The Aston Martin DB11 is powered by a 5204 cc twin-turbo V12 engine producing 600 bhp. It has an 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox and accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds, reaching 200 mph. A 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine is being developed with Mercedes-AMG for future use in the DB11.

I was a guest of Aston Martin. We had lunch at Cowley Manor near Cheltenham and an overnight stay at Painswick Hotel, Gloucestershire, which I cannot recommend highly enough for a quiet Cotswold weekend.

Note: Jeremy Clarkson is on holiday :) :0

Friday, 2 December 2016

Christmas Gifts for Him or Her: A Grey Fox Guide

Christmas approaches with alarming speed and you're thinking about Christmas presents. Here are a few ideas for the man or woman in your life priced from under £20 to four figures:

Thomas Clipper Tuscan wash bag (below). Made from beautiful Italian leather, this bag will only improve with age. £149. 

Akhihiro Woodworks Jincup Urishi from Kinoko. Japanese handmade wooden cup from Kinoko (below). £125

SirPlus makes all manner of clothing in this country, some from the leftovers from other manufacturers. This grey marl submariner rollneck is a favourite of mine and is made in England from British wool. A snip at £85.

Pantherella personalised monogrammed socks (below). From £19.00:

Cravat Club Haruki pattern tie (below). £95:

Donhall & Bell, formerly Dapper England, make luxury footwear such as these bespoke Grey Fox slippers. Ideal as a gift, they also make sneakers. £190 - £395.

Hemingway Tailors bespoke shirt gift (below). Select a fabric and it will be sent with a voucher for a bespoke shirt fitting session (5% of revenue donated to Macmillan Cancer Support). From £250:

Bailey of Sheffield stainless steel cable bracelets and jewellery engineered in Sheffield (below). £various:

Mühle Glasshütte Terrasport IV GMT watch for travellers (below). From £1910:

Frances Nutt Hackney Empire silk scarf, made in Britain for men or women (below). From £220:

British Boxers men’s Hartington Royal Satin Stripe Pyjama Set. (For women too) £79.00 (below):

Penrose bow tie. Penrose make a good range of silk products (ties, squares, scarves) made in England's oldest silk mill, Vanners (below). See here for stockists. Bow tie £75: navy and tan driving gloves (below) £75.

Cravat Club Hidden Curiosities scarf (below) £160.

DR Harris Arlington cologne, from a range of largely British-made products at this 1790 chemist and perfumer (below). One of my favourites. From £15.

Johnstons of Elgin cashmere dressing gown. Beautifully soft. £1495 (hers) £1695 (his).

Mia Sabel bespoke watch strap. Give your watch a new lease of life with a custom-made strap. Give a Redeem Me voucher for delivery early in the New Year of a bespoke watch strap. Some made-to-measure belts and personalised card cases available before Christmas. £various.

This feature is unsponsored and is a selection of my own from some of my favourite brands.

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