Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Buy British Day launched - Friday 3 October 2014

Yesterday Best of Britannia unveiled Buy British Day which is to take place on Friday October 3rd 2014 to coincide with the first consumer day of the annual Best of Britannia event. The Day will focus attention on the provenance and quality of the huge range of great products produced in Britain.

The panel included Timothy Everest (left) and William Church of Cheaney Shoes (2nd from right)

I will revisit this event later in the year. As I've said many times in my writing, it is ironic that British products (menswear in particular) are appreciated more overseas than at home for their quality and heritage. Buy British Day has been launched to change that.

It was wonderful to see so many of the made in Britain brands I've had the privilege to mention here on Grey Fox, including, Walsh Trainers, Cheaney Shoes, Age of Reason scarves, Cherchbi, Susannah Hall Tailors and others. Some I know, but haven't yet talked about here, like Chapman Bags and Carradice cycle bags. Others, excitingly, were new to me and I hope to write about them in future, such as Jessica de Lotz jewellery, Doe Leather and Caterina Belluardo shoes. There are many other brands involved, of course.

Please support Buy British Day on the 3rd October by seeking out the fantastic range of British-produced goods on offer throughout the UK or at Best of Britannia.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Wearfore - Anne Marie NG tells us about her luxury shirts label

I first met Anne Marie NG last year when we chatted about her ambitions to start a high-quality men's shirt brand. She has now done that, so I caught up with her recently to talk about her new label, Wearfore. Knowing how keen I am for brands to use older men to sell their products, she kindly asked me to be photographed in some of her lovely shirts. We had a fascinating morning with outstanding photographer,  David Newby, more of whose work can be found at David Newby

The quality of the shirt fabric and manufacture is very high; they felt comfortable and soft to wear. For more information, visit Wearfore.

Wearfore - image by David Newby

Tell us about the business.

The name Wearfore is a play on the word “wherefore” - for what reason you are wearing your clothes? 

We're a London-based, high-end menswear label that combines timeless designs with understated luxury, beautiful fabrics and considered details. The business has initially started with just capsule ranges of shirts, trans-seasonal styles crafted by specialist manufacturers in Europe, with more products being added over time. 

Alongside each collection is the Wearfore Creatives Series, an ongoing photography project featuring emerging and established creatives people wearing Wearfore, with a little insight into where and how they work.

Wearfore cotton collared shirt - image David Newby

How did you get started? 

I’ve designed luxury menswear for two Savile Row brands, Kilgour and Gieves & Hawkes, where I was their first female Global Head of Design and creating super luxury collections for the China market. I was constantly travelling between Asia and Europe, observing how men dressed for their busy lives in different climates and I’d been thinking for a long time about setting up my own brand of menswear that is more relevant to modern lifestyles. 

I started Wearfore last April and having been fortunate to work with many of the best mills and factories, I already knew exactly whom I wanted to work with. We produced eight spring-summer shirt samples that were photographed by David Newby for the first Wearfore Creatives Series and featured four British artists. I showed my shirts and images to James Sleaford, Fashion Director at GQ France and he suggested contacting the British Fashion Council. So after just nine months of starting the business, Wearfore launched at LC:M in January 2014 with a capsule collection of trans-seasonal and autumn-winter shirts.

Where are your shirts made? 

Wearfore shirts are currently made by two amazing, specialist shirt factories in Italy. They have the expertise, knowhow and all the capabilities I need. Plus, as most of my shirt fabrics and trims are Italian too, it makes sense to keep everything as close together as possible. 

Wearfore white collarless cotton shirt - image David Newby

Who and where are your main markets? How would you like to see these develop?

I design smart-casual wear for international creative and discerning men who are self-assured and care about details, quality and provenance. 

Aside from establishing Wearfore in the UK, my main target market overseas is Asia, especially China as I’ve witnessed first-hand the huge potential for menswear brands over there. I’d love Wearfore to have lifestyle stores there one day.

What have been the particular challenges?

Finding a decent British shirt manufacturer who can do small production runs, garment washing and dyeing has been particularly challenging. Sadly, there are just not many specialist shirt factories and dye-wash houses left in England now.

Another challenge has been getting in front of British buyers as they’re inundated with brands. In contrast, I met several buyers in Hong Kong who run very cool shops and are open to finding out about new labels. It’s a very exciting market out there.

What inspires you in driving the business?

I’m inspired by the fact that more men around the world are becoming interested in clothes and how to style themselves. Technology and social media, however disruptive, has really helped the growth of menswear and I’m now working on how to sell Wearfore online. This is all new to me so it’s a huge learning curve, but a positive one!

Wearfore white cotton collared shirt - image David Newby

What are you favourite moments in running the business?

It’s been great to start a menswear label from scratch and be able to take it in any direction creatively. It’s also always exciting when my shirt samples arrive back from the factories - I can’t wait to see them come to life on people, not just in a shiny packet or on a hanger. 

My other favourite moments are when we photograph Creatives for the Wearfore Creatives Series and meeting lots of new people in the fashion industry, particularly other designers and the press.

Any further thoughts? 

I’m currently working on my first collaboration on “Wearfore Art Thou” T-shirts with an emerging British artist, DRB, whose work is in the permanent collection at the V&A.

Follow on Twitter:
Shirts - @Wearfore
Photographer - @DavidNewbyPhoto
Model - David Evans @GreyFoxBlog

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Jaunty Flaneur - shoe polishing and fine accessories for gentlemen while supporting the homeless

The [definite article] Jaunty [expressing a lively, confident manner] Flâneur [a gentleman who saunters around observing society].

The Jaunty Flaneur is a shoe polishing and gentleman's accessories business with a difference. It's legally registered as a Community Interest Company so is a genuine social business. Although it uses luxury products and premium services to drive growth and revenue, its goal is not financial gain for shareholders; it's to make a real difference in the lives of homeless and long-term unemployed trying to get back into work.


I met the founder, Tom Beecroft, who told me:
'The Jaunty Flaneur makes sure the customer has the best possible outcome and do not compromise quality of delivery. We feel that premium products can be even more desirable with a social aspect - just like Fairtrade coffee or organic beef.
The shoe-shining service is our most directly social effort. Homeless people (usually sofa-surfing or 'informally housed', never rough sleepers) who are trying to get back into gainful employment and away from benefits apply through charities' Employment and Training teams for shiner roles. We train and equip these shiners, showing them a skill, exposing them to customer interaction, and enabling them to earn their income rather than rely on benefits. Shiners can then take on more locations (typically corporate offices) and/or increase their range of skills and deliver higher service levels.
Beyond the shining (done on-the-foot), we offer a polishing service in which we take shoes away for a few days and really work on them allowing plenty of time for creams to absorb into leather for the best effects. We also have a great relationship with an excellent cobbler and have now launched our shoe shining service at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.


Everything we stock, and the service we deliver, is of the highest quality - but everything is accessible. We don't have anything that is out of anyone's reach financially. We want everyone to be able to inject some luxury into their wardrobes and lives without breaking the bank. By dealing with niche, rather than 'designer', brands we can offer great value.
We're very much fans of buying quality that will last. Fantastic suppliers ensure this product-wise, and our shoe care is all about looking after the investment a man has made in his shoes so that he can enjoy them for years to come, and so that they will grow with him as his personal 'patina' develops over time.
The stock we have, and the products we're looking at stocking in the near future, is very carefully chosen. I only buy things for the shop that I will personally wear and enjoy myself. As the range of products grows, that will hold true; I'll only sell products that I like enough to spend my own money on and have experience of using'.


Jaunty Flaneur's products include, where possible, a social angle. Their wool/silk and cashmere/silk sock sales include a donation of fresh socks to rough sleepers, which makes a real difference to their health and hygiene. They take a reduced margin to be afford to afford these donations. The donation socks are distributed through their partners, Sock Mob, who use handing out socks as an icebreaker to talk with rough sleepers and try to make them feel less excluded. Jaunty Flaneur are very proud to have donated close to 50 pairs just before Christmas in this manner. They hope to find similar links with future products such as winter scarves that include donations of scarves to rough sleepers.

For more information, see The Jaunty Flaneur.

If you know any other menswear businesses with a similar approach to social responsibility, please get in touch, or comment below.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Style tips for the older man: Sarah Gilfillan advises the shorter-legged man

A Reader Asks.... Dear Grey Fox,

I always have trouble purchasing jeans and trousers [pants for our US readers]. I have short legs and everything I purchase seems to highlight this. Are there jeans or trouser brands that have a slightly higher waist or is there a fashion term that I need to look out for? Any information gratefully received. 

Best wishes 
Bruce 

Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist, shorter than average and here showing how to wear jeans. Image Lee Oliveira

Sarah Gilfillan, stylist, of SartoriaLab replies:

Dear Bruce,

I'm answering your question on behalf of Grey Fox as I'm afraid he has very long legs!

When someone looks at you they literally look you up and down, until they come to any distractions or horizontal lines which draw the eye from side to side. Therefore, in order to make your legs look longer, you need to keep the eye running up and down the leg - preferably from the very top of the waistband to the tips of the toes - with no interruptions. Horizontal lines include stitching details/ pockets/changes in colour/ whiskering or the width of the trousers.

Paul Smith jeans

Here are some ideas on how you can achieve that and what to look for:

Casual 

As you mentioned, choose jeans with a slightly higher waist like these ones: Armani J31, Levi 501, Levi 522, APC, Paul Smith . Look for jeans that are marked high or mid rise and avoid the ones marked low rise. Choose carefully though as you don't want to look like Simon Cowell and some styles can look dated! 

Darker colours in a clean wash ie: not washed-in or "whiskered" will make your legs look longer so choose a dark indigo and also consider ones with dark stitching instead of the more traditional orange that's used on jeans. By avoiding creating a line across the pockets of the jeans and the hems you can gain a precious few centimetres. And never turn your jeans up - this will immediately shorten your legs.

Wear a slim cut style so as not to widen and therefore shorten the appearance of your legs. For the same reason avoid cargo style pants or shorts with bulky side pockets. Make sure you check the back view when trying jeans on too and don't buy any that have very low slung back pockets as this will also visually shorten your legs.

Wear belts that are a similar colour to your trousers not your top and avoid bright contrasting colours or designs in your belts and shoes. On the top half wear shorter length jackets like a short peacoat or a bomber style, and avoid 3/4 length jackets. Tuck in shirts or ensure they're not too long.

APC

Formal wear

A crisp crease down the centre of your trousers will help to create that all important vertical line. Choose slim or straight leg trousers with no turn-ups which are more fashionable as well as more flattering than pleat fronts. Have your trousers tailored to exactly the right length with a single break.

Try and get shoes that have a tiny bit more of a heel and avoid contrast stitching or brogue-ing if possible which will allow for the eye to travel uninterrupted from the top of the waistband to the toe of your shoe. Avoid squared off or very rounded toes and choose a more flattering almond toe. 

Levi 501s

It can look a little weird if you exactly match your shoes to your trousers but if possible avoid too much of a contrast - e.g: wear a grey suit or trousers with black or dark brown shoes instead of tan ones. 

Wear your blazer or suit jacket a little shorter - fashionable at the moment and also helpful to make your legs appear longer. Have fun with your top half instead and bring the attention to this area. If your body is long in comparison with your legs then it will shorten your body if you wear horizontal lines and details such as pocket squares, tie clips and interesting ties like this one.

I hope that helps!

Sarah

See more advice on men's style at Sartoria Lab and read more about Sarah Gilfillan, who contributes regularly to Grey Fox here.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Mr Porter launches the Paul Smith 531 cycle range


Last week I attended the launch with Mr Porter of a new cycle range by Paul Smith. The collection is named 531 after the Reynolds-made steel alloy that has formed the heart of the machines of millions of cyclists, from racing champions to shoppers. Sir Paul Smith is, of course, well-known for his love of cycling, as can be seen in this video.


At the heart of the collection is the beautiful, black, minimalist, limited-edition (two only, according to the video) fixed gear bike, hand-made by Mercian from steel in their Derby-based workshop. The bike, accessories and clothes are aimed at the commuter/weekend cyclist, rather than the carbon fibre and Lycra crowd. The shirts and jackets are made from Ventile, a water-resistant cotton fabric with an interesting history, which I've documented here on the blog before

I had a close look at the collection. The bike (see detail image below), clothes and accessories are all beautifully-designed and made; as you'd expect. The orange and black colour scheme is superb. The presence of a watch in a cycling collection is a novel idea, but why not? It's a chronometer, so you can time your daily commute or ride to the cafe.

Prices range from £60 for the socks pack to £4995 for the bike. See Mr Porter.



As you'd expect from a leading frame builder, the lugwork and construction are immaculate

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Trakke - adventure bags made in Scotland

I first heard from TRAKKE a few months ago when founder, Alec Farmer, wrote to me. I'm simply going to repeat his e-mail to me below because it embodies the excitement and charm I find in so many young British enterprises - and it's a good story:


Here is what Alec's e-mail said -
"A friend of mine recently introduced me to your blog, and I must say I really like your ethos - an ethos that I share with my own brand Trakke. While I must admit that I am not yet a Grey Fox (I’m 24) I have found that running a business inevitably generates grey hairs, so perhaps I do qualify? 
I just thought I would get in touch to introduce myself and my company. Based in Glasgow, we manufacture bags for the great outdoors - for adventure. However, unlike many brands in the outdoor industry, we focus on quality. We’re trying to make the perfect bag. We don’t always succeed, but we keep striving. Our bags are made from materials that are time tested (and often sourced from British manufacturers too…). Waxed cotton from Dundee. Webbing from Derbyshire. Buckles from Wales. Tweed from the Outer Hebrides. We choose materials that age beautifully, and we assemble them into products that are made with individual attention and built to last. 
Like you, I have no background in fashion. I studied graphic design at the Glasgow School of Art, and began Trakke as a hobby - spending my evenings making bags. I had no money at the time (I was a student, after all) and so I used to scour the streets of Glasgow rummaging through skips to find unwanted materials - old advertising banners, abandoned leather sofas, unwanted suitcases. Each find was stripped down to its component parts and hauled home ready to be turned into new products. They were very different product to that which we sell now, but this is how I learnt my craft - making hundreds of bags to no set design, refining my designs - seeing what worked and what didn’t. This knowledge proved invaluable when I turned to using higher quality materials. 
Anyway - enough ranting. I just wanted to get in touch as I think we have a shared ethos - for better products that last longer and defy changes in fashion. 
If you would like to find out more, please do check out our website here."
I've been able to use and test a grey Harris tweed 'Wee Lug' messenger bag (pictured above). It's everything that Alec claims of his products - a perfect synthesis of design and skilled manufacture, with every detail having a clear function and the whole oozing durability. I can't recommend these bags, available in a variety of sizes and fabrics, highly enough.


Friday, 11 July 2014

The simple, uncluttered, classic watch - style on the wrist.

Nothing looks better on a man's wrist than a classically simple watch. Complex, over-sized, badly-proportioned giants, so beloved by football managers, simply don't exude the style and taste of a clean, well-proportioned, elegant and uncluttered design.

Here are four watches that, to me, exemplify this style. The first I've just discovered, the second I've hankered after for some time, the third I'm lucky enough to own and the fourth is British-designed.

Wempe Chronometerwerke Power-Reserve


The case and the proportions of the dial make this a really beautiful watch. Easily read and with a power reserve, this is a watch for the man who likes to show off his style in a quiet, understated way. Available from Wempe and luxury jewellers, see links in the next paragraph.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Ultra-Thin


A joy of simplicity in an extremely thin case. I've seen this watch in several guises and think that the explorer dialled versions (with numbers at the quarters, like this one) are the most beautiful. Available from luxury jewellers or watch shops like Wempe or Watches of Switzerland.

The Rolex Explorer 1016


The only vintage watch in this line-up and no longer made in this form, the Rolex Explorer has a long and noble history. Its simple robustness has created what, for some, is the ideal watch. Somewhat spoilt in looks in its later forms, this remains one of my favourites. You will need to search vintage watch dealers to find one.

Bremont Solo


Inspired by pilots' watches of the 1940s, the Bremont has more of a military feel than the other watches here, so, while it lacks the classic elegance of a dress watch, its  chunky simplicity is very attractive. Bremont are working hard to return watch production to the UK and much of their production is now designed and assembled in Henley, Oxfordshire. See Bremont's website.