Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Grey Fox Blog Autumn/Winter Photoshoot

I love autumn and winter for the opportunities to dress casually to keep warm and dry. Wools, tweeds, knitwear, waxed and quilted cloths, canvas and leather bags and holdalls, fine shoes and boots, cotton corduroy and moleskins are all elements in this chilly equation. In this feature I've worked with several brands, Blooming Stuff PR, photographer Polskey (all links below) and Harry, my long suffering labrador retriever, on a photoshoot to bring you some seasonal inspiration.

Dry-waxed jacket Peregrine Clothing, gilet Lavenham, cords Spoke London
Accessories Tyler & Tyler, bag Billingham, gilet Lavenham (book and vintage Leica are mine)

This is one of a series of photoshoots designed to give brands the opportunity to affordably put their products before a growing and enthusiastic Grey Fox audience here on the blog and on Instagram.

See below for links to participating brands and a 20% discount for blog readers from Tyler & Tyler.

Quilted jacket Lavenham, bag Billingham Bags

Cords Spoke London, bags Billingham, shoes Bodileys
Denim jacket Lavenham x Blackhorse Lane Atelier, bags Billingham

Dry wax jacket Peregrine Clothing, gilet Lavenham, cords Spoke

Shoes Bodileys, cords Spoke, socks Tyler & Tyler

Jacket and gilet Lavenham

Bag Billingham, quilted jacket Lavenham

Cardigan Peregrine Clothing, shoes Bodileys, socks & tie Tyler & Tyler, cords Spoke London

Tie and socks Tyler & Tyler, shoes Bodileys, cords Spoke

Knitwear Peregrine Clothing, cords Spoke, shoes Bodileys, socks Pantherella

Bag Billingham, cords Spoke, coat and gilet Lavenham

From top left clockwise: Bodileys, Peregrine Clothing, Bodileys, Lavenham, Lavenham

From top left clockwise: Lavenham, Bodileys, Peregrine Clothing, Billingham, Tyler & Tyler, Bodileys, Spoke

I'm very grateful to the brands taking part who helped sponsor the blog. Please email me for information about future photoshoots and features.

Links to brands:

Socks and cufflinks: Tyler & Tyler BirminghamAccessories, cufflinks, socks, ties [Tyler & Tyler are offering an exclusive 20% discount for Grey Fox Blog readers. Quote GREYFOX at the checkout].

Jackets & gilets: LavenhamBest known for its Suffolk-made outerwear/street and countrywear.

Bags: Billingham BagsBritish-made canvas and leather bags and cases.

Shoes: Bodileys. Footwear made in England.

Trousers: Spoke LondonBritish-designed trousers, chinos and cords to fit all sizes.

Knitwear and outerwear: Peregrine ClothingEnglish-made knitwear and outerwear.

Socks: Pantherella. English-made in Leicester.

I'd like to thank Polskey for her superb photography and Clare at Blooming PR for her organisational support without which this wouldn't have happened.

With many thanks to Harry for his unconditional love

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Shackleton: High Performance Clothing (20% Offer for Blog Readers)

I have a weakness for clothes originating in the very British heritage of adventure and exploration and am delighted that Shackleton, suppliers of British-made professional outdoor clothing to some of the toughest cold weather expeditions, are here offering their products to blog readers for a 20% discount (see below for details).

Clothing worn in the most extreme conditions has to be well-designed and robust and it's the toughness that makes it essential for extreme expeditions that also makes it invaluable for cold weekend walks and standing on icy railway platforms.

Wearing the Shackleton Discovery jacket made in Manchester, England

The Shackleton Company is named after that redoubtable polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Best known for navigating a small boat to South Georgia to find help for those left behind stuck on the Antarctic ice, his careful leadership saved the lives of all of his men. He's less well known for his earlier expedition to the south magnetic pole in 1907 which saw him come within 97 miles of the South Pole.

The company has the blessing and shareholder support of Shackleton's granddaughter and aims to inspire a modern world to rediscover courage, endurance and adventure. It has sponsored Scott Sears, the Gurkha officer who is, at this very moment, walking across Antarctica in a bid to become the youngest man to walk solo and unsupported to The South Pole. Shackleton have supplied much of his clothing, including a bespoke down parka, made in England, which will protect him in temperatures of -60 degrees Celsius and high windspeeds on the Antarctic ice sheet.

The Discovery jacket

The Endurance jacket

This expedition pedigree lies at the heart of the British-manufactured jackets, shirts, knitwear and merino layers that form part of the Shackleton clothing collection. The Discovery and Endurance jackets are made in the same factory as Scott Sears's expedition jacket, the knitwear is knitted in the UK and based on patterns worn by Shackleton's expedition members.

These products are no 'chocolate soldiers', but the real thing. All are hand-made in Manchester by the same hands that equipped both Scott Sears and other tough cold weather expeditions. The Discovery and Endurance jackets are made with very high quality goose down and are tested in Antarctica to -20ºC. The Discovery has a cotton Ventile shell, making it waterproof and breathable, while the Endurance uses a lightweight technical fabric which makes it even lighter than the Discovery, but makes it look more 'mountaineering equipment' in appearance.

The Endurance jacket in olive worn with a Shackleton Submariner jumper

But these products aren't just for hairy explorers. What better for cold commutes, dogwalks, rugby matches, country rambles or for those whose jobs take them outdoors in all weathers? The expedition heritage means that they are better-made, will last longer and be more effective than lesser high street pretenders. I've worn both the Discovery and Endurance jackets and they are toasty warm, stylish, beautifully made and designed and completely fit for purpose, whether you're in an alpine or polar landscape or tramping to the station on a cold winter's morning.

The Lupoid down shirt in black and merino scarf

The Discovery jacket in Ventile with turtle neck jumper

I'm delighted to be collaborating with The Shackleton Company, not least because I'm planning a trip late next year to the South Atlantic and Antarctica, during which I hope to visit South Georgia where Sir Ernest died in 1922 and is buried. Over the next year I will be wearing, using and abusing the Shackleton Collection in both Antarctic and urban conditions to try out the best of British-made outdoor and expedition wear. 

To celebrate this collaboration Shackleton have agreed to offer a generous 20% discount to blog readers. If you visit Shackleton Clothing and enter GreyFox20 at the checkout the discount will apply.

Photographs by Andy Barnham. I've been wearing Shackleton clothing for this feature and have received no payment. All views are my own.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Edward Green Shoes: Made in England

Among my most comfortable shoes are these from Edward Green who've been making shoes in Northampton since 1890. Through careful attention to detail they've built an unrivalled reputation among shoe lovers. Having tried a couple of pairs I can now see why. The leather-soled suede derbies, although worn regularly for over a year now, have the unusual property of hardly wearing down at the heel, despite much London pavement bashing. They are a beautifully made pair of Cardiff derby brogues in olive suede. I'm lucky enough to have the same shoe in Delapré calf which is supple and soft to touch as it's been treated with nine different leather fats - this pair has a rubber Dainite sole.

My Delapré calf (left) and olive green suede Cardiff derbies from Edward Green

But how is it that such a stylish-looking shoe can be so comfortable? I asked Euan Denholm of Edward Green to explain these properties to me, surely a shoe is a shoe is a shoe? He told me, "Those soles and heels [on the suede derbies] are oak-bark tanned for nine months - it creates a sole which is highly durable yet light, comfortable and flexible (although one pays far more for the raw material!)". This underlines the importance not only of the quality of construction, but also of the materials used. There are no short cuts to true quality. See Edward Green.

The shoes were sent for review. This feature is unsponsored and all views expressed are mine alone.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Savile Row Company Made to Measure Shirts

The Savile Row Company is a third generation family business offering bespoke and made to measure shirt services from their store in London's Savile Row. However, they also offer affordable made to measure shirts online and I've had the chance to try that service.

The online service involves entering some basic measurements online, selecting a cloth and the style of shirt, including fit and details of placket, cuff, collar, pocket, buttons, trim and monogramming. I found all this easy to enter and the shirt arrived promptly, fitted well and, for £75, not much more than the price of a good of-the-peg shirt, this represented excellent value.

The selection of cloths is on the safe side, so the more adventurous of you may want a wider choice and, indeed, the company is looking to do this soon. Having said that, I loved the slim pink stripe I selected and few of you will fail to find a choice you like. Highly recommended. See Savile Row Company.

This feature is a collaboration with Savile Row Company.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Great Northern Cloth: British Merino Cloth on Kickstarter

This is a very exciting project by my friend, bespoke tailor Brita Hirsch, to market a British merino cloth and I'm looking for your support to help her financially. 

The finest suiting is made from merino, a wool which is imported from Australia, New Zealand or China. Sadly British sheep in general do not produce wool fine enough for the best cloths, but Brita has found a UK source of merino to make a British cloth from British fleeces from British sheep. However, she needs funding and has launched a Kickstarter campaign through which you can support her in return for various benefits. Please see the video below and pledge support by clicking here at Kickstarter.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Vertex M100: A Brand and a Watch Revived

Many watch brands have been looking back into their archives to produce modern variations of  classic designs. In the case of Vertex, the company itself has been revived by Don Cochrane, great grandson of the original founder of Vertex (in 1916), Claude Lyons. He has in turn has recreated an updated version of a watch that was produced by the company for the British military in 1944. 

Vertex M100

The modern Vertex M100 is based on the 1944 Cal. 59 Navigation watch which was one of twelve similar watches (called WWWs) made by various brands for use during WW2. The twelve, now known as 'The Dirty Dozen' are collected by military watch enthusiasts (very few manage to accumulate the complete set). In my watch collecting days I owned some five of the twelve and one of those was the Vertex WWW. Its well-proportioned design and practical, robust construction made it a favourite and I still own one (see the image below). 

An original 1940s Vertex WWW

Don Cochrane has managed to capture the spirit of the original in a watch that is larger (40mm as opposed to 35mm). Both are hand-wound easily legible dials and stainless steel cases. On occasion modern homage watches fail to capture the looks of the original because scaling up a watch doesn't always preserve its proportions. By carefully tweaking the appearance of the case and dial Vertex have somehow kept the rugged attractiveness of the original without making the M100 a pastiche. The luminous numerals has been applied so that they are three dimensional and this adds a contemporary and minimalist look to the watch.

I wore one for several weeks and enjoyed the experience of winding it daily. Automatic watches are fine, but I like that connection with a mechanical watch when it's wound each morning; a moment of peace as you prepare to rush out to face the world. The watch is legible, comfortable to wear and feels robust and solid.

The luminous numerals

Don Cochrane has produced a watch that can't just be bought by anyone. Keen to avoid it becoming the object of collectors buying it for what it represents rather than what it is, ownership comes through recommendation or ownership of an original Vertex WWW. Priced at £2500, it preserves the practical tool watch character of the original and is something different yet highly wearable for the man or woman looking for a well-designed and attractive watch. The military design gives it a well-proportioned simplicity that makes this an adaptable watch for the man or woman of a sartorial leaning. See Vertex for more information.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Artefact London: Bespoke Overcoat Review

Earlier this year Artefact London, founded by young entrepreneur, Tatyana Kozhevnikova, made me a summer suit. So successful was it that I was delighted when she offered to make me a winter coat. My wardrobe is sparse in that department. I have an off-the-peg high street coat, but sadly, while made of a gorgeous English cloth, it follows the high street trend for being too short. The great advantage of having a coat made to your specifications is that you can choose details like length, cloth, lapel and collar shape, button configuration etc to ensure that you get what you need. And I certainly got that.

Many of us would think of visiting a tailor to have a suit or jacket made, but it's less common to have an overcoat tailored. Yet the advantages are obvious. Quite apart from the comment I've already made about high street coats being generally too short (so your thighs get cold and wet), sizing is often hit and miss. This problem is overcome with bespoke/made to measure and you can also select cloth, fit and shape as well as exciting details like lining and buttons to finish off your creation.

I was surprised how far the customisation process could go, with almost any detail being at the whim of the customer, starting with the basic shape of the coat (see here for the main shapes on which your coat is built - I chose the ulster). As before, Tatyana was an excellent guide to style, shape, detail and cloth selection. I went for an English herringbone wool from Bateman Ogden with a wonderful red lining with foxes, labradors and deer (all animals that rule my life) and beautiful horn buttons. Tatyana had my measurements from the suit, but took a few additional ones for the coat length and some four weeks later my coat arrived.

As with the suit, it turned out to be perfect the first time and I didn't need any further alterations to make it fit. The coat is made to be worn over a jumper or light jacket, rather than over a suit, so I asked for (and got) an elegant tailored shape. I wanted the length to be just under the knee (why have a coat that doesn't cover the upper leg?) and length and choice of cloth, as well as fit and style, have turned out to be perfect.

Developments in tailoring are fascinating, Artefact uses electronic pattern construction and laser cuts the pattern straight onto the cloth, keeping your details on file electronically for ease of future orders. When asked if this is considered to be bespoke or made to measure in the strict sense of it, Tatyana gave me her thoughts:
"Call it what you want - it is the result that counts. I make a pattern that is 100% unique to each person electronically, using an existing block, but the block is manipulated from every angle to such an extent that very few made to measure tailors do. Technology, hey! The result is a garment that is uniquely you and fits beautifully".
The result is a coat that fits, beautifully, is stylish and practical and I love. It's had some positive comment too. I highly recommend having a coat made and if you go to Artefact London you will be assured of a warm welcome and outstanding service. See Artefact London.

This coat was a collaboration with Artefact London. All views are mine alone. 
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