Thursday, 3 September 2015

Book review: The Sartorialist X - celebrating 10 years of street style

Published today is Scott Schuman's third book, The Sartorialist X, which celebrates the tenth anniversary of his blog, The Sartorialist, and covers the best of the last three years, spanning New York, London, Milan, as well as more unusual places like Peru, Bali, India, and Bhutan.

It was The Sartorialist that fuelled my search for style as an older man in the early days of Grey Fox Blog. As can be seen below, his shots of older men of style provide us with much inspiration.

The Sartorialist is still one of my most-visited blogs. In capturing what men and women, young and old, are wearing on the street he has been partly responsible for starting a 'ground up' approach to fashion, with trends being dictated by those selecting and wearing clothes, rather than by the fashion houses themselves.

This book, his third selection from the images on his blog, shows the continuing development of his skills as street and portrait photographer. From a photography perspective it's the best of his books. His portraits capture colour, style and character with immense subtly and power. He is particularly adept at capturing female beauty.

Until recently I felt that too many of his subjects, photographed at fashion weeks and shows, were linked to the fashion industry. This resulted in rather clone-like menswear style. There's nothing wrong with images of Italians at Pitti Uomo dressed in blazers, jeans and brogues without socks, but I wanted more of the ordinary man and woman on the street; those unrelated to fashion. The Sartorialist X suggests that he is now doing this and photographs from countries outside the western fashion scene demonstrate a refreshing new approach. For me, real personal style comes from within, not from the catwalk or those in the industry whose lives are ruled by what they wear.

The Sartorialist X should be on the bookshelves of all interested in photography, street style, fashion and men's and women's clothes. Published by Penguin priced at £20.00.

All images above by The Sartorialist.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Jacket Required July 2015: some brands to watch

Jacket Required is one of my favourite trade shows of the year. It's full of interesting brands of great variety and, for me as a blogger, extremely accessible. There were many products that caught my eye at July's event and my selection here is simply representative rather than an attempt to choose favourites.

Mr Stanford umbrellas, made in England (image below). Nicely made and a good range of styles. See their website.

The Shackleton Company (image below). Clothing, footwear (a superb collaboration with Cheaney), beer and other products made in the UK and all finding inspiration in the exploits of famous early twentieth century explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. See their website.

Baracuta, best known for its G9 Harrington jacket (of which, I'm reliably informed, they have now made over 50,000 in England), continues to manufacture much of its range in the UK. I loved this stylish trench coat (image below). See their website.

Millican bags. One of my favourite overnight bags is Millican's beautifully designed and unburstable Harry the Gladstone overnight bag, which I will update you on shortly when I review a few of my longterm test products. My eye was caught by The Botanist (image below), due for launch soon, which provides its owner will all they need to botanise and in particular to forage for the gorgeous botanicals that might be required to add flavour to food and drink. Again, I'll tell you more about this bag as soon as I can. See Millican.

Charlie Borrow makes leather bags and accessories in London, England. Beautifully made and stylish, they have all the advantages of being made in small quantities by a real craftsman. Stand out from the crowd with one of these leather tote bags (pictured below). See his website here.

Return of the Rudeboy. If you saw the exhibition at Somerset House, you'll love the book (below). Stylish and beautifully photographed, you can buy it here. I reviewed the exhibition on the blog here.

Gloverall is another British company going from strength to strength. Renowned for the duffel coat, they make a wide variety of stylish menswear, including this coated cotton jacket due for sale in spring 2016. See Gloverall.

Finlay & Co continue to expand their range of stylish eyewear and sunglasses. Best known for their wooden frames (see below), I was also impressed by their growing range of acetate frames. See Finlay & Co.

Portuguese Flannel make excellent cotton shirts in Portugal. I like their tartan/plaid winter designs, but for next summer these shirt embroidered with bees and other designs will look just the thing. See Portuguese Flannel.

Jacket Required is a menswear trade only show.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Fortis watches: built for use in Space - competition

Fortis are an independent watchmaker who have been producing innovative timepieces for over a hundred years, producing one of the first water resistant watches in the 1940s. They are based in the small town of Grenchen in the Swiss Jura, where today’s Fortis watches are still being made in the original factory founded in 1912.

Regular readers will know my love for watches, particularly those often called 'tool' watches by enthusiasts. These are timepieces which have a practical purpose and have been built accordingly. Whether for military use, flying, exploring, caving, swimming, diving, running, keeping time over different timezones or space travel, tool watches are quite different from their dressier cousins which have been designed for looks rather than function. 

The tool watch must be easily readable, usually water resistant, tough, well-built and reliable in extreme conditions. It's that functionality that gives it its simple, rugged beauty:

Official Fortis Cosmonaut

Watches built for use in Space have interested me for some time. You may not want to admit it, but wearing a watch worn on the Moon or the International Space Station gives you a small piece of the aura of the rugged, the brave and the pioneering.

Fortis Cosmonaut in use on a cosmonaut's wrist

Some watch enthusiasts collect examples of Space watches, including Fortis, Rolex, Omega, Bulova; all are high quality and robust. An important addition to any Space watch collection would have to be a Fortis Cosmonaut because, over twenty years ago, the brand was selected by the Russian Federal Space Agency to supply watches to its cosmonauts. The timepieces used undergo rigorous testing before use so are built to high specifications of accuracy and robustness.

Fortis carried out their own independent test under extreme G forces by launching selected Cosmonaut movements on Swedish Maxus rockets with an acceleration of 3,500 m/sec producing a force of 13G. The payload was catapulted vertically to 715km after which there was free fall of about 12 minutes, putting the movements under great loads. A recent international simulation of a flight to Mars also used Fortis watches.

Enter a competition to win a Fortis Cosmonaut (below)

Using mechanical movements for reliability, Fortis Cosmonaut watches have shown they they far exceed the demands of day to day use, while their legible, simple looks have, for me, all the design simplicity of the classic tool watch.

For more information or to buy a Fortis watch, see Page & Cooper.
You can enter a competition to win a Fortis Cosmonaut watch here.
There is also a giveaway of a Fortis Terrestis19 here, based on an original 1930s design, this watch has a simple, classic style that would make it the ideal business and dress watch.

This post was supported by Page & Cooper.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Swift & Co: bringing back the manufacture of stylish footwear to Lancashire

I came across Swift & Co at Best of Britannia earlier this summer. Based in Burnley, Lancashire, Swift has been a family business for some generations and Richard Swift has set out to bring back footwear manufacture to East Lancashire. In this video, he tells us more about his shoes.

They look well-made and lightweight with soft uppers and a comfortable technical sole and heel. As the image of their suede boots below shows (this is one of several styles available), they are also very stylish. I plan to try out a pair soon and will report back then.

Richard will be starting a Kickstarter campaign soon and I'll tell you more about that and the brand when that happens. Meanwhile, click here to go to the Swift & Co website.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Workers Club combination jacket at Mr Porter - quality, durable outerwear

As the weather cools and gets wetter our thoughts turn to outerwear. A jacket that will be useful whether wet or dry, cool or freezing cold. Mr Porter recently sent me a combination jacket from The Workers Club that may provide an answer. Comprising three separate garments, layered together they stylishly provide several options to cover many weather conditions.

The jacket, down jacket and gilet worn together. One of twelve combinations

The collection includes a water-repellant canvas outer shell jacket with taped seams, check wool gilet and reversible down filled liner, which can be zipped into each other to form a fully water and wind resistant jacket. I've been trying to work out how many options these combinations give you. I reckon it's at least twelve depending on how you like to layer the gilet and down jacket. 

The outer shell jacket comes in three colours, navy, orange and olive/navy

Mr Porter describes this combination as, "really simple, but the designers hope this will be an item every man will have in his wardrobe". 

The wool check gilet

The designers are husband and wife team, Charlotte and Adam Cameron, who founded The Workers Club (TWC) with a view to providing quality clothing for men who like to buy less, but better. A laudable aim, and one which more men are buying into. It's good to see Mr Porter supporting smaller businesses.

The down jacket is reversible

The jacket and its various parts are beautifully made, very high quality, durable, comfortable and stylish in a rugged, outdoor sort of way. It went well (I thought) with my experimental beard too. I look forward to seeing what else TWC come up with in future.

Jacket: £495, wool gilet: £250, down jacket: £360. See Mr Porter for more information and to buy. To find out more about TWC (they do a similar range of womenswear) click here to see their website.

With thanks to my lovely daughter Cate for the photography in difficult light conditions!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

NAK shoes: leather free style for men

These handsome RAF derby shoes are from NAK, a new brand that creates high quality shoes without any animal being killed or suffering cruelty. Made in Italy from a microfibre with a structure similar to real leather, it makes a material which looks, feels and even smells (to me anyway) just like the real thing.

At present the men's collection comprises a derby, oxford, a chelsea boot and a mid-laced boot. The shoes I was sent are very lightweight and beautifully-made. Whether or not you are a vegan, I recommend these shoes as comfortable and stylish. To find out more, or to buy, see the NAK website here.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Tripl Stitched x Grey Fox Blog collaboration shirt collection now on sale

I was delighted when Tripl Stitched approached me to collaborate on the design of a range of men's shirts. I was already familiar with their products, made in North London, and admired the quality of the manufacture and cloth. Made partly on vintage machines, they capture a real enthusiasm for shirtmaking based on classic pieces, with button downs and superb fabrics such as Japanese-made chambray forming the heart of the collection.

I saw a gap in the market between very formal shirts, with stiff collars for ties, and casual shirts, with shallower and softer collars to be worn open neck. I enjoy wearing some of my chambray and denim casual shirts with ties and I envisaged a collection that was essentially a casual shirt with a soft collar deepened in shape and stiffened just enough to take  tie. I also wanted to revive some of the classic shirt designs from the forties and fifties, looking at rarer collar shapes and slightly longer body lengths.

With this in mind we have designed three shirts, as follows:

1. An Italian 3 finger Oxford button down made from an Italian textured cloth. Like all the shirts, it features a triple-stitched back yoke in grey thread to celebrate the Grey Fox collaboration (see image above). Like all the shirts, it's available in six sizes and is designed to be worn casually with or without a tie. £125 (below).

2. A penny round collar in red micro check in a beautiful Italian gingham check fabric. £125 (below).

3. A point collar shirt in a pale blue stripe. This is designed to be worn with a tie bar. I hadn't tried a tie bar before and it has become my favourite way of wearing a tie, giving a totally new way of showing off your favourite ties. £125 (below). All shirts available from Tripl Stitched here

Jackets from a proposed Tripl Stitched jacket collection (not yet available). Ties from Shaun Gordon