Thursday, 20 April 2017

Artefact London: Made-to-Measure Tailoring

Artefact London is a relative newcomer to the tailoring scene, but judging from the suit they've just made for me, they've hit the ground running. Founded by young entrepreneur, Tatyana Kozhevnikova, whose enthusiasm for tailoring is infectious, Artefact London focuses unashamedly on made to measure (MTM), as opposed to bespoke tailoring. The thinking behind this boils down to a balance between value for money and the quality and fit of the final product.

The completed suit from Artefact London

So great is Tatyana's belief that MTM represents good value, that she offered to make me a lightweight wool suit, confident that I would be very happy with the result - and I have to report that I am. She is very clear and honest about the key differences between MTM and bespoke, pointing out that the "pattern [was] made on a computer and laser cut...buttonholes [were] machine stitched and the floating canvas made with help of a machine, but shaped and attached by hand". A bespoke suit may have more hand stitching and more time would be spent on fittings and detail, but she points out that this additional care comes at a cost and argues that an excellent MTM suit can be made at a fraction of the cost of bespoke.

One of the most important aspects of having a suit made is how well the tailor works with the client, interpreting and gently guiding their wishes and expectations. Tatyana is excellent at this and long discussions ended up with a suit that precisely echoes my aims, but included a number of suggestions from her.

The system is flexible enough to allow multiple and often minute changes to the block, allowing the client almost exactly what they requite in terms of fit, shape and design. I asked for roped shoulders, a slightly fuller cut to the trousers and a double-breasted coat. All were delivered as I expected,

In measuring a client, Tatyana tells me, she will "look at your posture: stooping, erect or leaning forward, do you have a curve to your back or perhaps a dropped shoulder, or prominent blades? I look at the position of your arms relative to your body to eliminate any creasing around the bicep area. These are all the things that you cannot gauge with linear measurements, but will have a great impact on the fit".

Images Paul Harries

My conclusion? The suit is excellent and I'm more than happy with it - it fitted well with out any alterations. A similar suit made bespoke might cost four or five times as much. To anyone aware of the details of tailoring, the additional little touches and flourishes of a fully bespoke suit would be important enough to merit the extra cost and care. However, it would take an experienced eye to be able to see the difference between a well-made MTM suit and a bespoke one.

The pure bespoke experience is one that I'll treasure and everyone who can afford one should try it at least once. However, in terms of pure value for money (so unromantic I know) the well-made MTM suit is hard to beat. The fitting process revolves around a pre-existing block (rather than a bespoke pattern) and CAD is used to create the pattern. There is much more flexibility in the MTM process than I'd expected and it was possible to include all the little touches I wanted in the suit in terms of details like cut, lapel shape, button configuration and so on.

Having a knowledgeable and enthusiastic tailor who can guide the client as well as Tatyana does helps the process along and I'd recommend that you try Artefact London, who are based in New Bond Street, London, studio to discuss your needs.

Cloth light tan Prince of Wales check from Holland & Sherry's Cool*Breeze range in pure wool worsted. Prices from £960 for a two-piece suit. Shirts, overcoats, morning and evening wear also available.

The suit was provided for this review by Artefact London. I received no financial compensation for this review. All views expressed are my own unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Grey Fox Slippers by Donhall & Bell

Donhall & Bell was founded in 2012 by Londoners Peter Mulhall and Martin Bell to give men 'a more interesting alternative to mainstream footwear'. Their D&B slipper is an elegant offering for the gentleman who likes to stay smart at home or wishes to party or stay casual in style.

They kindly fashioned me a pair of bespoke slippers, which I wear as I write. Comfortable in velvet, beautifully made with leather sole and quilted interior, this is no mere carpet slipper, this is footwear for sophisticated clubs, parties or a quiet and sartorial evening at home with a fine malt, a good read or an evening of television.

See Donhall & Bell for their bespoke and ready-made ranges.

I was given the slippers for the purposes of this review - all views expressed are mine alone.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Style & Fashion Rules and How to Break Them

Style or fashion rules are everywhere. Weekly we read what we can and can't wear and, while much of it is sensible, some is just repeated received wisdom with very little basis in either sense or aesthetics. Examples are 'No brown in town', 'blue and green should never be seen', 'older men shouldn't wear jeans/t-shirts' etc etc.

I try to avoid telling people what not to wear, but I have been guilty of passing on nuggets of wisdom. One example was the 'rule' that trousers worn with formal wear; morning suits or evening wear, should not have turn-ups (cuffs) as they are found only on less formal wear. With this in mind, I was interested to find this image of Cecil Beaton wearing morning dress with beautifully cut trousers with turn-ups.

They work; giving, in my view, balance to the whole look. It's noteworthy also how the cropped double-breasted waistcoat elegantly lengthens his legs, adding to the success of the turn-ups, which can make legs look shorter. The lesson is to trust your own judgement in these matters, or discuss your thoughts with a tailor, stylist, blogger or friend whose taste you respect.

Having said that there are some rules I would never break myself. Wearing a tie with the shirt's top button undone is one. Do you have any examples of non-rules or rules which really can never be broken?

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Herring Wasdale Derby Shoe: Veldtschoen Construction

There's no shoe more robust than those made using the veldtschoen method of construction like these Herring Wasdale derbies, made in England. To make them water-resistant and strong the leather upper is turned out and stitched above the welt rather than being wrapped and stitched underneath it. They were once often used by the military and those with have toe caps will, with a bit of spit and polish, carry a gloss fit for a guardsman.

Herring Wasdale derbies and Corgi socks

Harder to find new than they used to be, veldtschoen shoes remain popular and online prices of used pairs are high. Like many of the best things made from leather, they improve in looks with age and wear. Of course, you can buy yours brand new from Herring Shoes and break them in yourself.

Wear your veldtschoen shoes with a tweed jacket, tweed cap, gundog, and a good thick pair of socks like those from Corgi, who make socks in Wales, in the image. See Corgi.

I was sent shoes and socks for review and the feature is sponsored by Herring. All views expressed are mine alone.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Wristwatch Update: Tudor, Breitling, Zenith, Tag Heuer

Anyone with a foot in the wristwatch world will know that it was recently Baselworld, at which watch companies show their new products. I'm not bringing you a full report (thank heavens), but here are four watches that caught my eye from some of my favourites. All have in-house or proprietary (rather than bought-in) mechanical movements and owe their designs to strong brand DNA. (Web links below).

Tudor released a few models at Baselworld. Their Heritage Black Bay Steel (below) looks attractive, sticking to the historic Tudor diving watch style.

Tudor Black Bay Heritage

While I've yet to see the watch in the flesh (keep an eye on my Instagram account for updates), it works aesthetically with its steel bezel (a newly introduced alternative to existing black or coloured bezels), date function, 'snowflake' hands and fabric strap (pictured). This Tudor is competitively priced, particularly as it has an in-house movement, at £2370 with leather strap and £2580 with bracelet. The fabric strap (my favourite) comes with all watches.

This is the watch I'd take on holiday as it can be worn securely all the time, on the beach, in the water (it's a dive watch) and afterwards at dinner in a local restaurant. For more on my coverage of Tudor Watches click here.

Breitling is a brand I've long admired. When I collected vintage watches I never quite got round to owning one, but the model I would have sought was the Navitimer, a watch designed for pilots which has been going since the early fifties. As with all successful watch brands, Breitling preserves its heritage and this shows in the Navitimer Rattrapante (below) - a split seconds timer with an in-house movement that is also chronometer certified.

Breitling Navitimer Rattrapante

The split seconds timer allows more than one object to be timed (or lap times) on two chronograph hands which normally sit one on top of the other, but are shown apart in the image above. The seconds hand is the left-hand of the sub-dials, the others being elapsed time for the chronograph (stopwatch) function. Split seconds watches are not common and are complicated to make, so this is a pretty cool timepiece, although on the large size (for me) at 45mm. Priced at £9910 in steel with croc folding clasp strap.

Zenith - one of my favourite chronographs from my watch collecting days was a Zenith. Sold on long ago, sadly, it represented the brand which was the first to market an automatic chronograph, the El Primero. Like all the watch brands mentioned in this feature, Zenith have stuck to their design heritage with this lovely piece, the Zenith Defy El Primero 21. With a chronometer accuracy rating, titanium case and the high-beating mechanical movement characteristic of the Zenith, this is an updated 21st century version of the original.

It comes with a titanium case (44mm) with a white traditional dial or an open work dial, or with a black ceramic aluminium case with an open work dial (as above). Prices £8,300, £9,100, £9,900 respectively.

Tag Heuer

The original Heuer Autavia was another vintage watch I admired but never got round to owning. The name is a contraction of AUTomobile and AVIAtion, a name taken from the first dash counter for racing cars and aircraft created by Heuer in 1933. 

Worn by the best-known racing drivers of the 1960s and 1970s: Jochen Rindt, Mario Andretti, Jo Siffert, Clay Regazzoni - names that resonate with me from the romantic era of motor sport - it has been reborn as the Tag Heuer Autavia. This is a handsome watch indeed, with a useful 12 hour bezel for the international traveller (rotate it to show local time). A well-proportioned watch, I love the white on black sub-dials and brown leather strap (also available with a steel bracelet). Prices £3,900 to £4,000 (with strap or with bracelet).

Tudor Watches.
Tag Heuer

This is an unsponsored post. The watches I've selected are a personal choice of watches I spotted from Baselworld coverage or from information sent to me by the brands themselves.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Fears Custom: Made to Order Watch Straps and Bespoke Engraving

Since I first introduced Fears Watches to you (here) this relaunched family brand has really caught the attention of watch buyers. Now Nicholas Bowman-Scargill has introduced a Custom service to enable owners to design bespoke watch straps and have their timepieces engraved with personal messages and designs.

Fears Custom allows a Fears watch to be combined with a special strap made from early 80,000 possible colour combinations of leather, lining and stitching. Each is made to order, making it unique to the owner. The strap can be personalised with the owner’s initials and is handmade in the same Belgium atelier where the current range of Fears goat’s leather straps are produced. The straps keep the same elegant profile and are easy to change without any special tools.

Fears Custom engraving allows a crest, motto or special date to be added to the case back which effectively becomes a blank canvas. Each unique strap is completed with an exclusive Fears Custom buckle. The engraving process starts with a computer drawn design of what the client is imagining, which is then put on a ‘digital’ case back. Once this is approved, the watch is hand engraved by a Master Engraver in Mayfair, London and delivered in special all-black packaging.

Available on brand new watches or those already being worn, Fears Custom appointments are available from 20th April. Further information about the service, images of what can be created and the option to request a booklet can be found at Pricing starts at £150 for made-to-order straps and £100 for engraving.

This feature is unsponsored - all views are entirely my own.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Driving the Jaguar XF S - A Gentleman's Performance Saloon

The Jaguar XF S, top of the XF range, is a true gentleman's motor in the sense that its significant performance and comfort aren't undermined by shouty 'I'm really wishing I was a sports car' features. The engine is quiet and refined, not snorty and roarty; the suspension doesn't rattle your teeth on uneven roads, the exterior isn't shrouded with wings and go-faster stripes. In that sense it harks back to the original Jaguar salons: refined performance with an attractive but understated exterior. 

My experience of driving the Jaguar XF S was restricted to an hour's drive in heavy London traffic. The sad reality is that few drives now avoid traffic and a car's ability to help in such conditions is often underestimated. The Jaguar virtually did the drive for me and I arrived home fresh and happy, rather than frazzled and fed up. I had to rely on Jaguar's performance figures to imagine how it might have driven on the open road. Pulling away effortlessly and very fast from traffic lights hints at the 380PS power and good torque available from the V6 engine. Others have reported excellent handling on better roads.

Keeping the driver and passengers in the lap of luxury, the car floated over the worst of London's roads. The interior cossets with comfortable seats, plenty of space, controls that fall easily to hand and well-fitted fixtures and fittings. There are subtle hints of the car's high status in the second-generation XF line-up in the grain leather sports seats and metal sill protectors.

The technology offers everything you might want, carefully if you use it while on the road, for keeping in touch,  navigation and entertainment through voice control and touch screen. Technology also helps keep you safe in poor road conditions through the All Surface Progress Control system which helps on slippery roads.

My time with the Jaguar XF S left me impressed by the subtle refinement, performance and quality that it displays - I'd have welcomed more time to savour the experience fully.

Facts & Figures
Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 S/C 380 PS RWD
Price: £49,995 on-the-road (plus a wide range of optional extras)

Engine: 3.0 litre V6 S/C 380 PS
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 5.1s
Maximum speed: 155 mph
Combined fuel consumption: 34 mpg
Carbon dioxide emissions: 198 g/km
For more information, see Jaguar UK.
Jaguar XF prices start from around £32,000

All images by Sikh and Dread Photography.

This is a sponsored post and part of a collaboration with and
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