Saturday, 22 November 2014

Christmas jumpers - sophisticated or kitsch?

The Christmas jumper has a grim reputation, often justified (see the images below). Despite this, as I went to press with this post, I heard that Debenhams sales of 'novelty festive jumpers' are up more than 200% on last year. They claim that more than a third of men (35%) and three in ten women (31%) admitting to owning one. They suggest that, 'Once the uncontested preserve of the uncool dad, Christmas sweaters have become a festive must have'.

Christmas jumpers from the presumably ironically-named Funny Christmas Jumpers

Debenhams jumpers are less kitsch than many (see below), but you may prefer something a little more sophisticated. Help is at hand and I've tracked down some tasteful Christmas knitwear, at varying prices, for the discerning readers of this blog. I was looking for bright colour, Nordic influences, fisherman's knits, Fair Isle, Aran, Argyle or cable/patterned looks. Traditional knitwear is the way to go. The links to buy, or for more information, appear under each image.

Kitsch featuring flashing lights & more traditional, both Red Herring from Debenhams
A favourite of mine, this Inis Meáin Aran jumper is from Private White VC. Other colours and patterns available

Jacamo - Williams & Brown Shetland wool jumper and Southbay Sherpa lined cardigan
Howlin' Neish Crew from End Clothing
Cashmere 8-ply Aran - Johnstons of Elgin

The Cave Embroidery - I love the designs hand-embroidered in London
Marks & Spencer Blue Harbour

APC Pull Yeti Snow from Oi Polloi

Dale of Norway Anniversary sweater

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Caterina Belluardo: luxury footwear made in London

Caterina Belluardo is a Sicilian designer who lives and works in London. She graduated from Cordwainers College in 2009, then gained a Masters degree from the Royal College of Art in 2013 specialising in mens’ fashion footwear. 

I stumbled across her work at Best of Britannia and was attracted to the colours, shapes and patterns; Caterina has interpreted the man's shoe in a new and original way. There's something for every man, however bold or traditional your tastes. To be different, find out more, to buy or to commission a bespoke pair, go to the website here.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Oliver Spencer opens new store in London's East End

I always find Oliver Spencer stores a pleasure to enter and browse; well-designed with natural materials, light and welcoming. The new shop in London's East End is no exception. It's the result of a collaboration with the furniture brand Another Country, whose beautiful, minimalist, wooden products are almost Shaker in design.

Oliver Spencer is proud of his new store and told me:
"When the store came up at Calvert Avenue I jumped at the chance, as not only is the store very beautiful, with the triple store front, but also Calvert Avenue with Arnold Circus at the bottom is a joy! We also felt sure that we had a customer base living and working in that area."
Many of Oliver Spencer's clothes are made in the UK and he has extended this love of British workmanship into the new store. All the furniture and fittings are made in England from oak with a very modern-looking burnt wood finish.

Visit the new shop at Calvert Avenue, Shoreditch, East London. See the Oliver Spencer website for his menswear collection.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Corduroy - time for a revival? How to be a geography teacher of style

Corduroy has never quite shaken off its Victorian reputation as a working man's cloth; robust and far from crisp in appearance. It can have a somewhat fusty feel, with memories of baggy cord trousers worn with tweed jackets and brogues by geography teachers or country gentlemen. But things have changed.

Corduroy as it was (left) and in its modern form (right) - jacket Marks & Spencer, shirt Gieves & Hawkes

That combination of tweed, corduroy and chunky footwear may be old-fashioned, but, like much that has withstood the test of time, it has become a classic. But to make it look good you must lose the shapeless appearance by ensuring that everything fits and is well-cut. Here Richard James, the Savile Row tailor, shows how stylishly relaxed a well-tailored and shaped suit in dark green corduroy can look. How about a bespoke corduroy suit?

Image of Richard James (C) Grey Fox Blog

Being soft and durable, corduroy is one of the more comfortable fabrics to wear. Naturally pliant, it doesn't leave the wearer feeling they mustn't cross their legs (as a fine flannel can do) for fear of crushing the cloth and it needs none of the breaking in that a robust raw denim requires. Its little sibling, needlecord, finer than corduroy, makes shirts and lightweight suits.

Engineered Garments cord Norfolk jacket from Oi Polloi

For me, the images above of the Norfolk jacket, and below of the Nigel Cabourn Atkinson cord jacket (which can be matched to waistcoat and trousers), exemplify what corduroy is all about - casual, crumpled, comfort. 

It's time for a cord revival. But where can you find corduroy? Here I identify a few suppliers for you to try. The links are at the bottom of the post. Please get in touch if you have any corduroy favourites.

Nigel Cabourn Atkinson cord jacket/suit

SEH Kelly reversible shirt

Richard James

Richard James


J Crew Ludlow cord suit

A riot of colour from Cordings


Richard James - Savile Row quality
Oi Polloi - plenty of well-curated menswear (including cord) from this Manchester company
SEH Kelly - genuine British-made small volume quality 
Marks & Spencer - who have a wide range of corduroy menswear
Gieves & Hawkes - more from Savile Row
Nigel Cabourn - military/country/expedition pedigree - again, British made
Hackett - a comprehensive destination for the gentleman of style
J Crew - a US import, but stylish with some British influences
Cordings - British country style, with parts of the range made in the UK

STOP PRESS - if on a budget, try this cord suit jacket from H&M.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Friday Favourites: Trakke bags, The Sock Council Argyle socks

Trakke Bags
I've written about Trakke Bags here before and said how impressed I was by this small Scottish business's design and manufacture. They've just released their latest collaboration, with textile designers Timorous Beasties. In order to create the desired effect, they developed a way of digitally printing waxed cotton, something that they tell me hasn't been done before, as far as they're aware!

For bags for cyclists, adventurers and city slickers, see Trakke's website

The Sock Council
I'm a fan of Argyle patterns. The Sock Council sells rather splendid Argyle pattern socks in an attractive range of colours. 'Nuff said really. Go to their website (below) to find out more.

See The Sock Council website.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

London Cloth Company x Hardy Amies collaboration at Selfridges

Visitors to Selfridges can see wool from London sheep being woven on a loom until 17th November.

Daniel Harris runs The London Cloth Company, the only cloth mill in London. It's a fascinating place to visit, full of looms dating between 1870 and 1970 that have been rescued from Scotland and Northern England to be restored and run by the self-taught Daniel. Since being founded in 2011 the Company has woven a varied range of woollens and cottons for brands all over the world. 

The loom in Selfridges

In a recent project, wool has been taken from sheep in city farms in and around London. Amazingly, it turns out there are a large number of farms in London and they managed to collect 160kg of fleece from Stepney, Spitalfields, Mudchute, Kentish town, Freightliners and The Woodland Farm Trust. The wool was them spun up into yarn.

Daniel at London Cloth Company - image Grey Fox

At this point, Hardy Amies came in. Daniel Harris told me:
'[Hardy Amies] were visiting the mill to look at our cloth and when we told them about the City Farms wool they fell in love with the idea. [They] wanted to make sure that the project got the exposure it deserved, and arranged for one of our looms to go into Selfridges, so that the scarves could be woven by me in-­store. 
It is being woven on a loom that dates from the 1920’s, but was built entirely from parts,. This is why many of the pieces are different colours and from different eras (It is almost impossible to find one complete loom these days so they have to be constructed from several looms put together). 
We have a 100% traceable yarn that has been sourced exclusively from within London and is now being woven into a cloth at 400 Oxford street! Next we would like to expand this to within the whole of London and see if we could source enough yarn to do a large run of cloth'.
Hardy Amies will use the London cloth for its own collections. To see Daniel and his loom visit Selfridges,  Find out more here about London Cloth Mill.

London Cloth Company - image Grey Fox

Monday, 10 November 2014

Nigel Cabourn The Army Gym shop opens in London

Some weeks ago a reader from the US e-mailed me firstly with an offer to freeze my sperm (so that I could use it once I was too old to produce an effective product, which was very thoughtful of him) and secondly with a request that I visit Nigel Cabourn's new shop once it had opened. 

I'd planned to do the second anyway, so happily travelled to Covent Garden a day or two after the opening. Nigel Cabourn himself was there and he kindly showed me the collection. 

Nigel Cabourn outside his new shop - image © Grey Fox

Cabourn's inspiration comes from vintage military and expedition wear. From mountaineering and Antarctic parkas to tweed coats, hunting clothing and leather flying jackets, everything is beautifully-made (in the UK) and reflects the practical robustness of the originals.

I regularly wear a Cabourn Tenzing jacket, tweed with Ventile shoulder patches, for country and dog walks and can confirm that these are genuinely comfortable, well-made and weather-resistant garments - I've no doubt that the same goes for the whole range, reflecting the origins and pedigree of their design and manufacture.

The shop is beautifully designed; a cross between mountain hut, barrack-room, locker room and officers' mess, with bare wooden floors, vintage furnishings and books and magazines on show. 

Cabourn has worked on some interesting collaborations with labels such as Filson (below) and some of these are available downstairs in the shop.

For more on the London store click here to visit the Nigel Cabourn website.

Images by Grey Fox.