Monday, 12 October 2015

Mr Stanford: umbrellas made in England

Mr Stanford is based in Brighton and designs umbrellas. The company was created as a result of the founder's inability to find an umbrella that would stand up to the monsoon rains of South East Asia.

There is an emphasis on British manufacture and design, with umbrellas designed in house and made at James Ince & Sons in Spitalfields, London. This company was founded in 1805 and is still owned by the Ince family. Printing is carried out in London, weaving in Italy and handles are from sustainable sources and produced in the UK and Italy.

I was sent a Rangoon Camel (pictured above) to try out. It sports a classic whangee handle, which reminds me of the umbrellas used by my father and grandfather when I was a child. The shaft is made of oak-stained beechwood and details like the black mother of pearl button add to a feeling of quality.

Overall the brolly feels light in weight but solidly built and it looks better in life than in the images. Robust and very stylish,  it even keeps off the rain! Visit Mr Stanford's website for more information and to buy.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Millican bags - Mark the Field Bag, for rural & urban explorers

Sometimes an explorer needs a bag more accessible and less bulky than a rucksack. Botanists, searching the wilderness for exotic plants, would use a shoulder-hung specimen bag. This would carry everything from plant cuttings, to camera, notebooks and sandwiches and be easier to get into than a back-mounted pack. Millican, the Lake District-based company, have taken an old concept and brought it up to date with their Mark the Field Bag which sits alongside a wide and interesting collection of bags, sacks and accessories. 

Jeans, Quantock Menswear and Shetland jumper, Leith Clothing. Both Made in UK.

I was after a bag of this type for my explorations in Cumbria and for walking Harry, whose dog treats and lead fit alongside my camera, water bottle and whatever interesting objects we find on our wanderings. At my request, Millican generously sent me one of their limited edition (50 only) field bags to try. The smart grey is stylishly set off by a rich orange lining (a favourite colour combination of mine and one used on this blog). Beautifully made, the 33cm wide canvas bag contains many pockets and has cunning leather straps with poppers which allow easy one-handed opening and closing.

And I've used the bag in the city too. It carries a laptop, camera and notebooks with ease and its wide canvas shoulder strap makes it comfortable to carry. But somehow I feel its heart is in the country, worn by the intrepid naturalist. Now; where's my butterfly net?

See Millican's website for more information and to buy. The limited edition Mark the Field bag is hereIn its non-limited edition guise, Mark the Field Bag also comes in various other rustic colours.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Wool Week: Sheep on the Row, a cycling suit & GQ photographs Grey Fox

A desultory drizzle added to the unusual sheep-farm atmosphere yesterday when The Campaign for Wool marked the start of Wool Week by showing Exmoor and Bowmont Merino sheep on Savile Row. After a launch breakfast, at which the sustainable nature of wool was emphasised, I had a wander round Savile Row, bumping into many old friends and enjoying the presentations on the street and some of the shops on the Row. 

One product exemplified for me the modern use of wool. Guy Hills of Dashing Tweeds, who, with designer Kirsty McDougall is updating tweed as a twenty-first century cloth, showed me a suit designed for cycling. Reflective threads in the cloth glow in direct light, an action-back and button straps to close the trouser hems were among the many features of this beautifully cut suit. Being wool, it sheds showers and doesn't get too smelly as the wearer works up a sweat spinning his bike across the city streets. The suit is worn in the pictures with some rather elegant shoes from Edward Green.

The day was superb; very English in that it combined eccentricity with world-leading technical manufacturing and exquisite tailoring skills. For more information on Wool Week and The Campaign for Wool click here.

I was lucky enough to be photographed by GQ's David Nyanzi for a feature on 'Superbly Suited Men in Savile Row', so here I am with the sheep in the background. See GQ for the full feature.

Image David Nyanzi for GQ

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Sheep on the Row - Wool Week 2015

This coming week is Wool Week and it starts with the remarkable sight of sheep grazing on the hallowed (and albeit temporary) turf of Savile Row in London. 

If you visit The Row on Monday between 10.00 and 18.00 you will see not only Bowmont merino and Exmoor sheep, but  a variety of events, presentations, grooming and shows of bespoke menswear crafted from wool. 

Over Wool Week events will take place around the country to highlight the advantages of wool as a material (as if we have to be told that!)

The focus on wool in menswear is a logical step. According to Mintel, the men’s clothing market has seen sales rise by 22% in the last five years to reach £13.5 billion in 2014, growing at a faster rate than womenswear, driven by a growing interest in men’s fashion and more retailers expanding into menswear. This year sales of menswear are set to reach £14.1 billion with 27% of male shoppers showing a preference for purchasing British clothes, shoes and accessories. The market has been bolstered by men’s interest in their appearance and their tendency to wear branded clothes more than women. 

For more information about The Campaign for Wool, visit @Campaignforwool #ChooseWool 

More about Wool Week

The Campaign for Wool was launched in 2010 to educate consumers about the benefits of wool, promote wool and wool-rich products to a national audience and help to support and grow the wool industry. Run by a coalition of industry groups convened by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, the campaign works to engage consumers through exciting fashion, interiors, artisan and design lead activities centring around Wool Week each year.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Buy British Day - a selection of Made in UK menswear for you to try (& some discount codes)

Buy British Day arrives this week (details below*) and offers you the opportunity to familiarise yourself with some of the great brands, large and small, that make menswear (and other things) here in the UK. 

Making shirts at Turnbull & Asser's factory in Gloucester (image Grey Fox)

Below I round-up of some of my favourite brands, limiting it to a selection of those whose products (1) I own or have been given the chance to try over the last year and (2) are made mostly in the UK. Some offer a discount for Buy British Day and I've added it where I know of it. Others may offer one that I'm not aware of, so check first.

Many other brands that I know and love, such as Realm & Empire, Drake's, M&S and Oliver Sweeney, make some of their products in the UK, but are excluded from this summary to fit with the theme of Buy British Day. 

British-made tailoring from Susannah Hall (see below) 

Grey Fox wearing all British - Tusting, Spoke, Pantherella, Cheaney

I emphasise that this is a partial selection. However, I've listed over 420 suppliers of British-made menswear here on the blog (click on the link to have a browse). Please mention Grey Fox Blog is you visit any of them. Happy Hunting!

Ties, cravats, pocket squares
Cravat Cub - silk pocket squares and cravats. Discount 5% and chance to win products for Buy British Day (BUYBRITISHDAY)
Geoff Stocker - beautifully designed by Geoff Stocker himself
Age of Reason - silk squares designed by Ali Mapletoft in Brighton.

General menswear
E. Tautz - mainly made in their recently acquired Blackburn factory, great design and construction
Susannah Hall - shirts and tailoring all made in the UK
Gloverall - British-made coats and menswear
Private White VC - Manchester made, offer a 15% discount for Buy British Day (BUYBRITISH)
Quantock Clothing - jeans, knitwear, shirt all made in the UK.

Leith Clothing - Shetland jumpers in multiple glorious colours
Quiggleys - great jumpers made in Scotland. 20% discount for Buy British Day (code #BuyBritishDay)
Country of Origin - hand-framed knitwear

TriplStitched - shirts made in London - see the Grey Fox x TriplStitched collaboration

Pantherella - socks for all styles and tastes, made in Leicester

Shoes (miscellaneous)
Loake - Northamptonshire traditional shoemaking
Cheaney - ditto
Norman Walsh (trainers) - trainers made in Bolton
REW Reynolds (cycle shoes) - traditional leather cycling shoes made with a modern twist

Luggage and leatherwear
Tusting - leather bags made in Buckinghamshire. 10% discount until 11 October (code BUYBRITISH)
Holdall & Co - by young designer Rai Navickaite

London Undercover - brollies made in England
Mr Stanford - ditto, made in Spitalfields, London

Shaving and grooming
DR Harris - currently my favourite post-shave creams, unguents and fragrances
Penhaligon's - manly fragrances from this well-established company
Gruhme - new on the block; fine fragrances for men

British Boxers - boxer shorts. 20% discount to blog readers (code GREYFOX)
Penny Dreadful - slightly naughty boxer shorts
Cahoonas - shaped to allow for umm... errr... how you hang your tackle

*About Buy British Day

Buy British Day 2015 takes place on Saturday October 3rd 2015, with mini Best of Britannia pop-up events in London and Preston, encouraging consumers to support brands and businesses that design and manufacture in Britain.

The day is an initiative from Best of Britannia, an annual event and website that showcases more than 200 of the best British-made brands and products. Buy British Day aims to engage with consumers who care about the provenance of what they’re buying.

Buy British Day is at London’s Kings Cross where it teams up with Wayne Hemingway’s The Classic Car Boot Sale in Granary Square and in central Preston, in a pop-up retail outlet in the middle of the Fishergate shopping centre and on the Preston Train Station concourse.

Monday, 28 September 2015

OHW? stylish waterproof boots for autumn/winter

It can be hard to find robust, waterproof boots for more stylish country and dog walks. There are many available from outdoor and mountain shops that owe more to practicality than appearance.  The unusually named Ohw? have got design and looks right with their new (for Autumn/Winter '15) waterproof range of Goodyear welted boots with an internal waterproof membrane in hydrophobic full grain leather and treated suede and wool.

OHW? have released their new range for AW15

I've tried a pair of their Holden boots on wet and muddy dog walks. Robustly constructed of strong but pliable leather and suede, I found them comfortable and dry. Their moccasin shape, leather laces and rubber/phylon soles give them a stylish appearance far removed from the often unattractive approach shoes and boots sold for lighter duty walks.

Holden waterproof boots from OHW?

Ohw? aim to bring a fresh approach to men’s footwear with contemporary and functional designs manufactured in their own factory in China. It's refreshing to see a brand willing to be so open about the provenance of its products. I feel that the variety, quality and design of the finished product shows that they've achieved their aim.

To see their varied and stylish range of shoes and boots go to the Ohw? website or click on the advert on the right hand column of this blog.

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Loake shoe store: the lost art of selling shoes

Buying shoes is easy: you just buy online or nip into the department store and try on a few until you find some that look good and even may fit. That just about describes my shoe buying habits until I was recently invited to the Loake store in Princes Arcade off Piccadilly in London. Soon after meeting the manager, Tony Ryan, I realised that there is much more to buying a good pair of shoes.

The knowledge of the store staff of shoe construction is unequalled and this is an important factor in selecting the shoes you want, matching them to purpose and to your foot size and shape. The many models of Loake shoe are constructed around different lasts, each of which best fits certain customers. Tony and his staff will find out what you require from your shoes and measure and fit them with care. It's best to wear your new shoes at home on carpets for a while to ensure comfort. Loake will take back shoes that don't fit well, as long as they are in as new condition.

And the Loake service extends to  more than simply selecting shoes on the basis of fit and comfort. I was impressed that Tony was prepared to discuss the colours and outfits you might want to wear them with. He will even direct customers wanting to buy a complete outfit to tailors and retailers whose products will fit with the type, colour and construction of the new shoes and will suggest suitable styling. This deep knowledge and understanding of menswear takes the service way beyond a mere shoe fitting. 

The shoes I selected: Loake Perth from the 1880 range in burgundy

With Tony's patient help, I selected a pair of made in England burgundy Loake Perth plain derbies in soft and comfortable leather with Goodyear welted double leather soles. Unsurprisingly, Tony and his staff see many loyal customers returning to their shop. To see a Google tour of the shop, click here. For more on Loake, their shoes and suppliers, see their website here.

This feature was written in partnership with Loake.