Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Sartorial Sages 2: William Skinner of Dege & Skinner of Savile Row

In this, the second of the Sartorial Sages series, I've asked William Skinner to give us the benefit of his style wisdom.

William Skinner is managing director of Savile Row tailors Dege & Skinner and Chair of the Savile Row Bespoke Association. Dege & Skinner were established in 1865 and are Royal Warrant holders. They are also one of the very few family-owned Savile Row tailors left. I'm lucky enough to be the proud owner of two bespoke suits from Dege & Skinner, cut by Tristan Thorne, and they are truly outstanding in terms of fit, quality, style and comfort.

I'm very grateful to William Skinner for agreeing to give us his style tips:
  1. Spend the maximum you can afford on good quality clothing - it will pay you dividends in the long run.
  2. Don’t be swayed too much by what is in fashion - it will soon be out.
  3. Start with a few basics in your wardrobe - dark suit, dinner suit, sports coat/blazer
  4. Listen to the experts as to what styling will be best for you
  5. Be prepared to invest time if it is your first bespoke purchase - this ensures a good pattern can be drafted.

Sartorial Sages

In this series I invite experienced and erudite members of the menswear world to share their experience with us to help us on our searches for style. You can follow others in this series by clicking on Sartorial Sages.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Slowear by Sarah Gilfillan

I've been wanting to know more about the Italian Slowear brand for a while and the opportunity came when I was recently invited to the opening of their new store in King's Road, Chelsea in London. Sadly, I couldn't go, but friend and ace personal stylist, Sarah Gilfillan, kindly braved the free drinks to report back for us. 

Here is Sarah's report: Stepping in from the snow earlier this month to the shop opening of the new Slowear store at 15 Kings Road, SW3 4RP was like stepping into a hip film. The characters were all beautifully dressed, the soundtrack was being played on vinyl, and arty books were languishing around waiting to be pored over. Add to that a wall of photos of artistes such as Ronnie Wood and Amy Winehouse by musician photographer Mattia Zoppellaro and the movie set was complete.

If you don’t already know the brand; Slowear is the umbrella under which 5 brands merge giving you a one stop shop for your wardrobe as follows:

Incotex for trousers
Zanone for knitwear
Glanshirt for shirts
Montedoro for outerwear
Officina Slowear for accessories

It’s a mixture of perfectly formed basics with textural, patterned and unusual pieces to enhance these. They’re constructed in slim easy to wear shapes and soft worn in fabrics so they instantly look as if they’re part of your wardrobe. And if you’re feeling in a rock’n’roll sort of mood, choose one of their beautiful scarves or some chunky jewellery to ensure you really stand out. The protagonists of the evening for me were a collared ecru cotton knit sweater which looked like it could have come straight off the back of one of the characters in “Jules et Jim” and an ultra light, wind proof, water resistant and breathable mac which was part of the Urban Traveller range [sadly we don't have an image]. 

Slowear’s philosophy is to take it s-l-o-w and buy things you love that you’ll wear again and again. Treat them well and they’ll last and as it says on their website “DURABLE FASHION IF IT LASTS IT IS (R)EVOLUTIONARY”. Pop in to the Kings Road store for a coffee and a chat and they’ll have you kitted out in no time, so if your life ever gets made into a film, you’ll be most certainly be winning the Oscars for your wardrobe. Slowear. 

With many thanks to our woman in Chelsea, Sarah Gilfillan of Sartorialab
This is an unsponsored post.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Wildsmith Shoes: Shoes Made in England from Herring

British shoemaking, and in particular English shoemaking, is still centred around Northamptonshire where skilled workers have made the finest shoes for centuries. Although the industry sadly contracted during the last decades of the last century, it is now on the up and English-made shoes are sought after the world over for their comfort, style and robustness. 

Wildsmith Shoes were worn by many renowned clients: the brand has been revived by Herring Shoes

Herring Shoes have been around for a relatively modest  half century, but their commitment to English manufacture was underlined when they recently revived an old shoemaking name. Wildsmith was established in 1847 and supplied King George the VI with a stout house-shoe, now called the loafer. Other renowned clients included royalty, President JF Kennedy, Cary Grant and David Niven. 

Matthew & Rebecca Wildsmith

They clearly had the right idea about shoes; as John Wildsmith once said, “You are either in your bed or in your shoes, so it pays to invest in both.” Sadly the name disappeared until it was acquired by Herring Shoes who sent me a pair of Wildsmith Grant brogues to try. British-made, they are made with leather soles using classic Goodyear-welted construction. A slim shape and a different but sleek broguing design give them a contemporary and elegant appearance. On the foot, they are very comfortable indeed. 

My Grant brogues from Wildsmith

For anyone looking for a blend of traditional shoemaking skills with a contemporary design, Wildsmith from Herring is a range to look at including loafers, brogues, boots and plain oxfords and derbies. Prices will range between £275 and £400 at launch. More information is available on and see also Herring Shoes.

This is a sponsored post.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Sartorial Sages 1: Patrick Grant's Style Advice

In this new series, I've invited a number of sartorial sages, well-known men and women who've inspired me, to distill their sartorial experience and expertise into a few words of guidance for those of us looking for style. 

I'm very grateful to Patrick Grant for being the first to step forward. Patrick is if course the man behind Savile Row's Norton & Sons and E. Tautz. He also founded Community Clothing Co. which seeks to revive British manufacture (all links below). He's also known as a television presenter, in particular on The Great British Sewing Bee, a series that I, who can hardly sew on a button, found endlessly fascinating. 

Patrick Grant

Here are Patrick Grant's five brief tips:

  • Tie knots should occupy no more than half the space between your collars

  • Only one colour of leather should be worn or carried: shoes, belt, watch strap, bag, gloves (black, dark brown, mid tan, light tan)

  • Ditto metals – belt buckle, watch buckle, cuff links, shoe buckle, bag hardware

  • Always fasten the middle button on a three button jacket and the top button on a two. This button should be roughly at your navel. As should your waistband.

  • Trousers and shirts are simple to press at home. So do this, fastidiously.

I'd like to thank Patrick Grant for his contribution to Sartorial Sages. He always looks immaculate, whether dressed casually or formally, and it's clearly his eye for detail which contributes to this.

Community Clothing Co. (who are updating and relaunching their website at the end of March 2018)

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Exploring Bespoke 6: The Baste Fitting

In the last chapter we explored the individual cutting pattern as foundation of the perfect fit and the floating canvas as the structural scaffold of the bespoke coat. Next up in the bespoke process is the first - baste or basted - fitting, which puts it all to the test: it is the first opportunity for the tailor to gauge how successfully she translated data collected - customer measurements and observations on figure and posture - into the garment.

At the first fitting the coat is held together by white thread known as basting

The term is borrowed from the process of sewing together roughly the parts of the coat with white cotton thread - known as basting - which has become synonymous with true bespoke.

The first fitting is all about fit and proportion. It will be generous dimensionally - surplus material can be cut away, but missing cloth cannot be replaced - and should be seen as an approximation, the beginning of the process of taking away, to find the ideal shape.

Brita and I discuss details from the old photograph which inspired the coat

I decide I want very unstructured shoulders, so out come Brita's scissors

First and foremost, the customer should be comfortable, there should be no feeling of physical restriction or limitation of their movement. Nor should there be discomfort with any feature that may not go along with their own idea of the garment’s design. By that I mean respect for the customers wishes when it comes to style and its elements. A massive peak lapel may be the tailor’s own idea of great style, but should not be imposed if the client feels uneasy with it.

Secondly, the garment should flatter their shape, whatever that may be, and this is where a trained eye for proportion comes in. Chiselling away at waist and back but adding where needed in shoulder and skirt, all the while making sure that the fit is not compromised, the craftsman makes the most of the opportunity: taking notes - often in chalk on the garment itself - on changes and adjustments that need to be made in preparation for the next stage - the forward fitting.

Brita pins the back and will remove some material for a closer fit

For other features in the Exploring Bespoke series here on the blog, click here.

Friday, 9 March 2018

How Has Grey Fox's Style Evolved Since He Started the Blog? by Sarah Gilfillan

I was discussing my series A Search for Style (link below) recently with menswear personal stylist, Sarah Gilfillan of Sartoria Lab and she suggested that we look at how my style has developed over the six years since I started the blog. As ever with Sarah, the idea was both brilliant and highly apposite to this series in which I try to analyse style to help those of us on a journey to find it.

FROW at a menswear show in Jermyn Street, 2017 wearing a New & Lingwood suit

In the image above I'm wearing a summer suit from New & Lingwood. I doubt I could have pulled off such a look a few years ago. How has the journey to style developed? Before I hand over to Sarah I want to acknowledge her help and experience on this blog over the years. If you are looking for a style makeover or wardrobe advice you couldn't do better than to obtain her help. See Sartorialab.

Grey Fox's journey to style by Sarah Gilfillan

'It wasn’t until I came across the image below picture recently that I realised how David’s look has subtly changed and improved. There’s nothing exactly wrong with this outfit, but he doesn’t look as groomed and put together as he does now.

So let’s take a closer look as to why this is. Firstly, while the colours he’s wearing don’t clash, there’s nothing that ties them together. Secondly, I personally prefer David in jackets that have a bit more structure to them: this one looks a little bit “sacky”. David is slim and I think a slightly unstructured boxy jacket like this is more suited to a body shape that is broader or stockier. Thirdly, I’m also not mad about these trousers. Although they’re more of a chino, because of the 5 pocket style they’re a little reminiscent of the sort of bright blue denim jeans that were worn in the 1970s, and generally it’s thought that if you were wearing something the first time round, you shouldn’t be wearing it again! 

There’s one other almost imperceptible change that’s since made a dramatic difference: his hairstyle. David’s hair is now shorter at the sides giving it a more stylised look. Grey hair has a tendency to dryness (I speak from experience!) and now David has taken to using products his hair looks sleeker, tidier and more groomed.

The one thing that stands out about the jacket (above) is the fact that the lapels are quite wide which in my opinion makes it look a little dated as recently lapels have been a lot slimmer. I understand that many men will want to stick to classics but even those will change shape a little over time. The other point is that David has quite a slender frame and long neck and the width of the lapels seems to enhance this and the look feels a little unbalanced.

This (above) is about half way through David’s search for style to date. The muted tones of blues and browns work well together, the tie has a nice dimple and the pocket square has a touch of blue in it bringing in the colour of the tie and also red, which goes with the lining of the jacket. There’s one thing I like to see on a waistcoat and that’s the bottom button undone. David has yet to update his hair style in this image.

I like this look (above) as it feels modern and fresh without being too trendy. The bold stripe of the shirt works well with the more subtle check of the jacket, the red pocket square adds a flash of colour and the glasses look up to date and modern. David is not scared to mix his patterns!

This (above) is one of my favourite pictures of David. Easy to look good in a suit you may think, but notice the details: the double breasted with very fitted jacket, the tab collar shirt, cufflinks, and flash of colour with the pocket square. The fit of the suit is great, the bold check and darker colour of the tie balance really well with the suit and there’s enough cuff showing, a detail which many men overlook [Grey Fox: it's worth noting that this suit was £200 from Hammond & Co. of Debenhams a couple of years ago; quality (the cloth was English-made) and fit are more important than price].

Even in just a simple shirt here (above), David manages to look stylish. What is it that sets this apart from other shirts? Here’s what I think it is; the shirt fits well on David. It’s chambray, which looks modern; the cutaway collar is flattering on David’s long neck, and he looks great in blue! Add to this the contemporary style of glasses and stylish hair and you have a great look.

Even when David’s wearing casual clothes now (image above), he manages to look modern and well put together. I love the layering and the neatly tied scarf which works well with the rest of the outfit in lightening it up. I like the underneath layers all being dark and then the outer layer in a lighter colour which stands out. Plenty of patch pockets are flattering to David’s slim physique. Note how the hair has improved too!

Three Ways to Dress Better as an Older Man:

Fit - this goes for any age, but I’ve noticed a tendency in older guys to always opt for the oversized and comfortable which, if you’re not careful, can look sloppy. Make sure things fit well.

Colour - you don’t have to match everything exactly (it's best not to), but having some sort of coherence between the colours in your outfit brings it together and improves your overall appearance, whether dressed formally or casually.

Accessories - by paying attention to the details, it shows you care about how you look. Opting for a few modern touches in your glasses, pocket squares etc keeps your look fresh. For example, try a denim or chambray shirt with jacket and tie.'

Grey Fox: I'd like to thank Sarah for her analysis here. We hope it helps others in their searches for style. Follow The Search for Style on this blog on this link.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Bamford Watch Department: Customised Watches

I met George Bamford just before Christmas when he showed me Bamford Watch Department's Mayfair HQ. Housed in an elegant building, a remarkable feature is that the paint of the internal walls graduates from black to white over the height of the building. When I mentioned this to Bamford he told me that most visitors don't notice, but I saw it as evidence of his total immersion in design that marks out his approach to whatever he does.

Zenith El Primero customised by Bamford Watch Department

Bamford Watch Department designs many things, from grooming products, through stickers (incongruously) to the customisation of watches. I first came across the company some years ago, in my watch collecting days, when they applied a black coating to Rolexes (particularly the Submariner) in a way that made the watches look fantastic, but, as it was done without Rolex approval, voided any warranty. Nowadays watch brands such as Zenith, Tag Heuer and Bulgari have arrived at George Bamford's door to collaborate with him. Visit the BWD website and you'll see that you can stamp your personality on an off-the-peg watch by changing dials, hands and cases to create a timepiece that is exactly as you want it. 

Top row: Zenith and Tag Heuer customised watches. Bottom row: Bamford Mayfair quartz watches

Each watch is customised in Bamford's own workshops where I saw experienced watchmakers relishing in the creative nature of the work they do. George has a close input, commenting in strap shapes and stitching and, with his keen design eye, ensuring that each watch looks its best for the client.

They also produce their own Mayfair collection of quartz watches. Affordably priced at £425, they come in a wide range of case and dial colours, echoing the customisation available for higher end watches. The Mayfair Range have a military-inspired asymmetric titanium-coated case and 12 hour bezel which makes them ideal holiday watches when you'd rather leave the pricey watches at home. The 12 hour bezel allows time to be read in a different timezone and a selection of straps adds to the choice available. There is no date display, something I'd like to see on a very practical knock-around watch like this.

On the wrist: customised Zenith El Primero (top left) and Bamford Mayfair

I was sent a couple of watches to try. Both had huge straps, far too large for my medium/small wrist, so if you order check sizing. Close up, all the watches are beautifully made and, whether you go for a customised high end watch like a Zenith, Tag Heuer or Bulgari, or the affordable Mayfair Range you'll have a wristwatch that's not only different but that oozes design integrity. The breadth of choice is large and you will own a customised watch that fulfils your precise requirements. See Bamford Watch Department.

This post was unsponsored. I was lent watches for review.

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