Monday, 16 October 2017

Harvie & Hudson: a Made to Measure Suit and Shirt

Harvie & Hudson are a Jermyn Street shirt makers and tailors who, after three generations, are still family-owned. Richard Harvie, the MD, is proud of their traditional but very contemporary approach to men's style. The store changes markedly from season to season, from bright linens and cottons on spring/summer to rich autumn/winter tweeds and knitwear as the weather turns colder. There is something about the style and design on the clothing that makes it stand out, offering something both for the man who prefers to blend in and the more extrovert.

Made to Measure from Harvie & Hudson

I tested Harvie & Hudson's made to measure tailoring and shirtmaking services recently. The customer is measured in store by an expert cutter and the shirts are made in London. The process is detailed and changes are made to the cut and fit after the first fitting if alterations are needed. I selected a fine cotton stripe (below), but the range of Italian and British shirting cloths is wide. I wanted a rather vintage look to the shirt and achieved this with an uneven pale blue and red stripe in a relaxed fit which can be worn with knitwear and jeans or a suit and tie.

Trying on the new shirt, fresh from the shirtmakers

For the two-piece suit (below) I selected a Teviot tweed from Lovat Mill in Scotland. The tweed is rich in colour, with autumnal tans and browns highlighted by greens, sky blue and lavender overchecks and accents. I asked for a single-breasted two button jacket of fairly traditional cut, with  trousers cut slightly on the slim side and a moderately deep turn-up. Both shirt and suit fitted well at the first fitting and I felt that no further changes were needed. The suit is a pleasure to wear and the colour and cut of the tweed attract many compliments. There have been no shortcuts with the quality of the buttons and tailoring.

The Teviot Tweed from Lovat Mill, Scotland

To see the range of styles, colours and cloths available both off-the-peg and made to measure visit Harvie & Hudson in Jermyn Street, London or go online here. If you live in the USA and fancy and some genuine British tailoring heritage and style, Harvie & Hudson visit several cities around the country. Further information can be obtained through their website.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Specsavers Spectacle Wearer of the Year Awards in Aid of Kidscape

For many, deteriorating eyesight comes later in life. However, I've worn glasses for over 42 years now; not continuously of course, I take them off to go to bed, shower and wear contact lenses. I've worn contacts for perhaps ten years but, with so many stylish spectacles frames available, find I wear them less and less. I enjoy wearing glasses and the wide choice of looks and moods that selecting different styles offers. It was therefore a pleasure to be a guest at Specsavers' Spectacle Wearer of the Year Awards this week.

I'm wearing Boss Orange 0251 from Specsavers

Here's an event that celebrates the wearing of glasses and the opportunities they offer to enhance the looks and style of the wearer. The national competition is in aid of the children's charity Kidscape and, with its unconscious link to those far-off days when children would be teased at school for wearing specs and at a time when childhood gets harder rather than easier, it's a deserving charity for Specsavers to support. The annual competition is open to all (and covers Ireland too) and Specsavers donates £1 to Kidscape for every entry.

Twiggy at Specsavers Spectacle Wearer of the Year Awards

The event is a colourful and lively party packed with glasses wearers both well-known and less well known. From a prize for a Specsavers' optometrist who saved a patient's life by spotting a symptom-free brain tumour to prizes in several age brackets for stylish spectacles wearers, the Awards celebrate many aspects of optical ownership.

I've very much enjoyed working with Specsavers, who bring such style and positivity to the wearing of glasses. To see how I styled some Specsavers glasses I selected a few months ago, click here. For more on Specsavers, click here.

A mirrored ceiling selfie. I'm wearing Pierre Cardin 02 from Specsavers
Trying different styles of frame

Enjoying the party

This is a sponsored feature made in collaboration with Specsavers.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Geoff Stocker Silk Dressing Gowns

Geoff Stocker has designed a new range of British made silk dressing gowns, to be launched at Best of Britannia this week. He kindly asked me to model some of the designs at a photoshoot in the St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, that magnificent George Gilbert Scott designed masterpiece of Victorian architecture at St Pancras Station.

Geoff told me about the project:
"I went on holiday to Japan in 2016 and visited Kanazawa home of the traditional Kaga Yuzen silk dyeing industry. I saw a lot of wonderful kimonos that were made with this 300 year old process: see

I came back intent on making my own kimono, but after calming down a bit I realised there was no market for a garment like that in Britain. Instead I transposed the idea onto an existing traditional product: the men’s silk dressing gown.

I began working on repeat pattern ideas that I felt would suit a garment rather than the accessories I had produced up until then. I eventually found a pattern on the John Lewis website, (he only place I could find one) and enlisted a couple of dressmakers to make up the first prototypes.

Initially I started out with one design in one colourway. The ‘Sultan’ design in sage green. I had 4 metres of lightweight twill silk printed in this design with an additional 1 metre of plain coloured twill for the collar, cuffs and pockets. Over the next few months I added a further 3 designs to create a full collection, each with an additional colourway. As always my silk is digitally printed by RA Smart of Macclesfield.

Now excited by the prospect I contacted Fashion Enter, a fashion garment manufacturer in London, who I had come across at Best of Britannia London 2016. They created a new and augmented pattern, with additional pockets and an enlarged shawl collar. This was then graded into medium and large sizes from which I made my first samples. Since then I have used another UK (London) based clothing manufacturer called Fabrika. I met them while exhibiting at the ‘Make it British’ Meet the Manufacturer show in May. Which goes to show that these type of events really work when it comes to sourcing new suppliers in Britain".

The full collection will be launched at Best of Britannia London 2017 on 12/13th October at The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, East London. See Geoff Stocker.

This was a collaboration between Grey Fox Blog and Geoff Stocker.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

A British Wool Tweed Suit: A Collaboration with Woven In The Bone & McCann Bespoke

Sam Goates of Woven in the Bone weaves cloth in Scotland. She has wide experience of the industry and designed merino wool products in Australia before returning in 2007 to Scotland, where she was born. While developing training for Harris tweed weavers, she experienced at first hand the Hattersley looms (see last week's blog feature on Harris tweed) which, despite (or perhaps thanks to) their Victorian engineering, enable craftsmen to weave high quality cloth at home. She decided to bring together all her experience to weave cloth herself.

Above Sam Goates at her loom and the British wool tweed

I was lucky enough to meet Sam and we decided to collaborate to produce a British suit, made from wool produced from British sheep. Originally the plan was to have the suit entirely made in this country. In the event it was beautifully tailored by McCann Bespoke (see below), albeit not in the UK, giving me a suit that represents the multiple skills that go to make a suit, from the farmer who raises the sheep, the shearer, the industries that wash, dye, blend, card and spin the yarn to prepare it for weaving to, finally, the skilled weaver, warping the yarn and then, in the spinning process, adding the weft and producing a cloth of beauty and character for clothes, interiors or other uses. (All links are at the end of this feature).

A suit from British wool, woven by Woven in the Bone, tailored by McCann Bespoke

Sam, who still spends some of her time at Harris Tweed Hebrides, is a master of her craft. Her cloths are being discovered all over the UK, and from Savile Row to the provinces, tailors are discovering her products. She also offers bespoke design and manufacture and the rich colours and patterns of her clothes give the possibility of owning a suit made from a cloth made to your specifications - a novel and unique side to suit ownership.

I asked Sam to tell me more about marketing her cloths: 
"From my perspective, I hope that what I am offering to tailors and ultimately their clients, is complimentary to the traditional cloth offering from the British cloth merchants, encouraging clients to explore options for bespoke tailoring outside of traditional city suits.
"My cloth is handcrafted using traditional, artisan skills and production mthods, but provides a contemporary alternative, offering a softer, more relaxed Saxony tweed reflecting the trend towards more flexible office/social wear.  
With personalised and transparent small batch production, it is ‘cloth to connect with’…. for added value to a truly bespoke experience. I offer a design service to tailors & their clients and custom-design cloths in lengths from 6m-60m can be commissioned for those looking for a truly unique and individual piece or for a business wanting to develop their own house cloth".
I selected a beautiful oatmeal herringbone tweed for my suit (pictured above). Undyed, its colours are from the natural colours of the fleece. As Sam describes it:
"I think the “Native” quality cloth that David selected works particularly well for promotion of bespoke suits for the huge market in more rustic, ‘field weddings’... Its made from 100% naturally coloured British wool and in an authentic British classic herringbone tweed that comes straight from the land (I’m tempted to sa, with no artificial colours or preservatives!)"

McCann Bespoke (link below) is on Shaftesbury Avenue London and Neil McCann has a healthy clientele among professional sportsmen, who appreciate quality when they see it. As with many tailors, they offer different grades of tailoring, with the higher end, fully bespoke, involving a very high percentage of hand stitching. 

Images taken at the basted fitting of the suit at McCann Bespoke

They made my suit beautifully, the quality of construction, fit and stitching is very high. Their shop is a lively and fascinating place and at each fitting I bumped into a well-known sportsman. Tweed suits are becoming popular for weddings in particular and McCann's enthusiasm for my slightly unusual request - a suit made from Sam Goates's artisan tweed - was positive and genuine. I can't recommend McCann Bespoke more highly and their flexible pricing enables you to have a suit made at a variety of price points.

Tailoring detail and the finished suit
This feature was a collaboration with Woven in the Bone and McCann Bespoke. All views are mine alone.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Harris Tweed: A Journey to the Heart of the Hebrides

Looking into a piece of Harris tweed with a magnifying glass is like chasing down a fractal: you never quite seem to reach the end of the colours and textures in its depths. The cloth reflects its origins on Scotland's beautiful but exposed western Atlantic fringes. From the vast peaty moors of Lewis to the beautiful beaches, mountains and inlets of Harris, the Outer Hebrides are so interwoven with the tweeds they produce that its hard to appreciate the one without the other.

The white beaches of Harris

Harris tweed colours

Earlier this year I was privileged to be a guest of The Harris Tweed Authority on a journey to discover this most wonderful of tweeds. I knew, of course, that the cloth is woven in the homes of islanders, but the details of its story had escaped me. I gave a visual tour of its production on my Instagram account at the time and reproduce a few images here. 

To be a true Harris tweed, stamped with the Harris Tweed Authority seal of approval, the Orb, various legal requirements have to be met; in particular the need for it to be woven at home in Harris and Lewis, rather than in a mill. It's a product of a close partnership between three mills and a group of individual weavers who produce the cloths which are so appreciated around the world.

I visited one of the mills that prepare and dye the wool (Harris Tweed Hebrides in Shawbost; see images below), spin it into yarn which is warped onto beams which are sent out to the weavers for the cloth to be woven. The weaver adds the weft to the warp and returns the cloth to the mill to be finally washed and checked, stamped with the Orb and distributed. This isn’t a mass-produced product, it’s a home-made cloth that contains the essence of the islands in which it’s made. The depth of colour results from the wool being dyed before spinning, rather than the yarn being dyed after it's been spun. The process is illustrated below:

Dying the wool

Blending colours to make the tweed required

Spinning the yarn

Warping the yarn onto a beam to be sent to the weavers to complete the cloth in their homes

Once back from the weavers the cloth is carefully finished (washed to make it softer), checked for defects and has the famous Orb applied before being packed and despatched all over the world.

The weavers return the woven cloth to the mill for finishing and checking

Checking the cloth to ensure it's perfect

The orb is applied - I was given a length of this very cloth

I also visited some of the weavers in their homes (below). Most work in weaving sheds next to their houses on modern looms that weave full width cloth. Some still use older Hattersley looms, which produce half width cloth. Some carry out the whole process, from warping to weaving, rather than relying on a mill to deliver the warped beams. These few produce limited runs of unique cloth that are much sought after. 

At present the future of Harris tweed and the craft of weaving looks secure; but it would be more so if we all appreciated the value of this product and went out of our way to support it by buying Harris tweed off-the-peg clothing, furnishings and accessories or by asking our tailors for it by name

Weaving the cloth

A Hattersley loom

Donald John McKay MBE, with his Hattersley loom (top) and his own tweeds, used by tailors such as Brita Hirsch

I was pleased to be given a length of Harris tweed during my visit to Shawbost. I'm collaborating with bespoke tailor Brita Hirsch to make this into a jacket showpiecing the best of tailoring and the best of Scottish tweed; but that's another story: keep an eye on my Instagram account and on here for more.

I'm grateful to Leica UK for lending me a Leica Q for the trip. I'm no photographer, but the quality of the images it captured, often in dark weaving sheds, was quite outstanding. The top two and final three images here are taken with the Leica Q, the remainder with my Fuji X100S.

I'm very grateful indeed to the Harris Tweed Authority, whose guest I was. I received no payment. All views are my own.

Harris Tweed Authority - here you can find out more about how the tweed is made

Harris Tweed; From Land to Street by Lara Platman - a photographer looks at everyone involved in making the cloth.
From The Land Comes the Cloth by Ian Lawson - a sumptuous photographic record.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Dinner at The English Grill at The Rubens at the Palace, London

The Rubens at the Palace Hotel is a grand building overlooking Buckingham Palace Mews and close to Victoria Station in Central London. I was recently invited, with my daughter Cate and fellow blogger Adam of The Dapper Chapper, to dine at The English Grill, a magnificent dining room with high ceilings, chandeliers and luxurious decor that matches the grandeur of the hotel.

Cate and I arrive at The Rubens at the Palace Hotel

We were warmly greeted and invited into the strikingly decorated Cavalry Bar with its London theme dominated by paintings of military scenes and vintage posters showing the Trooping of The Colour. The bar staff shook us up some spectacular cocktails, pride of place of which had to go to Cate's 'Up in Smoke' (see image below).

The Cavalry Bar

After cocktails we were shown to our tables in The English Grill. With its magnificent and very British decor the restaurant is as welcoming as the staff who showed us to a quiet corner table where we studied the comprehensive menu which obviously majors on the classics of grill-cooked food, but caters for all, whatever their tastes and dietary preferences. For starter, Cate had Lobster Arnold Bennet, a delicious baked dish with a crispy top and juicy lobster. I had smoked salmon, which was carved at the table and offered a choice of Scottish or Irish salmon. Each was smoked in a different way, the knowledgable waiter described exactly how each would taste and I opted for a slice of both, in time-honoured fashion.

For our wines I asked the sommelier to serve a selection of his own for each course. He served whites and reds throughout the meal from a boutique South African vineyard, Bouchard Finlayson in the Western Cape. All were delicious and complemented starters and main course to perfection.

For the main course I went for an 8oz Kobe beef steak which, as might be expected, was butter tender and deliciously cooked to exactly my request. Others also enjoyed the steaks, while Cate had a delicious chicken pie (The English Grill specialises in a different meat pie each evening of the week) and a mixed grill which seemed to contain every possible combination of meats and sausages that it's possible to get. The quality of the cooking is high, portions generous and we were all pleasantly satisfied at the end of the main course. Throughout the service was friendly, knowledgable and discreet, while attentive to our possible concerns during a short delay in proceedings.

But we still had the pudding course to come. The portions sizes are obviously carefully judged to leave a small corner for the wonderful selection of desserts, from cheesecake to sundaes, Eton mess through to ice creams and sorbets or cheese for those wanting to finish their wine. Needless to say, these were excellent, as would be expected in an English restaurant.

Adam and I enjoy The English Grill

The evening was perfect. The English Grill offers sumptuous surroundings, friendly and helpful service and excellent food which is hearty and well-cooked rather than self-consciously fussy. I'd describe the dress code as smart casual, suitable for the tourist on a relaxing holiday or the Londoner wanting a special meal at a special place unsullied by ripped jeans, shorts and t-shirts. 

The English Grill is a restaurant for the man or woman who likes food the traditional way. I'll certainly be going back to sample more of the excellent menu and wine list. See The Rubens at the Palace - The English Grill for more information and bookings.

I was a guest of The Rubens at the Palace Hotel. This is a collaboration with the hotel. All views expressed are mine alone.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Pajotten: A New Menswear Brand Making in the UK

I'm always excited when I stumble on a new menswear brand, particularly where it's making its products in the UK. Pajotten, whose simple clothing finds its inspiration in workwear, uses natural fibres like linen and cotton drill, to make clothes to order in their Kent studio.

I've tried one of their indigo chore jackets (above). I tend to appear here and on social media dressed in tailored garments, but my natural bias is towards the casual and I've really enjoyed the comfort and utilitarian nature of this piece, made of Lancashire woven cotton drill. I've no doubt that it'll wear well and gain a subtle patina of use as it wears and fades.

I spoke to founder Rebecca Barton to ask her more about Pajotten:

Tell us about Pajotten; when did you start it and what are its aims?

I studied fashion design years ago, (MA at Central St. Martins alongside Lee McQueen) but with a young family and the need for financial security I combined working in a previous business (with Cushlab) with teaching fashion design at university level (Ravensbourne in London). I had always wanted to run my own fashion company but lacked the courage and time until last year when I thought now or never and just did it. The point of change was when for Christmas 2015/16 I made my partner a copy of an old vintage chore jacket. I copied in details like how the sleeve had twisted and the front had dropped down, and cut them into the new garment; it was an instant hit and led to conversations about leaving my job. I can honestly say I have never been happier.

You make in the UK. Is this a core value of the business? Would you make outside the UK? 

It was really important to me that we made in the UK. I know some people who have made abroad and it is really difficult to oversee, plus I am really hands on, the idea of making in huge quantities, not being able to alter designs immediately and without huge cost doesn't appeal at all whereas the idea of employing locally and building up a relationship with a small quantity of makers does. The business was just starting as the Brexit vote came in... that really confirmed for me the importance of trying to source and manufacture everything where possible in the UK. I am committed to this; I think it's the only way Brexit can work.

Tell us about Pajotten's products.

It's currently a small capsule collection of 8 pieces in different fabrics. The focus is on creating quiet, contemporary clothing, simple garments in natural fibres. Detailing is considered and kept to a utilitarian minimum. Importantly, the garments are a reflection of what we enjoy wearing, and feel confident in. While the detailing is pared down our sizing is generous, we want people to feel comfortable in the clothes, pockets are deep and sleeves and hems are wide.

Always averse to the waste and environmental impact of the fashion industry, we aim to do things differently. Firstly, all of our pieces are made to order individually in our family run Kent studio and finished by hand. This means there aren’t lots of unsold garments thrown into landfill, instead garment will be made individually by a maximum of two people, and dispatched within 2 - 4 weeks and because it will be made to order rather than made to measure, it can be returned.

Sustainability also impacts the fabrics we use, we are very keen to support British manufacture so everything we use including fabrics, trimmings and buttons are either sourced from UK mills and companies, or bought as 'deadbolt' from designer level studios. 

Because we are a small brand we are able to do things differently, rather than working to fixed seasons we simply add new pieces when we feel they are needed, this means there will always be something new on the website while favourites will stay available. We are also keen to communicate directly with customers, and are happy to send out fabric swatches prior to purchase.

How do you see the business developing?

We are only just beginning, so for the next couple of years the plan is to establish ourselves, refine and improve what we offer, and how we offer it, but in the future I would love to have a few physical outlets in the UK. I think that the world is changing rapidly, how people shop and what they value within that is also in flux, so I would love to create a range that reflects that properly, something that I don't think huge brands can do, we are now also working on a complimentary womenswear range, at the moment it is 8 pieces at is looking good.

To order or find out more, visit Pajotten. 

The jacket was sent to me by Pajotten for review.
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