Tuesday 29 December 2009

Exclusive: Casely-Hayford SS10 Look Book and Interview

The Casely-Hayford duo applying the finishing touches to their wonderful offering at Menswear Day.

Before the festive break we mentioned that we would have an exclusive gift for you on the 29th and right on time, we can now deliver our late Christmas present to you....the first look at Casely-Hayford's SS10 look book along with an interview with our favourite design duo. One of the real highlights of the extended Menswear Day back in September was Casely-Hayford's collection entitled Kings of the Kings Land. Inspired by the raw energy of Kingsland Road (where their studio is based) they unveiled a new style tribe, the 'Afropunk.' For the benefit of those who live outside of London, this seemingly unique and unconventional corner of the city is where original EastEnders co-exist with the more recently landed public school boys. This incongruous social mix conjures up a rich sartorial vocabulary which the Casely-Hayford's have used to create a new English style.

The first look at Casely-Hayford's SS10 look book.

Steve left the Fashion East Menswear Installations inspired by what he had seen but was impatient to learn more about this collection in particular. With this in mind, we caught up with Charlie and Joe to talk about the collection in more detail and to find out about their exciting plans for the year ahead whilst revealing their SS10 look book for the very first time...

A new form of sartorial mix. English Wedgewood style fused with Turkish Ottoman prints.

SS: The collection was inspired by the sights and sounds of Dalston's infamous road, Kingsland Road. What is it about this part of East London which makes it so special and so inspiring?
Casely-Hayford: We've always been interested in the idea of 'the trans-cultural' - an enriched summation of many cultures to create a unified whole, forming a sartorial mix which is unique to the UK and possibly at it's most direct in London. For us, this area of London perfectly captures the spirit simply by walking from one end of the Kingsland Road to the other. It is possible to experience some of the worlds most prominent cultures, and we wanted to echo this mood in our collection. We are excited by the way that new conclusions are drawn from this cultural fusion.

The English DNA of the brand is fused with the colour and ornamentation of beautiful prints and hard-egded far-eastern embellishments.

SS: Your first two collections have seen you fuse elements of traditional English tailoring with facets of sportswear and this one sees you continue this sartorial cocktail with the unexpected addition of African elements to the mix. Do these combinations reflect the two of you in anyway, or perhaps the interchange and evolution of your own aesthetics?
Casely-Hayford: It wasn't so much the African element that initially enticed us - it was the similarities between the powerful youth culture of London Punks and the age-old aesthetics of traditional tribal wear. The synergy between the two seemed interesting and relevant to an emerging subculture that was as of yet undefined. We were able to retain the English DNA of the brand whilst fusing it with the colour and ornamentation of these beautiful prints and hard-egded far-eastern embellishments.

A unique combination of the delicacy of the Casely-Hayford aesthetic mixed with the raw energy of the anarchic youth created a trans cultural sartorial punk that we came to define as the 'Afropunk'. All the essential Casely-Hayford elements are still central to our statement, we are simply introducing another facet.

We have spent a lot of time discussing how we define culture and both agree that it is something which is not static. For each generation there is a defining point. We felt that with this collection we could begin to touch on an aesthetic shift from one decade to the next.

Introducing the Afropunks

SS: You unveiled the 'Afropunk', as part of the extended Menswear Day at LFW, how has the reaction been to your new style tribe? And did you have a chance to enjoy the day at all?
Casely-Hayford: The reaction has been overwhelming! We didn't really expect it. It's funny that through making a stronger visual statement we seem to have connected with a wider audience. People have been keen to embrace our vision. The Casely-Hayford sartorial mood prevails but through countering cliched notions of luxury we have been able to celebrate fine craftsmanship in a modern context.

It is always difficult presenting a personal statement to the public where the designer's intention transcends the power of the viewer's interpretation, but throughout the day we were pretty surprised by the positive reaction we received from a wide and diverse range of individuals.

Rather than doing a runway show, from the very beginning we made a decision that our seasonal statement would be in the form of a selection of images that reflected the brand identity. We are interested in creating something for the few, rather than reaching out to every man. Last LFW was an exception that appealed to us because it was the 25th anniversary. The Menswear Day was significant in finally creating something credible for buyers and press in London that wasn't dominated by womenswear.

Relaxed, luxurious tailoring... English Wedgewood style.

SS: The moment Steve walked in to your space inside Somerset House's East Wing, he was struck by how meticulously styled and cast the collection was and this has been continued through to the look book. Do you enjoy the styling aspect? What was the inspiration for the ornate embellishment of Turkish prints?
Casely-Hayford: I think there are very few designers that style their own collections. But it is a major part of the process for us. There's such a strong narrative behind each garment, the story would be incomplete if the stylistic vision was not carried through with exacting measure. We felt that the ornate patterns formed the perfect cross over point between English Wedgewood style and Turkish Ottoman prints.

The "hankersleeves" featured in the look book and presentation seem to have caught a lot of people's attention. We were looking at tribal notions of beauty and wanted to utilise the metal hoops that various African tribes use to elongate areas of their body such as the neck and arms. We used colourful hand rolled silk handkerchiefs from Suffolk to anglicise the look and make it our own.

A closer look at the much talked about 'hankersleeves'.

SS: 2009 has been a huge year for Casely-Hayford, what have been the highlights for you both?
Casely-Hayford: It's been an amazing year. Being approached by several top international retailers was a major endorsement of what we are doing. Collaborating with Swaroskvi on their first ever menswear project along with Lanvin and Phillip Lim has been really exciting... and working on this new project with John Lewis has been so fulfilling. I don't think there's been anything like it before - it's essentially a celebration of 'the Best of British' under one umbrella. Each season my father will be designing a complete wardrobe and collaborating with some of the most highly respected British heritage brands for John Lewis to create new unique garments. We received some of the samples just before Christmas and they look really strong. The first items should be in store from the end of February. Lulu inviting us to take part in London Fashion Week as part of Fashion East was obviously also another highlight of the year.

We are sure to replicate Casely-Hayford'd styling when the warm sunshine returns next year.

SS: What are you looking forward to in 2010? And...can you share any hints as to what you'll be showing in February 2010 and beyond?
Casely-Hayford: 2010 will hopefully be a year of greater international expansion for the brand. We've been approached by some interesting stores over the last few months who we hope to work with in the near future.

Autumn is a little darker and harder than previous collections, Focusing more on craftsmanship and quality... but once again pushing the boundaries of English sartorialism and British anarchy.

Two final looks at SS10 before we begin looking forward to the year ahead.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you all! We hope the fat men in red brings you everything on your list and more whilst you enjoy some quality time with all of your family! Here's to taking a break from it all whilst eating and drinking far too much. So we will be taking a few days off from the online world but we will post again by the 29th and have an exclusive little treat for you from the good chaps at Casely-Hayford before the New Year. Eat, drink and be merry!

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Merry Christmas to...me

Merry Christmas to me. My gift to myself, a pair of Harris Tweed Clarks Desert Boots sitting pretty under the tree.

Over the last week or two I have been running around central London on the hunt for the perfect Christmas presents for my friends and family. As you all know, this can be a quite traumatic time at the best of times but when you add freezing temperatures to the mix you have a foul tasting cocktail. Whilst dashing to and from work and around the shops I have fallen prey to the ice and snow. In fact I have tripped on my sorry behind no less than four times in as many days, bruising my forearm, arse and ego in the process. Oh woe was me. By Sunday morning I was feeling more than a little sorry for myself and turned to a spot of personal retail therapy for comfort. However, rather than succumbing to rabid consumerist hysteria I made an astute, practical and measured purchase, a pair of Harris Tweed Clarks Desert Boots at half price no less!

I was surprised to find a mini-boot keyring packed in with my boots.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Desert Boot, Clarks Originals created six unique, new designs (three for women and three for men). t is amazing to think that these stylish staples were first invented in a Burmese military outpost by a young Nathan Clark. The original boots inspiration is a crepe soled boot made from rough, suede in Cairo's fabled Old Bazaar and it was soon the off-duty English Army officers footwear of choice. There are a plethora of different desert boots out there made by all sorts of names but why deviate from the original? To mark the anniversary Clarks Originals created a look inspired by each of the six decades that the Desert Boot has spent as an essential fashion item. As soon as the anniversary boots were released back in September my head was turned by the Harris Tweed, 1950's pair...

The certified mark of Harris Tweed.

For such a burly and utilitarian fabric, Harris Tweed evokes an a great deal of romantically nostalgic feelings and ever since I watched the recent BBC4 series Tweed (discussed here), I have been hooked on this very special cloth. As mentioned previously, the colours are deceptively beautiful. A Harris Tweed yarn will routinely contain seven or eight different coloured wools, which are all blended together and then spun to create an amazingly rich texture of colour and I'm afraid these pictures fail to do the cloth justice.

Harris Tweed Clarks Desert Boots worn red socks from Uniqlo and wool trousers from COS.

This a tweed still woven by pedal-powered looms in the homes of Scottish sheep herders out in the outermost fringe of the British Isles. It has been this way since 1846. I now understand the history and the provenance of the cloth. There is something quite special about the Isle of Harris, Lewis and that northern chain of Hebridean islands. The materials and the colours are redolent of the sea, and the grass, the rugged life, the farming. I'm so pleased that a company like Clarks has realised the beauty of the cloth. I believe that the end result is a fitting tribute to both the cloth and the desert boot.

It seems that I'm not the only one taken with my new boots...Patch (the patchwork tweed dog from Muji) has found a new friend.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Tailoring and tyrants

Over the last couple of months I have often found myself peering in to a store which had recently popped up on Ganton Street. The interesting space appeared to be well stocked with fine tailored goods but due to a combination of misfortune, poor planning and forgetfulness I've not been able to grasp the chance to explore inside. I've been meaning to check out the brand for some time since and thanks to a blogging nudge from Made in England, I finally have. I love nothing more than unearthing new (at least to me) brands and Social Suicide have to be one of my favourite discoveries. I love their AW09 look book so much, I just had to share it with you..

The AW09 collection, entitled ”Dictators of Fashion”, draws style and structural inspiration from a series of 20th Century military and political heroes and tyrants. On first glance, the idea of a collection being inspired by such figures sounds most odd and misguided but when you think about the names involved it makes perfect sense. Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle, Benito Mussolini, Nelson Mandela, Chairman Mao, General Kalashnikov, Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro. Now, these names might not appear as style icons but I am reminded of an old article in The Independent which put forward the ten suits that shook the world. The owners of these ten important sartorial creations included none other than Winston Churchill, Mao Tse-Tung and Malcolm X. This collection has forced me to rethink my style in politics stance...

Ten characters, Ten cuts, Ten stories; all with incredible detailing, beautiful handwork, leather trims and delicate embroidery. For me, the most iconic suit is Churchill's wartime flannel suit. The Independent article reminded me of that famous posed picture of the wartime leader where he held a Thompson submachine gun in one hand, a signature cigar in the other and was wearing an immaculate chalk-stripe flannel suit adorned with a bowler hat and spotted bow tie. They say a picture can say a thousand words, well this piece of propaganda just said two, "Don't mess!" The original suit was made by the Savile Row tailors, Henry Poole, with woven cloth supplied by Fox Brothers of Wellington, Somerset but the Social Suicide chaps have created two fine versions for the modern English gentleman. A three button, three piece suit with high waisted trousers. Made in a pure wool flannel with an embroidered cotton pin-stripe. It also features a sunglasses pouch top pocket with spring closure and a cigar pocket.

Churchill's iconic pin stripe.

If Churchill's pin stripe suit is the most iconic, Mandella's tuxedo has to be the most popular. It is very special indeed and is beautifully made in super 150s merino wool with cashmere and silk. The Italian silk lapel is forced into a large rounded chest with a single button a bit like a shawl collar...

I love the asymmetrical leather trim detailing of De Gaulle's Sam Brown suit. A two button pure wool flannel two piece suit trimmed in Italian nappa leather. For those of you who like me are left scratching their heads as to what a Sam Brown is, well I will tell you...it is a leather belt that passes over the shoulder to suspend a holster. Therefore, the piped lapel mimics the strap over a shoulder. Ever detail works and provokes interest.

I think it fitting to end this look at Social Suicide's with a glance at Stalin's tunic. Few people wake up in the morning and declare their intent on channelling the style of one of the most powerful and and murderous dictators in history but this tunic might make you think differently. So, his regime of terror caused the death and suffering of tens of millions, but he also oversaw the war machine that played a key role in the defeat of Nazism and he had one hell of a coat! This0 three button Tunic coat in pure wool flannel is inspired by the one worn by Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Summit in February 1945.

It is worth concluding with the point that Social Suicide suits and jackets are all individually made from the finest fabrics to the highest standards. One man takes one day to make one jacket – no production lines, no corner cutting – and the fabrics used are of the finest and purest wools, silks, cottons and linens. However, the real beauty of a Social Suicide suit lies in it’s story telling and it’s detailing. The core of the brand is to create clothing with thought, humour and depth. I will certainly be popping in to their Ganton Street store next time I walk by...

Monday 21 December 2009

Raising a glass

Tristan (left) wears three piece suit and white shirt by Jae Wan Park. Shoes by Church. Ring by Dominic Jones at Start-London. Richie (centre) wears velvet navy suit and white shirt by Burberry. Shoes by Church.

As the sore heads and tired limbs scattered around me indicate we have well and truly entered party season. Despite our sorry physical and mental state, we should all embrace this time of year by donning the finery we might already have in our wardrobes, whilst adding some bargain pieces from the High Street and online by taking advantages of the bargains to be had at sale time. Back in October I touched upon the idea that most of us have lost sight of how much fun it is to be well dressed. In an interview with SwipeLife Patrick Grant commented the following; "It seems like men are almost embarrassed to be well-dressed. It feels like it’s too much, or you’ve tried too hard." I think it is about time that such a belief is quashed and what better time than now? This is the time where we ordinarily drink, eat and do everything else in excess so why not have a little fun getting dressed. Now is the time to dress in excess to see out the old year whilst raising a drink in the clutches of a fur trimmed leather gloved hand to wave goodbye to 2009 welcome in 2010. Right on time, the ever inspiring Fashion156 have recently launched their Soiree Issue...

Sam wears shirt, purple longline jacket and trousers by Omar Kashoura.

Guy Hipwell and his team have certainly allowed decadence and excess to prevail in their latest offering. The fashion editorials, film (their best yet) and featured articles all capture my preferred aesthetic of the season whilst showcasing a plethora of design talent. Established names including John Rocha, Alexander McQueen, Burberry and Vivienne Westwood Man sit alongside emerging design talent emerging design talent including Casely Hayford, JW Anderson and Omar Kashoura and the pick of the recent graduates including RCA graduates Jae Wan Park and Bronwen Marshall. Marshall's opulent oand oversized furs and Hannah Taylor's fanastical knitwear actually steal the show. The dribble inducing spread of images showcase a new form of sensual dandy. Satin slippers and silk scarves suggest luxury whilst the colour is anything but bog standard black tie affair. At his pleasant surprise of the AW09 catwalk shows, John Michael O'Sullivan puts forward the idea that they marked a "return of debonair dressing - Lanvin’s satins and ribboned trousers, or Dolce & Gabbana’s Martini-quaffing playboys in woven silk jackets, dangerously reminiscent of dressing gowns - suggested a modern, easier, laid-back spin on the aesthetic." The AW09 shows undoubtedly reminded us that dressing could be merely for pleasure and this theme was picked up in September for the SS10 shows...

Alex (left) wears jacket, shirt and trousers by John Rocha. Matt (right) wears white shirt, trousers and fencing waistcoat by Alexander McQueen.

It was a pleasant surprise to see Casely-Hayford used in this editorial but their designs cetainly exude a new form of luxury. Inspired by the raw energy of Kingsland Road, Casely-Hayford SS10 collection represents a new style tribe, the Afro Punk. One of the main recurring themes of their collections is the fusion of classic, English sartorialism and British anarchy. In previous collections this manifested itself in a wonderful balance of formal tailoring and sportswear but for SS10, instead relaxed tailoring sits extremely well with tribal, handcrafted ornate embellishment. Now, there is no reason why we have to wait for the sunshine to return before splashing on some orante embellishment.

Sabine (centre) wears orange chiffon dress by Louise Amstrup. Grey suede shoes by Rupert Sanderson. Jackdor headpiece by Natasha Lawes at Luna and Curious. Sam (right) wears long johns. jacket and shorts by Matteo Bigliardi. Richie (left) wears belted mac by Raf Simons at Selfridges.

If you are still in any doubt as to what to wear to your next party despite Fashion156's guidance, my advice is always to look at Tom Ford's well constructed elegance. The Texan designer looks as though he escaped the womb wearing a dinner jacket and has perfected the art of wearing one ever since. Of course we all don't look quite as good as Mr Ford in black tie but we can but dream and take a few pointers along the way.

The evolving passion for shoes

The tools of a craftsman...photography by Euan Denholm

Now that the Christmas shopping has been completed, my thoughts have begun to wander away from my the present and I've started drawing up lists of things I need to do next year. Over the last twelve months I have developed a passion for shoes, an addiction even. It is just impossible to resist elegant, well fitted leather creations. After meeting shoeists like the chaps at Lodger and of course Mr. Hare I had a feeling that their passion would be contagious and it certainly was. I have documented my exploits in becoming a fine footwear consumer in recent months but now I'd like to take my own new found passion one step further...I need to learn more about the craftsmanship and observe each skilled process in the making of my favourite footwear.

Edward Green Falkirk 202 Last Burnt Pine / Edwardian Antique Made to Order shoes available from Leffot would complete my shoe collection.

After stumbling across the above pair of Edward Green made to order shoes one of the adventures sitting near the summit of my to do list is exploring the heart of English shoe country, Northampton. Edward Green is just one of the traditional yet still thriving men’s shoemaker based in this historic shoe producing town. Northampton is only an hour from Euston on the train and I think it will prove to be a really fascinating trip which I will surely make early next year. My exploration of English shoe country will begin with Edward Green and these images taken by Euan Denholm which document the Northampton workshop make me want to make the trip as soon as possible in the new year.

A craftsman at work...photography by Euan Denholm

In 1890 Edward Green began to make hand crafted shoes for gentlemen in a small factory in Northampton. Founded on the skill of his craftsman and his belief in excellence, he soon gained a reputation for making 'the finest shoes in England for the discerning few.' Today the high standards remain. Almost one hundred and twenty years later and they still hand make all of their shoes in their own workshop in Northampton. Every pair is hand cut to ensure they use the very best grain of leather. Some styles are even hand sewn with a pig's bristle. Each pair takes several weeks to make and many skilled craftsman are involved. Based on Jermyn Street, Edward Green has become discreetly famous for producing probably the finest Goodyear welted shoes. Instantly recognisable - an English look with definite international appeal. Stay tuned and expect a follow up post in January after I've visited the workshop myself...

Sunday 20 December 2009

Picture Postcard: Merry Christmas

After staggering back a somewhat broken man from the hell on earth that is Central London on the last weekend before Christmas my spirits were lifted when I visited my post hole. I had a day of mixed success as I partook in a spot of crazed, last minute shopping but thoughts of present opportunities missed were surpassed with a warm feeling inside when I opened a Christmas card from the good people of Norton & Sons. The festive greetings card is so nice I just had to take a shot the tailored scene proudly sitting in front of my gigantic Christmas tree...

The photograph by Guy Hills of Norton & Sons at the British Embassy Paris.

Over the course of the year I have discovered two historic tailors both of which fall under the fine stewardship of the charming Patrick Grant. Norton & Sons cut simple classically proportioned clothes in the finest British cloths. It is worth noting that unlike most on Savile Row every single garment that bears its name is painstakingly hand cut and hand sewn by the best tailors in London. We excitedly covered the resurrection of E. Tautz back in February as the sporting and military outfitters took its place in the extended MAN afternoon. Since its relaunch E. Tautz has deservedly gone from strength-to-strength (as mentioned in previous posts) and SS10 saw the launch of its second ready to wear collection which was accompanied by a marvellous short film by Quentin Jones. The label offers simple tailoring with a little something extra, a bit of pomp, colour, a sense of humour and a sense of eccentric Englishness. 2009 has undoubtedly been a fine year for both firms. I'm so pleased to have discovered them and look forward to what 2010 will bring.

Saturday 19 December 2009

On the...oh man it is so cold...day of Christmas

What a festive scene! Daniel Jenkins relaxing by the fire in his latest stock. Lou Dalton cardiganwool trousers complimented nicely with a pair of YMC F16 suede boots.

We have a real treat for today's advent calendar entry. Our favourite shopkeep in Monmouth and beyond, Daniel Jenkins has just received new stock from the ever wonderful Lou Dalton. We asked him to give us a few exclusive shots on his pick of the new stock and he has chosen something that will warm you up on this cold, mid December evening. This enamel button cardigan is part of Lou's exciting collaboration with one of my favourite Scottish knitwear brands, William Lockie. The piece is exclusive to Daniel Jenkins outside of Japan. Made in Scotland in extra fine merino wool and finished with English enamel and metal buttons. This is a very special cardigan indeed...

To find out more about this very special cardigan we caught up with the man with the perfect buying eye, Daniel Jenkins. "This cardigan is part of the ongoing collaboration between Lou and William Lockie - founded 1874. All items are made in Scotland from extra fine 100% merino wool. Two small pockets on front ribbing on sleeves and neck and finished with English Enamel Buttons (which are highly expensive). The garment will retail at £145 - which I think is a fairly good price. Items are exclusive to us outside of Japan - Beams have some William Lockie x Lou items but not sure which ones for definite. We've also got a tweed shoulder patch jumper with elbow patches and notched shoulders which is my most worn piece this season (I received mine without label a few months back). Have a wonderful Christmas and look forward to 2010."

Friday 18 December 2009

On the... oh my, it is just around the corner... day of Christmas

The debut H by Harris collection comprises of two lines, the Q hand quilted nappa leather and the SH wax hide leather collection. Both leave Steve wanting to sell an organ or turn to a life of crime just to have one hanging off his arm. Styles include rucksacks, totes, weekend bags, satchels and laptop skins and of course the H jacket (which Steve has been drooling over ever since he first saw it on Style Bubble). However, today's pick comes from the SH line and is a beautiful tote. This ultra soft waxy nubuck tote bag with long carry handles is just the perfect piece of luxurious everyday luggage.

To find out more about this very special tote we caught up with the lovely designer himself...
"The Sh1 Tote is the kind of bag that is deceptive, a contemporary laptop carrier in the guise of a gentleman's bag. On appearance everyone thinks that this bag and others in the Sh range are made from canvas. It is only when you touch it that you realise that it is crafted from the softest durable waxed leather, which is incredibly tactile. Designed to age with style, each crease it gains adding character to the bag. Internally there is a suspended padded pouch for you to place your laptop whatever the size. There is space either side for documents, magazines and much more. Made in Blighty!"

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Style Salvage Speaks to... Hentsch Man

Back in May we discovered a new menswear brand whose design ethos and approach to retail struck a chord with us. As Steve was enjoying his guiltiest of pleasures, lying in a bubble bath whilst listening to the Monocle Weekly he learned about Hentsch Man. After hearing about the labels first pop up store venture we have followed the progress. Fast forward a few months and Hentsch Man is currently enjoying its second pop up venture which is open until 23rd December.

As mentioned in the previous post, the brand evolved from a seemingly simple search (in theory not practice) for the perfect white shirt. The two friends (Max and Alexia) set about designing their perfect shirt and when they felt they got it right, they placed a small order. After the shirts were soon snapped up by friends and family, the duo set about expanding their offering without compromising their core values of simplicity and function. Over the last year, the pair have added trousers, boxer shorts, footwear and luggage to create a more complete menswear collection. The collection has now found it's second temporary home in Princes Arcade off Jermyn Street. To celebrate we caught up with Alexia Hentsch and explored the new space and the evolving Hentsch Man offering...

The pop up store sign complete with festive decoration.

SS: Hentsch Man evolved from the seemingly simple search for the perfect white shirt. How did the quest for this wardrobe staple evolve in to the brand we see today?
Alexia Hentsch: Well, we started out thinking about our perfect white shirt and once we had made about three hundred we sold it to family and friends, soon selling out . As I come from a branding background we made a whole brand book and catalogue and all sorts of things to go with it which talked about a brand which really didn't exist yet. We got a little carried away and stated taking this brand book to everyone, places like Bergdorf, Harvey Nichols and all these people and they were really impressed with the idea but the product was lacking, we needed more than white shirts. So we went away for a year and came back with a full collection. We realised fairly early on that we didn't want to just sell white shirts. Now every season we add a new piece or a few garments. So first we had shirts, then moved on to trousers, jackets, sweaters and shorts...adding items as we go grow.

SS: As well as your own collection, you offer pieces picked up from your travels...
Alexia Hentsch: Yes we do, when we started developing the brand we found amazing products which exist and have been around for a long time and are products we really like. Rather than imitate them we acquired them to create the Hentsch Man look. Things like the Mediterranean espadrilles for the summer, Venetian velvet slippers, the sneakers...we try and have a new sneaker pick, hats, bags, so many things that we really like which exist already.

Furlane slippers and espadrilles

SS: Your values can be seen in the quality of our materials and production. How easy was it easy sourcing such quality mills, factories and skilled craftsman from across Europe?
Alexia Hentsch: Well finding them is pretty easy actually because there is such a manufacturing history in Europe and the industry still exists but it is just more expensive. Finding them is easy but sustaining it is hard. As we grow it gets more difficult. We are still in Europe and only in Europe which is great but I understand why luxury products cost what they do and why some brands choose to make things in China as it means they can increase volumes. In terms of local manufacturing we have quite a few funny stories, for example when it comes to our Venetian slippers we are working with a guy who produces them from his kitchen. So we can't bombard someone like that with huge orders in limited time lines and instead he's like 'I will deliver them when they are ready' so you can't really place orders with him and when it comes to colours he gives us what he have. The production can be unreliable but it is part of the charm as well. It is these types of pieces which can really accent our own collections and it is something we can use for our pop up ventures.

SS: A key element of the brand is this idea of building a gentleman's wardrobe and this is mirrored by the development of the brand...
Alexia Hentsch: Yes, exactly! I keep using this phrase which my business partner Max hates because he thinks its cheap but I like to use it anyway...we are trying to build a one stop shop for men to shop. A store for men who we think don't particularly like to shop and one which caters for all of their wardrobe needs. Obviously this will be for a particular look but we can dress them head to toe.

A colourful felt trilby.

SS: The pop up stores can be great in the sense that these men can come in and try on styles and then moving forward they know their size and can order online.
Alexia Hentsch: Yes and even though each season where we add new styles and cuts, we always keep the old ones as well as we build our inventory. So if you know your size in your favourite Jack shirt or trousers you can always go back and find them and they will always be there. We really want to build our offering along with our customer network.

SS: Is there a typical Hentsch Man?
Alexia Hentsch: Certainly. Although there is a whole crew of Monocle-ites, thanks to the two radio shows, and you can see them as soon as they walk through the door. You can tell that those guys have recently listened to the podcast and have visited us accordingly. Those guys tend to buy a lot of the more simpler stuff, like our white shirts and our simpler cut stuff. Then you get a bunch of more eccentric, dapper guys who love nothing more than a pair of pistachio pants. There are some older gentleman who love wearing our brighter colours and we love catering for them. It also depends upon where we are positioned. When we were in Notting Hill originally we had quite a younger, creative crew of guys, whereas now because of the footfall we get many more gentlemen.

The new store front in Princes Arcade.

SS: How have the two pop up store ventures compared?
Alexia Hentsch: It has been quite different. Obviously the foot fall is a lot better here but it is the Christmas season so it is difficult to tell as there is just a huge consuming element right now. This one has been great though because we are open twice as long. Weekends were a lot busier in the Notting Hill store whereas here, weekends are so much quieter and weekdays are really busy. It is a different vibe here, a little more serious although we've had a couple of really fun, busy events. I think I'd prefer to go back to a slightly more trendy area, we might not do as much business as such but we would be in the right place for attracting the right customer base. At the moment we are seeing older men who might love our trousers but they might not be as interested in our brand. Ultimately, we are going to be targeting a younger, working guy.

SS: When you started the brand did you envisage having a physical store or have you just taken advantage of the current retail landscape?
Alexia Hentsch: It really wasn't part of our idea at all, we were originally purely focused on online and then try wholesale. I actually read an article by Tyler in Monocle (The Retail Issue) in which he discussed how retail was suffering and how councils should fund small shop owners to keep spaces alive. I thought that this was a really great idea so I contacted a council and they obviously told me 'no' but it did make me think. I then dealt with it by finding the right space. So one day it was just a good idea and the next it was a reality but we never thought that is where we would be. Now we are thinking we'd like our own physical store. We think we'll do another pop up store for an additional season or two and then we'd like to be rooted. It would be great to have a permanent space which we can use as our office and showroom, store front. At the moment though as the line develops, the pop up stores are great because they allow us to make some noise and do something exciting.

A selection of colourful Joe trousers.

SS: The white shirt was the thing you designed for Hentsch Man but what was the last?
Alexia Hentsch: Just now we have only recently finished designing a sports jacket to be sampled for AW10. This is currently being made for now actually, I've not seen the finished sample yet. We are also designing sweaters but I'm not 100% happy with them. So this is what we have going on for AW10 but we have shorts for SS10 which is really exciting because we didn't have them last summer. Plus we have five new shirts in addition to the original Jack which is really exciting.

SS: How does the design dynamic work, do you work alongside Max?
Alexia Hentsch: I work on the designs alongside a pattern cutter and I do a lot of the research. I'm inspired by older fashion, especially from the 50s and 60s and then I get together with a pattern cutter and we have a play around with samples until we get something we like. We really want the direction of the brand to be simple, not to be over designed, just a simple cut with quality fabrics. So it is really more of a research process as opposed to a design one. The search for the fabrics is the most time consuming aspect of it all.

A table of Jack shirts.

SS: You've mentioned being inspired by the 50 and 60s, if you could go back in time to any experience any moment in style is this where you would choose?
Alexia Hentsch: Definitely, the 50s and 60s. It is so popular now because we see it on television and movies. I am obsessed with the art direction and costumes of Mad Men and I'm excited about seeing A Single Man when it comes out. Films like The Thomas Crown Affair are so inspiring, those guys knew how to dress. In terms of my own personal tastes I'd like to go back to the turn of the century when people were incredibly well dressed, they dressed up for the occasion, black tie for dinner, tophats and that kind of thing.

SS: I agree, it is a shame that over the last few decades it seems that men especially have lost the enjoyment of dressing...
Alexia Hentsch: Especially in the sense of dressing up. This is why I like this area because although it might not necessarily fit the brand you see such characters. The older generation and to some extent the younger guys who still dress up. They have canes, bowler hats and this area is so colorful. People often ask why I started a menswear brand and not women's and this is exactly why, the pleasure of a well dressed man. You see well dressed women everywhere and it has become the main feature of the fashion world. if you go to other cultures, for example India, men's attire is so much more elaborate and ornate than women's. What I like about western menswear dress is that the actual dressing is very structured and it hasn't changed to much but what you can change is the little details. Even if it is the look of today with jeans and sneakers, make them good sneakers with good jeans..but I do hark back to a more dressed up era.

A felt trilby which comes from a collaboration with a Parisian based miliner, Le cerise sur le chapeau.

SS: Is there an item of clothing or accessory that you'd like to see more men wear?
Alexia Hentsch: Jackets..good blazers, all the time. Hats as well. A good hat is a lot of fun but you just don't see it anymore. For us though, the hats have done spectacularly well. I guess they are brightly coloured so stick out to people but it is great to see.

SS: What are you current favourite pieces in store?
Alexia Hentsch: I think I will always like the white Jack shirt a little more than the rest but I love our trousers. The cut is really nice, tapered and long, reminiscent of the 60s really and they look really great.

Bags originally inspired by the postman's delivery bags in Argentina are now used as chic weekend bags.

SS: Finally, would you be able to share a few address book recommendation to our readers (hairdressers, tailors, cafes... anything you like really) which we will duly add to our Map.
Alexia Hentsch: I'd say the new APC store definitively. That great bookstore on Lambs Conduit street, Persephone. Oh and that lovely bakery in Bloomsbury, Bea's of Bloomsbury .

Hentsch Man's latest pop up store in Princes Arcade on Jermyn Street is open until 23rd December.

On the... we've lost count... day of Christmas

As snow begins to fall and the big day fast approaches our thoughts frequently turn to gift ideas. This elegantly presented shaving set by Truefitt & Hill could be the ideal gift for the hairy man in your life. The set contains all the requisites for a professional shave, including a perfectly balanced razor, badger hair brush and classic grooming products (available from Harrods).

For over two centuries now, Truefitt & Hill has provided discerning men with the finest grooming products and services. Established in 1805, Truefitt & Hill are in fact the world's oldest barbershop and are also Royal Warrant holders to H.R.H., The Duke of Edinburgh. If he owned a set such as this Steve would actually take great pleasure in the otherwise daily torture that is shaving!

Monday 14 December 2009

Style Salvage Speaks to... Matthew Miller

As we all know by now the RCA's MA graduate show is one of the best (and most exciting) places to discover the fashion stars of the future. Back in June, we found such a star in Matthew Miller. Now we are reminded of his promising design talent with the release of his impressive look book, styled by Elliott James Sainsbury and shot by Junichi Kikuchi. In his standout graduate collection, Miller explored notions of masculinity with a somewhat jovial approach to the macabre. The collection saw him balance sharp tailoring and menswear staples with humour as he experimented with laser cut polka dot bombs, dancing skeleton pique bibs, cute cable knitted skulls, to name but a few interesting details. To mark the release of his look book we caught up with the recent graduate to talk about his time at the RCA and his hopes for the future.

Style Salvage: Describe the moment when you realized you wanted to be a menswear designer...
Matthew Miller: It was at school. I grew up on a council estate, and went to a school several miles away, it soon occurred to me that most of the children were from much wealthier backgrounds. They wore a lot of Stone Island C.P Company, and Armani. I fell in love with all things I didn’t have, and lust drove me to become a designer.

SS: What attracted you to the RCA MA course?
Matthew Miller: The RCA offers the only MA course in the World that specifically focuses on menswear design. And they produce an incredibly high level of design. You only have to look at London fashion week’s MAN and the new menswear NEWGEN designers to see this.

SS: What was the best thing about your course? And the worst?
Matthew Miller: The best: the people. The worst: the people.

SS: Aside from your own, which graduate collections did you love?
Matthew Miller: I really loved Mason Jung’s, Jae Wan Park’s, and Louise Loubatieres' knits were super lux!

SS: Now on your marvelous collection. Your main inspiration came from a conversation in the Reginald Mitchell public house between two friends preparing for war. How did you come to hear this conversation?
Matthew Miller: I came to hear the conversation as they were my friends, I was having a goodbye drink with them, as they were leaving on a six month tour.

SS: It really was one of our favourite graduate collections (we refer you back to this post and this post) as it explores notions of masculinity with a somewhat jovial approach to the macabre. Talk us through it in your own words...
Matthew Miller: The collection is very British, in the sense that it is Irony in the form of Garments. The whole collection was supposed to look fun, and that’s what comes across, but upon closer inspection, you can see all the fun elements are either symbols of war or death, just like my friends passing joke about the fact that we’ll never see each other again, it’s a joke, but when you think about it, it’s incredibly dark.

SS: It looks as though you had a lot of fun making this collection, what was your highlight and what were you most proud to see walk down the catwalk?
Matthew Miller: The collection was incredibly fun to make, I experimented with lasers on fabric, which I found amazing and a lot of that will continue through to the next collection. And my favourite? Probably the dancing skeleton bib shirt, it bounced down the runway perfectly.

SS: What advice would you give a prospective menswear fashion student?
Matthew Miller: Advice? Daydream!

SS: If you could go back in time and experience any fashion moment, what would it be?
Matthew Miller: Perfect Moment? The Mods and Rocker era of the Sixties, fast women stylish bikes and amazing suits. What more could a man ask for?

SS: What item of clothing (if any) do you wish that more men wore?
Matthew Miller: Menswear fashion is moving forward rapidly and men seem to be embracing their new found fashion freedom

SS: Which designers currently working do you admire most?
Matthew Miller: I love the tailoring of Dries Van Noten, it’s incredibly sharp, but I also enjoy the humorous side, of fashion from the likes of Bernhard Willhelm and I love Raf of course.

SS: What would you like to achieve in 2010 and beyond?
Matthew Miller: For 2010 and beyond I hope to have my own studio as well as several stockists for my new project, that will be unveiled to all in February.

SS: What's the one question you wish people asked you but you've never had the opportunity to answer? (and what is the answer)
Matthew Miller: The question: would you like some money? The answer: fuck yes!

SS: Finally, would you be able to share a few address book recommendation to our readers (hairdressers, tailors, cafes... anything you like really) which we will duly add to our Map.
Matthew Miller: My Recommendations are firstly, for a fine cheese, a gentleman can not go wrong with La Cave a Fromage in the Lovely south Kensington, and a wine to accompany the fine cheese, can be found in Tesco, Hackney, and to get to Hackney I recommend the number 38 bus, as it’s full of interesting and beautiful people. The final thing I can recommend is dinner at my house, and everyone is invited.


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