Monday 29 July 2013

Home is where the Selby is


"A box of illicit candy that I received at camp," was the most cherished parcel that Todd Selby ever received by mail. Sent with love from his family, the memory of that considered confectionary has whet his appetite once more. Aiming to wrap up a similar bundle of excitement for a coming of age audience that longs to receive tangible post, the creative has collaborated with luxury lifestyle service Svbscrption and explored a familiar theme.

Launched in May 2012 by Andrew Apostola, Sam Wheeler and Marc Goldenfein in New York, Svbscription has fast become a quarterly Santa Claus for its family of subscribers, an ever growing channel for receiving timeless and rare objects and experiences in the mail. Every three months its members receive a special parcel curated around a specific theme. Having previously delivered parcels around the themes of travel, study, leisure and the collector’s edition, Svbsciptions have collaborated with the photographer, illustrator and author around the concept of Home.

"I believe that home is the most important place. It is where you keep your treasure and build your memories. I also find my house to be one of the few places where I can relax. As I travel so much, my time at home is very important and I really appreciate and cherish each day I get to spend in my home."

Given that he has spent the past five years peeking through the keyholes of the world's most interesting and creative homes, he's the ideal curator. The result? "A surprise box of unique things for your house," is how Selby simply introduced Svbscription's latest parcel. Offering an enticing slice of The Selby’s world, it brings together work from some of his favourite design­ers, cohorts and cre­ators from around the world.

"It was really a simple process. The ideas was to ring up people I’ve been wanting to work with and brainstorm with them what type of products we come make fit into the parcel under the Home theme. This project gave me a chance to finally work with people I’ve photographed or met through my travels and collaborate with them in a different way."

With the help of a few of his favourite creatives and craftsman, Todd Selby and Svbscription have produced two limited edition parcels. Mine arrived on Friday afternoon. Two caskets of curiosities  Despite having interviewed Selby, I had, like each and every one of the subscribers, absolutely no idea what was inside. It was a treasure trove that treated every sense. Objects that encouraged cooking, entering, tasting, decorating, lighting and scenting. They included a money box/vase by Everyday Needs and Martino Gamper, a bison leather keychain by Los Angeles based leather design company Parabellum,  a dark chocolate bar from Mast Brothers wrapped up in the Selby's unmistakable illustrations, further playful scrawls by his hand repurposed as stickers, a scented candle by Coqui Coqui Perfumes and a recipe box of Home Style Recipes by The Selby and submissions from friends including Eric Ripert, Alice Waters, Tom Sachs and Violet's very own Claire Ptak. Delicious.

The packages settle in to their new home.

With periodic pauses filled with promise, Svbscription is part dis­covery, part expe­ri­ence. Todd Selby harmonised his voice with that of the service perfectly, who or what is next? The upcoming address etched on Svbscription's magical mystery mail sees it explore the theme of the unexpected. Wait with excitement for the postman. If you really can't wait, a few boxes of the above treats are available at Colette now.

Saturday 27 July 2013

MOHSIN's move

"I was drawn to the idea of offering limited edition product that can be pre-ordered directly by consumers every couple of months," explains an excited Mohsin Ali from his Brick Lane based studio. Forever on his toes and ready for combat, this week saw the first of potentially many, limited edition Mohsin releases. Bypassing the whims and fancies of retailers, ten engineered tops from autumn/winter 13 were reimagined in soft neoprene surfaced online and were available for pre-order. Four were snapped up immediately but six still remain. Inspired by the swift, direct movement of the Muay Thai practitioner, I was keen to learn more.

"It enables me to release garments that I might not necessarily send out to retailers. These products are little tasters. They will always be limited and either involve updating existing patterns in special fabrications or something which is new. The engineered tee used to launch this offering is available in navy and grey wool this season but has been made that bit more special in neoprene. It's a shape that I first introduced for autumn/winter 13, developed for the latest season and I'm already working on new fabrications for autumn/winter 14 involving special leathers. It's fast becoming a staple. So far I've sold two extra smalls, both to girls, a couple of mediums and I have an eye on a large for myself.

More than any other has managed before it, the AW13 collection really encapsulates my design standpoint and this has been carried through to SS14 and the early design work for the upcoming season. The collections are beginning to show a real continuity, there's a confidence about them which excites me for the future. I'm fighting hard to push the business forward whilst balancing and building freelance work. Since the label's launch I've been working to find the right approach and I feel like I have now."

MOHSIN AW13-14_1
MOHSIN AW13-14_2

It's little surprise that Layers snapped up much of the autumn/winter 13 collection. Exploring sartorial notions of protection with the physical needs and demands of his beloved Muay Thai, Mohsin produced a thirty five piece collection that played with shape, silhouette, fabric and function. The engineered tee encapsulated everything that I love about the label. It is a subtly transformative garment. It is modern day armour.  Now, as the design talent tinkers with his armour further, this spontaneous, straight to customer retail experience at a competitive price of £145, he surely leads the way for others to follow. If you've been struck by this offer then please do drop Mohsin an email here. Your move.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Exploring... The Chalk Room

"It's nice to meet and chat with customers," Charlie Casely-Hayford begins simply as he warmly welcomes me through the threshold of Hostem's emporium of menswear treasures and curiosities before leading me its wooden staircase to enter The Chalk Room. Periodically stepping out of the House's Dalston based studio, the designer navigates his way through the sensory kaleidoscope that is Kingsland Road and immerses himself in this mesmerising microcosm of made-to-measure. He revels in it. Dimly lit adding to a sense of intimacy to the occasion whilst encouraging daydreams of discovery, The Chalk Room shines it's spotlight on cherished craftsmanship, housing an array of handpicked artisans that have the store's signature spirit bubbling in their veins. Alongside Sebastian Tarek, Fleet Ilya, Globe-Trotter, Casely-Hayford's sartorial offering shines bright. Created by British design studio JamesPlumb, Charlie's home-from-home is filled with antique furniture, intrigue and possibilities.

Since the House's inception, Casely-Hayford have forged an eloquent handwriting of modern English style that has left the collective pulse racing. The father and son design duo have carefully crafted a signature style of relaxed masculine proportions and exquisite tailoring, whilst fusing it with an injection of the raw energy of London's dynamic under belly that constantly inspires them. With each season whilst cementing the House's ethos of 'Innovation through Tradition', they explore, play and experiment with the duality of English Sartorialism and British Anarchy like no other label could. They delight in the unique design dynamic. It has created the perfect environment in which an intriguing interplay between old and new, familiar and fresh, traditional and radical. As Charlie Casely-Hayford converses, measures, pins and makes notes, it is clear that The Chalk Room is an exciting extension of everything they have built. The whims and fancies of all manner of customer are now seamlessly stitched into their own signatures.

"When most men think about buying a tailored suit, they think of the stuffiness of Savile Row. With our space here, we wanted to create an antidote to those concerns. We wanted it to be a clean, modern, streamlined alternative that was true to our vision whilst allowing men to be more experimental with the traditional boundaries of a suit.

Ultimately we create suits for men that don’t need to wear suits but choose to. There’s a real freedom in that choice. They wear Casely-Hayford suits in the way that they want to, without the constraints of convention or tradition. Everybody we've had so far have been so different, from business directors to set designers, actors and a plethora of creatives. The set designer went for a classic suit with a stunning, rare, 400g Loro Piana fabric matched with a pinball machine lining."

Exploring The Chalk Room

As he recounts previous encounters, Charlie Casely-Hayford's face lights up the dark basement space. This is an endeavour close to the heart of the House. It builds upon all of their shared experiences, takes the hand of the secretive world of bespoke and made-to-measure and leads it into an alluring advanced area.

"We wanted to retain the price of a made-to-measure service but bring it as close to Bespoke as possible. We have spent the best part of the last year handpicking suiting fabrics from all of the best mills in the UK and Italy, same with the linings. We can provide the customer with over two thousand fabric options. It’s an utterly immersive experience. It can be daunting for some but we're here to guide the customer through everything. We can do almost anything. You can get made-to-measure suiting from various corners of London and we were keen to offer something different and therefore we partnered with a couple of English mills and part of our process, if asked to do so, is develop fabric that is tailored to your whims and fancies. That's obviously at the higher end of the pricing structure but it just shows that we can go that bit further. We're working on a swatch at the moment that has silhouettes of characters from The Simpsons, same with the lining. We're having quite a few requests for using football shirts and we can do that. I like the variety. Each suit should reflect each customers identity.

Rather than follow the structure of a formal consultation, I like to keep it more like a conversation in which I jot down a few notes. After the initial chat I take measurements, ask a few more questions, pair the customer with an existing suit silhouette from the range that works with their shape and preferences, shoot images to see how it fits them and pin as we go. I find it easier to work with images rather than just text and measurements and it also means I can discuss everything with my Dad throughout the process. We go through the details of each order at every step. His experience is such a useful asset and I'm learning every day."

Decisions, decisions, decisions... The conversation between consumer and creator.

It is the perfect collaborative contract between consumer and creator. Despite not being physically in The Chalk Room, Joe Casely-Hayford is still present. He sees through Charlie's eyes. The informal yet inquisitive designer delves deep with his questioning asking about the use of the suit, weight preferences, silhouettes and what if anything irritates the customer about suits already hanging in their wardrobes. Throughout the process his ears are pricked, gaze focused and mind filled with insight. What were my requirements? It soon became clear that I longed for a sartorial chameleon. A suit that could be moulded to my needs over the course of a full year and beyond. For me, it had to be single breasted, slim fit jacket and trousers cropped at boot level in a medium cloth that danced the line between utilitarianism in black and navy with a lining that captured my imagination. Once this outline took its shape, Charlie talked me through each stage of modification and detail personalisation. From lapels to pockets, buttons to vents, linings to inscriptions, the opportunities to mould the suit to your preferences and needs are vast with Charlie, reassuringly as guide at every step.

After a further fitting, a few more photos, adjustments and tweaks to ensure that it falls correctly, the suit was realised. The entire process lasted no more that ten weeks (including a holiday). Last weekend I slipped it on for a friend's wedding. It felt like an old friend itself.

Casely-Hayford made-to-measure suit worn with... 
shirt and boots by Casely-Hayford, pocket square by Muji and kilt pin by RTH.

With prices from £1,250 the service isn't cheap but it is remarkably competitive. Continuing to delight in the duality between the realms of the tradition and innovation, Casely-Hayford are blurring the tailor's chalk line between made-to-measure and bespoke. This is an investment. An experience. A dream realised.

Monday 15 July 2013

Details... Tanned treats

Artfully aged by the climate of Orange County for a few days, George Esquivel's brogues salute the sunshine of California.

Friday 12 July 2013

The fabrics of Lou Dalton SS14

Take me out tonight 
Because I want to see people and I 
Want to see life 
Driving in your car 
Oh, please don't drop me home 
Because it's not my home, it's their 
Home, and I'm welcome no more
(The Smiths, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out Lyrics)

iD ISaw Morgan-Lou Dalton-6474
iD ISaw Morgan-Lou Dalton-6514
iD ISaw Morgan-Lou Dalton-6518
iD ISaw Morgan-Lou Dalton-6477
iD ISaw Morgan-Lou Dalton-6515
Morgan O'Donovan's backstage shots capture the mood of Lou Dalton spring/summer 14.

"The story for the season revolves around a lonesome young souls who had been pulled from pillar to post because his father was in the service," begins Lou Dalton as we travel by train to West Yorkshire on our mill tour with Woolmark. Her eyes light up and she excitedly weaves he latest tale. "I remember these awkward kids from my own school days growing up near both army and RAF bases in Shropshire. They'd struggle to belong. They would arrive on a bus for the first day of a new year and then they'd slowly disappear." Well, these lost boys always have a home in the mind of this designer. Each season Dalton crafts well tailored, rebellious English sportswear for her working class souls. Each season is an evolution and this sees the most confident march forward. She's a humble design talent that is ever growing in confidence and belief. It shows both on the runways and on the rails. 

There is always a narrative but it is growing increasingly tighter and seductive. The world's she stitches into the very seams of her designs are ones in which we long to lose ourselves in. From the miners strikes of the 80s to the Russian mafia and Wuthering Heights' Heathcliff, various influences combine that all lend themselves to the continuation of her sartorial fascination with struggling heroes. For spring/summer 14, Dalton remembers her childhood in Shropshire, enveloped by daydreams of fighter pilots and the machines they tame in the air and recalling the lost boys of the forces.

"We can all relate to the idea of wanting to fit in. Always trying to be part of a collective and this played on my mind as I delved deeper. I had this idea of a more distressed, grungy feel and this played out in the fabrics and the colour palette. Trying to blend in wearing all black but actually standing out. Drawn in to this lifestyle by his father, fascinated by aviation and machines. I developed the story from his childhood and developed this idea of him being at art school, still fascinated with aeronautical engineering - rebuilding the machines that fascinated him as a boy in an artistic form and soundtracked by Jesus and Mary Chain, Bauhaus, The Smith because that was the music that I listened to whilst at school in my fifth and final year. It just felt right. The wool had to have the same clipped, fresh feel about it and the softness would work with the cottons, linens and tones of the collection."

Dalton frequently grounds the discussion in fabrics. In fact, she uses fabrics as each season's narrator. Her eloquent tales become ever more enticing and exciting with the perfect delivery. Wool is a common syntax within her speech.

"I use wool every season regardless of whether it be light, heavy or whatever. We've always been given such generous support from mills like Bulmer & Lumb but being approached by Woolmark and their great sponsorship, we could push it that bit further and explore CoolWool. I knew that I wanted a really light wool. In the past I've used a mohair which has quite a crisp feel to it but I was keen to use something else. Having visited Première Vision earlier in the season I began to see what the collection needed and the mill trip with Woolmark brought everything together."

Having already stopped off at and explored the craft of Bulmer & Lumb and W.T. Johnson & Sons, it was a pleasure to watch her sift through binders filled with luxurious fabric options at Stanley Mills. With a focused gaze, she methodically worked her way through the latest offerings from John Foster, Charles Clayton and William Halstead. Each steeped in history but striving to innovate, their fabrics are produced with the finest wool, cashmere, silk, mohair, cotton and linen available from the best farms around the world and crafted in Yorkshire, the heart of the wool textile industry in England. Now, the sheer volume and diversity of choice would intimate most but Dalton thrived on it. 

Lou Dalton making a fabric selection at Stanley Mills.

Weaving an intricate and dazzling group, Stanley Mills is ever evolving, helping to both protect and drive the textile industry forward. As Lou Dalton's mind raced through her material mood and fabric fancies, our senses were treated to a cacophony of sights and sounds from of the weaving world. Through its careful selection and control of raw materials together with continual investment in the latest equipment, the trio of brands collectively continue to push textile manufacturing to new heights.

A few snapshots of the mill.

"For me, this season was a breakthrough. I don't want the collection to be pigeonholed, I want it to feel welcoming and approachable to all those who want to buy into it and indeed have bought into it but I still want it to be surprising. The last thing I want is for it to be predictable." There is an evolved self awareness of Lou Dalton that deftly balances the demands of the customer with confidence in its own narrative. "You have to really think about when the product will be in store, we part delivered autumn/winter 13 before the spring/summer 14 show in June - you have to consider when the collection will be on rails and online and buyers are becoming more strategic with their orders, for example number of the stores bought t-shirts and light hires so it's perfect timing for them now as we're waiting for our summer to kick off and the gorgeous mohair pieces can drop later." The light wool pieces of spring/summer 14 will blossom as boundaries between the seasons blur.


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