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Gay Talese’s tailoring roots

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November 5, 2017 by Ville Raivio

Continuity from Particle Media on Vimeo.


Dana Thomas: How Luxury Lost its Luster

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October 31, 2017 by Ville Raivio

Dana Thomas deals with style. She worked as the culture- and fashion reporter for Newsweek magazine in Paris for 13 years, and has written about the subjects for international magazines. She has also taught journalism at university level for three years. Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster is her insider’s view and research about the rawness of fashion business in the 20000s. With the help of a fashionable press card and suitable contacts she gained access to manifold workshops and factories, which the usual consumers only see through glossy brochures. Published in 2007, the opus rose to reach the coveted list of New York Times best sellers. The book’s main thesis is clear enough: the trade in fashion and luxury goods, worth over 100 billion euros annually, attracts businesses to shenanigans in order to maximise their profits ever higher. Many fashion houses have started with a different ethos, however. They have once gained repute with high quality, artisanal or commissioned or groundbreaking, and later on devolved to selling mediocre goods with large logos and huge advertising campaigns. The so-called luxury has lost its luster.

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The publication is split into three parts and its chapters deal with the beginning of current-day fashion business, the conglomeration of the largest groups, the globalisation of trade, celebrity endorsements, perfume trade, the position of ladies’ handbags, silk, fabric weaving, clothes manufacturing, the spread of street stores, fakes, the future of the fashion trade — and lastly, the pampering of VIP-customers that’s becoming ever more impossible. On her dozens and hundreds of trips Thomas has talked with countless of people in the business of fashion. What she has seen and heard speaks ugly truths about the trade, in which most of the largest businesses have abandoned quality for mammon. Handwork has been replaced with machine work, European manufacturing with Asian, own factories replaced with contractors or sub-contractors, materials and inner structures have been replaced with cheaper bits — and money rules all. Huge advertising boards keep up the “brand” concepts and remind their viewers about the “quality” that often times does not ring true. A random figure from the book tells us that some 40 companies hold sway of over 60% of the trade.

Deluxe is an essential, eye-opening book for each man and woman who holds an interest in the business of clothing or fashion. It does not only deal with negative things or reveal the games of thrones behind the curtains, but also tells stories about the, usually small, artisan companies who still reach for the highest possible quality. The reader will find out which perfume makers, for example, favour natural scent materials, which companies have been anointed to handwork, and which kinds of clothes are worth their price. With rising economies in Africa and Far East, more people can afford a fashionable good or two in the 2000s. The trade in so-called luxury goods has risen steadily despity global economic crashes. To sum up the book, and to quote my favourite writer, G. Bruce Boyer: more people are interested in luxury than before but despite the interest, artisans and crafts are dying out.


Interview with Julien Scavini

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October 15, 2017 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

JS: I am a 31-year-old tailor based in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, France.

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VR: Your educational background?

JS: I grew up in Biarritz, in the Basque Country, in southern France. I started my Architectural studies in 2004 and graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris-Malaquais in 2008. However, during my studies I have done internships which led me to discover the background of architecture. A lot of hours on the computer, not a lot of talking, not a lot of interesting projects. Always legal questions and matters. And during my last years of studying, I grew tired of avant-garde architecture, based on post-modern theories of Bourdieu, Derrida or Foucault. As a result, I no longer knew what architecture was about. However, this experience opened my mind. I understood that I needed rules and a ‘canon’ to think inside a structured universe. I thought about learning cooking because is has rules too. But I preferred style and fashion. This lead me to tailoring. I read a lot about men’s classical wardrobe during the last year of studies.

As a result, I have joined the School of Tailoring, whose headmaster was the Master Tailor Guilson. It wasn’t easy at first! I had to learn how to sew from A to Z. Of course, I stitched my fingers under the sewing machine; yet, as I had a very structured idea of men’s fashion, I had an advantage over the other students. I knew what was a three-piece suit, the difference between a morning coat and a tail coat, when, where and what to wear with those, etc… As I entered the school, I started a blog called Stiff Collar. The goal was to share as I was learning about the making of a suit and rules of tailoring, and to defend it to some extent!

 

VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your tailoring enthusiasm)?

JS: not yet :)


VR: …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions back in the days when you began?

JS: They were surprised. As my father was an engineer, he was rather doubtful. My mother was very curious and supportive.  These days, the overlap between very different educational backgrounds is seen as a skill and a positive thing.

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VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?

JS: Aviation — I am about to publish a book about the Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport! I am fascinated by civil aviation: I rarely spend a day without going to see the website airliners.net. I even started taking private piloting lessons. But I need time, which I have not. Alas.

My pleasure is always to discover new things, particularly in science and technics. I love watching How It’s Made on Discovery Channel. This is why I am so interested by the factors of a suit.

I am interested in old cars too, particularly old Bentleys and Rolls. I am a big fan of English taste and style. Castles like Howard and Blenheim, perfumes from Penhaligon’s, the spirit of the Yorkshire Dales. Curiously, I travel much more in USA than in England. I enjoy a lot the smiles and friendliness of Americans. I love observing the real American way of life in the small cities across USA. I love particularly the architecture of New England, its brick and with stucco. The young republic style visible in the East.


VR: How did you first become interested in clothing and when did you turn your eyes towards classic style? Why classics instead of fast fashion?

JS: I have always liked to be well-dressed and attentive to fashion. As a teenager, I was always at the peak of fashion in the Basque Coast. It was a fashion that was all about the sun and surfing.  So I was wearing a lot of Billabong. For shoes, I was in love with the Chet Thomas IV model from Globe! A collector now. When I came to Paris, I understood that my loose-cut jeans, hoodies and my skater shoes were not fit for the architecture world. So I started to wear black turtlenecks and black coats and black trousers and black shoes, as all architects do. But with white tennis socks! Haha!. And that was a bit eye-brow raising. But I swiftly understood it wasn’t me.

At the time I was fascinated by the marvelous Hercule Poirot, iTV series and later by Brideshead Revisited from BBC. Needless to say, I deeply fell in love with the classical style and elegance of it. Even my architectural taste evolved towards a more classical approach, based on symmetry and harmony of the classical lines. As for fast fashion, it never was my cup of tea but I was good customer of Hackett, which has helped in the development of my classical taste.

 

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of tailoring– from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?

JS: I really like to study men’s fashion throughout the ages. I really like to read vintage tailoring books and to try it just for fun!

In 2013, I was contact by Marabout publishing to write a book based on my blog. ModeMen is now translated into Chinese and Russian. In 2014, Le Figaro Magazin contacted me to write columns about men’s classic fashion and wardrobe. In fact, the blog was very pleasing for the editor-in-chief and he wanted something like that inside the weekend edition. From that point, I published 150+ columns, always with one of my drawings. A book was published last year with the first hundred texts.

The same year, BBC France also contacted me because they adapted to French television The Great English Sewing Bee and they wanted a young tailor to replace Patrick Grant. The program, called Cousu Main (Handmade), is now on air for the third season.

I also published a small book, Du Fil Au Crayon, only on Amazon with all of my drawings. A translation From Yarn to Pencil will be launched in few days on Amazon too.


VR: How would you describe your own dress? How about your “house cut”?

JS: I like to wear a suit, by opposition to an odd jacket outfit. I like it for its simplicity. Although I have, as well, some more daring outfits I personally like to keep it simple. A blue, grey suit, a discreet suit in a way. It is very paradoxical. I love so much the Paul Stuart style or Arnys. But each time I try them, I don’t wear the clothes often. I return to a classical navy and charcoal suit…

As for my house cut, we don’t have any specific one as we are working with custom-made suits. Moreover, I think that I am far too young to have yet discovered my cut!

 

VR: Please tell us when you decided to set up your own store, and what goals you set for yourself in the beginning. How have you been received so far?

JS: Because of knowledge gained at my apprenticeship with master Guilson, I knew what was bespoke. I knew the exigence within. However, I didn’t feel like staying for a decade in a workshop. I didn’t have it in me. So I decided to open my own shop and try to do a beautiful custom-made company that tries to be as close as possible to bespoke. I knew that I wanted to do full-canvas suits. So I started to work with an Italian workshop, Sartena. I bought their shop in Paris and renamed it Scavini. Later, I found another workshop, less expensive and located in Eastern Europe, which allowed more affordable prices without compromising the quality. Nowadays I am proud to say that my suits have contributed to raising the quality of the custom-made market of Paris.

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VR: Why did you want to sell ready-to-wear trousers as well?

JS: It all started as soon as I understood that not all my clients wanted to invest in tailored odd trousers. Yet, when they tried to buy it prêt-à-porter, they were very disappointed. So I decided to develop a prêt-à-porter brand that would combine the savoir-faire of a tailor, excellence in fabric and a fair price.

 

VR: Why should my readers visit Scavini over other French tailors?

JS: Interesting question! I think they would be interested in a refined, European product. France is literally in between the United Kingdom and Italy, and our product is a reflection of it: we produce a very structured english-like suit with the softness and details of the Italian tailors. Our suits are fully canvassed, with a lot of handmade details, such as the Milanese buttonhole. The price range is 1150€ for a made in Europe model and 1600€ for an Italian-made one. I think it is a cheap price compared with the price in USA, often over 2500$ for an italian suit.

Lastly, it is important to note that we only meet clients through appointments: we like to take the time to discuss, to discern the clients’ personality, in order to make the suit as close to one’s desire.

Moreover, our suits are made to last at least a decade, which is usually rare and expensive. It is all about the small details! For example, our pockets are sewn from the inside, that way they won’t rip!

 

VR: Who or what inspires you?

JS: I really like Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Alden: very traditional products, houses with an acquired taste for subtle and sophisticated elegance. In France, Arnys was comparable, but since it has disappeared, I have more and more grown fond of Paul Stuart. I like old ‘maisons’ (brands) with a history of classical taste. Maybe a bit confidential. Paul Stuart, Arnys or Charvet, for example, are a bit ‘surrané’ (outmoded could be the translation but the word is not correct). A way of thinking in the old-fashioned spirit. Really difficult in the world we live in. I am impressed that these sort of brands could resist a too young, close-to-the-body fashion.

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VR: What’s your definition of style?

JS: To be elegant is to be always appropriately dressed: I do not dislike sneakers if it fits into the situation. I also don’t like to be over-dressed. I like the elegance of the gentlemen and not the one of the dandies. The greater elegance is not to trouble the one who lacks it.

 

VR: Finally, in your point of view, what features do “good clothes” have?

JS: Resistance, durability and comfort. But more than anything, good clothes must correspond to one’s mind and make one confident in oneself.

http://www.scavini.fr/


The traditions of Scottish tweed

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October 12, 2017 by Ville Raivio


Ralph Lauren and the necktie

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July 18, 2017 by Ville Raivio

Ralph Lauren has many fans. His career began in 1967 with a range of neckties, and some two years later he had a talk with New York Magazine writer Jason McClosky as well as Francine Farkas, Fashion Director of Alexander’s Department Stores. Their discussion about the role and history of neckties is shared in WNYC’s archives for the edification of Lauren fans and style buffs everywhere.

http://www.wnyc.org/story/mens-neckties/


Anatomy of an Isaia shirt

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July 12, 2017 by Ville Raivio

The Neapolitan tailoring factory of Isaia was founded in 1957 by the eponymous brothers Corrado, Enrico and Rosario. They moved their father’s fabric store, which also housed a small tailoring section, to Casalnuovo, some 13 kilometres from Naples, and changed its focus to made to measure garments. The move was smart because nearly half of Casalnuovo’s residents worked in tailoring already. Over the years, the company has spread its woollen tentacles towards ties, sportswear, bags, and shirts. Most garments are made by hand or finished so, and the House Cuts seem to be on the trimmer side, jacket constructions are light, while cloths show strong patterns or colours. Today’s example is a smart shirt courtesy of a lucky sales find.

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A size 40 shirt in the regular sizing, the cut is on the slimmer side but not overly so. Definitely closer to the body than most English shirts, not near the prophylactic dimensions like those on fashion house shirts, this is a nice medium way. The armpit to armpit measure is 59 cm and sleeve girth next to the armpit is 42 cm. The sleeves are cut high for greater movement. As for the collar in this model, which features white constrast fabric in its stiffener slots, its back height is 4,2 cm with a point length of 8,5 cm and a spread of 15 cm. The collar and cuffs are lightly fused. The most surprising thing is the sleeve length from shoulder seam to cuff end: 68,5 cm, definitely longer than on most RTW shirts I have owned. Too much for most hands. The shoulder’s back portion has no split yoke, all seams are very narrow and tidy, sewn with a very straight and dense setting. The cotton fabric feels soft and strong, light plays beautifully on its surface.

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A paper leaflet comes with each Isaia shirt, summing up the patience and effort devoted to their make. Along with machine sewing, the sleeves have decorative, neat hand-sewn seams. The sleeve plackets have hand-sewn bar tacks, a small gusset with the Neapolitan red coral Isaia logo is hand-sewn at the hem. All buttons are hand-sewn with the decorative crow’s (or chicken’s) foot stitch and all buttonholes are hand-sewn tightly. The thick mother-of-pearl buttons are very lively and beautiful. The shirt has no placket under them. The last button is attached with a dark red thread that mirrors the coral logo’s shade. The fabric is twill, with a small pattern, but the angle of this pattern is closely matched on the sleeve placket.

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In sum, Isaia offers the finest RTW shirt I have tried so far. While a handful of companies, such as Kiton or G. Inglese, use finer fabrics and feature more hand-sewn details, these additional sewings are decorative instead of functional. What’s more, hand-sewn seams have a tendency to come apart with repeated laundry washes. Once one stitch is loose, many more will unravel. This prettiness also comes with a hefty additional price. Isaia’s shirts cost around 200 euros in Europe and are worth their salt, even more so while on sale. Several fine makers, such as Turnbull&Asser, Charvet or Brioni, offer shirts at a similar price but lack the beautiful finishing that sets the Neapolitans apart. My oldest shirts from Isaia have turned five years now and look as well as feel new. For me, theirs is the finest combination of cut, make, materials and finishing in RTW shirtmaking.

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Walt Whitman on quality shoes

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April 1, 2017 by Ville Raivio

“Probably there is no way to have good and easy boots or shoes, except to have lasts modeled exactly to the shape of the feet. This is well worth doing. Hundreds of times the cost of it are yearly spent in idle gratifications — while this, rightly looked upon, is indispensable to comfort and health. The feet, too, must be kept well clothed with thin socks in summer, and woolen in winter — and washed daily.”

– Walt Whitman in his Manly Health and Training columns according to NPR


Made to measure gloves from Jeeves Store

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March 14, 2017 by Ville Raivio

Jeeves Store, a fairly new webstore for the finer things in life, sent word to me some months ago. Now, the beautiful city of Bruges in Belgium isn’t a global nexus of style like Milan or Paris, but this Northern Venice is worth a visit for the sights alone, if not the niche haberdashers one can find. As for the selection, several stores stock the shoes that only Vass can make, but Jeeves has a somewhat different understanding with the company. They now offer the largest selection of leathers for MTO Vass shoes, not stocked before by the Hungarian establishment. Bresciani socks and Saphir shoe care goods are also on available. What sets Jeeves truly apart, as far as I know, is their custom glove selection and this attracted me.

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Jeeves gloves are handmade in Transylvania, but arrive without bite marks or garlicy smell. The duly diligent make is explained better on the webstore, so it remains for Keikari to have a look at the process. First I had a look at the leather, model and lining selections, and then traced my hands on A4-sized papers. These were scanned and emailed to Belgium, then onwards to Romania. The example pair is the usual dressy glove model with three hand-sewn veins on the back of the hand. It’s made from Rust carpincho hide with a white rabbit fur lining and brass poppers on the wrist. They arrive without company tags in a discreet parcel, and Tom Brone, the Jeeves Store owner, double and triple checks custom orders in his emails to avoid disappointments.

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The fit is close. This pair are the first carpincho (or capybara) leather gloves I’ve tried, so it remains to be seen how much the hides will stretch with wear. Like most models, the wrist portion is short and this does leave the skin cold in Finnish winter. An inch more of glove would improve the model greatly. The hand-sewing is close and even, and leather seams are turned neatly. Small extra seams, also known as quirks, are cut and sewn between the fingers to give a wider reach for the digits. Most gloves don’t have these because they slow down production and take up more material. Everything seems to be sewn with glacé cotton thread, the strongest option for glovemaking. Rabbit fur, while extremely soft and pleasant on the skin, is colder in true winter weather than I anticipated. The lining edges rub on some fingers. The carpincho likewise feel soft and lovely, the hides are free from nicks or cuts. Time will tell how they age, but so far my fingers enjoy the rabbit and my eyes enjoy the nubby mounds of the water pig.

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Dressing up at Harvard

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March 12, 2017 by Ville Raivio

“Harvard lecturer Stephen Shoemaker, whose courses include ‘Harvard’s History and Evolving Religious Identity,’ has been a J. Press customer since the 1990s. His students often ask him why he always has to dress up for class. To which Shoemaker, in his three-piece suit, is often tempted to respond: ‘Well, why do you always have to dress so down for class?'”

— as shared in Style with Staying Power


Made to measure shoes by Buday #2

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March 11, 2017 by Ville Raivio

Last year, with the help of Buday, I set about to try yet another Hungarian shoemaker I had read about but not seen in person. The end result is arrived in the form of the Paris model: a gimped austerity brogue made on the London-last from mid-brown calfskin, with single oak-bark leather soles, double-spaced lacing, piping around the ankle, steel toe plates and clean seamless heelcups. To make them more personal, the shoes were also made to measure and feature bright blue lining along with an undyed welt top and white welt stitching. These small details delight the owner, but won’t stand out like the ever-more popular “luxury” sneakers that feature uppers stamped with brand logos. When having clothes made, there is no need to shout — a commission is already personal without eye-grabbing gimmicks.

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The London-last is Buday’s most traditional round toe form: not extended or short, nor narrow or wide, but with a high instep like most Hungarian lasts I’ve tried. The Italian calfskin is very smooth and even, not particularly soft or stiff, and comes in a chocolatey shade. The leather snaps back tp the last’s shape quickly after bending. The all-leather heel stiffener is strong and covers the whole cup. The toe stiffener is likewise strong, though smaller in size. The upper stitching is double-rowed, dense and neat. While the design is on the conservative side, the edges are peppered with gimping and the lacing holes are struck in pairs. Most shoes have an even space between all holes, but the Paris model leaves more room after each pair of holes. These bits, combined with the lengthened and high-reaching wingtip portion, are enough to set the shoe apart. Again, there is no need for shouting with striking patina work or large-scale details if the design is smart.

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As with all Hungarian shoemakers I’ve tried, the Buday pair’s sole and welt together are thicker than those found on dressy Italian models. This makes for a bulkier look but lengthens the use before a re-soling is needed. However, when viewed from top-down, most of the pair’s welt disappears under the contours of the last, more so than with other Hungarians. The welt stitch is even in size. The Rendenbach soles come with a fancy finish and large grooves that hide the sole stitches. Unlike Buday’s regular pairs, their made to measure shoes also come with a jar of glue, a brush, two sets of foam heel pads, thicker leather insoles, shoe bags, spare laces, thin leather sockliners plus thin liners with foam inserts. With this arsenal, the customer can modify the fit to his liking and beat any errors made while he took his own measurements. The shoe box is a thin, grey cardboard setup, and the beechy shoe trees have a smooth finish and a very close fit.

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Finally, the fit, the most important bit with MTM shoes. My slim heels rise up from most heelcups, but here they remain sturdily in place. Another point is my wider left small toe that usually rubs against the last’s edge. Here it does not. The insteps are securely hugged under the tongues and lacing, and all toes have wiggling room. In short, the fit is, as subjectively as I can say, good after the leather insoles and foam as well as thin liners were added.

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Copyright © 2013 Ville Raivio

Only a beautiful life is worth living.


"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell