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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
March 9, 2017 by Ville Raivio
Cordings, that little shop in Piccadilly, London, sent over a most British tweed jacket for Keikari’s anatomical series. The company has been in the countrywear business since 1839, so I assumed they would know what to offer. It was time to find out about their jacket side as the jacket matches the trous from way back when Cordings was last featured. As before, the cloth is very coarse and many-coloured, heavy by today’s standards at 600 grams per metre, intended for robust wear. Individual threads come in shades of yellow, green, brown, grey, blue.
The cut is a British collection of strong and roped shoulders, nipped waist, three buttons, hacking pockets, flared skirt, notch lapels. The lapels are on the slimmer side at 7.5 cm, with a high gorge, and sharp lines from the buttoning point onwards. A sharp V-shape under the neck leaves little room for the shirt, but does keep the wind at bay. The skirt has a long, rounded line from the buttoning point downwards, and comes flared for a bit of equestrian spirit and room for movement. Hacking pockets are another horsey detail, and a ticket pocket gives more room for the little things in our lives. The breast pocket is cut high and its edges are wide.
In a size 38 jacket, the chest measurement is 54.5 cm inches but ithe piece curves strongly outwards. The shaping is sturdy enough not to leave billowy creases on a willowy chest. As the shoulder seam distance is 45.5 cm, I would describe the typical Cordings shoulders narrow. This is a boon for us pencil necks as most British country jackets have fat and wide shoulders, too wide for the slim Jim. As the cuff girth is just 28 cm, these are slim as well. Same goes for the sleeves on the bicep at 58 cm. In sum, Cordings is different from most countrywear makers because their regular cut is slim, but with enough space for comfortable movement.
The wrist buttons are functioning and the buttons made from urea. The undercollar has a contrast felt and under the lapel are placed two loops for the lapel flower stem. The golden satin lining depicts scenes of hunting, fishing and other masculinely leisurely outdoor pursuits. The sleeves are finished with a contrast stripe lining. Seams are tight and straight, no loose threads can be found, the sleeveheads are high enough, patterns are matched well enough. As presumend, this is the British RTW tweed jacket I will compare all others to. Few makers offer a similar combination of the right cloth, cut and finishing.
March 5, 2017 by Ville Raivio
Those in the know also know that Brooks Brothers used to make “The” button-down shirt, as was good and proper since they created the first American models. Thing is, style addicts have been decrying the ever-declining make and quality of BB’s button-down shirts from as far back as the 1970s, when the style writer George Frazier opined so. As fate would have it, I found a very old, unused, still wrapped-up BB shirt from one flea market — in Helsinki, Finland, of all places. It was high time to find out what the hey all this shirt talk was about. The example shirt was made during the 1960s in BB’s own factory in America as part of their Makers series. The model is Polo, the original button-down shirt.
First, the cut. Is it billowy and sail-like on the chest, waist and upper sleeve. On this size 15.5 shirt, a European 39, the chest is 63 cm, the waist 56 cm and the upper sleeve 46 cm. This combination hardly flattered anyone, but back in the days smart shirts used to be covered under knitwear or jackets. They could also be slimmed down for the body-conscious man, but just the one and wide cut was faster to make and easy to fit on most men. The extra slim fit was not invented yet, thank the gods of style, and spandex was not the thing to do. Still, the shoulder-to-shoulder seam measurement is 45 cm and similar to what most contemporary size 39 ready-to-wear shirts have. The wrist measures 22 cm and the collar is a true 39 cm one.
Second, the collar. The quitenssence of all button-down shirts is the collar and they shall rise and fall with it. With a back height of 4 cm, pointh length of 7,5 cm and spread of 9 cm, this is The Golden Ratio of the Brooks Brothers button-down collar from the Golden Age of the company. The proportions are mild but enough to make it look most handsome as the collar’s inner structure is extremely soft: no glue or stiffener, just a thin layer of cotton fabric. The collar rolls. It does not chafe or restrict. The same goes for the cuffs.
Third, the fabric. This one has sanforised cotton instead of the heavy oxford weave cotton that made the most famous BB shirts. Compared to contemporary shirtings, this one feels coarse but has a clean, smooth surface. The sanforisation promises less shrinkage with washes and wear.
Fourth, the details. Here is where the halo around vintage BB shirts dims for me. The buttons are ugly yellow plastic and attached shoddily. The buttonholes are far from tight and raised, loose threads abound, some stitching is wonky and hem edges are turned shoddily. Still, the sleeve ends have nice and tight pleats, the longer hem stays tucked and the heavily rounded hem sides look swell.
In short, Brooks Brothers offered great-looking and comfortable collars but the quality of their finishing and the greatness of their cut leaves me unimpressed. The nostalgia value is strong with these ones. Obviously I am making sweeping generalisations here, so reader beware, as I have no intention of looking up and buying dozens of BB shirts just to see how their make differs with time.
February 22, 2017 by Ville Raivio
Last year, with the help of Buday Shoes Ltd., 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 Pismany model: a gimped austerity brogue made on the London-last from mid-brown boxcalf by the Perlinger tannery, with single oak-bark leather soles, double-spaced lacing, piping around the ankle, steel toe plates and clean seamless heelcups. To make the pair 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 stamped brand logos. In having clothes made, there is no need to shout — a commission is already personal without large gimmicks.
Pictured below, some shots of the pair in the making.
February 6, 2017 by Ville Raivio
R. Culturi is an accessory webstore founded in 2015 by Anthony Brovchenko and his wife. Unlike most stores, RC’s wares are unique to the company as the printed designs are original pieces from artists around the world. The company collaborates with each artist on their respective pieces and has them made from start to finish in Como, Italy. The current range covers pocket squares, ties and scarfs with prints from various artists around the world, from Finland to Mexico, and with hand-rolled edges on the finished accessories. R. Culturi’s blog features interviews with chosen artists along with links to their online galleries and biographies. The company sent over a handkerchief and a scarf for presentation.
Mr Brovchenko tells me about their origins, “R. Culturi was a way to fuse classical men’s and women’s styling with art and culture. After having moved from the U.S. to Europe, I began to travel quite a bit. I visited countries across Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia and immersed myself in learning about the history, language, and culture of the peoples from the various cities and countries. My wife was already much more well-traveled than I.
This, of course, led to an interest in the artwork, both traditional and contemporary, that could be found in each country. I also had, and continue to have, a passion for quality craftsmanship in shoes, clothing, and accessories. R. Culturi was born from the combination of these two fascinations. In having a conversation with one particular artist, I was shocked to find out that she had done some textile work for a major retail brand but was stripped of all legal rights to show that work or use it in her portfolio. We felt this was unfair, hence our philosophy to always celebrate each artist and tell their story along with the artwork.”
As for the selection process, he continues: “You needn’t be a scholar of art history or a critic to appreciate art. We feel that art is anything that elicits an emotional response and curiosity from the audience. Hence, rather than contacting well-known or ‘popular’ artists, we decided to search for talent from places that may not be on the map in the global art scene. It’s difficult to build a name for yourself in cities like New York, Paris, London, or Tokyo. But what about if you’re from Lviv, Iloilo City, or Yerevan?
Artists from these places have no less talent than those from mega-metropolises, yet they have significantly less potential reach. Thus, we went about searching for artists from these types of places via forums, online art portfolio websites, and word-of-mouth. The criteria we used in our selection was simply whether the work was interesting, unique, and spoke to us in some way. We also had to be mindful of how their particular style would translate to printed fabric.
In terms of manufacturers, we sampled a dozen different silk and textile printers throughout Europe, the U.S., and Asia. Once we finally found our manufacturer in Como, it was clear that their work and attention to detail was leagues above that of anybody else. They’re a small, family-owned mill that’s been in business for over 40 years, surviving the ‘fall’ of Italy as the world’s foremost silk manufacturer and printer. They, more than anybody else, were able to translate designs that were painted or hand-drawn onto fabric without losing the essence of the original artwork.
Finally, I asked why Keikari’s readers should have a look at RC’s wares: “Great question. At the end, it comes down to whether something speaks to you or not. There are many well-made, beautifully designed accessories out there, but we want our customers to not only purchase something because they thought it looked nice or matched well with their outfit. We want our customers to have some sort of a connection to the accessory and to feel that they are participating in a living artist’s story. Maybe you bought it because you loved the design, but didn’t realize the concept until you received the package and read the card included with every pocket square, tie, and scarf.
Or maybe you were drawn to the artwork after reading the inspiration behind it, and learning more about the artist from articles we publish on our blog. In any case, we don’t want our products to just be part of a pile of stuff you have in your closet. When you wear our products, you have a story to tell with each one. There is significance behind every design. Every artwork is a completely original work made specifically for our collection. It often takes many months to create the final work and then a couple more to get it perfectly printed onto fabric. When you purchase something from R. Culturi, you are purchasing true art in design and craftsmanship.”
Copyright © 2013 Ville Raivio