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Custom leather goods from GION


September 28, 2014 by Ville Raivio

GION is an artisanal Hungarian leather goods maker founded by Peter Marton in 1979. I discovered the company while searching for a fully customised iPhone case, and Vass shoes’ very own Rezső Kuti advised me to contact G. for bespoke leather goods. As the savvy reader surely knows, Hungary has been able to retain many artisanal companies and schools despite the past Soviet gloom and its aftermath. This Paprika country also offers these goods for very good prices thanks to the Forint and local wage levels, even for custom deals. If my eyes tell no lies, GION also makes the bags launched as the latest range from Vass. I initially looked at shell cordovan iPhone cases from several makers to satiate my unhealthy cordovan addiction, but most of them are American and all of them have ugly models. Then came GION.
My bespoken case is a modified Tough model from the company’s current collection, made from Horween’s #8 shell cordovan with dark purple stitching and suede lining in the same shade, my favourite and Keikari’s chosen colour. As the leather is not part of GION’s stock hides, this project took about a month from payment to courier delivery, and cost 85 euros. The end result is, well, tough as the name implies, and nicely thick. The stitching is somewhat wonky on one side, straight elsewhere, and the case was a bit tight first. After several rounds of the old in-out, my droogs, the piece has loosened and all slides smoothly. The sides won’t bend at all, the middle part does. A nice surprise came in the form of two holes left at the bottom so that bleeps and clings from the iPhone are heard nice and clear. The cordovan horse rump is smooth, tough, has a lovely colour, and smells like a horse’s ass should. I am happy with and rest my case.

Antico Setificio Fiorentino


September 25, 2014 by Ville Raivio

How a shoe should break


September 24, 2014 by Ville Raivio

Nick Horween (of the Chicago, Illinois Horweens) has kindly explained the basics of shoe break and the factors effecting leather creasing. The following is great stuff for shoe nerds and iGentlemen alike.

Andy Warhol on mass production and equality


September 23, 2014 by Ville Raivio

“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”

~ Andy Warhol in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: (From A to B and Back Again)

Interview with Andrew Livingston


September 21, 2014 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

AL: I was born in 1962 and I am a fourth generation bespoke Tailor.


VR: Your educational background?

AL: I was educated at our local schools in Castle Douglas but also helped in the family business from an early age. My apprenticeship started at home but then I was sent to Ipswich to learn under Ted Glazebrook. My father met Ted in the ‘50s through the Tailor and Cutter competitions and he offered to help train me.



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

AL: I am married and my wife helps run the family business, we have two children and we are also grandparents. Our daughter lives in Leeds and our son works in the family business (5th generation).


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

AL: My father was very proud that I followed the family footsteps into the business, and we are proud that he made our firm the only Scottish Gold Medallist tailors.



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

AL: At present tailoring tends to take up most of my time.



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

AL: This really was bred into me; since 1896 our family business has been known for quality classic clothing, and my late father used to quote, “Fashion is fickle but style is here to stay.” I still believe this to be true and strive to uphold his mantra.


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

AL: After my apprenticeship I started to realise how much I still had to learn about the world of bespoke, so, to expand my outlook, I went to work in London. Derek Jackson, our then Scabal agent, arranged work experience with Elias Christou, who became a cutter for Harrods, and then with Edward Sexton in Savile Row. I also enjoy reading tailoring books and the family has amassed a large collection over the years.



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

AL: Scottish tailors were renowned for suits with quite heavy construction; I have heard this referred to as “Clyde Built”, like the ships. But we prefer a softer construction as I was taught in the West End of London. I like to create a bit of clean air between the sleeve and side of the jacket to help with the illusion of shape, and favour a straight shoulder line but only if this will flatter the customer’s figure type. We draft an individual pattern for each customer and this allows flexibility in the looks we offer.


VR: Please tell us why you decided to continue the family business, and what goals you set for yourself in the beginning. How have you been received so far?

AL: To start with, I really was just following the steps expected of me to continue the tradition, my burn and passion for tailoring gradually grew as my knowledge and skills developed. As for my goals, the posts keep moving. Bespoke Tailoring is my life and keeps throwing fresh challenges my way.


VR: Why should my readers choose the house of Livingston over other British tailors?

AL: We have total control over our Bespoke garments because everything is cut and made in-house, this allows us to offer a more personal and unique service to our clients. Our business has thrived over the years through reputation, repeat custom and recommendation. In fact, many families have been loyal customers over multiple generations.


VR: Who or what inspires you?

AL: Edward Sexton is my inspiration and my mentor; I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with and be molded by such a talented and influential figure in the world of bespoke. Also, I am grateful to have worked with and become a friend of the late Salvo Cannia, a Sicilian coat maker whose talents I strive to reproduce.



VR: What’s your definition of style?

AL: Style, in my eyes, is an exceptionally well-cut suit, coordinated with complementing accessories and worn with confidence and pride.


VR: Finally, would you say there are regional differences in the style of British men? What’s the Scotsman’s look?

AL: I think regional differences in style have been greatly reduced by the Internet; tailors now have a vast resource at their fingertips, allowing them to get influence from far afield. As far as Scottish style is concerned, we are trying out utmost to ensure our clients look their best and not out of place in any region.Interview_with_Andrew_Livingston_at_Keikari_dot_com8

Photos: G. Livingston&Son

Stephen Lachter, Savile Row shirtmaker


September 21, 2014 by Ville Raivio

Rare Shoes for Men


September 21, 2014 by Ville Raivio

Rare Shoes for Men is a German purveyor of rare or rarefied vintage shoes and watches for men. I chanced upon the dealer on while searching for some nice spade sole shoes about a year ago, before the man had a web address and presence. His selection is among the finest online and, unlike Classicshoesformen, noblehouse1900 (or Rare Shoes for Men) has no extensive price markups on the less rare pairs in stock. Most of these are American, and the oldest date back to around 1890s, with some vintage leather jackets thrown in the mix. Highly recommended.

Interview with Jack Carlson of Rowing Blazers


September 19, 2014 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?
JC: I’m 27 years old. I’m an author, an archaeologist, and a member of the US national rowing team.

VR: Your educational background?
JC: I’m a doctoral student in archaeology currently; I did my undergraduate degree at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown in Washington, DC.

VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?
JC: Neither at the moment. But my girlfriend Victoria has her own collection of rowing blazers (and her own equestrian flair when it comes to style).

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of this area — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
JC: I first became interested in clothing when I picked up Alan Flusser’s book in high school. In researching for Rowing Blazers specifically, the project has involved a lot of traditional library-based research, mostly in Oxford and Cambridge. It’s also involved many on-site interviews to find out about the more obscure traditions and anecdotes and individual rowing clubs.

VR: How would you describe your own dress? Have you any particular style or cut philosophy?
JC: A mix of classic American and British style.
VR: Which tailors or RTW makers do you favour today?

JC: The Andover Shop (Cambridge, Massachusetts); Thom Sweeney (London); Walter’s (Oxford, England); Ralph Lauren (New York).

VR: Please describe how you came up with the idea for Rowing Blazers, and what goals did you set for yourself in the beginning.
JC: I first raced at the Henley Royal Regatta in 2004, and I was captivated by all of the brightly colored blazers and accoutrements. I talked to some of the British and Dutch rowers about the stories behind their blazers, and I thought, “Someone should write a book about this.” Eight years later, I was living in Oxford, the birthplace of the boating jacket, and I realized I was ideally situated to be that someone. I set out to create a book that is beautiful, well-researched, entertaining (for rowers and non-rowers alike) and expansive (though not exhaustive) in its scope. The stories are as important as the images, and in many cases the stories are as colorful as the blazers themselves.

VR: How has the project been received so far?
JC: It’s been overwhelming. I’m thrilled that so many people outside the rowing community are discovering the book and enjoying it so much.

VR: What was your criteria for the content of the book?

JC: I wanted the book to be highly authentic: none of the “models” in Rowing Blazers are models; they are all rowers who have earned their blazers, and they are all photographed entirely in their own clothes. I didn’t want to try to include every rowing club in the world, but I wanted to hit the high points and to cover clubs not only in the U.S. and U.K., but also in the Netherlands, Norway, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Ireland and South Africa. I wanted to cover blazers that were visually cool, and that had great stories behind them.
VR: Finally, what makes a great rowing blazer?
JC: The greatest rowing blazers in the book are the ones that are highly distinctive — after all, the rowing blazer’s original purpose was to help distant spectators tell which crew was which during races. From a tailoring perspective, the most traditional jackets are made from heavy flannel (though paradoxically they are usually worn during hot summer regattas nowadays); they are three-button jackets with fabric or metal buttons; no back vent; and a soft shoulder.

Photos: Jack Carlson

Brooks Brothers Centenary


September 19, 2014 by Ville Raivio

Around one hundred years ago, the venerable Brooks Brothers turned one hundred. The company that launched a thousand #1 Sack Suits celebrated with the publication of a true title monster, Brooks Brothers Centenary, 1818-1918 : Being a short History of the Founding of their Business together with an Account of its Different Locations in the City of New York during this period. It is now shared as part of University of Michigan’s Making of America series.

This centennial leaflet tells the story of BB, and its founding father and sons as well as a thing or two about the contemporary New York. For some moronic reason, the original scanner has decided to hide many pages from the lore-hungry reader or the virtual archives have lost them to bits. Likely a paid copy or online reading rights must be purchased before all is revealed.

Their vanity is greater than their misery


September 19, 2014 by Ville Raivio

“‘You’re a gentleman, Chevalley, and I consider it a privilege to have met you; you are right in all you say; your only mistake was saying “the Sicilians must want to improve.” I’ll tell you a personal anecdote. Two or three days before Garibaldi entered Palermo I was introduced to some British naval officers from one of the warships then in harbour to keep an eye on things. They had heard, I don’t know how, that I own a house down on the shore facing the sea, with a terrace on its roof from which can be seen the whole circle of hills around the city; they asked to visit this house of mine and look at the landscape where Garibaldini were said to be operating, as they could get no clear idea from their ships. In fact Garibaldi was already at Gibilrossa. They came to my house, I accompanied them up on to the roof; they were simple youths in spite of their reddish whiskers. They were ecstatic about the view, the vehemence of the light; they confessed, though, that they had been horrified at the squalor, decay, filth of the streets around. I didn’t explain to them that one thing was derived from the other, as I have tried to with you. Then one of them asked me what those Italian volunteers were really coming to do in Sicily. “They are coming to teach us good manners!” I replied in English. “But they won’t succeed, because we are gods.”

‘I don’t think they understood, but they laughed and went off.That is my answer to you too, my dear Chevalley; the Sicilians never want to improve for the simple reason that they think themselves perfect; their vanity is stronger than their misery; every invasion by outsiders, whether so by origin or, if Sicilian, by independence of spirit, upsets their illusion of achieved perfection, risks disturbing their satisfied waiting for nothing; having been trampled on by a dozen different peoples, they think they have an imperial past which gives them a right to a grand funeral.

‘Do you really think, Chevalley, that you are the first who has hoped to canalise Sicily into the flow of universal history? I wonder how many Moslem Imams, how many of King Roger’s knights, how many Swabian scribes, how many Angevin barons, how many jurists of the Most Catholic King have conceived the same fine folly; and how many Spanish viceroys too, how many of Charles III’s reforming functionaries! And who knows now what happened to them all! Sicily wanted to sleep in spite of their invocations; for why should she listen to them if she herself is rich, if she’s wise, if she’s civilized, if she’s honest, if she’s admired and envied by all, if, in a word, she is perfect?”

~ F. Corbera (Don Fabrizio) in Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo

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