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.”
January 18, 2017 by Ville Raivio
Buday is an artisanal shoemaker from Hungary, founded by Gabor Gyöngyösi in 2007. The company has stayed true to the principles of the age-old manual shoemaking where machines are only used to sew uppers and linings. With six shoemakers and two office personnel, 40 shoe models, 20 leather types, 6 welt constructions and 16 lasts, of which eight in regular use, Buday exports a full range of footwear to ten countries.
Sole leathers are oak-bark tanned and made in Germany, most calfskins are German as well. As for a so-called House Style, the company representative tells me that “we are trying to mix traditional styles with modern shoe fashion influences.” Compared to most companies, Buday favours strong colours for its designs and patina work. For exotic leathers, the company sources CITES-certified hides from reputable retailers. Besides ready-to-wear, Buday offers made-to-order, made-to-measure and bespoke shoes. The final option includes a fitting pair and individual shoe trees to boot.
January 13, 2017 by Ville Raivio
“With beautiful things [like clothes], it is all about learning to wait, being patient. People today, they don’t want to give it time. But it is like love, it is like a relationship, it is like learning, like all the things we admire, it takes time. Anything that happens in the snap of a finger isn’t good.”
— Yukio Akamine
January 1, 2017 by Ville Raivio
The side elastic or side gusset or elastic sided shoe is an eccentric footwear type that has its origins in 1837. I’ve read several dates for the exact year, but have decided to put my trust in a museal source, courtesy of The Victoria&Albert Museum in London. One J. Sparkes Hall, bootmaker to Queen Victoria, launched his new invention back then; a “a slip-on boot with the gusset made from tightly coiled wire and cotton”, though it took three more years before this shoemaker of legend came up with an elastic similar to those in use today. His slip-on boot inspired the Chelsea boot, which was later followed by the Beatle boot and other elasticised models.
Side elastic shoes were made by the likes of Nikolaus Tuczek, a mostly-forgotten London cordwainer of note, and John Lobb Ltd., who still remember the late master with a model named in his honour. As patterns and styling go, the shoelaces are just replaced with a strong elastic that keeps the shoe in place. This seems easy enough on paper, but the fit cannot be adjusted without lacing. Side elastic pairs are thus a hybrid with the ease of the loafer and, depending on the details, often with the looks of a nice oxford. Most loafers lack the elastic bit, though, so they won’t stretch as well to fit the individual contours of the foot. Chelseas notwithstanding, well-made elastic shoes are not widely available in most high-street stores for reasons that escape me.
The example pair is the model Kibworth from the miracle makers Edward Green. I cannot remember when I first saw photos of elastic oxfords, but I knew I had to try them one day, the design intrigued too much. The pair is an older make with the former EG stamp, and doesn’t have a specialised loafer last. Instead it’s made on the 606-last, which they call square-toed but looks far from one, with hidden elastics and from Edwardian Antique calfskin. A combination of the looks of an oxford and the comfort of a loafer, I’m surprised more factories won’t offer elastic shoes. As things go, the shoe type seems to be most popular in Asia and Japan in particular, perhaps because shoes are usually taken off indoors in the land of the rising sun. As for other elastic shoemakers besides EG, at least Carmina and Crockett&Jones spring to mind if the reader would like a try.
December 27, 2016 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
GG: 66, founder/owner of Buday.
VR: Your educational background?
GG: Mechanical engineer.
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your shoe enthusiasm)?
GG: I have two children, a son and a daughter, they are also infected with the „shoe virus”.
VR: …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions back when you decided to become a shoemaker?
GG: I have been working with shoes for 32 years, so my family wasn’t surprised when I told them I wanted to deal with handmade shoes.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides footwear?
GG: I love sports, sailing, and tasting good wines.
VR: How did you first become interested in shoes, and when did you turn your eyes towards artisanal shoemaking? Why classic models instead of fashion?
GG: I was about 18 years old and a young sport shooter. We often travelled to „western” countries with the national team. That is where I saw fantastic shoes, and bought myself one or two pairs on every trip. The other athletes gave me the nickname „little shoemaker”. I never thought back then that the joke would become reality one day.
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the crafts — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
GG: I learned my professional knowledge from books, I have read nearly everything with the word „shoe” in it. I was taught shoemaking itself by old Hungarian masters, and, of course, I am still learning, I think it lasts a lifetime.
VR: How would you describe the House Style of Buday shoes?
GG: Our company is a family-run business. We can be characterized by a pursuit of perfection. In the early days I liked cool and trendy models. As time went by, I became more and more interested in excellent quality. I think the most outstanding shoes are classical Budapesters.
VR: Do you have a favourite shoe model (eg. monk, derby, oxford, balmoral boot) and leather type?
GG: I tend to love all models equally if we manage to make them perfectly. Then I can adore them for weeks.
VR: There are several quality shoe companies in Hungary — why should my readers choose yours?
GG: I find the fact that we have several excellent shoe manufacturers in Hungary a good thing, as a healthy competition leads to good results. Naturally customers should choose us because we are unique in Hungary (and not only here) in using 6 different welt sewing techniques. We are also unique in offering practically any colour choice, we finish dying the leathers outselves, sometimes we make as many as 3-4 different colour effects on one shoe. Finally, the perfect fit for our customers.
VR: What is your definition of a well-made shoe?
GG: Well-made shoes are created from outstanding materials, they conform on the last perfectly. They attract attention by their comfortably perfect fit, and noble simplicity.
VR: Who or what inspires you?
GG: Drive: we would like to manufacture the best, most beautiful, the most expensive instead of the worst, the ugliest or the cheapest Budapesters in the world.
VR: Finally, how can my readers find out if a shoe has a good fit?
GG: I would like to highlight a few criteria out of many. Firstly, the shoes must have the right length; second, they should fit around the bunions (it is not a problem if they are a bit tight first); third, the instep height has to be right with derby and oxford models. If these three things fit, and your heel is not loose, then we can say that the last and the model are both right.
December 22, 2016 by Ville Raivio
November 12, 2016 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
AP: I’m 59 years old and I’ve spent my entire career in the computer industry. I started out working in the computer center of a British university and moved to the US in 1981 and started working for a computer manufacturer and I’ve spent the majority of my career since then working for several computer companies. For most of my career I’ve been either a software engineer or I’ve managed software engineering teams.
VR: Your educational background?
AP: I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and physics.
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?
AP: I have two grown daughters who are largely bemused by my style renaissance. It’s also true to say, however, that my Instagram presence is largely due to their prompting. But when they were young, I did not dress remotely like I do now. They knew me as a father who largely dressed in jeans and polo shirts, a man who wore sneakers most days. So, the father they see now does not look like the father of their memories and I think that is disconcerting for them on some level.
I am very happily married. It is the second marriage for both of us. My wife is a stylish and elegant woman in her own right and it is perhaps because of her that I started dressing better than I did. Not at her prompting, however. It was more because I wanted to honor her, to try to be someone that she would be proud to be escorted by.
VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?
AP: My mother was also a stylish woman and I think she recognized when I was fairly young that I knew how I wanted to look. She knew that if I wanted a particular look, whatever it might have been, that I was not prepared to compromise. I can look back and recognize now that, within the limits of a family budget, she helped me to express myself in the way that I wanted. She let me experiment.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
AP: I am a fairly accomplished photographer, although I don’t shoot as much as I used to. I cook and my wife and I enjoy enjoy wine. We do travel a fair bit, too.
VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you turn your eyes towards the classics?
AP: I’ve always been interested in style and fashion, both men’s and women’s. But, as I mentioned above, I’ve lived most of my adult life in jeans and polo shirts. About four years ago, I had to make some changes in my diet and lifestyle to reverse a trend of increasing blood sugar. These changes had a side effect for me of losing around 30 pounds, too, and so I needed a new wardrobe. Over the years, I had accumulated a number of jackets, some of which now fit me better than they had in years. But even the jackets that fit me were rarely worn and I decided I wanted to change that. so I started to wear them, even though I was still wearing jeans and sneaker, for the most part. But over time, I realized I needed better trousers, which led to better shoes, which led to wearing a tie occasionally, which led to bow ties, and so on.
Then I began to do some research. I began to learn about how clothes were suppose to fit. I realized that most of my clothes were too big, for example, and as I learned more and came into contact with more resources, from which I learned more, I began to understand.
In addition, I had always harbored a desire to have a suit made for me by a Savile Row tailor. But I did not know which tailor to select and I was somewhat daunted at the prospect. But I heard of a tailoring firm called Steed Bespoke Tailors that is part of the Anderson&Sheppard diaspora and that visited San Francisco regularly and I decided to go with them. And it has been a good relationship.
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the tailored look — from books, talks with salesmen or somewhere else?
AP: All of the above, I would say. Except, perhaps, salesmen. I would add online resources, too, as a major learning resource for me. I’ve learned a tremendous amount in direct conversations with some of the people that I have met online.
Clearly, menswear has standard texts by Boyer, Flusser, Manton, and others. But there’s no escaping that the internet is and continues to be a tremendous tool for learning and for obtaining items that, without it, one simply would not encounter. An example of that might be the French sock vendor Mes Chaussettes Rouge. I would never have encountered them if were not for their online advertising and for an article I read, online, about the socks that they carry that are used by the Catholic church. I’ve been to the physical store in Paris and I think it’s fair to say it’s not in an area where a typical tourist might wander. So that experience is a direct result of discovery online.
VR: How would you describe your personal style?
AP: To the extent that I have a style, it’s a combination of what I hope is a classic English style and then at times a fairly unrestrained exuberance bordering on dandyism. I love color and I love wearing things that few others would wear. For example, I bought some of the last few meters of an ivory flannel with a navy pindot windowpane from Fox and had it made up into a lovely double-breasted suit. I wear it on warm evenings, or sunny summer days and I love it. People notice it because you almost never see anyone wearing such a thing. But I have a gorgeous lovat green tweed jacket that is classic and conservative and occasionally people notice it because it is so classic and well cut.
VR: Which tailors or RTW makers do you favour and why?
AP: I use Steed, as mentioned earlier and Hemrajani Brothers for my tailored clothing. I have more or less stopped buying ready-to-wear clothing.
VR: Have you any particular style or cut philosophy behind your items?
AP: I like to create a long line. I have my jackets cut longer than is “fashionable” today, and somewhat longer than many people are comfortable with. But it creates the line I’m looking for. I want my clothes to be well cut, to be comfortable, and to look like they were made for me.
VR: Who or what inspires you?
AP: My wife inspires me. She empowers me to express myself and to follow my own path. In terms of men’s style, I admire Fred Astaire and Cary Grant. If I could have a sliver of their style and gracefulness I would be a lucky man.
VR: What’s your definition of style?
AP: That’s a tough one. Style is individual. Style is harmony. Style is beauty. Style is being comfortable in your own skin and having confidence in your appearance. I don’t think you can have style without confidence.
VR: Finally, given your knowledge on the subject, how would you describe the dress of the American IT-crowd?
AP: Extremely casual. In my little corner of the industry, dress is virtually irrelevant. It simply does not matter how you dress. What matters is how you do your job. I accept that I work in an industry that is, even now, somewhat unusual in that regard. But where most of my colleagues interpret that freedom to mean they can dress extremely casually, which I also used to do, I have used it to dress the way I do now, in tailored clothing. Why? Because I want to.
Photos: The Poupart Archives
Copyright © 2013 Ville Raivio