Archives for February 2011

It’s The Season To be…Confused

Image credit: h(y)r Collective Magazine

Yet again the Midwest decides to hit me where it hurts. Unless I’ve slipped into some temporal phenomenon of which I am completely unaware, it is still the middle of February, no? Here in St. Louis though, the mercury decided it was rising, seasons-be-damned, and with mounds of snow still mucking up the gutters it was sunny and over 70 degrees this week. It might have been beautiful, but it was also confusing.

What do you wear when its hot and late-winter? Linen would look ridiculous, not to mention the fact that mine is all still stored away for vernal rotation. Only last week I was tromping around in boots and woolens, so loafers and bare feet would just display my pearly ankles to an audience of blinded passers-by. I found my solution in one of the best places to look to for clothes that can be lived in when its warm but still look substantial enough – preppy basics.

As I hung up the flannels, sadly I might add, the chinos jumped right off the hanger. The mid-weight twill and beat-to-hell look of my 3 or 4 year old dark-oatmeal pair fit in nicely with the lack of foliage and slushy backdrop, but kept me cool enough on the walks to and from campus. A pair of jeans would be an even more obvious option, but I’ll pick my chinos almost every time. Slipped on some thin cotton socks and my pennies, and I was good to go. Burgundy with the chinos, of course.

The harder part for me was what to wear up top. I’m a heavy perspirer, and even a light worsted jacket would have had me arriving to class a dripping mess. Enter the cotton cardigan. Even with the temperature pushing 80 I can usually get away with a single-ply, loosely knit cotton cardigan or v-neck.

Warby Parker: The 2011 Collection

I wrote back in December that Warby Parker, the online purveyor of vintage-inspired acetate eyeglasses, planned to launch a new collection for 2011. That new collection is now available on their website. The 2011 collection includes fourteen new frame styles and a variety of new colors.


Warby Parker sent me a selection of the new frames to inspect ahead of the launch. As a group the collection appears to be bigger and bolder than their original offerings. The most striking aspect of the collection are the new colors.


The only new solid color is Midnight Blue. I like the new color. It’s conservative without being black. Pictured is the new Begley frame in Midnight Blue.


There are several different versions of what Warby Parker calls a “fade.” A dark color at the top of these frames fades to a lighter one at the bottom. There is Lunar Fade (pictured on the Winston frame) that blends from black to clear. From a distance the Lunar Fade provides a fairly subtle effect. The other fades are much bolder. The Burgundy Fade (pictured on the Crosby) fades from dark burgundy to almost clear. The Old Fashion Fade (pictured on the Felton frame) transitions from dark brown to a light caramel. The Oakwood features a similar combination of brown and caramel, but it has a mottled pattern instead of a fade.


The other three colors, Greystone (a greenish gray), Striped Maple and Striped Evergreen remind me of the Celluloid barrels of vintage fountain pens. The Beckett is pictured in Striped Evergreen.


On another subject, several readers who live outside the United States have asked me if Warby Parker plans to offer international shipping in the foreseeable future. I am informed this is a project that is in the works.  Canadian shipping was launched a few months ago. Currently the hope is that they will be able to offer full-fledged international shipping in the next six to nine months; however, that is a moving target so it could be sooner or later than that estimate. Nevertheless, for those of you outside the United States who are itching for a pair of Warby Parker eyeglasses, your wait may end in 2011.

Interview: Linda Pilkington, Ormond Jayne


With good reason I’ve championed London Perfumier Ormonde Jayne. Not only do I like what they do, I like the way they do it. The scents are original, bold and elegant; it’s one of the few houses to offer Eau de Parfums for men; and everything is made in their London laboratory. What’s more, the business is real enough that you have a good chance of being served by the owner and creator Linda Pilkington. You really can’t say that of most brands.

Until now I’d only met Linda fleetingly, but the opening of her newest shop in London’s prestigious Sloane Square afforded an opportunity to find out more about this up and coming brand that refuses to sell out, and the woman that created it.

When you started out did you ever imagine you would be where you are today?

Linda Pilkington: Selling flowers 40 years ago, there was never a moment where I imagined I would own a perfume house. I bumped into a friend of mine who was working for Chanel [Bruce], he knew me when I was a child (he was a neighbour) – he remembered when I used to sell “scented things”. [Growing up] We lived in Cheshire in the middle of no where, so my parents filled the kitchen with hobby books with endless things to do, art boxes, dressing up boxes etc. I leaned towards making chocolates which I enjoyed, as well as making scented products. I sold flowers outside our home to get money so I could decorate my room.

That’s how it all started. When I met Bruce, he said to me “I’ve bought these scented candles they don’t burn very well, could you melt them down and re-set them for me?” It was amazing, we hadn’t seen each other in 25 years. I thought “this is getting quite serious, they obviously think I’m better than I am, I really ought to do a bit of research”. Eventually after 6 months I showed my wares to Sophie (who also worked for Chanel) and she said “these are great I’ll buy 30”, and I’d created Ormonde Jayne.

And where did the name come from?

Linda Pilkington: I thought my name was boring and my husband said, “well, you’re Linda Jayne” and I live at Ormonde Terrace. There wasn’t really a great deal of thought or market research, anything is better than Linda Pilkington.

So I decided this could be a good thing for me to do for a living. It was very slow progress, I actually made room sprays because I didn’t have an alcohol licence, so I couldn’t buy alcohol to make a perfume. When I moved into a proper studio I applied for an alcohol licence which allowed me to take the company to the next step.

But you never had any formal training?

LP: I did invest in quite a comprehensive studio and the alcohol licence. A lot of people knew I had these premises, and a lot of perfumiers used my premises. This was at a time when people started getting into niche perfume. So over 2-3 years I had a lot of people from the industry coming and going, which was great for me because I asked them lots of questions. It was fantastic for me, a great learning time. I was able to come into contact with some very interesting people at the top of their game.

It strikes me that in the last 12 months things have really taken off, what one thing got you off the launch pad?

LP: I have a mentorship from Walpole (the luxury branding group), they have certain criteria, for example, you have to be British owned. You have to present to them, a bit like Dragon’s Den. 30-40 company’s go and they pick the 5 company’s they feel will be a luxury brand of tomorrow. My mentor was very bullish, he was from a City PR company – he said “what are you going to do with your brand? If you don’t grow your brand you won’t exist in 10 years as bigger investors will copy you and do it bigger and better and faster”. That’s what you have to do. You have to grow your company. Even the other niche companies, Clive Christian, he’s got 300 points of sale but they’re not making the products themselves, it’s all manufactured for them. I told him I can’t [have 300 points of sale] and he said, “lets work out what you can do. You could have 50 points of sales and still be able to make it yourself”.

Where are you in terms of opening your branches abroad?

LP: Well I think I have to babysit this [Sloan Square] for now. Because I’ve opened in Harrods and this shop in one year I don’t want to take on investors or become forced to sell part of my company because I can’t meet my commitments. So I have to make this shop work and make sure Harrods makes money.

With this expansion are you still managing to make your own products? One of the things I like is that you make your own products here in London.

LP: My critical mass is 50 points of sales for me to still make the products myself. I would have to get more staff at the studio e.g. one in charge of making candles, one filling, one mixing/making. They’d also do the internet orders.

I love the fact it’s such a hands on and personal business.

LP: I enjoy that part as well. The thing is with investors they always say the right things and nice things when they want your company, then they turn into beasts. They just want to roll it out for 5 years and sell it on. They want anybody to buy it. I know people who have done it and regretted it.

As you become better known, and you’re known for your original and unusual scents, is there a temptation to go more ‘mainstream’?

LP: I hadn’t thought about that actually. I haven’t made a perfume in quite a while. I think the next time I do decide to make a perfume I won’t be thinking like that. I’ll be thinking, “what should I have in my library or perhaps what’s missing”. For example, I don’t have anything with Tobacco or Sandalwood, so I’d be looking to see what’s missing from my repertoire. It would still be an Ormonde Jayne perfume because that’s what people expect, especially the Blog and internet people. They would post very quickly if something smelt a bit commercial.

Do you still manage to serve in the shops?

LP: As of next week I will work in this new shop [Sloane Square] so I can get to know the customers here and they can get to know me. They’ll get the whole “this is Ormonde Jayne, this is what we do, this is who I am”.  I used to work in the Bond Street store as I didn’t have any staff and found it a good thing to do because you really get to understand customers and who they are.

What can we look forward to in the future?

LP: I think we will definitely maintain our integrity, what you’ll see is Ormonde Jayne staying true to Ormonde Jayne.

The Way, Not The What

carygrant-wayThe internet is full of product guides; some are great, and some not so much. But, while one group of editors may tell you to pull up your trousers and throw on a blue blazer and another group to tuck those trousers into your boots or grab some fingerless gloves, some things remain the same whichever style you choose. There are the “whats” of dressing – jacket, trouser, shoe, accessory choices, &c. – and then there are the “hows” of dressing – drape, harmony, &c.

The whats change year to year, mood to mood, and day to day. And I’m not just talking fashion cycles, but even what you feel like throwing on each morning. Today might just feel like chinos and a washed-finish OCBD, and tomorrow flannels and a sportcoat, but regardless of what I cover myself with I think of the same things. I already mentioned a few of them above, but for me the most important concepts, although I hate to use that word here, are cut, drape, impression, and harmony.

To start with cut, since that is where it all starts, one should be aware of the shape of one’s clothes. Again, don’t worry about whether you like jeans or worsteds – it matters either way. The shape of the garments themselves should be pleasing. The way they sit on your body even more so. Proportion and comfort should work hand in hand, and the little secrets that make the thing what it is should be your little secret. This can be the subtle pleating in the sleeve-head of a jacket, allowing it to move more freely, or the way in which a waistband is gently curved to keep the rise of your trousers sitting perfectly. The insole of a pair of great shoes feels nothing like that of a cheap pair, but no one but you is the wiser.

Drape on the other hand is the more visible aspect of cut. Something poorly cut will never drape nicely. This again though is still anything but glaring. It is clear when the chest of your coat falls perfectly even when you sip your coffee, shake a hand, or turn around to see who called your name, but it’s not clear why. A crisply-hanging trouser crease is a beauty to behold, but it’s usually not the first thing you notice.

This brings us to impression. There is that old adage, supposedly uttered by the Beau about John Bull and noticing you are well dressed. Which in fact meant you were not. But, as long as you look beautifully dressed and not simply dressed in beautiful things, I don’t see a problem here. The key is not to draw attention to any specific aspect, but rather to have them work together to form a single unified vision. No one wants to be the guy with the garish coat or glitzy tie.

And finally, we have harmony. Impression is created by harmony, drape, and cut. Things should work together, but not be too precise. You know, sprezzatura, and all that, but don’t get too hung up on looking too contrived or too nonchalant. What is really important is that when you look in the mirror, nothing looks out of place or too precisely placed. And, as with most things, enjoy dressing or its all a waste.

A Matter Of Weight


In some ways this post follows on from my ‘Notes from Rome’ series, although it’s more a stream of consciousness arising from what I saw.

One of the notes of interest from Rome was the prevalence of rubber and Dainite soled footwear, when I’d expected to see elegant, slim Italian leather shoes. I’ve always had my concerns about Blake constructed footwear and its suitability to wet climates. This is the reason I’ve never bothered to buy a pair, that and the fact the soles are harder to replace. The fact that the Roman male also knew this and altered their wardrobe accordingly is interesting.


Of course the fact that replacement is even a consideration is not a reflection on one construction method over another, in reality it’s a matter of the suitability of leather soles for the job they have to do, particularly in wet weather.

There are great benefits to leather as a material for the construction of fine and comfortable shoes of course, but it is with good reason that one is advised to never wear the same pair of shoes two or more days in a row. In the best of weather leather soles will wear out, in the wet the speed of degradation is multiplied.

All my shoes – the exception being deck shoes and luggers – are bench made, good year welted and leather soled. I have fewer pairs than some and more than most and yet the rate and expense of replacing the soles has become irksome. Even rotating my footwear extends their life by a few months a pair only.

I know plenty of people who upon acquiring a new pair of leather shoes wear them once and then nip down to the local cobbler and have a patch of rubber added to the sole. I’ve contemplated this, but to date I’ve been reluctant to do it. Firstly, I’m told that placing a piece of rubber over the top of the sole isn’t terribly good for the leather underneath. Secondly, if I’m simply plonking a bit of rubber or plastic over a leather sole then doesn’t this negate buying leather soled shoes in the first place? Of course there is a third issue, that sense that you can’t call yourself a well dressed man if your shoes aren’t all leather.

But inspired by the Roman example, I feel I need to turn a weakness into a strength. I feel I want something made for the job, and to make it a part of my look. For the Roman male it was perfectly natural to incorporate a shoe made for dealing with wet weather, forgoing their slim elegant Blake constructed shoes. So perhaps it’s time I thought about doing the same.

If my Roman adventure taught me anything it was how well heavier rubber soled shoes can be incorporated into a look, including business wear. A logical step really, most of us bring out heavier suits, coats and knits for the autumn and winter seasons, so why not extend this to winter footwear.

For the casual wardrobe this is not such a problem, but the business wardrobe requires more care and attention to proportion. An increase in the heft of the footwear would be better balanced by a corresponding increase in the weight of cloth. Heavy flannel would seem a natural fit.

It will take some planning and some cash to rebalance my winter wardrobe, but by this time next year I hope to have added some serious winter weight.