About Andrew Williams

Andrew Williams blogs at BespokeMe and is based in London. His clothing label Bulldog & Wasp represents his philosophy that style is a frame of mind not just a state of dress.

Taliare London

Taliare: From the Latin verb ‘to cut’ and the origin of the word tailor

If you’ve read any of my past articles here or on BespokeMe you might recall me mentioning Erlend Norby.

A lovely guy, originally from Norway, over the years we’ve become good friends and often share a few pints together while discussing the finer points of tailoring. Erlend first studied in Paris as a modelist – someone who cuts and creates a suit. Erlend then went to work as a cutter on Savile Row where he remained for a number of years.

When I met him and first introduced him to readers he had just taken over running my shirt maker Stephan Shirts. While there he began a line of made-to-measure suiting, which was great value and I tested – you can read the reviews here, part 2, part 3 and part 4. At the time I called his service made-to-measure plus. The reason was that Erlend provided a service which went beyond the norm. It wasn’t quite bespoke but very close. Erlend cut the pattern but he didn’t actually make the suits up himself, at that time. But it meant that for just under £600 you got a perfectly cut suit which in reality – whatever other pontificators tell you about hand work etc. – is really the only bit that matters in having a suit made. Without a great pattern cutter able to perfectly translate the curves of your anatomy into a suit you’ve really got nothing – however much hand work, bench sitting or rolls of expensive cloth you employ.

To cut a long story short (too late!), Erlend has now left Stephan Haroutunian Shirts to establish London’s newest bespoke tailoring house, offering his excellent made-to-measure service and a full bespoke service – made here in London.

Erlend told me of his plans last year and it’s great to see a good man’s plans come to fruition. I have to say he’s done a wonderful job and found the perfect little shop in Marylebone, close to some great independent restaurants and bars.

Erlend has also expanded his offering considerably. He still has his basic made-to-measure suits but has now added a made-to-measure with a full floating canvas for £795, not just the ¾ floating for £595 as before. Finally there is a full bespoke service for £2000. In addition to the suits, and building on recent experience, he offers made-to-measure and even bespoke shirts.

With a mix of prices suitable to most pockets and no compromises on the standard this is a great new venture which will please existing customers like myself and delight those new to tailoring. Erlend’s a great guy and nothing is too much trouble. So if you’re contemplating a voyage into tailored clothing – a daunting prospect at first – I suggest a visit to London’s newest tailoring house.

Taliare

5 Seymour Place

Marylebone

London

W1H 5BA

http://www.taliare.com/

Bulldog & Wasp Launch Event

Dear Men’s Flair Reader,

All work and no play makes…you know the rest.

To celebrate the official launch of my clothing label, Bulldog & Wasp, I’d be delighted if you could join me on Thursday 12th March for an evening of fine clothing, good conversation and discovery.

During the course of the evening not only will you get a chance to see and purchase some of Bulldog & Wasp’s fine shirts and ties (at a 10% discount on the night); we will be hosted by London’s newest tailor, Taliare, who will be showing their new spring summer fabric samples for 2015 from Holland and Sherry. They have agreed to offer a 10% discount on any orders using Holland and Sherry cloth. I’ve also arranged for the local specialist perfumery, Les Senteurs, to host an introduction to the world of scent. They will also be offering a special 10% discount on purchases. All that and you’ll discover a street full of great independent bars, pubs and restaurants. What more could you ask for from a Thursday evening? It promises to be a fun evening and you’ll get to drink my booze. Please brings partners, friends and colleagues.

Now, I know that many Men’s Flair readers live outside of London, indeed, they live all over the world. But for those that can’t make it, and I’m sorry for that, we will be offering a 10% discount on Bulldog & Wasp shirts and ties from Thursday 12th until midnight Sunday 15th March so that everybody can share a little in the good times.

Time & Date: Thursday 12th March, from 7pm.

Location: Taliare, 5 Seymour Place, London, W1H 5BA. Map

I hope you will be able to join us and I look forward to meeting you.

Best wishes,

Andrew

Bulldog & Wasp

Steve Skippen of Shoeshine UK

I hate cleaning shoes. Some men I know derive therapeutic benefit from it, though I scarcely know why.

That said, I do like my shoes to be well kept and last. So I’ve read the innumerable articles littered around the internet on the art of shoe shining, methods of achieving a high shine and reviews of various potions.

Having read so many of these forensic expositions even now I’m buggered if I could tell you which the right way is. In fact every shoemaker and purveyor of footwear I’ve encountered or interviewed seems to have a differing method.

So while I may not be able to advise on the right way to clean your shoes I can enlighten as to the most pleasurable and for my money the most satisfying in its results.

The artist in question is a man named Steve Skippen of Shoe Shine UK. You’ll find him working out of the Hilton on Park Lane, London – which is as good a place as any to spend a comfortable hour.

Steve’s art of shoe shining is in his fingers, literally caressing the leather back to life with the tips of his fingers.  This is not a practice you’d want to try at home.

A full shoe shine takes between an hour and 45 minutes. He starts by brushing your shoes to get rid of dirt and dust. This is followed by a cleaning and moisturising preparation. A recipe comprising several ingredients and mixed by Steve himself – which he understandably wouldn’t share. This application is applied by cloth. This is the last such conventional piece of kit used.

Now comes the interesting bit. Using his thumb and fingers he rubs the tips on the surface of the coloured wax polish – from a French firm he regards as the best, but again wouldn’t share. Steve then rubs the polish into the leather with the tips of his fingers and thumbs. It takes literally hundreds of darting flicks of the fingers across the leather, back and forth onto the leather and then back into the polish.

While this is happening you sit shoes on and in a conventional shoe shiners leather chair. The sensation itself of having someone run their fingers over your shoes while unusual is extremely becalming, far more so than a normal shoe shine.

Using this method he applies several coats of polish, including lacquers around the outside ridges of the soles.

To explain this method seems quite odd, if not mad – or at least a foolish gimmick – but far from it. Using this method he applies multiple light layers of polish which are slowly built up. The heat, moisture and oils within the skin of his fingers helps the wax penetrate the leather better, with thin layers building up one on top of the other much more efficiently.

The experience is rounded off by a vigorous buffing with Steve applying some serious elbow grease via folded pairs of ladies stockings – which Steve swears provide a higher shine than any cloth or brush.

Finally, Steve lacquers the welts and edges of the soles and you’re done. The finest and certainly the most unusual shoe shine I’ve yet found.

Should you find yourself in London I whole heartily recommend a visit. Your money and your time cannot be better spent.

Bulldog & Wasp

It seems an age since my last article for Men’s Flair, and I should start by thanking Bilal for inviting me back.

I always enjoyed writing for this website as it was a genuine enthusiast’s site.

Enthusiast is exactly how I would describe myself, and I guess I’ve taken that enthusiasm to the ultimate extreme.

The reason for my prolonged absence is that having threatened to set up my own clothing label I’ve actually gone and done it.

It’s called Bulldog & Wasp and represents not only my love of clothes and the art of dressing but also my own philosophy to dressing well and men’s clothing in general. I’m frequently disappointed by what’s offered up to men from both the high street and in particular high end retailers and designer labels. Often you pay for a name only, affixed to low quality high margin garments made with varying degrees of appreciation for the history of the garment or its true form and function. Utility, quality and craft are the things I most desire from a clothing label and my clothes.

So what can you expect in the coming months? I guess you would expect me to plug my own label, and yes from time to time I will do that. But I hope when I do you’ll learn some of the thinking behind the choices I’ve made for products and in so doing it may help you in your own mental sartorial arithmetic. And I’ll be very pleased to hear from you when I’ve got it wrong – or right. You never stop learning.

I hope also to share some of the things I learn while vetting manufactures and some of the things I’ve already learned about clothes manufacturing and design. I hope these will help you to make more informed choices about your own purchases.

I will tell you about other independent labels I’ve found that I think worth knowing about and who deserve support from a wider audience. I hope you’ll find these useful for putting together your own wardrobe of great clothes.

I will, I’m sure, survey Men’s Flair readers so that I might produce a better product or service. And I hope to hear your thoughts on some of the design arguments previously only articulated in my own head – or in my past Men’s Flair articles. These may help you realise you are not alone.

But, above all, I hope to share my enthusiasm for the business of dressing well and fine clothes, one enthusiast to another.

Last Minute Stocking Fillers

Christmas is only a few days away but you have just enough time to order some last minute gifts if pounding the pavements has so far proved fruitless. So here are a few of my last minute suggestions.

Socks

Seriously, I’m one of those odd fellers who really doesn’t mind socks as a gift, provided they’re the right socks of course. Indeed, over the last year I’ve become something of a sock obsessive. But, the first thing to understand is that there are dress socks for pairing with suits and then there are weekend socks. Understand that and you’re well on your way to being considered a well dressed man, for it is the devil in the detail that makes the look. So many men ignore these little details, understandably concentrating on the big ticket items. So help out your fellow man with the following:

Dress Socks from Jackson Edison, Rome

Amongst the many contributions Italy has made to the world of menswear it’s generally acknowledged that they make the finest hosiery. It may seem extravagant to import your socks from Rome, but hey it’s Christmas and this latest find is an opportunity too good to pass up.

I first discovered Jackson and Edison and their excellent dress socks on my last trip to Rome.  Available in below the knee, mid calf and below the calf and spun from Scottish yarns, their elegant dress socks are made from 100% Mercerised Cotton which makes them both strong and slightly sheer. The process of mercerisation also allows for a wonderful array of rich colours to suit any look and taste. If you go for the knee length versions, as I did, the large elasticated tops mean they stay taut without exposing hairy white shin when you sit cross legged. At just 17.50 Euros for three pairs this equates to unbelievable value for a product of this type.

Weekend socks from The Oxford Socks Company  

While the Italians are acknowledged as sock experts the British, sadly, are the opposite. The Oxford Socks Company is a new UK independent label looking to redress the balance. Again offering very good value they have some beautiful coloured socks all made in England from British yarns.  No sweatshop sweat socks here.

Etre gloves

The gifts I most appreciate are those that scratch a particular itch. Falling into that category are Etre woollen gloves, a pair of which I recently acquired. Twice a week I have a lengthy commute from London to my other office in Cambridge. The climate control in the train carriages is usually set to frosty and this time of year travelling each way in the dark only adds to the chill. To pass the time I’ll often answer e-mails on my Blackberry or surf the net on my Galaxy Note. In a clash of old world and new, hitherto this has meant taking my gloves off, brrrrr! Etre, a London based design agency and the commuter’s friend, have solved that problem by creating two sets of woollen gloves, one pair index finger and thumb-less and the other a full glove with contactwoven fingertips. Manufactured in Scotland at a family-run mill, they’re a very reasonable £40 a pair and available in a variety of colours and patterns; a clever and stylish way to solve a 21st century problem.  And if your intended recipient has slightly richer tastes why not treat them to Etre’s hand stitched Hairsheep (Cabretta) leather versions of the finger and thumb-less gloves.

Distinctive Washing Powder for Men

A bottle of aftershave is standard issue Christmas gift giving but why not come at it from a different angle. A new product from a recent British start-up, Distinctive Washing Powder is a designer label safe washing powder for men with base notes of amber and sandalwood.   I’m always looking for that little added extra to incorporate into my wardrobe and this is an interesting idea which could add that extra effortless touch.

I may not have another opportunity to say it so, Merry Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year.