Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Stoke-on-Trent in Flux with The New English

The renaissance of Stoke-on-Trent as a ceramic design and manufacturing hub continues. 

We were proud to feature The New English recently, who design and produce exciting contemporary bone china out of Stoke-on-Trent. I recall our friend Paul Bishop of The New English's introduction in his book, Tectonic Plates - reviving the lost art of collecting and displaying plates, where he describes Stoke-on-Trent as the 'once all powerful epicentre of the global ceramics industry.'

With the enthusiasm and energy apparent in the designers mentioned in the book, maybe it won't be too much to hope that it can be again.

FLUX Stoke-on-Trent

It's encouraging to report on another company that's part of this burgeoning new ceramic design scene in Stoke. 

FLUX Stoke-on-Trent was born out of Staffordshire University's Creative Village. It's had a very successful year of exhibitions and media attention, and as a consequence is landing all important orders. Again, the products are being manufactured in Stoke-on-Trent. Jobs and skills are being retained and the profile of the city is rising again.

The demand is proven to be there for good design and expertly produced products. If you can differentiate on these factors, you can compete in the global market against low-margin mass producers. Now Stoke has the companies to satisfy this demand. May the creative flair they show help serve as a building block for greater success for the companies themselves and for the city.

Quintessentially English, we are creating products that are beautiful, collectable, at the same time highly contemporary and exploiting the traditional qualities and values of fine bone china. 
FLUX Stoke-on-Trent

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Orlebar Brown - The Only Pebble on the Beach

Orlebar Brown make trunks that are also shorts, and offer all-day style for a trip to the beach. They have a new shop and expanded range.

You know how it is. You've just been for a dip in the Med and you now want to hop over to the chiringuito for fresh sardines and a glass of gazpacho. What about those trunks dangling limp, twisted and sodden around your middle? They just won't do - you have your standards and you also want to be comfortable. So you stand shuffling underneath a towel as you swap trunks for shorts.

Orlebar Brown solved this dilemma by not following sports science-minded swimwear manufacturers, and their ever clingier designs, or the garish juvenility of 'surfer dude' fashion.

Instead, Orlebar Brown swim shorts are elegant and practical, made with quick-drying material in bright flat colours, they are cut in such a way that they look great on the beach or away from it. The Monocle 11 Bulldog shorts (above) are made in England - in collaboration with Tyler Brule's excellent magazine. The company is expanding and recently opened a shop in London, where you can purchase the range of shorts and also shirts, such as the Adam long-sleeve polo in pique cotton, below, to match. Although the Bulldog and Adam here don't really match. I just like the blues.   

Inside the shop you can also enjoy the aesthetic of a 60s poolside utopia to get you in the mood for your hols. The interior is inspired by Slim Aarons' photographic depictions of beach-based high life. Actually, we'll need to cover Slim Aarons in more depth some time.

Orlebar Brown
178 Westbourne Grove
Notting Hill,
W11 2RH

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Happy Birthday Dear Commando Comics

Happy Birthday Commando Comics - 50 today. To celebrate, a new issue is out now, plus the National Army Museum will be putting on an exhibition of original cover art. And The Tweed Pig has a treat in store too...

It's a very busy 50th anniversary year for our friends at Commando Comics. Some dates for your diaries, gentlemen.
  • A new 50th birthday edition, Misfit Squad, is now on release. And a good read it is too. I whipped a copy out of W. H. Smith as soon as I saw it.
  • Opening in September, the National Army Museum presents Draw Your Weapons: The Art of Commando Comics - an exhibition that explores the history of the comic with cover art from over 70 Commandos.
A New Commando Serial Begins on The Tweed Pig

In addition, after much anticipation, Commando Comics in association with The Tweed Pig will begin serialisation of The Sand Devils this week. Tune in for the first exciting installment and a discount code for a very generous subscription offer.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Timothy Everest - Boxing Clever

Take a ringside seat for a Timothy Everest film with a boxing theme.

The film for Timothy Everest has been produced and directed by Joshua Osborne, a student at Chelsea College of Art & Design, as a project for his degree in Graphic Design Communication.

Joshua came up with the concept and narrative, then approached a number of tailors. Timothy Everest was the only company to respond. After a positive pitch the production began and Joshua casted, put a crew together, secured a location, filmed and edited. The final film was produced on a minuscule budget. Very professional looking it is too. I want to be measured for a suit and take up boxing now, and possibly box in a suit, so the message also gets through.

I must mention the atmospheric soundtrack, which is by Jack Newton, who I believe is in the band Kites. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Alan Coren - Bond Tensed in the Darkness and Reached for his Teeth

James Bond as a pensioner. A short story by Alan Coren presents a snapshot of life in Bond's autumn years. 

With all the coverage of Jeffrey Deaver's new James Bond novel, Carte Blanche, I'm reminded of one of the most original takes on the James Bond character. Alan Coren's parodic short story Dr No Will See You Now considers an aged Bond coping with the vicissitudes of getting old with steely determination. Lovely Bond touch to have Bond's denture fixative made by "Chas Fillibee of Albemarle Street, the world's premier fixative man."

The story is included in an anthology of Coren's writing, from the 60s to the 2000s, called The Essential Alan Coren - Chocolate and Cuckoo Clocks

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Pink Power in Nantucket Reds

Think Pink. Pink trousers and shorts are a summer essential.

The different hues of blue from the dark of the Royal Navy blue to the light of the RAF blue are a staple for most male wardrobes, particularly shirts and sweaters. No surprise then that pink trousers and shorts fit in exceedingly well.

Classic casual examples are the Nantucket Reds from Murray's Toggery Shop in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Nantucket Reds are reputedly adapted from the uniform of the New York Yacht Club and the fetching faded pink looks great with an RAF blue shirt and Navy Blue sweater or vice versa, whether as shorts or long trousers. Murray's also have a selection with embroidered motifs if you're feeling daring.

I'm unaware of a UK stockist of authentic Murray's Nantucket Reds, but there are alternatives out there. Otherwise, why not get some shipped over if the shipping is agreeable. Who doesn't like waiting for a parcel? Better still, it would be a very nice excuse to take a trip over to that lovely part of the US.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A Real Boar About Salami

British wild boar salami from the Real Boar Company.  

When I was a student I packed a tent and headed for Kent to spend the summer fruit picking. I had a great time. Most of the pickers were from Eastern Europe and worked incredibly hard. The few soft Brits working there were not quite so industrious and were content to enjoy the fresh air and the wonderful Kentish countryside. We just didn't have the hunger.

One incident I remember from that time was the 'night of the wild boar'. It was the middle of the night and everyone was in their tent - we lived in a camp site amongst the fields of fruit - or somebody else's tent (if you know what I mean). Suddenly, there was a great commotion outside and a terrifying snorting and squealing noise. A wild boar was running amok. When I say running amok, it probably got caught in some guy ropes and took fright. The noise was disorienting to hear in the middle of the night through tent canvas - the squealing might actually have come from the people who spotted the boar - and was the talk of the pickers for quite a while. In tales that followed the boar became much bigger and more terrifying.

Boar is good eating. The Real Boar Company do some expert things with them from their Cotswolds base, including salamis. Their customers include the Le Cinq restaurant at the splendid George V hotel in Paris. And, as well as wild boar, they also do British game and pork varieties.

I love salami. If I'm on a country walk, I'll pack one in my bag with a knife to cut chunks and chew whilst I'm walking. And if I'm chewing on a bit of wild boar salami, I'll remember that fateful night in Kent all those years ago - portentous voice - and the night of the wild boar.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Thom Sweeney and the Rise of Bepoke Casual

Bespoke tailors Thom Sweeney are listening to their customers and finding they're wanting a combination of things.

Interesting that a growing part of Thom Sweeney's tailoring business is the creation of jacket and trouser separates rather than a matching suit. This reflects the fact that men are wearing upper casual jacket and trouser combinations more and more, and demanding the same quality as they expect in their suits.

Thomas Whiddett and Luke Sweeney are satisfying this demand, and are more than happy to create bespoke combinations such as a navy blazer or windowpane check sports jacket with plain flannel trousers. 

Their influences could be said to take in elements of English tailoring - from their time on Savile Row and with Timothy Everest - and the tailoring of Italy. 
Some cloths, colours and patterns lend themselves much better to separates and the cloth manufacturers are also recognising this trend and responding to it.

With casual separates the whole can be so much greater than the sum of the parts, but it's harder to get right than wearing a suit. So maybe this is where tailoring advice from experts is needed most.    

Thom Sweeney
1-2 Weighhouse St
Westminster, London W1K 5LR

Friday, 17 June 2011

March of the Mods - Pretty Green Enlists Weller

Liam Gallagher has recruited Paul Weller to design a few pieces for his Pretty Green clothing label. 

Pretty Green is named after a track on The Jam's classic Sound Affects album, and is certainly mod-inspired. Gallagher has said as much. He's also said that he didn't get involved in the label for the money, but because he loves classic men's clothes (and hates pointy shoes and the skinny look).

I'm sure clothes obsessive Weller jumped at the chance. He's designed six items for summer - available from the 23rd of June - that include a pleated silk scarf and Egyptian cotton long-sleeve t-shirt. There will be a bigger range for Pretty Green from Weller in the autumn, with pea coats, knitwear and suits. He has collaborated in shoe design with Hudson Shoes before now, and also with Fred Perry polo shirts, but this is his first full range under his own name. Tweedy will be keeping a beady eye on this development.

It would be very easy to include a video of The Jam playing Pretty Green here, but I've always had a soft spot for the work Weller did with Tracie Young. Weller hired her after placing an advertisement in the music press and auditioning. She did backing vocals at the tail end of The Jam and later with The Style Council.

Some solo stuff came out of the period too, as with The House that Jack Built below. Weller looking good in the background in t-shirt and trousers. I always prefer to see the t-shirt and trousers combination rather than the Brando/Dean-style t-shirt and jeans. A difficult look to pull off. You have to be careful and pick the right t-shirt and trousers or it could look terrible. Beware.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Slowear's Incotex - 60 Years of Trouser Tech

Incotex, the wonderful Italian trouser brand that's part of the equally wonderful Slowear group is 60 this year. 

They'll be celebrating at the Pitti Uomo fashion trade show in Florence this week. Slowear brands have the aim of "transcending fleeting trends and the throwaway culture", an ethos that should help them on the way to another 60 years.

The green trousers below are in a chino-style twill cotton from the summer Red collection. A good, wearable colour you'd reach for time and again.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Leather-Bound Bond - James Bond has Carte Blanche

James Bond's new assignment has been accepted. Carte Blanche is the brand new literary outing for James Bond, written by Jeffrey Deaver.

I really enjoyed Sebastian Faulks' homage to Ian Fleming's writing style when he resurrected James Bond in his novel Devil May Care. All of Bond's character traits were in evidence. Set in the 60s, around the same time as Fleming's books, it made a satisfying read for those familiar with Fleming's originals.

They say the new Bond novel written by Jeffrey Deaver is a different beast, or rather the character of Bond is different. As it has a contemporary setting then it's probably wise that he hasn't tried to transplant the mores and attitudes of the original 50s/60s stories, they would probably seem dated at best. The pace is meant to be different too, taut and, no doubt, film friendly. I'll be getting a copy to see where he's taken the character.

Deaver is a fan like Faulks, and is as familiar with Fleming's books, so I'm sure he would have picked up on the small details that represent the essence of Bond. For one, Bond drives a Bentley in Carte Blanche, as he always did in the Fleming era - owning three in the 14 original novels. In Carte Blanche he drives a Bentley Continental GT. To celebrate this, Hodder & Stoughton, the publisher, has partnered with Bentley Motors to create 500 special editions of Carte Blanche. A similar thing was done for Devil May Care.

The book comes in a machine-tooled aerodynamic metal case with an anodised aluminium base. The book sitting in the case is handmade and bound in white nappa leather with red edging, the same quality of leather used to fit out the interior of a Bentley.  Dramatically, a die-cut bullet hole has been driven into the pages of the book and nestled in the pages sits a 9mm bullet marked with the edition number of the book, the words of the story tracing around it.

I have a Pan copy of Thunderball from the 1960s that has 'bullet holes' designed into the front cover, but this new limited edition collaboration with Bentley is another level entirely. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

Elegantly Grumpy - Prince Philip at 90

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was 90 on the 10th of June, and in his recent begrudging TV interview he came across with a sprightly grumpiness. Formidable, shall we say.  

On style matters it's widely acknowledged that he has rarely hit a wrong note. Elegant, conservative, timeless, permanent are the usual epithets. You look at photos and the silhouette of his suits hasn't changed much over the decades, as he has correctly eschewed chasing trends. And the basics in constructing suits have been perfected, so why change for the sake of change when it is going to mean a compromise? Besides, with the understated canvas of the suit in place, he could, if he really had to, embellish with a fancy pocket square or tie. There's room for playing with styles in other walks of life, but would it really be advisable for the Prince to compete in the fashion statement stakes with David Beckham, say? The thought of him having his children's names tattooed on his back has just made me shudder. 

This consistent look is partly because he has stuck with the same people that make his clothes. His tailor for the past 45 years has been John Kent of the recently amalgamated Kent, Haste and Lachter, suit and shirtmakers, on New Burlington Street, London, who possess the Prince's royal warrant. The Prince continued his patronage after Kent left his previous position at Hawes and Curtis. Let's hope that the royal warrant remains as an emblem of authentic British style for many years to come.

Kent Haste & Lachter
13 New Burlington Street
London W1S 3BG
Tel 020 7734 1433

Friday, 10 June 2011

My Cup of Tea - Claridge's Regains London's Top Afternoon Tea Award 2011

Congratulations to Claridges in London who have been awarded London's Top Afternoon Tea Award 2011 by the Tea Guild of the UK Tea Council.

The family Tweed have certainly penciled in a visit to try out a full afternoon tea - the works. There are 30 tea blends to choose from, with finger sandwiches, pastries and scones with Devon clotted cream tea too. Textbook stuff. Right now they're offering the Great British Afternoon Tea, between the 18th of June and the 3rd of July. It's a traditional afternoon tea accompanied by a glass of rose champagne, strawberries and macaroons. Yum, yum.

Dress code: Elegant smart casual, meaning no shorts, vests, sportswear, flip flops, ripped jeans or baseball caps. I think they've filtered out the worst of the worst in city dressing there. Vests are underwear, flip flops are for the beach (if anywhere) and baseball caps are for nowhere. Here endeth the lesson.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Draughtsman's Contract

The Draughtsman's Contract, released in 1982, was an early feature-length film release from the director Peter Greenaway.

A contract is made between an artist and a landowning lady, recently estranged from her husband. He will create drawings of her house, in return she will provide pleasure for the artist. Yes, that sort of pleasure. As the artist begins his task, and the lady hers, a murderous plot unravels. As the evidence is put before us, Greenaway seems to be mocking the artistic dictum 'draw what you see, not what you know'...

As with all of Peter Greenaway's films, The Draughtsman's Contract has a painterly quality. The positioning and framing of the shots make it seem as if Baroque paintings are being brought to life. Stylised, but an arrestingly visual treat. The script makes use of period formality and artifice in speech to wittily hang invective and double-meaning to the dialogue, which is delivered in fine performances by the actors. Let's also mention the wonderfully exaggerated costumes.

It's fun, intelligent, but also a serious piece of art, and a film that uplifts and provides new delights in repeat viewing.

The music for the film is by long-time collaborator Michael Nyman who reinterprets the music of Henry Purcell. One of the pieces is a version of Purcell's She Loves, and She Confesses Too. A song I will never, ever, tire of hearing. And pretty raunchy lyrics for the time they were written too. (At least that's my interpretation.) 

She loves and she confesses too,
There's then at last no more to do;
The happy work's entirely done,
Enter the town which thou hast won;
The fruits of conquest now begin,
Lo, triumph, enter in.
What's this, ye Gods? What can it be?
Remains there still an enemy?
Bold Honour stands up in the gate,
And would yet capitulate.
Have I o'ercome all real foes,
And shall this phantom me oppose?
Noisy nothing, stalking shade,
By what witchcraft wert thou made,
Thou empty cause of solid harms?
But I shall find out counter charms,
Thy airy devilship to remove
From this circle here of love
Sure I shall rid myself of thee
By the night's obscurity,
And obscurer secrecy;
Unlike to ev'ry other spright
Thou attempt'st not men to affright
Nor appear'st but in the light.

Another lovely version of the same song is by The Dowland Project on their Care-charming Sleep album on the ECM label.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

William and Son - Designs on Silver

William and Son has two strands of business selling luxury items and shooting goods. They celebrate 10 years of business this year. 

In such a short time William and Son have achieved much, notably a Royal Warrant as Goldsmiths and Silversmiths to the Queen. Perhaps not surprising as the founder is William Asprey of the famous Asprey luxury goods brand.

On the luxury goods side of the business they sell products ranging from jewellery and leather goods to board games - see the red enamel and gold cufflinks above.

On the shooting side they have the guns, plus tweed clothing and accessories, like the green tweed sports jacket with purple check here. The two strands  add up to very suitable one-stop-shop for special gift ideas. 

Supporting British Silver

William Asprey is committed to sourcing British-made products. His commitment is brought into relief this month, between the 6th and 17th of June, as William and Son are exhibiting work from leading British silversmiths Fred Rich, Rebecca Joselyn and Steve Wager at their flagship shop in Mount Street, Mayfair, London.

All three have distinct styles and are producing highly individual and lovely objects, such as the Mermaid Salt (below) from Fred Rich - a salt cellar in gold, silver gilt and enamel, which has delightful touches, such as the cupped hands of a mermaid spoon offering the salt.

I've been looking at Rebecca Joselyn's People bookmarks and wondering if a nice little tweed-clad pig wouldn't look well sticking out of the copy of Simon Sebag Montefiore's Jerusalem: the Biography I'm currently enjoying. Maybe a pig reading a book? You couldn't do that with a Kindle.  

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

It was Done on Burgh Island with the Coate's Shaving Soap

Coate's shaving soap for a glorious shaving experience.

We featured the Coate's shaving cream recently and wrote of The Gentleman's Shop riding to the rescue to save this renowned brand and keep it UK-based. Well, let's mention the shaving soap too. Note the handmade wooden bowls, imported from India by Coate's previous owners many years ago and re-discovered recently.

With a subtle rosemary fragrance, swirl your badger brush into that lovely bowl and you're in for a nice, smooth shave. The tea tree oil will also help calm the shaved skin and reduce any post-shave redness when absorbed into the skin.

Regarding the packaging, if you see a touch of '30s glamour in that green hue and the Coate's swan emblem in silver, it was driven by a design brief that required the soap to look well in the bathrooms of the wonderful art deco Burgh Island Hotel in Devon, England. Imagine the morning shave looking out to sea and then downstairs for kippers, gentlemen. And your skin will be in fine fettle for cocktails later in the Peacock Room.

The hotel sits on its own little island off the Devon coast near Bigbury-on-Sea (there's also a nice little pub on the island called The Pilchard Inn). They have a contraption to ferry you back and forth in case the tide comes in, but if the tide is favourable you can walk over from the mainland. A lovely part of the world. In fact, young Mrs Tweed and I know the area quite well, and if we're in the vicinity we'll also visit a fish restaurant nearby called the Oyster Shack.

And if you think there's a touch of Agatha Christie to the hotel, well you won't be surprised to hear that it featured in a TV adaptation of Christie's Evil Under the Sun, one of the definitive Poirot episodes starring the wonderful David Suchet.

Monday, 6 June 2011

In the Swim with Chucs Dive and Mountain Shop

Chucs Dive and Mountain Shop in Dover Street, Mayfair, London has a selection of fine outdoor clothes for sun, surf, beach and mountain.

Craftsmanship and finish is important for the proprietor, Charles Finch. Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard have helped with patterns, so too British fashion designer Giles Deacon, who designed an exclusive print for the men’s and women’s swimwear.

Charles Finch is an interesting character. The son of British-born actor Peter Finch, he grew up in France and Jamaica and, after talking about running a business such as Chucs (his nickname) for many years whilst working in the film industry, in 2008 he put that talk into action. Interestingly, his grandfather George, an explorer, is reputed to have invented the down-filled or puffa jacket for an ascent on Everest in 1922. Mr. Finch also produces an engaging quarterly, called, no surprises, Finch's Quarterly Review - with interesting features on style, arts and culture.  

At Tweed Towers, we appreciate the efforts made to have the clothes for Chucs manufactured in the UK, even if it has not been possible for everything.

And Tweedy likes the unadulterated summer-weight blue cotton polo shirt matched with the Deacon-designed Positano swim shorts, even if they're for a weekend in Weston-Super-Mare rather than a long sojourn on the Amalfi Coast this year.

As they say on the Chucs website, “a man’s finest hour is often not in the office or the boardroom, but on the sports field, the hill and at sea.”  And on the promenade of Weston-Super-Mare seafront, of course.

“Our hope is that we will make the best quality clothing for ladies and gentlemen who care for such things…that we do so with heart and spirit, and that our customers Live Well – Stand Tall – Give Freely – Explore Often.”
Charles Finch, creator of CHUCS Dive & Mountain Shop

Friday, 3 June 2011

Commando Comics - Awards & Rewards for Loyal Readers

Congratulations to our friends at Commando Comics who've won the award of Favourite British Black and White Comic at the 2011 Eagle Awards. A great result in its 50th anniversary year.

So it is with even greater pleasure that I can announce that The Tweed Pig will soon be serialising a classic Commando Comics story. Stay tuned for part one of The Sand Devils.

Along with reproducing this exciting story, we'll be supplying a discount code for you to get your mitts on a subscription at a reduced rate. Pass it on. 

Thursday, 2 June 2011

'Fascinating Rythm' - Past Perfect's CD of the Month

Fascinating Rhythm is the CD recommendation of the month from our friends at Past Perfect.

A very popular album of decadent 1920s foot-tappers. As they say, "get fuelled by bathtub gin and dance wantonly to the bright, snappy rhythms of jazz." 

"If anyone enjoys music from the 1920s they should consider getting 'Fascinating Rhythm'. I don't think I've ever heard recordings from that period that sound as clean as the ones on this CD; you do a fantastic job!"  James, USA

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Bombardier Ale - English, Reliable and Damned Tasty

How do you like your English male stereotypes? The modern self-deprecating, wet lettuce type personified by Stephen Fry or Hugh Grant?

Or maybe you prefer a more self-confident, hedonistic, swashbuckling type, a type more in evidence in the period between Agincourt and the Italian Job? If so, then you'll find the new series of adverts from Wells and Young's for their Bombardier Ale Bang On! Rik Mayall plays the character of The Bombardier in a similar vein to the Lord Flasheart character he played in the much-missed Blackadder series. They're playing a cut-down version of the advert on TV, but here's the full version. Move over wet lettuces.

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