Thursday, 29 November 2012

Bonsoir - Hardy Amies in Pyjamas

Bonsoir London - Slumber Apparel Since 1926

Bonsoir London has provided nightwear to the great and the drowsy since 1926. Manufacturer and retailer of slumbering apparel, they're based in Somerset, England, and source their fabrics from around the UK, using "cashmere from the Scottish Borders, printed silk from the Peak District and wool woven in Yorkshire".

Bonsoir has collaborated with Liberty and Hardy Amies. In fact, that's a pair of vintage Hardy Amies x Bonsoir pyjamas above. Glorious aren't they? Wild and 70s in style, with a touch of Enter the Dragon about them. One wonders if they're designed purely for a trip to the opium den.

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist when it comes to pyjamas. I have no truck with the T-shirt and pyjama bottom 'loungewear' combination. I like a button shirt and there must be a top-fastening button. Usually, the shirt would have a collar, but I make an exception for the vintage Amies shirt. (Surely due a re-release?) Maybe I'm not so dyed-in-the-wool after all? I'll stretch to nightshirts too. But T-shirts for sleeping in? No thank you very much indeed.

Two-Fold Cotton Pyjamas for Summer and Winter

What would we recommend from the secretive Bonsoir's pyjama laboratories?

A pair of the Two-Fold Cotton Pyjamas with Tie Waist (above) would see you good. Made in England, the pyjamas have contrast piping on the patch pockets and sleeves.

And if you live in steamy tropical climes, or visit such places, why not a pair of the short pyjamas?

And for a rebelliously fuddy-duddy touch, why not get a monogram on them too? A monogrammed pyjama is the new sleeve tattoo, if we know popular culture.

Cashmere Dressing Gown with Silk Lining

Okay, so you have your pyjamas. But what are you going to wear on top for that late night Scotch or those kippers at breakfast? That's right, to be as comfortable as it's humanly possible to be, you're going to need one of Bonsoir's cashmere dressing gowns with silk lining. Some nice colours - there's a camel and a deep red 'Bordeaux' (below). The cashmere is Italian. The robe is made to order and you can choose it with or without silk lining. I'd include the silk and I think you would too.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Common People Clothing

Common People Clothing

Common People Clothing is the newish London-based clothing label launched by Kestin Hare, former head designer at Nigel Cabourn.

Kestin cites the "movement back to provenance" as one of its founding principles (and also a tenet of The Tweed Pig). We crave real, we crave craftsmanship and we crave authentic. We also crave Victoria sponge cake, but that's another matter. Bea's Tea Rooms is a recent find for cake - wow, that is some good Victoria sponge. I'm now hungry, so apologies if the remainder of the post seems a little rushed.

Emphasis on Quality Materials

It's not often that you hear the term 'locally-sourced' applied to clothes, food yes, but that's how Common People Clothing approach the materials they use. And we hope the term catches on in the clothing industry. We want more labels showing the clothmakers and the finishers even. The design approach and aesthetic at Common People Clothing is very materials-led, in the same way a good chef would conceive a dish.

Mackinaw Jacket

I think you'll like Common People's take on the Mackinaw jacket, another classic coat style for your timeless wardrobe. A Mackinaw jacket is a short, double-breasted coat traditionally made of wool, and has a British army connection (naturally) from the War of 1812 with the U.S. The Common People version is made in the UK and is constructed of British waxed cotton with a nepped woollen shawl collar and leather buttons.

Monday, 26 November 2012

John Smedley - The Christmas Box Set

Horror or Delight in the Christmas Box Set

Box sets are wonderful. I'm saving Studio Canal's The Ultimate Hammer Horror for the Christmas break. The TV schedulers have let us down by not showing traditional Christmas ghost stories in recent years, so I'll be scheduling my own late night screenings of old Hammer films. Braces will be pulled from the shoulders, Mrs T will bring on the port and stilton, the party hat will be tilted to one side and I'll be asleep before the films end.

A Christmas box set intended to delight rather than horrify has recently been released by John Smedley. I declare myself Smedley's biggest fan. My wardrobe bulges with their knitwear. I'll never have enough of them. [Dramatic pause] Ever.

Representing Great Britain Box

The box is part of dear Smedley's campaign to showcase their commitment to being British-made and Representing Great Britain. Made from oak, the box contains a Bobby sweater and Thymus scarf in your choice of colour, plus wool wash and a gift voucher. A nice introduction to the world of Smedley, actually.

Tweedy's History Lesson: Let's remind ourselves that John Smedley has been around as a business since 1784. That fact alone should be taught on every design and fashion course in the land. By contrast, France's oldest surviving couture house, Lanvin, was established in 1909. Pah! And while we're on the subject of French couture houses, those same students we're teaching about Smedley should also note that the history of modern French couture starts with the Englishman Charles Worth and his House of Worth. 'Worth' knowing.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Private White Army Pullover

Are you a Sweater Man?

Prompted by our post on Guernsey sweaters, we received a charming mail from a bona fide 'sweater man' recently. He'd added photographs of his British Armed Forces sweaters. RAF grey and army green. Classics.

Sweater men are in for a treat today, as we present the brown Army Pullover from Private White, the Manchester-based clothes manufacturer and retailer.

Tweedy's Thought: How about a "Readers' Sweaters" feature? Or perhaps a "Sweating Readers" feature?

Army Pullover by Corgi for Private White

Impeccable pedigree for the Army Pullover. It's produced by our special Welsh friends at CORGI from British wool. (Corgi Hosiery Week starts here.)

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Joshua Ellis - Man of the Cloth

Joshua Ellis 1767

That's a nice suit you're wearing for breakfast. Nice drape on the cloth. Who made it? No, not the suit, the fabric. Don't know? Judging by the quality, I'd hazard a guess that it came from one of the many British heritage mills we feature at The Tweed Pig.

I'm constantly amazed by the age of some of the mills we feature, some almost from page one of the industrial revolution - which began in Great Britain, as you'll know from school.

Look at Joshua Ellis. Established in 1767. Georgian England. Incidentally, the great Stoke-on-Trent potters Spode also founded in the same year.

Joshua Ellis is based in Batley, Yorkshire, England. It specialises in the design, manufacture and finishing of cashmere products, and other exquisite fabrics like vicuña, Angora and camelhair. They weave and finish jacketing and coating fabrics for many of the world’s top clothing brands (Hermes, Louis Vuitton, YSL, Ralph Lauren).

Buy a Bit of Yorkshire Weaving History

Joshua Ellis also make cashmere accessories, mainly scarves, for other brands. But they also make scarves under their own label. So you can get your hands directly on a bit of Ellis history. Look out for that J.E. label in your favourite gent's outfitters. To make it easier they'll be re-launching their web site later this year and an online shop is in the pipeline.

Home Furnishing - a New Development

The home furnishing part of Joshua Ellis' business is new and relatively small, but they have recently started a collaboration with Carolyn Parker, a successful interior designer and have produced a range of cashmere fabrics and throws under the Carolyn Parker for Joshua Ellis label.

Joshua Ellis - after 245 years a name to look out for.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Slowear - Casual Clothes for Leisurely Enjoyment

Take Your Time with Slowear

The Italian Slowear project - Italian clothing brands uniting as a direct alternative to fast fashion - espouses quality, workmanship and timeless appeal. A casual clothing equivalent to the Slowfood movement. We've featured Slowear a few times, and I've campaigned tirelessly (in my thoughts) for something similar in the UK. Actually, think of The Tweed Pig as the Slow Everything Movement.

Italian men's clothing can be too much of a good thing, like an over-egged cake. A perfectly decent shirt may be given two collars and covered in buttons in inappropriate places sewn with multi-coloured threads.

That's certainly not the case with Slowear. The effort is directed into the quality of the construction and materials. Brioni and Loro Piana have a similar ethos. Everything's wearable.

Slowear clothes are intended to be enjoyed for a long time. You stand out a little from the crowd, not too much, but just enough, like an exquisite bas-relief. This reminds me of the Beau Brummel quote:

"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".

Each Slowear brand has its specialism: Montedero for outer wear, Zanone for sweaters and polo shirts, Glanshirt for shirts and Incotex for trousers. RED is their collective experimental line.

Picture One (Top)
  • Montedero three-button jacket in Cheviot tweed.
  • Zanone Merino wool crew neck sweater with Jacquard design.
  • Glanshirt military-style shirt with buttoned breast patch pockets and 3 button cuffs in gabardine cotton.
  • Incotex RED 5-pocket trousers in garment-dyed soft open-weave velvet.
Picture Two

  • Montedero RED double-breasted wool jacket with four patch pockets.
  • Zanone virgin wool crew neck sweater.
  • Glanshirt RED shirt with with round-tipped collar, square cuffs and square buttons in 88% cotton, 7% linen and 5% wool.
  • Incotex 1951 trousers in yarn-dyed flannel.
Picture Three

  • Montedero three-button blazer with patch pockets and double vents in Shetland wool.
  • Zanone garment-dyed Merino wool sweater.
  • Glanshirt shirt in Oxford cotton.
  • Incotex 1951 tartan trousers in yarn-dyed cotton.
Tweedy's Thought: Models smoking and smiling certainly adds a welcome touch of dolce vita to proceedings.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Music to Button a Cardigan By - God Only Knows

The Tweed Pig Does it Slowly

If The Tweed Pig serves no other purpose (and it probably doesn't), it acts as a vehicle for pushing our tastes on people whether they like it or not. A self-indulgent ego trip, if you will. But an ego trip with a destination...

And one thing we hope to get across is that we believe pleasures should be taken slowly. We seek out the slow, such as clothing crafted with care and attention as opposed to hastily constructed fast fashion. Slow means time has been allowed to create something of enduring quality rather than being churned out for instant gratification.

To this end, we've mentioned the clothes of Slowear, we've mentioned the slowfood movement, we may even have mentioned how slow I am to get out of bed in a morning, and now we present the music of The Slow Show.

The Slow Show - God Only Knows

The Slow Show are based in Manchester, England, and craft the brooding vocals of lead singer Rob Goodwin around shimmering folk guitars, which might be accompanied by muted northern brass or strings. The sound is organic and real, introspective yet uplifting. Music showing heart and craft.

The band got in touch with us a few months back. Thinking their sound might be a good fit for our Cardigan series. We discussed clothes in popular music too. More brogues and less high top trainers was the general consensus.

It's early days for the band, but they have the musical talent to develop a truly lasting sound. They're clearly steeped in Americana, but there's a wistful English melancholy there too. I'd like to see that come out a bit more. I'm now thinking they could do a mighty cover of one of the folkier Beatles songs, perhaps You've Got to Hide Your Love Away. Come on chaps, do it for Tweedy.

Straight into the Music to Button a Cardigan By series, then, we bring you The Slow Show's God Only Knows. Lovely opening. Wonderful to hear the brass.

Tweedy's Thought: Are you a good piece of 'cardigan' music? Get in touch. We're too nice to turn you down.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Tally Ho! Cycle Tours - See London By Bike

Two Wheels Good - See London by Bike

This is the best idea you've heard in a long time. How about this: cycle tours organised around our great capital city of London on classic British Pashley bicycles and tandems. Seeing London how it should be seen, on two wheels. And on a Pashley at that. I knew you'd be thrilled.

Tally Ho Cycle Tours, who began a couple of years ago, organise three tours around London's sites:
  • Central London Tour
  • East Thames Amble
  • The Royal Loop

You'll like The Royal Loop as it takes in an afternoon tea at a secret tea room.

Tally Ho Cycle Tours also hires bikes if you're a bit of a lone wolf and wish to pedal off and do your own thing. It's up to you, but maybe the option of a tour might help you come out of your shell a bit.

Intelligence on Tally Ho Cycle Tours

My London field operative tells me that Tally Ho are planning murder mystery rides. Like Miss Marple playing Cluedo on wheels. Sounds ruddy good.

Tweedy on Cluedo: Speaking of Cluedo, I've always thought the Colonel Mustard character looked a decent, no-nonsense sort of chap. Splendid moustache. However, there's a steely determination in his eyes. You wouldn't put it past him to bludgeon the Reverend Green, if needs be. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Paul Stuart - The Quiet Americans

The Best of British from Anglo-America

Paul Stuart are at it again. Purveyors of radically conservative and Anglo-flavoured clothes for gentlemen, we mentioned before that this American company has a knack of getting the best out of our British manufacturers. The items you see here are made in the UK.

Raglan Overcoat 

The olive Wool Check Raglan Overcoat (above) is made in England from cloth manufactured in a British mill. Sold in New York. Perfect for (Old) York.

We were talking circuitously about the dearth of raglan overcoats at the start of the year. A welcome addition.

Camel Hair Cardigan

There's been a trend for the shawl collar cardigan in recent years, but ride it out, it's a classic and should be viewed above all trends ultimately.

The colour and quality of Paul Stuart's Camel Hair Cable Knit Cardigan (below) denotes years of continuous pleasure. Let's face it, this sweater will look good on a 19-year-old or a 90-year-old - a good gauge of a classic. Made in Scotland of camel hair, with proper leather buttons and pockets at the front for betting slips, pipes and so on.

Wearing this cardigan under the raglan coat will see you through the deepest part of winter.

Tweedy's Historical Precedents: I'm always reminded of Roger Livesey (below) in A Matter of Life and Death when I see cardigans in this colour. Tie + cardigan = dynamite, as Hardy Amies concurred in An Englishman's Suit

Friday, 9 November 2012

Johnstons of Elgin - Vicuña Scarf

Johnstons of Elgin - 215th Anniversary Vicuña Scarf

Odd anniversary, but no doubting the quality of the brown vicuña scarf manufactured to celebrate the 215th year of Johnstons of Elgin - the Scottish woollen mill. Johnstons has its original headquarters in Elgin, Moray, Scotland and its knitwear division manufactures 200 miles south in Hawick, Scottish Borders, with the famous River Tweed running through it.

Vicuña wool, being the finest wool available, has a beautiful soft and warm feel. Vicuña fibres average 12 microns to cashmere's standard 19. Incidentally, Johnstons ensure that their cashmere wool is 16 microns or less, and has a uniform white fleece and long fibres for consistent dyeing and for keeping its shape better. As everyone knows, there is cashmere and there is cashmere. And Johnstons is (heavy intonation) cashmere. In a nutshell, their cashmere is the good stuff.

Lovely scarf. And what better way to celebrate anything than with a drop of vicuña. And I know a certain tweed-clad pig who would appreciate this scarf very much as a surprise gift, for example.

As it is a limited edition, you'll need to hurry if you want one.

Tweedy's Thought: Bitter experience tells me that you should never dither if you spot something that you like and you may not see again. Buy, and regret later if necessary, but buy.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

'Tache Talk

Movember is upon us and our dear friends at Penhaligon's have brought out a tin of moustache wax in support.

Modelled above with the comely Daines and Hathaway Wet Pack (above) and Mrs T's moustache (a long story), the wax is scented with the incredible Sartorial, a smell you certainly do want to linger under your nose.

The Grass 'Tache

A father and son have got into the Movember spirit by growing a 'mowstache'- a giant grass moustache.

John Gilbert, and his son Wiliiam, of British Seed Houses, a grass seed specialist, grew the 120ft wide and 40ft 'tache in a field near Wedmore, Somerset, England.

I'm encouraged. I think a topiary moustache in box or yew would look splendid in the expansive grounds of Tweed Towers.

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Best Guy Fawkes Night Celebration

Lewes is the Best Place for the Bonfire Celebrations

Lewes in Sussex, England is the place to be for the best Guy Fawkes Night celebrations.

A previous effigy of Fawkes that was burned in Lewes (above) shows the famous moustache and whiskers you see on those masks made famous in Alan Moore's V for Vendetta.

Effigies of Fawkes and, for equally historic reasons, Pope Paul V are burned in Lewes each year. And some contemporary effigies are generally put into the mix too.

In recent years, fireworks have taken precedence over bonfires in official celebrations of November the 5th in many towns. True of our local event. Nevertheless, we'll be attending with our traditional bag of Dark Chocolate Cinder Toffee (below) from Gorvett and Stone of Henley-on-Thames. But I'd prefer to see a bloody great bonfire - a more earthy and primal spectacle to behold.

Come on local authorities, more torchings please.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Corgi Hosiery Week - Corgis at Highgrove

Highgrove Stocks Corgi Socks

One more thing before we wrap up Corgi Hosiery Week, our very well-attended celebration of Corgi Hosiery's 120 years in the sock biz.

Take a stroll into a Highgrove shop and practically everything is sourced from the UK. It was inevitable, then, that Corgi socks would find a place.The Rugby Stripe socks are made exclusively for Highgrove and are available in red and navy and purple and black.

Highgrove is passionate in its support for British manufacturing and preserving the living heritage and soft culture of these islands. With the introduction of the CORGI line it's also showing support for British sock culture.

Highrove Shops UK

10 Long Street

Fortnum & Mason
181 Piccadilly

Corgi Hosiery Week - Q & A with Designer Lisa Wood

CORGI - Sock and Knitwear Manufacturers

During Corgi Hosiery Week we've looked at the history of Corgi and fine examples of the socks they produce. Now let's find out a little more about the conception of those socks.

Over a pot of Assam and a plate of Welsh cakes, Young Mrs Tweed spoke with Corgi's Head Designer, Lisa Wood. Lisa is the great-great-granddaughter of founder Rhys Jones. Lisa obtained a degree in Design from Leicester University. She says she is fortunate to be part of Corgi, and be able to balance her work with her family life. 

Lisa is also Managing Director of Corgi with her brother Chris:

"We’re the fifth generation of the Jones family to take charge of the company since our great-great-grandfather founded it back in 1892. Day-to-day, my role lies within the design department – I head up the small, but perfectly formed, design team we have here. I work with the team to produce the designs and also monitor quality levels throughout the production process. My role does involve some travel as I have to meet the various buyers and designers we work with and also attend trade shows – it all sounds very glamorous but I can assure you that there’s a lot of work involved."

Thanks to Lisa for answering our rather exhaustive list of questions. 

Q & A with Lisa Wood, Head designer at Corgi Hosiery

How has Corgi managed to survive for 120 years?
Through hard work and commitment. Of course, there have been tough times but, when you’re managing a family business with as much history and heritage as ours, you have to do everything you can to keep it going and indeed developing.

I think we’ve managed to stay true to our heritage, but we've continued to move with the times through introducing new products and the like. In fact, with each generation of the family, there has been some significant change that has driven the company forward. Since Chris and I joined the company, we have introduced new finer weight socks that have helped us increase both the turnover and profitability of the company.

The most important factor, of course, is our loyal and highly skilled workforce, many of whom have worked for us for 30 years.

The Jones family runs Corgi, do you also own the company? Can you explain Corgi's association with Dents?
We part-own Corgi - our sister company Dents also holds a stake in it. When Chris and I took over the running of the company in 2008 we wanted to concentrate on expanding the business internationally and increasing export activity – working alongside Dents has allowed us to do that.

It made sense that we worked with them as there are a lot of similarities between the two businesses – we both have a long heritage and a luxury customer base.

How do you arrive at new designs? Do you often refer to your archives?
It’s a combination of both really. There are some classic designs in our archive that are still very popular so it makes sense that we re-use these. We do like to update the designs slightly along the way though. In terms of coming up with brand new designs, we take trend forecasts and what’s happening on the catwalks into consideration. We do try to be a bit quirky though, so aim to come up with unique colour combinations and different motifs – these are the things that will make us stand out in the marketplace.

Could you talk us through Corgi's innovations in sock making? How do you differentiate from other sock and knitwear manufacturing companies?
The way we work is to combine traditional knitting methods with more modern ones – so while high-tech machinery may be used for part of the production process, all of our socks are hand-finished using age-old hand-linking tools and techniques. It is this combination of the two that differentiates us from other companies.

How do you preserve Corgi's heritage, yet continue to innovate?
It’s a fine balance, but both aspects are important to the overall image of the company, so it’s key that we tend to consider both in equal measure.

What are your biggest markets?
Our biggest market is in the UK, followed closely by the United States. We also have a following across Europe and also in Asia, especially Japan where Corgi is a well-known brand – the Asian market, in particular, is an area we are currently concentrating on developing.

What designers have you produced socks for in the past and most recently?
We have worked with many designers over the years to make both knitwear and socks - names like Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Thom Browne, Vivien Westwood, Jasper Conran, Burberry and Hermes are probably the best known. We also work a lot with up-and-coming British designers as it is very important to us that we help the British design stars of the future get a foothold in the very competitive fashion industry.

Corgi Products

What are your most popular sock styles?
These change from season to season and from year to year but, overall, I’d say that our heavy-weight, machine washable pure cotton socks are the most popular. We are especially well known for our luxury cashmere socks too though. In terms of pattern, stripes do well season after season. Our newest product, the fine-weight cotton socks have seen a huge increase in sales this year and we are sure that this will continue to expand rapidly.

Have preferences for particular socks changed over time?
Socks have always been the ideal way to inject a bit of colour and personality into an otherwise dull outfit, but in recent years this has become more and more fashionable – nowadays, brightly coloured socks with eye-catching patterns are an office-wear staple.

For those readers who are not aware of your knitwear, what could you tell us about it?
Every piece of knitwear we manufacture - whether it be a men's basic sweater, a cashmere duffle coat or a luxury cashmere wrap – is of the very highest quality, made from the finest raw materials and produced with care, pride and dedication to age-old knitting techniques that have been passed down through the generations of the Jones family.

Note on Corgi Knitwear

Corgi expanded into knitwear in the 1960s. On average a single sweater will take up to a day to produce.

The knitting patterns are written by in-house designers, then each garment is made from a number of fully-fashioned pieces (front, back, sleeves) that are carefully hand-knitted on flat bed knitting machines. These pieces are then linked together by a team of hand-linkers before being passed on to the hand-sewers who finish the garments, attaching buttons and zips, and then carefully sewing all ends. All garments are then carefully laundered before being labelled, packed and shipped to customers.
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