Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Gizzi Leather - Drooling Over Bags

I was a little stunned when I first heard about the company we're featuring today, gents — knocked back by the sheer craftsmanship of the products. The feeling was similar to the existential crisis I had seeing the Grosvenor Drink Cabinet.

This is the Story of Gizzi Leather

Gizzi Leather was founded last year by Mark Angelo-Gizzi. A one-man operation, he makes leather bags by hand to custom specifications.

Gizzi's foundation is a remarkable story in itself. Mark had been a graphic artist working freelance in London for thirty years. He attended a leathercraft course at Capel Manor College in Enfield, London, which is one of the foremost colleges in the UK for learning saddlery techniques. Mark found that he had an aptitude for working in leather — no doubt helped by the attention to detail required in graphic design — and became totally hooked on this craft.

Even after so many years as a graphic artist, Mark felt compelled to embark on a career in leathercraft. Gizzi Leather was born.

He told us from his Hertfordshire workshop:

"I began to learn as much as I could. I concentrated on the more traditional side of leathercraft, creating bags that are made to last and retain a nod to nostalgic older satchel styles — with an emphasis on quality materials put together entirely by hand.

"Each item I make is unique in that you can customise existing styles to match exactly what you need in terms of size, colour and fittings."

I could only dream of such a Damascene career switch and told Mark so. I also told him the Weekender Bag you see above had me positively drooling. Quite true. And I'm still drooling at this instant British classic.

Gizzi Leather Bags

Gizzi bags are constructed from English saddlery leather using linen thread. The fittings are solid brass. Satchel bags are left unlined, as is traditional. He offers a number of styles. That's the Compact Satchel below.

Mark will be including custom-made luggage for classic cars in his range this year.

Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust

Earlier this year, Mark applied to QEST - the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust for a training grant. QEST is the charitable arm of the Royal Warrant Holders Association. They award grants or bursaries twice a year to UK-based craftspeople able to demonstrate dedication, skill and aptitude in their given craft and who can present a plan for their future in their chosen field.

Mark is proud and honoured — and so he should be — to have been made a QEST Scholar. As he seeks to learn all aspects of his craft, through the scholarship, Mark is in touch with some of the best leather-workers in the country. Thus the craft is able to thrive as knowledge is shared and skills are passed on.

With Royal support like this, who says that British craftsmanship is dying?

Monday, 27 January 2014

Dashing Tweeds - Raglan Overcoat

Raglan Coat from Dashing Tweeds

I hadn't forgotten the search for raglan-sleeved overcoats. And the Donegal Raglan is a beauty from the extraordinary Dashing Tweeds.

The colour and cut make it exceptionally wearable; and it is classic raglan, with sleeves extending to the collar.

The cloth is Dashing Tweeds' Herringbone Donegal tweed. It is a mohair and wool blend woven by our friends at Magee in Ireland.

The coat is lined in silk and has horn buttons. A sensation.

The Eponymous Sleeve and Other Stories

Nothing stands in the way of a British aristocrat and his pleasurable pursuits; be it gambling or soldiering, or both, he wants to be unimpeded and comfortable.

The 1st Baron Raglan, FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, wanted the type of sleeve we see on the coat above because it was more comfortable to wear following the loss of his arm in the Battle of Waterloo.

The 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, wanted meat between bread so that he could continue with his card games — 'sandwich' became shorthand for this type of snack.

The 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, popularised a type of boot that he had adapted for wear on the battlefield. Dandies liked what they saw and put in their orders for similar at London bootmakers. The Wellington boot was born.

From the Crimean War we get the cardigan. Knitted woollen waistcoats were popular amongst soldiers and, famously, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, James Brudnell, who campaigned there. His name became inextricably associated with this type of sweater.

Are there any newly coined equivalents? A 'Cumberbatch' perhaps?

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Z. Hinchliffe 1776 - Spin Class

Z. Hinchliffe - The Wool People

We mentioned Z. Hinchliffe in a recent article about Lyle & Scott. Since then I've had some interesting conversations with James Hinchliffe, the MD, and a couple with his wife Annabel too. That's James drowning in blue wool above.

I do enjoy learning about British mills.

Z. Hinchliffe was founded in 1776 by Zaccheus Hinchliffe. His business was worsted and woollen spinning at his mill in Denby Dale, near Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England.

Hinchliffe's now concentrate solely on woollen spinning, for which they have almost 250 year's experience. The longevity speaks for itself. As does the client list, which includes names such as Dunhill, Brooks Brothers and Chanel.

The company remains family-owned and run, with James at the helm. Its headquarters is still at Denby Dale, but the company now has five sites in the UK, with a sales office in Italy. It sources the best fibres to produce the finest yarns: cashmere from the Mongolia-China steppe; Geelong wool from Australia; camel hair from China; vicuña from Peru.

If you're reading this in a top-notch sweater, the yarn could very well be made by Hinchliffe.

Excellent Story

Here's an excellent story related to Hinchliffe.

Cashmere Affair, an on-line retailer, sells cashmere clothes and accessories for women designed by Caroline Sleigh in New Zealand. The cashmere yarn to make them is spun in by Hinchliffe and knitted in Scotland by Johnston’s of Elgin.

But it wasn't always thus...

Caroline started designing cashmere knitwear for the New Zealand market only, but she was having it made in China. Johnston’s came to hear about Caroline's knitwear impressed with her sense of colour and design. They approached her and offered to make her designs in Scotland. Production was shifted from China to Scotland sharpish. The main supplier of cashmere yarn to Johnston’s of Elgin is Hinchliffe. James Hinchliffe is the husband of Annabel. Annabel is Caroline's sister. Talk about full circle.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Whisky and Tweed - Ardbeg Uniforms and Judy R. Clark

Appropriate Dress for Whisky

You're sitting at your favourite spot in your favourite pub in your old tweed jacket. Towser, the Landlord's Jack Russell, is asleep beneath the chair contentedly. His belly is filled with all the crisps you've been feeding him. You have a glass of whisky in your hand; and, as you swirl the liquid around its edges, the answers you had been seeking reveal themselves at the bottom of the glass. Tomorrow no longer seems as dark. You will always find the right answers at the bottom of a glass of whisky — given time.

Note the tweed jacket in this scene. As champagne is made for sipping in pyjamas at breakfast time, tweed heightens the pleasure of sipping whisky. By all means match your food and drink, but do consider what you're wearing too.

Ardbeg and Tweed

Our Scottish chums at Ardbeg, the Islay whisky distillers also think that tweed is the right match for whisky. Designer Judy R. Clark — good friend of The Tweed Pig — has designed a collection of tweed clothing to be worn by Ardbeg employees and representatives worldwide. A uniform, if you will — but what a uniform! Imagine the staff in branded hoodies and baseball hats by contrast. It perfectly captures the place, the culture and the company; provenance is neatly conveyed. The clothes are made in the UK.

Islay, known as the Queen of the Hebridean islands, possesses a rugged, peat-laden landscape from which Ardbeg derives its famous taste — renowned as the peatiest and smokiest of all the Islay malts, but with a sweetness described as the 'peaty paradox'. Next time you're in your local wearing a tweed jacket, try some Ardbeg. You'll find the two complement each other beautifully.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Field Coat - Alan Paine

Alan Paine Field Coat

I promised I'd delve further into the country catalogue of Alan Paine after we spoke about their incredible cricket sweater.

The cold weather is here and the delve was duly made. And a fruitful delve it was, chaps. All the British classics are there, your tweeds, your moleskins, your tattersalls, your waxed cottons. As Paine say, their country collection has a reputation for providing a "complete, practical and functional wardrobe". Who would want for more?

If we're talking practical, the most practical (and the most British) coat of them all, the tweed field coat, is bound to be included. Paine do two or three versions in different tweed outers.

The coat offers protection from the elements. It is warm, hard-wearing and has tweedy good looks. Everyone should add a field coat to their classics collection.

The Alan Paine versions you see here have a waterproof membrane — essential for the British climate. Lots of details you might be interested in too, such as the retainer straps for the cartridge pockets that you pull out of the 'hand-warmer' pockets, as demonstrated on the Compton here:

The Rutland - Chuffed to Bits

Here's my Rutland, which is fully pub-tested. I'm chuffed to bits with it.

Matching caps, breeks and weskits are available for the Rutland and the Compton.

Wearable Tech

An inner pocket of the field coat makes for an excellent 'technology pocket'. An iPad fits in perfectly. Like the watch chain, tradition can blend seamlessly with the new. You Silicon Valley upstarts might call it wearable tech.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Portable Brace Buttons - Sharp and Dapper


I know, you've got a wardrobe full of trousers with no brace buttons, but a stunning collection of braces in boxcloth and silk that require them.

You like the way braced-up trousers hang — and the way they allow for the ebb and flow of the waistline — but what can you do? You don't really want to get buttons sewn into the trousers (for the purposes of this argument). Well, what if someone created a set of 'buttons' that could simply be transferred from one pair of trousers to another? Let me tell you they have.

Our Swedish-Londoner chum Johan got in touch and explained all about the Clip-On Buttons supplied by Sharp and Dapper. A set of six buttons, they are made in Germany of steel with a nickel finish.

I tried them; and, by Jove, they worked a treat. You slide them on to the trouser and then fix in place with a clasp at the back. Now any 'leg containers' can accommodate button-ended braces — jeans for the traditional skinhead look, cords for gardening, shorts, pyjama bottoms, you name it.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Condensed Amsterdam #3 - New Tailor

Going Dutch

Finally, as promised, on our condensed tour of Amsterdam we arrive at the best tailors in town. New Tailor is situated in pretty Spiegelgracht street, close to the Rijksmuseum. A canal runs through the centre of the street, with many interesting little independent shops located hereabouts. In fact, Amsterdam is incredibly good for small shops selling interesting things.

Get yourself measured up for a suit, which also gives you an excuse to visit Amsterdam again a few weeks later.

Discussion Point: Why is the high street dying in Britain? Part answer: Terribly uninteresting shops bereft of local flavour and general dullness of environment. Bring back charm. Charm attracts. 

About New Tailor

New Tailor is headed by dear Roel Wolbrink who started the business 17 years ago. He is driven by a passion for the hand-made and for tailoring in particular. They make around 600 suits a year, of which the classic blue and grey business shades are the most popular. The New Tailor shape is typically two-button, single-breasted in the slim-waisted English style, but with narrower trousers to better suit the Dutch body shape.

New Tailor uses lots of English clothmakers, some Italian ones too. They are tending more to the English cloths and accessories: stocking Thurston braces, Pantherella socks, Drakes London ties (soon) and Fox umbrellas.

Types of Suit

New Tailor offers 4 types of suit manufacture. Following a detailed measurement, each offering has extensive choice of cloths, linings and details. The figure denotes the time spent on making the suit.

  • The 8 Suit has a half-canvas construction with roped shoulders, and is made in England.
  • The 16 suit is fully-canvassed with more choice on construction to the 8, and is made in England.
  • The 24 suit is fully-canvassed with more choice on construction to the 16, and is made in Italy. 90% of the suit is constructed by hand. 
  • The 48 Suit is completely bespoke and completely hand-made, and is constructed on-site in the basement of New Tailor. The connoisseur's option. 
Of course, once New Tailor has your measurements, suits are not the only option. For example, they've made racing jackets, Norfolk jackets and cycling raincoats in collaboration with customers, where they have built an understanding of their needs and preferences. The raincoats sound very interesting. They have cloth to drape over handlebars to keep your hands dry and reflective material under the collar.

Roel Wolbrink - Writer

Roel has also written a couple of books on style and dress — Het Bloauwe Boekje and Kledingvoorschriften. Worth tracking down my Dutch-speaking chums.

A Suitable Sheep — a charming promotional book for New Tailor (see video excerpt below) — shows the processes needed to take wool from a sheep and prepare it as cloth for use in creating a suit.

Once You Have Your New Suit

After you've picked up your suit from New Tailor, we'll finish with a couple of places in Amsterdam where you may want to wear it or take it off.

Wear it:

Why not try the Deco cinemas Pathé Tuschinski (1921) and The Movies (1912).

Take it off:

Relax in Sauna Deco, a sauna and steam rooms with a Deco interior that originally came from a French department store.

Monday, 13 January 2014

What Beards Want - First Olympian

First Olympian

Come, let us don our our lab coats and take a journey of scientific discovery together. First Olympian got in touch to ask me to try their range of scented beard oils and find out what my beard liked best.

The beard oil range is named after Greek gods: Eros (cologne), Hermes (sandalwood), Zeus (citrus), Ares (wood). Shorthand for the scent of each in brackets, but see the web site for the full notes.

Spun Gold

I duly grew a 1/2 cm of spun gold for the experiment, a different colour to the blonde locks on my bonce it must be said. It turned out my beard was needier and fussier than would first appear.

I tried each of the oils over a number of days. The first thing I noted was that my beard liked to receive the vigorous rub on application and appreciated the smoothing, calming feel of the oil. It also liked the heavenly warm scent wafting from its lubricated growth.

If it had a favourite amongst the scents, it would be Eros. Cheeky beard.

But don't take the beard's word for it. Let's take a look at the before and after photos of this experiment.

Before Oil Treatment

Here we see a before oil treatment shot. In summary, the fellow looks suspicious, possibly not to be trusted.

After Oil Treatment

Here we see the beard after oil treatment. The beard looks thicker, sleeker, certainly more confident. The sort of beard that wouldn't frighten the local WI. Clearly a greater kissability quotient too.

The facts speak for themselves. Beards want oil.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Exercises for Gentlemen: 50 Exercises to Do with Your Suit on

The Meaning of Flabby Muscles

Stuck for routines in your daily dozen? Don't have time to make it to a gym? You won't have these issues (blatant excuses) if you obtain a copy of Exercises for Gentlemen: 50 Exercises to Do with Your Suit on [Amazon].

The book is produced by our good friends at the National Trust by arrangement with Ivy Press, and is based on a 1910 publication called The School of Health by Alfred B. Olsen M.D. and M. Ellsworth Olsen M.A..

The book contains illustrated instructions for exercises you can do whilst standing or sitting (suit on), as well as tips on personal hygiene and bathing (suit off) — to 'cultivate simple, natural habits' and 'turn one's back on the soul-deadening artificialities and machine methods, and the mad, feverish rush after wealth which are eating into the very heart of society'.

As they say, 'flabby muscles may be taken to denote a general mental, if not moral, flabbiness'.  We have been warned.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Daily Dozen - A Resolution

Your Resolution

I've made a resolution for you. You're introducing a 'daily dozen' to your schedule this year. But I don't want you grunting with free weights till you have muscles in your forehead. A bit of gentle stretching and working out with a medicine ball is all I ask — to begin with. You'll thank me in summer.

Here's some gym kit to get you started.

Continental - Bar Box

If you're getting in shape at home, how about the Timber Bar Box from Continental above? Made in the UK. Impress the neighbours with your pliability and vaulting techniques.

Gymphlex - House T-Shirt and Original Rugby Shorts

Here we have t-shirt and shorts from Gymphlex. Both are made in Japan. The House T-Shirt  is in mercerised cotton and the Original Rugby Shorts are cotton drill. It's hard finding plain cotton drill shorts. It seems work-wear and school P.E. kit suppliers currently have that market cornered.

J. Alex Swift - Cushioned Wool Cricket Socks

J. Alex Swift is a Leicestershire sock maker. Their small factory is based in the village of Hathern. These socks are a wool blend in grey. I'm intrigued by their 4-ply sports socks too. We've not featured J. Alex Swift before. Please get in touch and let's become the best of friends.

Note: No room at Tweedy's gym for those 'no show' hideaway-type of socks. Let's be proud of our socks. 

Walsh Trainers - Cobra

Shock, horror! Is this a 'training shoe' on the Tweed Pig? Yes, and a fine British-made one from Walsh at that. If this appears to be inconsistent with our aims, whatever they might be, then that's probably good — consistency makes us lazy thinkers and ideologues. Besides, the gym is the completely appropriate place to wear them. So make some room for these next to your collection of Northamptonshire shoes.

Leather Head - Horween Chromexcel 12 lb Medicine Ball

The Leather Head medicine ball is made in the U.S.A. of Horween leather.

Taylor of Old Bond Street - Sandalwood Talc

Taylor of Old Bond Street stocks a variety of talcum powders. Sandalwood is a smashing one. The talc revival continues.

Christy Towels - Supreme Supima Towels

Long cotton towels from the Royal 'towelerer', Christy Towels, established 1850. Put one around your neck, as you strut around in your gym kit, to feel even healthier.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Diary 2014 - Smythson 1887

Feeling Rusty

I trust your Christmas break was nice? I'm feeling a little bit rusty now — I have to confess. The old brain hasn't quite kicked into gear. It's the sign of a good break, but I'm now looking around in that vacant way people do when they've completely forgotten what they were meant to be doing — or typing in my case. The mind's a complete blank. I haven't the foggiest idea.

What my noggin needs is a diary. Clearly.

Banish Fogginess with a Smythson Diary

The Portobello diary from Smythson has a black lambskin cover and pale blue gilt-edged pages displaying a week to view layout. Made in the UK.

Use it for confessions and observations. Be as a vicious as you like. You don't have to pretend. This isn't Facebook. You're not looking for the most thumbs-up here.

And load it up with reminders of all the glittering invitations and socials you'll be attending this coming year. Your diary will remind you it's Pitti Uomu next week, for example. It will also remind you that my birthday is in March, which is plenty of time to consider thoughtful presents.

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