A Perspective on the Styleforum Maker Space

Since the middle of December, I’ve been in Italy visiting the in-laws. We made a few little trips here and there for purposes of tourism, did a short tour of Emilia Romagna, enjoyed many delicious meals, and–of course–did some shopping during the Italian seasonal sales period. Additionally, we visited Florence as well, partly because it is a city filled with art, but also because my wife was working there during Pitti Uomo. During Pitti, I managed to make it into the Fortezza briefly, but I spent most of my time helping out with the Styleforum Maker Space. And I have to say it was a blast to hang out with so many charming people-while having bountiful aperitivi with decent wine, tasty mozzarella di bufala from Caserta, and salumi from the Tuscan countryside. The conversations ranged from materials and construction methods, to typical wines and dishes, to customer service and business practices.

Unfortunately Winson shoes couldn’t attend because of visa issues, but the other artisans more than made the experience great. At the Styleforum Maker Space there were Salvatore from I Sarti Italiani, Marco from Belisario Camicie, Alya from a.b.k. leather goods, and Frank and Jen from GIIN. Everyone was quite friendly, knowledgeable about their respective crafts, and their products were all impressive. If you had visited, you would have found yourself talking to individuals who genuinely find joy in their professions and care deeply about their crafts. From each one, you would have learned little secrets, such as the differences between types of mother of pearl buttons and shells, or which sections of a shirt or jacket require hand stitching and which can be machine stitched.

Over three days, talking with Frank and Jen from GIIN provided me with inspiration their passion and enthusiasm for their product, brand and work is enthralling. Frank is turning under garments on their head, making bonded products with a mix of long fiber cotton and polyester, blending the two together to create a fabric that exhibits the best of both worlds. He provided me with some to try, and I have to say that I am convinced (look forward to a review in the near future). On the other hand, the boutonnieres, the mainstay of their exhibition, were exquisite as always. Their display showed the materials at different steps, and they spoke with great respect about the Japanese artisan who created the process. These flowers were a hit with the Italians, who were shocked to see delicate flowers that were outside of the normal flow of time.

The leather goods from a.b.k. were impressive, especially for those who have a more street wear or rustic aesthetic. I talked with Alya about saddle stitching and vegetable tanned leathers as she sat in the corner hand stitching a pair of shoes that were being custom made for a foreign client. Her leather goods exuded a sort of aesthetic that embodied her personality itself, a reserved but passionate spirit that cares about the quality of the goods and the materials. She told me a wonderful story about the leathers that she works with, most of which come from a small tannery in the south of France that is run by two elderly gentlemen, who have been processing hides for many years in natural and historical methods. Her work combines this historical artisanship for materials with handcrafted methods to craft pieces that would last for a long time, growing more beautiful as they develop patinas through use.

I had used Belisario Camicie in the past to order online some shirts, and they came out well, so I decided to talk with Marco Belisario about modifying my shirts to the exact way that I wanted them. I ended up ordering a shirt with all my vezzi preferiti, including manica mappina and hand sewn buttons a giglio. I was amused that I had recently seen a friend of mine order a su misura shirt from another well-established shirt maker in Italy, only to have a fraction of the options and measurements taken in contrast to Belisario. Marco took a large number of measurements and some photos to create a paper pattern to compensate for my uneven shoulders and sleeve lengths, as well as for my watch on my wrist. He even consulted with the tailor from I Sarti Italiani to best determine how to address my bodies particularities. We discussed the size of armholes, and settled on a slimmer, high armhole as per my preferences. In addition, Marco allows you to choose which handsewn properties you want on the shirt, so I settled for what I most wanted aesthetically. They have a wide selection of different choices for collars (including one of the best one piece, open collars I’ve ever seen–they call it Ischia), buttons, and offer both fused and unfused cuffs and collars.

Last-but not least-was Salvatore Ioco, a 29 year old tailor who has been a tailor for 15 years of his life, learning the tradition from his grandparents. Salvo, the representative of I Sarti Italiani, is incredibly friendly and jovial guy. Based in Palermo, the smaller company is a consortium of 12 tailors and 3 cutters, all of whom work together to realize the garments in the style that the client desires. They produce mostly canvassed garments, but will do minimal canvassing (no fusing) if you desire in order to get an even lighter, more relaxed and casual garment. Salvo brought a wide range of fabrics in his books, showing off both more luxurious fabrics as well as base ones, and we talked about my preferences. I will have him make me a garment, but I’ve yet to decide on a fabric; in the end he took my measurements, talked about my physical abnormalities and my stylistic preferences. I’ll figure out whether I want to do something from him that is Cut-Make-Trim, or rather a suit manufactured in house with him and the other tailors using fabrics to which they have access. Of course, I’ll have to return to Italy for a few basted fittings, once we figure out what direction I want to go.

In the course of the three days, the various artisans had conversations among themselves, creating new dialogues; it comes as no surprise then that all the artisans shared a sort of mentality concerned with making durable goods. Even though reasons for making quality goods might have diverged slightly, they all overlapped in their pursuit of quality. GIIN seeks to preserve our resources by discouraging waste or using natural processes. Alya and a.b.k. is focused with maintaining a low environmental impact through sourcing environmental sound leathers (vegetable tanned), while also creating products that were useful. Belisario and I Sarti Italiani handcraft their clothing with rigor, in hopes of creating pieces that remain in your wardrobe for an extended time. This thoughtful mentality reminds us why craftsmanship and passion is still important today in a world overwhelmed with wasteful consumption.

Here you can see some pictures of the Styleforum Maker Space:

The best Christmas gifts for your significant other and for you

That time of year has come again: you need a gift guide to buy a present for the woman in your life. Last January, you resolved to make notes about the things that she seemed really interested in but did not buy. And then at the end of November, you would just pick the best few things, an interesting mix that showed not just that you care and are attentive, but that you also have range and diversity and are full of good taste. But, just like last year (and the year before that, but there is no need to rub it in, I know) you are scrambling now, with under 10 shopping days, for a lifeline.

It’s all good. Styleforum is here to take the stress out of this situation for you. Remember Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction? Mr. “I fix problems?” So do we, and you won’t even need to get all bloody in the process. But hurry. While, at the time of writing, rush shipping can get all of these to you in time to put them under the tree, wait too long, and you might end up having to write an IOU, which, ime, is usually not well received.

Also, you’ve done some good work this year. You deserve something too. In this gift guide, for each gift we recommend for your sig O, we are recommending something for you. Either drop a hint (a browser opened up prominently to the item in mind is a good bet) or just bypass chance and get it for yourself.


1. Earrings That Make Her Look Like a Golden Age Icon in Her Prime

HERS: Mikimoto Pearl Earrings ($300 and up at Nordstrom)

It’s hard to go wrong with simple, classic, 18 carat gold earrings set with precious stones. The usual names come to mind – Chopard, Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, lets face it, you are not going to wrong. All you need is a fleeting familiarity with Romantic Comedies (jewelry stores are often strategically seen in them, for the obvious reasons), a credit card, and the ability and willingness to use it. If you want to show a little more imagination, maybe go for a set of pearl earrings from Mikimoto. Pearls have a Golden Age of Hollywood appeal, and yes, while you can get a diamond framed pair for tens of thousands of dollars, you can also get a classic white gold set studs for a relatively affordable price

YOURS: GIIN miniature rose boutonniere ($95 from giin.style)

While I am a few eggnogs in right now and tempted to suggest his and hers matching pearl earrings, I’ll instead suggest a GIIN tie pin made of a miniature rose taken apart carefully by a single artisan in Japan, preserved, and then put back together. At $95 for a pin, you should be able to afford it even if you had gone all in with the $11k diamond accented pearl earrings (https://www.mikimotoamerica.com/categories/earrings/twist-white-south-sea-earrings)


2. (It’s not just any) Scented Candle

HERS: Cire Trudon Josephine Candle

I was a guy who, until he got married, owned only one set of tableware and one plate, all of which I had rescued from the Harvard Law School Cafeteria (hey HLS, if you are thinking of suing me, I’d like to remind you that this article is for entertainment purposes only, and that all resemblances to events and persons are purely incidental). But even I knew that candles would romantic up a place. Cire Trudon is one of the oldest extant candle makers in France, established in 1643. Patronized by both the French Court and then Napoleon Bonaparte, the company has had a few years to figure out how to make scented candles. For her, I recommend the Josephine, named after Napoleon’s first wife and empress (https://www.matchesfashion.com/us/products/Cire-Trudon-Jos%C3%A9phine-scented-candle-1087235). It is a complex scent that opens with lime and bergamot, turns to rose and jasmine, and then has base notes of sandalwood and iris. What you have to understand is that it smells good and looks nice in a glass holder with a gold seal. ($75 at Matches Fashion)

YOURS: Cire Trudon Abd El Kader Candle ($83 at Matches Fashion)

If you are going to do a his and hers matching gift, you may as well do it with fancy candles. It’s a big step above matching sweaters. For you, I might recommend the Abd El Kader candle, the scents of which takes inspiration from Algeria’s coast. That alone might stave off the cold.


3. A Luxurious Silk Robe

HERS: Carine Gilson silk Kimono robe (on sale now at net-a-porter) https://www.net-a-porter.com/us/en/product/962602/carine_gilson/chantilly-lace-appliqued-silk-satin-robe

It won’t always be cold. Summer will come again. Or, you can simply fly somewhere warm. Maybe Brazil. In that case, a silk robe will be the perfect coverup in the morning and at night. Carine Gilson is probably the foremost lingerie maker in the world today, working with elegant silks and delicate laces. This is about as good as it gets.

YOURS: Derek Rose Brindisi silk pajamas ($483 at Matches Fashion)

Hey, you’ll probably have to wear something too.


4. A Luxury Watch.

HERS: Chopard Sport Mini Happy Watch ($7040 at the official Chopard store)
No one needs a watch these days, with exceedingly few exceptions. That makes a quality watch that much more indulgent and luxurious. If you are fortunate enough to be able to do so, I would recommend that you get her a Chopard Happy Watch this Christmas. As you may know, Chopard is a Swiss watchmaker and jeweler known for its whimsy. The Happy watch’s iconic moving diamonds on the face of the watch are an example of this approach. I like the smaller faced “sport mini”. The 30 mm face suits smaller wrists, is elegant and sporty at the same time. With a simple face, and adorned only by the moving diamonds, the watch is both beautiful and unfussy.

YOURS: Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique Medium ($8640 at the official Jaeger-leCoultre site)

I’ve always liked Jaeger-leCoultre’s Reverso watch, born of impractical solutions to practical problems. Cricket players were finding their watch faces smashed after a vigorous match, so instead of simply taking off their watches like sane people, they instead asked for a watch that could be flipped around so that the face was protected for the duration of the match. Today, there are a variety of JLC Reverso’s. including a duoface, for travelers who can’t be bothered to change the time on their watch. I still like the classique best.


5. Cashmere Loungewear is always a winner

HERS: Arlotta cashmere robe ($450 at Saks Fifth Avenue.)

I have yet to find a woman who does not like the feel of cashmere. Cold winter evenings and mornings alike call for a robe on top of any sleep clothes, and she will appreciate this robe – or at least, my wife does (if and when she wears hers out, I simply get a new one). This is about as failsafe as possible.  Bonus points if you get her cashmere slippers as well.

YOURS: Pendleton “Raven and His Box of Knowledge” Blanket ($295 at Pendleton)

I don’t know about you, but I spend inordinate amounts of time in front of a computer screen. And it gets cold. I also fall in front of the television at night. And when I wake up, my sedentary body feels cold. You get the picture. When you don’t move around, you get cold. In addition to this blanket looking really cool and keeping you warm, you’ll also be helping to support tribal colleges American Indian College Fund (AICF).


6. Iconic Jewelry

HERS: Tiffany Elsa Peretti “bottle” sterling silver necklace ($450 exclusively at Tiffany and Co.)

A lot of people will say that Tiffany’s is so played out. So cliché. After all, who hasn’t seen the blue box? 1) Who cares? It’s Christmas, and you are not that cool. 2) Elsa Peretti was an Italian model who turned to jewelry making. Her designs are full of sensual curves and quite unique. This bottle design is typical and iconic.

 

YOURS: Bottega Veneta Double intrecciato-woven leather bracelet ($350 at Matches Fashion)

Just as iconic Elsa Peretti’s designs is the woven leather of Bottega Veneta.  Too much of it can be ostentatious looking, but a discreet bracelet is just about right.


Bonus tip: Clothing that has numbered sizing is high risk and low reward. Sizing is not only not consistent between brands, but women, like men, hold illusions about their sizing. So just don’t do it unless you embrace the pain.

Review: GIIN Boutonniere Flower

GIIN will be part of the Styleforum Maker Space this January at Pitti Uomo. The Styleforum Maker Space is a combination pop-up shop and wholesale space, geared towards exhibiting fantastic small brands and makers to Pitti’s influential and knowledgable visitors for both wholesale and retail.The Maker Space runs from January 9-11, 2018.


When I was told that I would be writing a review of a boutonniere, several questions formed in my head, but instead of inquiring about the product, I just said “okay.”

Why bother with a series of questions when all they want me to do is write a review? Because boutonnieres are usually associated with weddings and are live flowers, I wondered to myself what it could be that I would be reviewing. And I figured, if I didn’t know anything about the product, I would be less judgmental when I received the item.

I put this to the back of my mind because I’ve been traveling often, only to come home and find the postman with that small nondescript package for me. Perhaps this is the way all reviews should work: the reviewer should be given something in order to look at it without any a priori knowledge, assumptions or requests.


You can imagine my surprise when an unexpected little bubble wrapped envelop was given to me by the postman. The package looked like it came from one of the Alibaba solicitors shipping their wares into the United States at a discounted penny-rate; I opened this international parcel to find a lovely box from GIIN, a Styleforum affiliate whose motto is “Elevated Essentials.” Inside the box was a flower, poignant and pristine, with a few of the leaves showing the small delicate imperfections that one can find on flowers in the wild. Yet the flower itself, however ephemeral originally, looked somewhat at home in the box, radiating a sort of delicate beauty as it was now shaped and formed into a more permanent form able to survive being shipment from across the world.

Peter wrote an excellent article on the boutonniere that discusses how and when to wear one, as well as the value of real flowers. However, there is something positive to be said about these new alternative boutonnieres-flowers that will neither wilt nor decay, preserving their very nature and beauty indefinitely. GIIN markets these boutonnieres as a form of “Enduring Elegance,” and I could not agree more. These artisanal flowers retain a sense of two of the most important concepts in nature – imperfection and beauty.

 

Many of you have probably heard of the Zen-Buddhist concept of wabi-sabi, an aesthetic ideal that places value on the impermanence of objects shown by their use over time. While wabi-sabi is all the rage in a lot of menswear concepts, illustrated by a love for foxed shirt collars or natural patinas on leather, this flower does not work in that aesthetic framework as it is frozen in time. However, the Japanese have another framework that is quite apropos for GIIN’s artisan boutonniere: kire.

In Japanese aesthetics, kire, or “cut,” is a concept in the Rinzai School of Zen-Buddhism rooted in the teachings of Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768). Zen master Hakuin believed that the nature of oneself is only understood once one has cut the root of their life; in other words, you let go of something completely, only to have it die and return again to life. These flowers, which have been taken from nature at the height of their glory, have been disassembled and recreated outside of their ephemeral nature, only to be positioned reborn as an object that exists in perpetuity. Rather than being beautiful for the sake of its impermanence (another aesthetic concept known as mono no aware, or the “pathos of things”), GIIN’s flowers are ascribed elegance as it lives after death.

GIIN crafts these flowers by hand, taking miniature rose petals that have been treated carefully, by arranging them into the shape of a small rose on the end of a pin. The pin has a small safety cap, so after running it through your lapel (or through the buttonhole), you can pin the flower to your lapel as you would a normal boutonniere. The flower looks – and in many ways probably is – delicate (I wouldn’t go in for a giant hug only to crush your lapel), yet it is simultaneously resilient seeing as it stands outside of the flow of time.

There is a lot of merit to having a flower that withstands decay, i.e. serving as a memento. I personally think my spouse would have appreciated it if I had given her one of these for our wedding; something that could be used later when we have an anniversary dinner, serving as a continuous symbol of our love.

It is appropriate then to understand GIIN’s boutonniere in the framework of kire seeing as how that concept is tied closed to the floral arrangement art of ikebana, literally “making flowers live.” GIIN has created a wearable version of an ikebana arrangement by ascribing life to the flower after its death through the processes used. It serves as a living flower, bringing a little flair and life to an outfit, despite being dead. It serves as a reminder of the various life events during which you wore it. Their miniature rose flower, lacking any sort of roots to ground it in nature or to keep it fresh, still looks at home regardless of wherever it is, their ethos becoming a symbol of enduring elegance in a world of impermanence.

GIIN’s boutonnieres are available now for $95


This is not sponsored content. To read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.

How and When to Wear a Boutonniere

Warmer months mean more time spent outside, where you can soak in the sun’s warm rays and take in the intoxicating perfume of spring’s flowers in full bloom.  While doing so, you may even be tempted to pluck one and place it in your jacket’s lapel, because why not?  Flowers are, after all, one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful creations and have been used since ancient times to celebrate everything from birth to one’s memory.

“Why” is not the subject of this article – “how” is, because the simplicity of wearing a flower in one’s lapel, a boutonniere, has been morphed into all-too-often complicated mess, with results both unpolished and overly precious.  In short, the process can be put into five words: put it in your buttonhole.  And then: put it through the loop.  Okay, so that’s ten.

There are more than a few things about menswear that may never get used but do serve a purpose, however remote.  One of those things is the boutonnière loop.  Found on some bespoke and higher-end suit jackets and sport coats, this little loop is just underneath the buttonhole on the underside of the lapel.  Here are a few examples:
Truth be told, the boutonniere never was a staple even in menswear’s heyday.  Hats and handkerchiefs were worn on the daily, but boutonnieres were saved primarily for special occasions.  Nowadays they are even more rare, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear one.
Some may be inclined to pop a flower in his lapel whenever it suits their fancy.  After all, they muse, isn’t every day special?  Pollyannas and dandies may do as they wish; I won’t cast a pall over their rainbows and unicorns.  Special occasions, though, do exist, and are a perfect time to dress up your lapel. 

Weddings – Most men know that boutonnieres are for the groom and his entourage, but two things should be mentioned.  One, they are usually much too large, bordering on a bouquet, when single simple flower will do.  Two, they are not the only ones who can wear a boutonniere; the invited may wear one as well.  Pair it with a navy or grey suit, white shirt, appropriate wedding tie, black shoes and belt, and there’s your no-brainer outfit for the wedding season.  Deep in Esquire’s archives, this spread from 1948 lists appropriate wedding attire for both participants and guests.  Since not much has changed, use it as a starting point.
Here are two examples of men who wear a boutonniere correctly:
And here are examples to avoid:
Note that if you are attending a wedding as part of the groom’s entourage, you should graciously accept both the honor and whatever boutonniere you are given, even if it is not to your taste. 
Special religious/state ceremonies – if you are participating in or invited to one, a boutonniere may be an acceptable accessory.  For example, cloth poppies are often worn on Remembrance Day.  Just be sure to remember that certain colors may or may not be appropriate, depending on the affair .  Do your due diligence and research to choose one that doesn’t offend or attract attention away from the solemnity of the event.
Festive celebrations – a bit more leeway is allowed here, since the main point during such soirees is to have fun.  There are many opportunities throughout the year where flowers fit in fine, so look for them.  The Kentucky Derby immediately springs to mind, as the most exciting two minutes in sports is well-known for its blanket of roses given to the winner.  Not just observed in Louisville, Kentucky, pop-up celebrations are observed everywhere, thanks to televised satellite locations.  Just a few short years after the first Derby in Kentucky, Britain had one, and since then Derby Day has seen even the Queen participate with flowers in her hat.  Boutonnieres in this environment would blend in quite nicely and add to the spirit of the event.
Wearing a boutonniere is easy: grab a carnation or small rose, clip the stem a couple of inches, and slip it through your jacket’s lapel and loop.  Don’t have a loop?  Look online for video tutorials on how to make your own, or ask your tailor if he can (he’s probably better).  Some opt for a fake flower, but unless you wear the same flower multiple times during the year, you’re better off with what nature provided.  If you can spring to go to a social event, a real flower won’t break the bank.  Try this: next time you go out to a nice dinner with your partner, wear a boutonniere along with your suit and tie.  If he or she asks why, just say it’s a special occasion and smile.
 
Finally, take moment to watch, in real time, how simple it is to add a bit of floral inspiration to your outfit:
You’re welcome.