H&B London’s Holiday Gift – 25% Discount

British luxury goods maker and OTC friend, H&B London, is offering Off the Cuff readers a special promotion.

As his post-holiday gift to you, founder Stephen Brister will take 25% off your order from now until Monday, January 6, 2014. Just use the code offthecuff at checkout to receive the discount on your entire order.

H&B London crafts exquisite leather wallets and unique sterling cufflinks favored by the likes of the British royal family.  H&B’s goods are handmade in London by some of the finest artisans in the country and meant to be cherished for life.

We recently wrote about the company in detail and included their Breast Pocket Wallet in the 2013 OTC Holiday Style Guide.

 

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H&B London: Exceptional Handmade Wallets

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H&B London is the kind of brand you might expect to find in England.  Small and smartly turned out, the firm produces exclusive luxury goods in small batches.  Launched this year, they currently offer two styles of mens wallets – breast pocket and billfold – and a range of geometrically unique sterling silver cufflinks.   Though grounded in traditional artisanship, H&B is not staid per se, even though its client list includes members of the British royal family.

Founder and Managing Director, Stephen Brister, told us that the company’s primary commitment to real luxury. “Part of the reason I founded the company was because I was disillusioned with the poor quality of products that were being sold by mainstream luxury brands,” he said. “For me luxury means the highest quality materials crafted by the finest artisans to make something rare and exclusive. So quality and craftsmanship are very much part of the DNA of H&B London.”

OTC has been using the British Racing Green Breast Pocket Wallet daily for about one month and, in a word, we find it to be exceptional.  The size and layout are traditional, with eight card slots and three receipt/currency pockets.  Nothing feels cramped or crowded; credit cards easily glide in and out of their spaces and the main currency pocket is easy to access.  Though, as noted above, the structure of the wallet is traditional, it is very much contemporary in nuance and finish.  It is a classic wallet, yes, but not old-fashioned.  Perhaps the word which best describes it is “elegant.”

2013 10 04 10.16.19 300x225 H&B London: Exceptional Handmade WalletsWhat truly sets this wallet apart from others we have tested is the quality of the craftsmanship and materials.  Each H&B London wallet is handmade in London by one of only three craftsman.  The leather is impeccably smooth and supple and the wallet’s refined construction provides a firm structure without feeling stiff or unyielding.

The finish on our British Racing Green wallet is both rich and translucent, allowing the natural pattern of the flawless hide to come through.  Brister feels that a luxury product should be made from the finest materials, be rare and exclusive, and adhere to exceedingly high standards. For example, H&B London’s leather goods are made from the most exclusive Italian leather from the hides of cattle grazed in the Alps where there are no barbed fences or mosquitoes to blemish their skin.  By definition, that’s a small universe of leather supply.

H&B London started with wallets because, perhaps more than any other male accessory, one’s wallet is used and handled daily.  Ours has aged gently and beautifully, acquiring the inevitable nicks and bumps of life that only add to its distinguished patina.

The firm is also happy to accommodate bespoke orders, making anything from briefcases or handbags to wallets and purses.  You can email them directly at bespoke@handblondon.com or call them on +44(0)20 8546 4775.

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Smart Style: Shoe Recrafting

AE Recraft Sole 2 Smart Style: Shoe Recrafting

One of the true hallmarks of that storied East Coast Ivy League lifestyle known as “preppy” is its practitioners’ predilection for thrift.

The longevity of a shirt, sweater, favorite pair of khakis, or treasured sport coat is in many ways more prized than anything else.  While those committed to mere preppy fashion may stuff their closets with the latest branded version of vintage inspired wares and overly nuanced brick-a-brac, salt of the earth preps focus on value.  They invest in well made stuff that lasts.  They are busy letting out their dad’s old J. Press blazer (which in fact, this author just did) or figuring how best to reclaim some well-worn but totally functional pair of Allen Edmonds cap toes.

AE Recrafting OLD 1024x682 Smart Style: Shoe Recrafting This last point is actually easier to accomplish than you might think.  Where a new pair of AE’s oxfords may run you $350 or so, your already loved, if world-weary pair, can be fully recrafted (including new shoe trees and felt bags) for the relatively bargain basement price of $150.

Not only does that save you money, another pastime of most old-school preps, it also helps to preserve for another decade some great shoes filled with honest-to-goodness history and hard earned character.

In Allen Edmonds’ case, the process of breathing new life into well-worn footwear begins with setting the shoes on their original last and completely removing the old sole and cork bed. The existing welting is then cut free and an entirely new sole is assembled and stitched onto the shoe.  The old wax is stripped off and a new coat is hand applied.  The shoes are then polished, buffed and ready to head home.

The whole process is an excellent example of living the life with savings to spare. Recrafting your Allen Edmonds shoes is not only a smart way to extend your investment in a great pair of shoes, it also contributes to your own sense of timeless style.

Want to master some real Ivy League ethos, the kind that can’t be purchased or affected? Choose to live by the mantra, “wear it ’till it falls apart.” You will be following in the well-trod footsteps of leather elbow-patched college professor types other guys merely emulate.

More importantly, you’ll also able to better appreciate the stuff you do have, make smarter choices about what you add to your wardrobe, and focus on the stuff you truly love and actually need.

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When it comes to Cadillac Certified Pre-Owned vehicles, we’ll treat it like new. Introducing the all-new Certified Pre-Owned Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty, an extension of our new vehicle warranty for up to 6 years or 70,000 miles.  Cadillac covers more of your vehicle than BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.  And, with our 172-Point Inspection, 24-hour Roadside Assistance, Courtesy Transportation, and more, owning a Certified Pre-Owned Cadillac is more thrilling than ever. Learn More at www.cadillac.com/cpo

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Cadillac Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Cadillac Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles.

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American Made. Global Market.

Frank Clegg has become the face of American leather craftsmanship.  Seemingly overnight, he has surged in the consciousness of high-end customers, style bloggers, Madison Avenue editors, Fifth Avenue retailers, and Made-in-America aficionados.

His brand, Frank Clegg Leatherworks, is built around the fact that he is more than just a name, he is also a maker.

It’s a great story, but it’s only a very small part of the larger story.  No overnight success – not by a long shot – Frank is a craftsman, yes, but he also has 30 years of expertise in custom leather work under his belt.  He has long been sought after by such top-notch brands as Alden and Cole Hann.  And he has legions of customers around the world who hand down his goods father-to-son.

If you want to know what makes Frank tick and why he is very much an American treasure, please read our earlier article about his background and passion for his craft.

The folks at Craft Series, which documents American artisans, created this great video that captures Frank’s remarkable skill and showcases his craftsmanship in action.  Check him out as he creates a custom briefcase on the fly; no pattern and no template.  Just experience and expertise.

 

From Ready-Made to Bespoke

 From Ready Made to Bespoke

Jon Green is a celebrated New York-based bespoke clothier well-known to readers of Forbes, The Financial Times, and American Express’ ‘Departures’ magazine. He is also a good friend of OTC and occasional contributor. Here, Jon provides us with a useful breakdown of the various forms that tailored clothing can take, from ready-made to bespoke.

Bespoke is a term that has been widely used in the United Kingdom for centuries, but has only recently been employed in the United States by tailors attempting to distinguish “bespoke” construction from “made-to-measure,” “custom,” and “bench,” terms often incorrectly used interchangeably. The word bespoke is derived from the English verb of the 17th century, “to bespeak,” i.e., “to speak for something, to give order for it to be made.”

As such, bespoke is actually a very specific and clearly defined term. However, it is also a word so unique and meaningful to the clothing space that marketers and retailers now use it to convey any form of personalization designed to instill a sense of special uniqueness.

The growing menswear market has been especially guilty of this tactic, calling virtually anything that can be customized in any way, bespoke. On the face of it, those who deal in the world of true bespoke will never be confused by this colorful marketing gambit. And, most of those who employ the term to differentiate or highlight their wares or product are often fully cognizant of their deception, mild though it may be.

Still, having a clear understanding of the terms and methods of construction ascribed to various types of clothing, how they are made, and the inherent quality and attention to detail associated with each, is invaluable.

Ready-Made

Ready-made clothing is cut from ‘graded’ commercial patterns. The process of grading was developed over 150 years ago with the advent of massed produced pattern-built clothing. As standardized sizing does not exist, all manufacturers/designers develop their own patterns and grade them. Grading systematically increases or decreases measurements in order to maintain consistent fit and styling throughout a range of sizes. The intent is that they will fit and look the same on everyone regardless of size, which means they fit no one particularly well.

Since most men hate to shop for their clothing, the task often falls to a significant woman, who sends the man, or drags him to the store or a neighborhood tailor for alterations. 70% of men’s tailored clothing sold in the United States is bought by women.

Often, women have a greater degree of confidence buying menswear made by a designer they like for their own clothing. Therefore, manufacturers consider it more important for their suits to look good on a mannequin and to have ‘hanger appeal’ than tackling the impossible task of trying to fit so many different body types and sizes with garments cut from graded commercial patterns. Once cut, the ready-made suit is assembled on a production line by machine operators trained in specialized piecework.

Made-to-Measure

Made-to-Measure clothing is cut and made in the same way as ready-made clothing with one exception: a ready-made pattern is adjusted during cutting for some of the fitting requirements of the customer. The garment is then assembled in the same way as ready-made by machine operators on the same production line. However, a few manufacturers report areas in their factories used exclusively for their made-to-measure production.

As the U.S. economy rapidly expanded after World War II through the 1960s, the growing demand of men seeking more specificity in their tailored clothing, and willingness to pay extra for it, persuaded men’s clothing manufacturers to offer made-to-measure clothing as an accommodation to the stores for whom they made ready-made clothing. Today, made-to-measure clothing is the fastest growing segment of men’s tailored clothing business.

Bespoke

16K3743 682x1024 From Ready Made to BespokeBespoke clothing requires a much more extensive process. Bespoke clothing is a collaboration initiated with a conversation with the client to determine preferences of style, cloth, and the appropriateness of colors.

The construction of bespoke clothing begins with a master pattern maker and cutter hand-drafting and hand-cutting a paper pattern specific to the individual. This pattern will incorporate more than 30 measurements specific to the client.

The cloth and trimmings are then sponged – dampened and allowed to dry – which takes any shrinkage out of them in the even one gets caught in the rain or if a dry cleaner turns up the dryer to shorten drying time. Next, the cloth and the “canvas” are cut and assembled by hand with a needle and thread by a master tailor into a “first fitting” using basting stitches – temporary stitches that do not stress the cloth and are easily removed. After every fitting, the alterations to the garment are recorded on the paper pattern.

After alterations are made, the garment parts are reassembled for the “second fitting.” Following this process, there is usually one more fitting in a more advanced stage of completion.

The finished garment will be made with an abundance of hand tailoring by a single master tailor, a process requiring a minimum of 60 hours for the jacket alone. The paper pattern resulting from this process is kept for use in taking subsequent orders directly to a third fitting, or to finish.

Defining Bespoke

The question is often raised as to why the term bespoke is not more robustly protected. It may seem counterintuitive since the British invented bespoke construction, but while the distinction conferred by “bespoke” is protected by law in France, the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the British advertising regulator, has ruled that it is a fair practice to use the term bespoke for products which do not fully incorporate traditional “bespoke” construction methods as described above.

DSC 0053 680x1024 From Ready Made to BespokeIn June 2008, the ASA, ruled that an advertisement describing a suit, “put into a ‘working-frame’ where it would be cut and sewn by machine,” as a “bespoke suit uniquely made according to your personal measurements and specification” was not breaching the Authority’s self-proclaimed advertising codes, notably the truthfulness rule, because the use of the term bespoke was not deemed likely to confuse.  This ruling was significant in formalizing a less traditional definition of bespoke clothing, even though the older distinction with made-to-measure was recognized.

Notably, the ruling also cited the Oxford English Dictionary definition of bespoke as “made to order,” despite the fact a bespoke suit was “fully hand-made and the pattern cut from scratch, with an intermediary basted stage which involved a first fitting so that adjustments could be made to a half-made suit.”  While a suit made-to-measure “would be cut, usually by computer, from an existing pattern, and adjusted according to some of the customer’s measurements,” the ASA stated that both fully bespoke and made-to-measure suits were ‘made to order’ in that they were made to the customer’s precise measurements.

Jon Green
Jon Green Bespoke
509 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022
212.861.9611
jon@jongreenbespoke.com