Bow Ties Sydney, Australia - Le Noeud Papillon - Specialists In Self Tying Bow Ties


With over 1.5 million page views, Le Noeud Papillon's blog continues to provide lovers of bow ties with unique stories and content relating to menswear through interviews with industry icons and vignettes into topics relating to suits, shirts, shoes, ties, designers, weavers and much more.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Vacation

Dear Blog Readers,

Finishing a short story the other night I was surprised how much I had missed the pleasure of reading fiction. I think I need some time out to explore other things and take a break from writing this blog.

Come back again soon. Of course should you have any style questions or enquiries regarding our products I can be reached through the website.

Regards,
Nicholas.


Friday, June 26, 2015

The Pulse In His Ears Ran Into The Rhythm Of “In The Country Of The Blind The One-Eyed Man is King.”

In 1904 H.G. Wells penned “The Country of the Blind”  which tells the tale of a mountaineer named Nunez who falls off a mountain side and finds himself in the Country Of The Blind, a mountain valley cut off from the world in the 'wildest wastes of Ecuador's Andes'. Nunez was escorting a party of Englishmen up the greatest precipice of a mountain when he fell off the rock shelf during the night. In the morning he discovers he's landed in the valley of the the blind relatively unscathed. The story was first relayed to me by a customer who purchased a pair of patina chelsea boots from us. In the course of our conversation he asked me who else could make shoe patina and I said very few in Australia. We talked about bow ties as well. Again, I said very few made them in Australia too and I added "Oh, well, the good thing is that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king" to which he corrected me "no, it's the country of the blind" and he pointed me to the H.G Wells short story. 

Given the ending of this short story I am inclined to refrain from using the expression in the future. It carries such a different connotation once you've read The Country Of The Blind. Now the expression serves to remind me that we often don't bend the world to our whim but rather we are bent by the whim of the world. We can try as hard as we can to convince others of what we see but if people choose to be ignorant then there is not a thing we can do about it. In the end, Nunez capitulates to the the villagers. And this is the passage where he gives in.

“I was mad,” he said. “But I was only newly made.”
They said that was better.
He told them he was wiser now, and repented of all he had done.
Then he wept without intention, for he was very weak and ill now, and they took that as a favourable
sign.
They asked him if he still thought he could SEE.”
“No,” he said. “That was folly. The word means nothing. Less than nothing!”
They asked him what was overhead.
“About ten times ten the height of a man there is a roof above the world--of rock--and very, very
smooth. So smooth--so beautifully smooth."
He burst again into hysterical tears. Before you ask me any more, give me some food or I shall die!”
He expected dire punishments, but these blind people were capable of toleration. They regarded his
rebellion as but one more proof of his general idiocy and inferiority, and after they had whipped him they appointed him to do the simplest and heaviest work they had for anyone to do, and he, seeing no other way of living, did submissively what he was told. He was ill for some days and they nursed him
kindly. That refined his submission. But they insisted on his lying in the dark, and that was a great misery. And blind philosophers came and talked to him of the wicked levity of his mind, and reproved him so impressively for his doubts about the lid of rock that covered their cosmic casserole that he almost doubted whether indeed he was not the victim of hallucination in not seeing it overhead.

So Nunez became a citizen of the Country of the Blind.

So, you have turned me into Nunez and here are some pre-tied bow ties for 2015.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Honoré de Balzac - A New Bow Tie By Le Noeud Papillon Of Sydney

The bow tie was not yet fully formed when Honoré de Balzac wrote this quote. At the time the bow tie was still called a cravatte. At that time it had not yet earned the moniker 'noeud papillon' and you can sort of understand why. The photos of the period don't show the same relative symmetry we see in bow ties today. It was a piece of silk tied around the neck, neither as a long tie, nor as a bow tie. And probably for that reason Balzac suggests that the day that it (neck wear) submits to static rules is the day that it will cease to exist. My interpretation of what Balzac was saying is that whilst it was in that state of flux, with no four in hand knots or windsors, whilst it was neither a long tie nor a bow tie; it gave the wearer the ultimate chance to express themselves in terms of how they wore their neck wear.

Today most of us do not wear ties regularly, neither in business nor socially. When we do we find ourselves tying similar knots. Perhaps it's time we put a little more romance back into our neck wear and break away from static rules as Honoré de Balzac suggests it would in fact kill off neck wear if it all became stereotypical. See the new model here


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

FJ Geddes - A Treasure Trove Of Eyewear In Sydney

Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that the big corporates take over all the high street outlets and the real treasures are forced to be tucked away somewhere. The huge retail outlets offering so little but with so much bravado announce their presence long before you get close to the door but with the great finds you often find nothing more than a plaque. In 1926 the original FJ Geddes set up shop at 80 Elizabeth Street with the aim to provide Sydney’s Ophthalmologists with a reliable and accurate dispensing service for their patients. And they still do – it’s just that the world has changed substantially along with the relaxation of many laws that protected such stores. Nowadays their treasure trove of eyewear is located quietly on level 6 of Park House on Macquarie Street. I was introduced to them by one of the best dressed men in Sydney, a chap called Ryan Cigana. The only problem with Ryan is that he likes to dress like a grandpa when he’s only in his twenties. However, it is precisely this fascination with the old and the no longer celebrated that lead him to FJ Geddes to begin with. When I finally had a moment to spare I stopped past recently. It didn’t take long for me to understand what Ryan was talking about – it had a charm you can’t quite put your finger on. In the end, after an hour of rummaging through old Cazal frames from the 1980’s I asked Frank Geddes if he’d be interested in enlightening our readers on eyewear.

Elizabeth Street in Sydney, 1933

Can you tell us a little about spectacles and some of the considerations you might take into account when showing your customers through your range?

When seeing a customer for the first time we would initially take into account the prescription and the type of lens that is required. eg Higher prescriptions will not work in big or wrap around frames. Also multifocal lenses require a minimum depth of 30mm to be effective.  We would then ask what 'look' they are trying to achieve. Some prefer to have spectacles that blend into their facial features (rimless or semi rimless) or to truly make a statement (bold colours and shapes etc). Then the final thing we do is make sure the right nose bridge and temple length fit is achieved.

Throughout the 20th Century a number of famous men and women created identities which were unmistakably attached to the kinds of frames they wore either as spectacles or else as sunglasses. Can you name some of your favourite icons of eye wear and tell us a little bit about the glasses they chose?

Firstly, I would pick Woody Allen. He always  wore the same Moscot heavy acetate (plastic) frames. Then Buddy Holly who was synonymous with the thick black rectangular frames style. Gregory Peck wore acetate 'panto' shape specs in 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' which left a lasting impression. You have the unique look of John Lennon's round Algha wire frames which he really trademarked. Jackie O was not often seen without her oversized Nina Ricci sunglasses. And who can forget the Ray Ban Wayfarers are now often referred to as 'Blues Brothers' sunglasses after they were Jake and Elroy's eyewear of choice. And if I have to think of cultural ant-heroes of eye wear of the 20th Century then two names crop up: Dame Edna and Elton John.

20th Century eyewear icons - The Blues Brothers in Ray Ban Wayfarers

Buddy Holly - rectangular frames - icon of 20th Century eyewear according to FJ Geddes

Since the WWII there has been a great deal of innovation in the field of plastics which I gather is the basic product behind acetate sunglasses. Can you tell our readers about some of the pivotal sunglasses that you think have defined those changes?

Cellulose Nitrate was used in the early 20th Century to manufacture frames and sunglasses. This material is highly flammable and was replaced with Cellulose Acetate. Lenses were tinted glass with little or no UV protection. Then Ray Ban then brought out the higher quality G15 glass lens and also a photochomic lens that adapted to available light. Later on Polaroid mass produced cheap polarised sunglasses using acetate and nickel silver for the frames and thin film type lenses. These lenses had a lot of distortion but protected the eyes from UV light.
The advent of the laminated car windscreen coincided with an influx of higher quality polarised sunglasses. The older windscreens made from toughened glass would show stress points when viewed through polarised lenses whereas the laminated screens would not.
Nowadays brands like Maui Jim and Revo,  Bolle and Vuarnet utilise light weight nylon for the frames and unbreakable polycarbonate for the lenses.

I notice that there is one pair of black frames that you seem hold a great deal of stock in – can you tell us about why you have so much of that stock and some of the famous faces we might have them on over the years?

The 'Envoy'

Australian company Martin Wells is responsible for the simple library frame known as the Envoy. This model was the 'go to' frame for many of our customers. Colours included black, tortoise and 'two tone' (dark at top and crystal bottom). It was available in at least 3 eyes and 2 bridge sizes.  Sir Frank Packer often wore a 'two tone' version.



The late Kerry Packer once looked over his glasses when questioned by the 1991 House of Reps Select Committee on Print Media Appearance in an historic moment of the jostling of great power between the Australian Government and the Australian Media. I understand your family made spectacles for Kerry Packer – are you able to confirm this and can you tell us the style of spectacles he wore?

Kerry Packer wore mostly 1/2 glass lookovers. He had countless pairs that included the classic Christian Dior Monsieur 2075.



The brand Cazal is featured heavily in your store and over the years they have developed a cult-like following – can you tell us a little about the brand and it’s authentic DNA and perhaps single out some of the more popular models which people sought after?

Cazal is an eyewear brand created by Cari Zalloni in 1975. Based in West Germany he designed 'jewellery for the face' and his aggressive styles were very different to anything on the market at that time. In it's heyday of the 1980's colour and angular shapes featured heavily. The designs from this period have been resurrected and favoured by many US hip hop artists.


Cazal 607


Growing up I always loved the late 70’s for sunglasses – is there a particular period of sunglass design that the team of F.J Geddes admires greatly?

Our Favourite sunglasses

The designs of the late 1980s and early 1990s were some of our favourites.

Brands such as Christian Dior when it was made by Optyl had some of the most recognisable Women's sunglasses of the day. Models 2056, 2250 in metal and 2320 in plastic were unique in design and fitted just about every face. The quality and workmanship was also very high which unfortunately is not always the case today. Carrera also made by Optyl of Germany had large aviator style mens sunglasses in metal and plastic some with a 'vario' temple that could be used to adjust the length of the side to ensure a perfect fit.

Dior 2250


In Australia,  Jonathan Sceats  added a lot of colour to his sunglass designs. Some frames had ornate fabric laminated into the plastic.  They were also of optical quality meaning prescription lenses could be fitted if needed.

Australian designer Johnathan Sceats retrospective frames from the 1980's

Can you tell us a little about your customised programme for spectacles?

Greg Geddes has handmade frames for years out of wood, tortoise shell, horn and acetate (plastic). He can also modify existing frames including changing the shape, adjusting the nose bridge size and altering the surface finish ie making a shiny frame flat or vice versa. Rimless and semi rimless frames can also be made more suitable shape to accommodate progressive or bifocal lenses. In other words just about any frame can be altered to fit a particular face.

Read more on FJ Geddes


The Prince Of Pitti - Lino Ieluzzi - A Brief Interview With Le Noeud Papillon On Style

I remember when I first met Lino Ieluzzi inside Al Bazar in Milan. He was so used to being photographed that he was ready to look at the camera the moment I pulled it out. He is in fact a rock star except that his medium is menswear not music, not even fashion. Like a good rock star he got his theme right and he markets it year after year no differently than say Mick Jagger. That's what makes him so unique and The Prince Of Pitti. Every year you see a group of kids turn up trying to peddle something. There is way too much shill. By contrast, Lino does not peddle anything. He just is. And, he is happy for people to admire that. In a world where smoking is universally frowned upon, Lino keeps puffing away. In a world where men are afraid to say anything remotely sexist, Lino unashamedly says 'I would almost say that a dog is better than a woman'. Which is probably why people continue to follow him regardless of shifts in trends.


On the occasion of my birthday recently I told myself to expect nothing. And it was a very pleasant birthday because of it - full of surprises. One of those surprises was a message from Lino wishing me happy birthday on Facebook, which lead to this interview. Charming, brief and perhaps some of it lost in translation, but unmistakeably Lino, I present to you: The one. The only. Lino Ieluzzi.

Lino, tell me about your dog, you seem to have a big love for him right? Is it difficult to keep such a big dog in a city like Milan?

Certainly yes!  Know that when I get home he has them ready to make me a party to greet me, it is something indescribably beautiful. I would almost say that a dog is better than a woman!

You seem to alternate between peaked lapels and notched lapels – do you ever wear shawl lapels? Between a peaked and notched lapel, which do you think more represents good Milanese style?



The style of Milan, comes from the mix of the way of style and taste. Personally I prefer to wear jackets - both in a chest for those double-breasted - the lapels.




I do not think I have ever seen you in a bow tie and some men I know will never ever wear bow ties outside of black tie. However, I have never understood philosophically why they do not like bow ties. Can you explain to us your thoughts on bow ties?

The bow tie is a very nice accessory but also very particular. But I think you have to know how to take it. I, for one, do not consider myself capable, and in fact I prefer to wear ties at every opportunity.

Wool, cashmere, mohair, silk and cotton – these are the natural fibres I love – I assume you like them too. Can you tell us what kind of blends and weights you most prefer for the stock of jackets you make at Al Bazar?

For our jackets we use natural fibres in different weights depending on the type of jacket to be carried out and the season. For the summer period usually we employ weights from 200 to about 250 grams, while instead for the winter weights of from 300 to 350 gr.

Your shirts are always buttoned up with a tie with a spread on the collar or else you have no tie and a rolled collar. When it comes to rolling of that signature Italian style curve of a collar, can you tell us how you achieve this?



The tie should be crumpled and ruined. It 'important to keep it glued with a very tight knot at the neck, to ensure that this hard all day. The use of materials such as wool and cashmere also promote greater resilience of the node compared to other materials like silk.



The Al Bazar scent which you give to your customers to store in their wardrobe is absolutely magnificent, so I assume you have a nose for perfume. Can you tell us what some of your favourite scents are for a man?

I love the scents and fragrance that I chose for Al Bazar, it reflects my taste. I personally do not use perfume on my skin; I usually use a daily cream Sisley.

Do you still enjoy going to Pitti and what is it you are looking for when you go to Florence in terms of products you might stock in Al Bazar?

Pitti is an international stage where they can meet and get to know people from all over the world who otherwise could not meet daily. Fundamental in my search for a product is the colour, which must never be lacking.

Can you tell our readers about one great restaurant you love in Milan and what sort of food you eat when you go there?

In fact, there are two restaurants I frequent usually Milano: Cheese and Pepper (Cacio e Pepe) where we serve excellent dishes of Roman cuisine and the restaurant Al Porto, where you can taste dishes based on fish.

Visit Lino here

Click to find Al Bazar on Google Maps

Monday, June 22, 2015

Style Of The Week

On my Instagram feed yesterday I got a tag from Milan Style director Jonathan Alexander Edwards who made contact with us whilst penning an article on black tie attire for Die Welt's style section some time ago

Jonathan is a very tall man. So tall that our regular old Majestic Black just looked plain tiny on the man. So we crafted him a jumbo sized bow tie which he is wearing below during the Pitti week in Florence. What drew me to the image was not in fact our bow tie, which looks great on him, but the generous and sweeping style and shape of his shawl collar which I think is really one of the most elegant dinner jackets I have seen in some time. Men are afraid of stepping out of line on black tie but this is an example of remaining within the confines of traditional black tie ensemble and yet stamping your own style.



Jonathan Alexander Edwards in a custom made jumbo sized bow tie from Le Noeud Papillon Of Sydney

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lisa Wilkinson - The Snow Leopard In A Bow Tie

According to the Urban Dictionary a woman in her mid to late 50's who is extraordinarily hot is called a Snow Leopard. I think that's an adequate description of Lisa Wilkinson in our Le Noeud Papillon Majestic Black bow tie which graces the cover of the Sunday Life magazine today in Sydney's Sun Herald. You can see more of the Majestic Black and shop it online here . 

Regardless of Lisa's looks she has earned a reputation as one of Australia's great presenters / journalists and stands as a symbol of the power and prestige of modern women in Australia. It is a privilege to see her take up bow ties, ours or anyone else's for that matter. 

Read more of that Sunday Life article here



Photo source: Sunday Life

With Thanks Pedro


The difficulty in offering custom made products is in keeping customers happy. Sometimes things go wrong; communication is unclear, timetables are shifted,  desires change. I say this because one customer this week was upset with a final product and as a doctor I dined with on Friday night said to me, you never remember the patients that you had a great result with, you live with the memory of the ones that were the most dissatisfied. Sagacious words. 

Thankfully, Pedro below was not disappointed. Our first iteration that we did for him he was not happy with the size of the crystals and the ultimate shape of the bow tie. So we did a second one and shipped it off to him post haste as he had to receive the bow in Miami before shooting off to Cannes in France. He wrote to say he was happy with the second. So, I wrote back and asked for some photos.

One more happy customer, now to try and solve the unhappy one.

Bespoke work is requested through the website www.lenoeudpapillon.com




A Very Basic Guide To Understanding Suiting And Weaves On The Versatile Gent

Recently I have written two contributions to The Versatile Gent on the subject of menswear. The first was a piece on how to care for your shoes, the second, a basic understanding of suiting (and jacketings to some extent) fibres and weaves. Click here to read it. 


A super 140's merino wool with cashmere and silver mink

Friday, June 19, 2015

Shop The Latest Batch Of 2015 Silks For Le Noeud Papillon Of Sydney - The Self-Tying Bow Tie Specialists

We are nearing 7.4 billion people that live on planet earth. When I try to imagine that number I think of a football stadium filled with 100,000 people. Then I imagine ten in a row. Then I times that by 7400 times. It is fathomable. Not very easily but you can start to conceptualise the number.

Of those 7.4 billion people how many do you estimate wear bow ties? I estimate that the absolute maximum is 5 million 7 hundred and 33 thousand people. 5,733,000 . That's the maximum. I think it would be in actual fact closer to 2 million. So, I deduce that roughly 0.00027% of the world's population wear bow ties. Of that, how many wear those from Le Noeud Papillon

In a world of 7.4 billion souls where you might be considered irrelevant, isn't it nice to have a point of difference? 

Shop the latest silks - www.lenoeudpapillon.com

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Green Tea & Whisky - A Surprisingly Wonderful Drink - Thank You To The People Of China

Australians are always marvelling about some phenomenon that was relayed to them about Chinese culture by an Australian who has just come back from a trip, either pleasure, leisure or business. The business stories will always have something to do with size or price. The size of the factories, the number of workers, the variety of products. They are exciting stories of gargantuan proportions that make all of us Australians feel like pygmies in a world of giants.

There are also stories of food and drink. Tiger penis and dog sometimes get a mention. Exotic sea foods. Parts of animals we don't consume here and so on. I love these stories too. They make you squirm as the tales get told of not wanting to look like you weren't appreciative of your host taking you to a banquet dinner.

However, of all my favourite tales it's the simple cultural differences I love. One was a story about the fact that it is a status symbol in China to drink good quality red wine from other countries. In Australia one of the most highly regarded wines is Penfolds Grange. In China, so an Australian hospitality worker told me, he would often observe Chinese mixing Penfolds Grange with Coca-Cola. This seemed odd to me but since I didn't have access to Grange I didn't want to be judgemental until I'd tried it myself. This week, another, more practical option was presented to me by a friend who loves his Scotch. "Do you know", he began, "in China they often drink Scotch whisky with green tea?"

"With green tea?" I said disbelievingly. "Hot or cold?"

"Cold" he said.

"Sugary or not sugary?" I asked.

"Depends, as you want. We drank it with no sugar".

Alas, last night I bought some green tea from my local cafe and let it cool over night. Today I opened a fabulous bottle of Islay Scotch whisky by Lagavulin and in I popped a generous serve and did the same with green tea.

I am here to tell you that it was fabulous. I'm not sold on the Grange with Coca-Cola but the green tea and Scotch whisky is a green light for go. Now, I prefer to drink Scotch on it's own or with a dash of ice or water, but I think I am going to make this drink my own and it's a bit of Chinese culture I am happy to incorporate into my regime along with yum cha and my satay king prawns with fried rice.

To The People Of China, I salute you all!

PS: To see a video of the mix visit our Instagram page

Lagavulin & Green Tea - Thumbs Up!

The Casual Bow Tie - Charming In Winter

People often make the mistake of thinking that a bow tie must be worn with a jacket. I might be inclined to think that of a neck tie but I am not in agreement with a bow tie. It was the illustrious owner of Carlo Riva shirting, Otto Mantero, who once strode into a summer time meeting in Como with me wearing no more than a pair of jeans met with brown derbys, a white shirt and a diamond point bow tie. He looked so nonplussed about the fact that we was wearing a bow tie. It was just a matter of getting up in the morning and tying a bow tie instead of a tie. Until that day I had always considered a bow tie somewhat ceremonial. The act of tying a bow tie had been so difficult for me to master initially that I had always held it in such a high esteem, the highest point of dressing well, so I thought. But as Italians often do, they rub off on you. And so it is that lately I have been less inclined to wear my bow ties with my suits but have taken to wearing them more casually. Not every day, I also like my scarves and on hotter days I still need an open neck shirt, but that odd day when you just feel its right. A cool rainy day. A sunny Friday in the city. A Thursday when I have meetings. With jeans, with a cashmere sweater, with a merino cardigan, with trousers, with or without a jacket. The bow tie isn't just for black tie. It's not just for cocktail. It's for every single day you feel its right, and I have Otto Mantero to thank for showing me how.

I am wearing a dusty pink merino wool sweater by Lacoste, a blue on blue striped Le Noeud Papillon custom shirt using SIC Tess fabric and our new scooped mid batwing shaped bow tie (shape name is Donald) with a navy on navy paisley motif jacquard satin silk from Como.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Moth Of Sydney - Well If It's Good Enough For New York's Fashion Elite Then We Know We've Got A Product

Just about an hour ago I got alerted to the blog post New York menswear writer and interiors designer, James Andrew, had posted one of our Moth Of Sydney pop-overs on his revered blog What Is James Wearing. James's blog was and is still considered one of the best high-brow blogs for menswear, antiques, travel, good living and interiors in New York. 

James is wearing our Paddington model in an orange light weight summer jersey which is a Filoscozia yarn used by one particular jersey maker we source from in Italy. James is wearing his Moth under a Gucci Tom Ford era white cotton linen jacket with the Moth's structured collar staying upright beneath the weight of his jacket. Very different from your usual collared t-shirts. In fact, this is exactly why we designed our Moths - for the warmer climates where a t-shirt could still look good underneath a sports jacket. James shows us that it is indeed a practical solution. Where a ribbed polo would have splayed underneath the jacket, his Moth is upright and staying the course...

For more information on the Moth he is wearing, click here - to read more of James' post click here

See more of James post here
Structure under a collar - James Andrew on a summer vacation in North Folk, Long Island, USA

Monday, June 15, 2015

Reviews And Testimonials For Le Noeud Papillon Of Sydney - Our Bows Have An 'Almost Addictive Quality'

Although I frown upon most drug use and the trade of drugs, you must admit, when watching a show such as Breaking Bad, that making a product which is highly addictive and which causes customers to part willingly and regularly with their money, must be a heady experience for drug cooks such as the fictional character of Walter White. The bow tie trade is nothing like such a trade. In fact, you work very hard to secure and keep customers, especially when we rely on the internet to put our products in front of our supposed target audience. Further, we don't get to spend time talking to our customers directly. Our Studio in Sydney is for custom and wedding bow ties as we have retailers in the city which handle our off the rack trade. So, it's not that often we get feedback, good or bad, and when we do, we like to take stock of it. The below email, requested as feedback from customers who had shopped our site regularly, was such a welcomed piece of appreciation for our craft last week just when I felt most unsure as to the future direction our business should take. Of course, we do welcome constructive feedback, good or bad, through our website.

I recently received my ‘Number 5’ bow tie from Le Noeud Papillon Of Sydney which looks even better in the flesh than on your website. I'm always pleasantly surprised by how quickly your parcels arrive. The process of removing the ribbon and opening the monogrammed box to find a perfectly wrapped masterpiece, scented with the fragrance of mandarin is a heady experience. It recalls memories of anticipation and excitement when opening a present as a child. Every detail of the presentation has been carefully choreographed and wonderfully executed by the team at LNP.

Using the occasion of my latest purchase to organise my bows, I was surprised to discover I had purchased 13 from LNP, excluding pocket squares and boutonnières. All in a surprisingly short period of time. My wife remained silent except for a single quietly spoken word, "13?”. The question hung in the air.

Searching, I explained my purchases as forward planning or perhaps a sudden rush of blood whenever LNP announces a Dutch Auction or a Flash Sale.

Had I not been caught off guard, I could have said that choosing a single bow had proven to be impossible, as they seem to have an almost addictive quality. Or perhaps, I buy them for the same reason that people climb mountains, because they are there?

Later, over a glass of wine, I finally found an answer with which I was happy. The truth is, I take great pleasure in wearing the best bow ties I have ever seen and unlike many articles of clothing, the absolute best is affordable to almost anyone who feels so inclined.

Thank you Le Noeud Papillon for your excellent and personal service. I remain your loyal and happy customer.

W Cardwell
South Coast, New South Wales, Australia

Read more testimonials


Shop our current range - www.lenoeudpapillon.com

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dressing For The Seasons

Down Under we often forget to dress for the seasons. Because winter is short lived and spring and autumn are so mild, we often find ourselves surprised that it's actually quite damn cold out there today. That's highlighted even more when you either a) find yourself in Canberra b) decide to check out the Snowy Mountains or c) go to the country for a winter weekend.

Because many of us who work in the city spend the majority of our day in controlled temperature environments between the office and the home, it's nice to brave the elements when you are in the country. It also gives you an opportunity to wear more robust clothing from heavier weave twills in patterns such as the check below, to blends in fibres such as wool and cotton. It's nice too to meet people in a different environment in clothes which  are more suitable for the landscape that surrounds you. It would seem odd wearing a sky blue twill shirt in the middle of a paddock or to wear a tie of brightly coloured silk to your local country bistro.

Below is an example of something I'd like to wear by a fire in a country hotel. I think's earthy and not too over the top. Sure, the toothless guys in reflective work wear at the end of the bar might still have a chuckle, and maybe there's no dirt under your finger nails.... But I guarantee you if you rise up on your stool and recite a bush ballad by Banjo Patterson, somebody will surely shout you a fresh schooner of beer before the end of the night and maybe even call you a 'champion'.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mind Your Bees Wax - Those Sleepy Country Towns That Really Pay Off

One thing I love about Australian country towns is that they are full of stuff that the rest of the world has forgotten about. Products you would think that nobody makes any more, you will find these at the last knick knack store on the end of a quaint set of timber board shops where the only noise you can hear is a dog barking out back somewhere and the rustle of leaves through the trees. Nestled into the Kangaroo Valley I once found the best chopping boards that weighed a tonne from natural Australian hardwood such as grey ironbark or spotted gum. I've found leather workers in the Hunter Valley which can do almost any leather work you require if it's related to horses.

This weekend, the first of the winter series, I came across a chap who was selling bees wax from a local bee keeper. Bees wax is one of the key ingredients used by upmarket shoe care companies such as La Cordonnerie Anglais and Saphir. They mix it in their own special formula to provide nourishment and finish to leather. Some say that the other ingredients are such things as carnauba wax (nourishing the leather and hardening the beeswax) , tea tree oil and essential citrus oils (to prevent moulding and to protect stitching). Other things suggested are human urine, coconut oil, turpentine and flaxseed oil. These are just things I have stumbled across, so you will need to do your own research. As to what proportions these things go in, that's where shoe care companies spend a great deal of time perfecting a formula. The only thing I can note is that if you want to make a basic polish you will definitely need to dissolve the beeswax in turpentine and add a small amount of carnauba wax in to stiffen it up.

To be continued....

Sleepy country towns pay off, Australian beeswax from the Hunter Valley - to be used in some trial leather polish.

A bonfire, Hunter Valley, Australia
Sunset over Wollombi, lower Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sullivan's Cove - Award Winning Australian Made Tasmanian Whiskey

Sullivan's Cove is an Australian whiskey from Tasmania that has won the 2014 World Whiskey Awards for the best single malt whiskey. When I canvassed my friends as to how an Australian whiskey could take out the award they said that the Scottish and Irish didn't have a monopoly on quality these days and that Japanese whiskey was held in higher esteem by many, which included a New Yorker I had staying with me in January. He went hunting all across Sydney for one particular Japanese scotch which was sold out across the USA. Most of my friends also said that it wasn't surprising that Tasmania was popping up as a great place for whiskey owing to the climate, the water and the remoteness of this mostly unspoilt chunk of land at the bottom of Australia.

I don't wish to ride on the shirt tails of the success of Sullivan's Cove - I am sure that they rolled up their sleeves and did the work - but I'd like to say that they're not the only Australian company challenging the status quo on where quality comes from. I'd like to think the little bow wrapped around that first class whiskey might take out an award some day too...

PS: I just had a chap write in to say I know nothing about whiskey/whisky/scotch and I am using the words incorrectly. I will investigate further and I do apologise to those that know more about the subject - I am good at drinking it but not much else and after the third glass I add an 'e' because I am already slurring and swearing like a pirate. :) 


Refined But Quirky - Meet Oblyk Sunglasses

Oblyk is a new sunglass brand which was developed between an Italian tailor by trade, named  Massimo Guglielmi, and Australian menswear blogger, James Want. The new sunglasses range concentrates on quality craftsmanship and materials in classic modern designs but with a certain flair that would entice the conservatives to experiment. James was kind enough to answer a few questions on his new project.

James, your new sunglasses are classic but with a twist, is that what we are to expect from Oblyk?

We’ve tried to reimagine classic styles with our first two models, they are sophisticated frames but we’ve tried to give them a quirky twist with interesting lens and finishes. We’re working on a couple of new frames at the moment and I think as the brand grows we will become more confident with our designs. In saying that it’s important to find a balance. Not everyone wants a statement pair of glasses but we chose our price point so customers could buy two pairs, a classic pair for everyday and a more adventurous pair for events or holidays.

Oblyk sunglasses are entirely hand-made


The TVG must have come across some rather iconic sunglasses to date, can you tell us about a few TVG style icons and the sunglasses that they wore?

I can’t go past Steve McQueen in his Persols or David Beckham in his Ray Ban Clubmasters. I’m huge fan of the 80’s, the cars, the hair, the interior design, the music, so the Clubmasters have always been a pair of sunglasses I loved, then I saw the Rayban Signets, which I wanted to buy before gold became in vogue again. My mother used to laugh at me because I dreamed of owning a Rolex President in 18k gold which I wanted to pair with my Signets. Now every woman in Australia is wearing a faux gold watch. I always remind her that I called the gold trend early.




Can you tell us what components make up a good quality pair of sunglasses and how to spot the difference?

Like a fake watch, from a distance a poor quality pair of sunglasses can be deceiving but once they’re in your hands it’s quite easy to tell - you need to feel the quality. I think it’s a combination of weight, hinge and build quality as well as finish. Cheap acetate lacks depth of colour is also very rigid and brittle. Quality acetate is vibrant in colour and actually quite malleable. With hinges and lens it only takes a quick glance at each to decide.

Very cool - matte ghost acetate sunglasses - I am certain to get a pair of these. 
My sunglasses always get bent over time – do you have any tips on how to re-shape your sunglasses at home?

In reference to my point above, quality acetate can be re-shaped to some degree. I don’t suggest diving in and bending them with a lot of force but if you leave them in the sun and warm them up a bit, gentle gradual pressure applied to the frame or arms will allow you to reshape them.

I have always been partial to the Persol Steve Mcqueens but I don’t have the face for it, or rather, I look a little cheesy when I wear them. Is there any formula for being able to work out what kinds of shapes suit your head?

Ha. Classic, I think we've all have dreamed of being McQueen at some point! Honestly I think people psych themselves out with suitability. I have a watch with a 42mm case and another with a 34.5mm case. When I interchange them they look strange, it takes me a day of wear to accept the new size on my wrist. In a lot of cases sunglasses are the same, if you spend a day wearing a certain style I think you’ll find yourself getting used to them and accepting them on your face, especially if you sport them with a certain level of swagger. Of course if you have a thin head, wearing wide frames will look odd. If you have a bigger head, lens will look smaller. If you look at the sizing across our two models the 46 and 48, the 48 is only marginally wider in the frame but has a larger lens area which takes up more area of the face on a larger head.

At certain times of the year the sun goes down late and you might be heading to a black tie event but the light is still shining – I have always believed its inappropriate to wear sunglasses with black tie – what are your thoughts and if out of necessity you need to wear them, which frames do you recommend?

Two of my friends have recently tied the knot and both were afternoon weddings with Black Tie dress codes. I share your beliefs and went without sunglasses to both weddings, but there were certainly moments when I wished I had a pair. Perhaps it can be done in moderation - for the 15 min ceremony while standing in the afternoon sun but that’s about it. I’m still on the fence about it though. If you must wear a pair they should be a classic shape, black and not be worn on the head or in photos.



When wearing a navy suit should a man wear black or brown frames?

My personal preference with Navy Suits is always brown shoes so I would have to opt for a brown tortoise but I always get tempted by our Pineapple frames when I’m in navy.

What can we expect from your next range of sunglasses?

Our next range will definitely include a new style, perhaps two. Outside of new styles we’re looking at introducing some interesting textures and some really punchy lens combos for summer. We’re also looking at some limited edition runs of dead stock acetate.

Shop what remains of Oblyk's current collection here:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How To Find The Right Watch Strap

The Swiss brands of watches usually charge excruciatingly high prices for a watch band. And so they should. When they charge 29k for a watch head with a leather strap and deployment clasp then when the customer tries to dismantle the price - like an investment banker might - how much for the head? how much for the deployment? how much for the strap? what's the box worth? I'll give you 20 - you would assume that they have to inflate the value of the watch strap itself. For this reason a Cartier watch strap in genuine crocodile leather on Ebay will set you back around 450 USD (see watch strap third from left).

A chap in Miami recently quoted me on a green ostrich leather watch strap for 550 USD and another in Singapore quoted 270 AUD for a custom made crocodile watch strap. Not unreasonable considering it would be made to whatever specifications you requested but it wouldn't have a glazed finish like the Cartier but by contrast you could pick the part of the skin you wanted. However, it's still a lot of money for the average Joe looking to refurbish his vintage watch.

Ebay on the other hand offers a great deal of variety in watch straps. Ebay stores such as Holben's offers a wide variety of brands from DeBeers (which are very good for the price) and Hirsch as well as quality deployment clasps by the brand Hadley Roma. They offer very reasonable solutions from legitimate brands selling faux exotic skins (eg: stamped crocodile cow hide). Exotic skins are also offered by DeBeers and Hirsch and you only need to search a string such as "Hirsch 18mm genuine crocodile" in Ebay for you to find very reasonable exotic skins which, when coupled with a decent quality deployment clasp, will give you a very good after market watch strap.


There is however an emerging market of lesser known watch strap companies which are emerging out of countries such as Vietnam where you can purchase very excellent and well crafted watch bands which are available in exotic skins. Although they are not finished as well as a glazed Cartier watch strap they can be sourced in some really interesting skins such as python and ostrich and in a number of colours which you won't find anywhere else. Using companies such as these you can achieve an exotic skin watch strap and deployment clasp for less than $100 AUD.

Deployment clasps come in a variety of colours and shapes but so far my favourite quality has been the Hadley Roma butterfly clasp in gold. It will set you back approximately 57 USD but the make of these clasps is much better than their Chinese counterparts. Amongst the Chinese brands, one company that ships out of Hong Kong seems to make the best so far and the price varies from 8 - 40USD.

As for watch straps, my recommendation is to first purchase a DeBeers faux exotic skin watch strap in black or brown. It will last a minimum six months before it shows signs of any wear and to start with a cheaper made butterfly deployment clasp. Once you have experimented with attaching your leather strap to a deployment clasp and then to your watch head, you will be ready to pursue some more funky options. For funky options I recommend purchasing a brightly coloured exotic skin from those Ebay stores offering such items and I would then invest in a better made deployment clasp by the likes of Hadley Roma.


An example of a crocodile skin in purple with contrasting blue stitching and Hadley Roma deployment clasp

Monday, June 1, 2015

It's Like Cooking But You Don't Get To Eat Anything At The End - Patina Experiments Continued

Some people play golf at the weekend. Some go to fine dining restaurants. Others watch their kids play sport. Some jump in their cars and head off to the country. Others stay at home. Some cook for their friends. I make patina.

It sounds pathetic but it is my outlet. I need it and it is somewhat therapeutic. I am under no constraints to deliver a final product. The pleasure is not in the result but in the simple act of doing and in indulging in that modern luxury that so few of us can afford ourselves - free time.

This weekend I made a patina for two pairs of shoes. One was a pair of Barker brogue slippers which I acquired from Shoes Of Distinction which is based in the UK and offers wonderful examples of the best of English, French, Spanish and Italian shoe making on the 'used' market. I say 'used' in inverted commas because it's not an adequate description. Some shoes are barely worn, others are new but factory seconds or have some blemish on the leather. Others are thoroughly worn but can be re-soled and brought back to life and there are some there that are positively finished as a working shoe but are like pieces of art. Brands such as GJ Cleverley, Berluti, Gucci, Hermes, Zegna, Stefanobi, Crocket & Jones, Edward Green, Cheaney, Gaziano & Girling, Prada, Church's and so on are all represented on the Ebay store. The wonderful thing that I draw from is that it's not about me owning and wearing the shoes, I have enough already, but it does allow me to spot a beauty which I know I can either bring back to life or add some character to.

The other thing I must note is that none of this would be possible without the help of Exquisite Trimmings. Almost all the dyes, brushes, pommades and waxes that I use come from Shaya Green, the owner. It's not easy to source Saphir in Australia. Although Double Monk in Melbourne have a good selection of Saphir products, they are in Melbourne and I am in Sydney. They also do not stock the Saphir dyes which are very important to patina.

Barker Brogue Slippers

This was a lovely shoe. It was a light brown and when I saw it on Shoes Of Distinction I knew that whilst it was perfectly fine in it's existing tone it would be perfect for my intended purple patina. What I learnt along the way is that with leather dyes, if you don't start on a white leather to begin with, you can never expect the leather to dye to the colour you expect it too. So, after stripping with acetone and thinners I was surprised that the dye took in a manner which delivered a more wine/burgundy colour than purple. The dyes were applied using a beaver fur brush with a medium tip. I worked black dye into the brogue details and then applied light strokes of purple throughout the shoe going back over the shoes in layers to deliver a final result. I also kept handy a cotton pad which I used to wipe away excess dye if it ran and to merge the last brush stroke with the previous brush strokes by running the pad across the strokes. Where a stroke was too dark I would daub the pad in alcohol to try and soften the stroke colour. In the final instance I used a Saphir pommade in red and then a black wax to finish the shoes. The glacage below took roughly four iterations to get to the stage below.

Wholecuts

With the wholecuts below I experimented on something I had been wanting to do for some time but found myself fearful of the result. By using a masking tape I divided the shoe into two components and used green on the heel of the shoe and red across the toe box. Where the two colours met I used alcohol to dilute the dyes and try to merge them. Note also the lighter centre stroke which runs through the shoe which is made by diluting the dye in alcohol before applying brush strokes so you get a tonality of dark to light to dark across the heel of the shoe and in parts along the toe box.

For more information on shoes see Shoes Of Distinction and for more information on dyes, waxes and pommades, see Exquisite Trimmings.


You can see the first later of dye on the left. To the right, the original light brown colour of the Barker brogue slippers. 



Excuse the Berluti shoe trees but they were all I had spare to work the shoes. Shoe trees are excellent for glacage because they give a hard surface against which you can polish the shoes. 

Green dye at the rear, red and the front. You will also note the lighter middle brush strokes which were made by diluting the green in alcohol.