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

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Friday, June 23, 2017

How Do You Make God Laugh? Tell 'im You've Gotta Plan

These were the famous lines delivered to me by an Italian Australian farmer at the end of a period in which I had been working in the bush. He then laughed one of those husky farmer laughs that is part chest phlegm from tobacco smoking, heaving in his chair almost, one of those rustic big leather recliners you might find in the spartan furnishings of a farm house where everything is practical before it is aesthetically pleasing. 

I am sure this phrase has been used many times before by many different walks of life all over the globe, but this was where I first heard the expression and it's impact has been long lasting. I can still see that farmer sitting in his chair, happy with his own joke. And it seems to be a joke he shares with the Gods.

The Greeks were the first to come up with the three fates. They were called the Moirai and included Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. Clotho spun your life, Lachesis measured it, Atropos cut it off. The Romans, because they loved to copy the Greeks, and who can blame them .... - called them the Parcae. 

Nona, Decima, Morta. In the painting below, which I found on that wonderful Google Arts And Culture which I think is one of the best things to come about on the internet since Wikipedia, the artisans of the court of Madame Pompadou plead with the fates to spare the life of their patron.

The painting serves to remind me that we are not guaranteed success, longevity, a following, an income, love, children, a vocation or even a passion. And even if we find it, nobody will be able to tell for how long we get to keep it. The Gods are a capricious and whimsical as the three parcae - spinning and measuring and cutting off your life at their whim. 

A reminder this week was that I became ill. I had a hundred plans to put into place, a thousand chores that needed reminders, a new computer I wanted to spend time with, doodling here, writing notes, adding this file to this folder and on and on. And then I became very ill. Suddenly. And it got pretty violent as my body shook itself senseless to get ride of the fever. The nightmares swirled around in my head and I get waking up feeling like I was being choked and couldn't breath. Over and over again.

In moments of chaos like that we forget the old adage 'this too shall pass' and instead are overcome with fear and dread. What if it goes on like this forever? What will happen to me and my business?

I had set up new suppliers that were now taking longer than expected to deliver, the fabrics were arriving in the wrong order, there wasn't enough time to get this to marry it with that. And in that chaos I could hear that old farmer laughing until his voice felt like it was winding up a croaky engine. Yes, you are right, God must be laughing, because I thought I had a plan. 

We forget to remember that we are not here forever, that quite frankly, we barely have any control over how our bodies digest our food so how are we to think we know what will constitute the nature and course of our lives. 

My advice to all of you out there who haven't been sick in a while is this : get sick for a day or two - see how you realign your goals from complex ones to very very simple ones. Prior to getting sick I had 436 mini plans to execute. After a day of being sick I had but one plan - get better.

I wish you all a pleasant weekend. I am back up and running now. But, we should never take it for granted that we'll all be here tomorrow. Maybe I won't. Maybe you won't. Only the parcae seem to know. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

These Are Some Of My Favourite Things ...

The movie that formed the soundtrack to my formative years, apart from Grease, must be The Sound Of Music. It was such a treat. I watched it recently with my daughter and whilst I was shedding tears and emotionally daubing my face, my daughter seemed to find it boring and preferred to watch Sing or The Secret Life Of Pets. How did that happen? I thought the Sound Of Music would be intergenerationally adored and revered. That I would go on to watch it with my grandchildren, still crying. I would sing to them as we all lay in bed: 

Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

Sadly, life is not as romantic as the movies. I recall reading about the real Von Trapp family in my adult years and it seemed a far stretch from Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews. We can kick a few things into place in life, but the truth is life is often far less glamorous.

Which brings me to my point. As I age and as my body seems to be having a hard time dealing with the long term effects of gravity and indulgence, one of the few things we can do is to pepper up our ensembles so that we can create the theatre of what we'd like to look like as opposed to what we really look like. 

At a wedding recently it struck me that if we were all forced to undress and go nude, I'd have been inclined not to attend. The art of clothes and wearing them well allows dumplings like myself to carry a certain swagger, maybe even a drop of rock n roll.

All this I say because I want to mention a few of my favourite things which helped on this trip.

The evening suit I wore I made with P Johnson tailors nearly two years ago. It still looks stunning and it's such a good tuxedo for spring/summer, half lined so its nice a cool as the evening heats up on a wedding dance floor. The bow tie is our limited edition Great Wave Off Kanagawa silk, homage to Hokusai and his wood block prints. The shirt is one of ours featuring a swiss cotton marcella bib. The pochette is Charvet which I bought from Richard's in Connecticut on the day of the wedding.

As we get older the incentive to dress more elegantly is in the fact that your body doesn't look good in a hessian sack anymore, leave that for the 20 year olds. These days, a well spretzzed pochette, a hand-tied bow tie, a suit that hides some of your girth -  these are things that are will carry you when your knees won't....

I would be inclined now to change those words of Julie Andrews to something like:

Pink polka pochettes and silks of high fashion.
A blue suit that makes you look rather dashing,
Hand-tied bow ties that make your ensemble sing,
These are a few of of my favourite things!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

We Are Known For Being Capable Of Taking Your Dreams And Turning Them Into A Reality – Jack Sepetjian Of Anto's Shirts In Beverly Hills

Final Scene – Pretty Woman

Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don't; but keep on dreamin' - this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin'.

There is something about Los Angeles that is breathtaking – as though the entire city was built in a reflexive manner between art and life that mirrors itself across time so that quite often you have to pinch yourself and check your own reality. I’d find living in Los Angeles to be a heady experience and I’d expect to get lost in it pretty quickly. I have the kind of bullshit that is a strong currency in the City Of Angels – countless stories on me to tell of tailors and tid bits on cloth production and weaving mills, of costume designers and production houses I’ve visited. I imagine that with my ten years of blogging behind me I could dine out on textiles like Dominick Dunne dined out on crime.
As you stand on the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard you just feel that Pretty Woman feeling – that this is America and anything might happen today. Back one street away and the façade, just like a movie set, is gone. It only takes one street to be away from the over-the-top and decadent building designs of Gucci or the modernist and clean whites of Tom Ford, flanked by perfect palm trees. And its there that you can find the lesser known backbone businesses. Ones that have been there for quite some time and it is there, on North Beverly Drive, that you will find one of the most interesting stores in Los Angeles, Anto Shirt.

An ouevre of work for film and television, for the real and the fictitious - the work of Anto's of Beverly Hills is plain to see in their showroom

Left Anthony, grandson, and right, Jack, son of Anto, the master shirt maker. 

The story of Anto begins in Lebanon in 1955 when an Armenian named Anto Sepetjian began a career in making shirts. In those days, perhaps the art form of shirt making was less complex but it was a breeding ground for some of the best shirt makers in the world today. It was back then the Paris of the East. Civil war tore much of that apart and though he had a strong list of existing customers from Saudi’s to Lebanese parliamentarians, he gave it up and moved his family to Los Angeles in 1976.

At first, he occupied a space on the second floor of a building on the corner of Brighton Way and North Beverly Drive. The building was occupied by Beverly Hills Silks And Woolens – a business which is said to be one of those famous institutions that everybody in Hollywood used to use when making garments for movies. It was owned by a man called Herschensohn, and according to Jack Sepetjian, Anto’s son, this was how Anto got his break. Herschensohn, who had great contacts in Hollywood, began sending Anto customers to make shirts and soon his reputation became one of distinction.

The late Don Rickles has shirts made with Anto

Late in the seventies when Bo Derek was in hot demand post her raunchy movie ‘10’, it was said she came in to get measured for shirts and this was the turning point at which Anto and his shirts became synonymous with celebrity.

Today the business has an oeuvre of work behind them that includes heads of state, royalty, US Presidents and so on but it’s the work in both films and on film stars that have brought me here. It was an interview with Hollywood costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, a woman who is so accomplished in film costume design that I hung on her every word. When I questioned her where she went for a scalloped lilac shirt she put on Michael Douglas’ ‘Liberace’ in Behind The Candelabra, she said “I only trust Anto’s in Beverly Hills. “

A lovely evening shirt which I had really coveted whilst visiting though I was surprised that the store had more or less only pre-tied bow ties.... 

For a small store on North Beverly Drive, it is a very unassuming place to find a shirt maker of distinction and of potentially more importance than a Parisian institution like Charvet. Mostly because if were to watch a film with a character who wore shirts from Charvet, chances are it would be made at Anto’s workroom in Sherman Oaks, California and not at Charvet.
Coming back to my original remark about the reflexivity about Los Angeles, here to is an example of that working and breathing reflexivity. Michael Douglas’ patterns are on file in Anto’s factory which used to be a bank and contains a large vault. Inside that vault are over 12000 patterns of some of the world’s most revered actors and all the characters that they will most likely play in films, from Presidents to poets. So, when Michael Douglas plays Liberace, his shirt pattern is in the vault at Anto’s. They tweak it, find the fabrics required and voila, he’s ready to play his role. But when Michael Douglas is ready to get married to Catherine Zeta Jones – he’s once again calling up Anto’s – this time to make his pattern as a dinner shirt.

Cuff details and collars which were both exciting and innovative in construction. I would have loved to have had them make me a shirt if I had more time.

And Anto’s responds. In the case of Douglas’ dinner shirt, Ellen Mirojnick who got Douglas ready called Anto’s a day out from the wedding. Douglas’ wedding shirt wasn’t right, could they make him another one that same day and send it Fedex to New York over night? And Anto’s will oblige, because managing customers, especially Hollywood types, is what keeps them in business.

All patterns are still made in cardboard despite the team owning plotters and printers and CAD drawings systems. Jack says the company still runs better with cardboard patterns and they have over 12000 stored in a bank vault in their factory (which used to be a bank)

When you walk into the long oblong shape showroom you are struck by a few things. Firstly, there is little fanfare – it really is predominantly about shirts. There are a sprinkle of pre-tied bow ties (I hope to change that one day soon) and some nice but not exactly show stopping neck ties. But then you see a wall of whites and then columns of colours and sprinkled between them all are Hollywood styled signed portraits all thanking Anto’s for turning their dreams into realities. There’s Don Rickles (may his memory be eternal) smiling back at you from the wall in a tuxedo and over-sized bow tie, Will Ferrell has a funny sort of crazed look on his face, Russell Crowe looks like he’s ready to fight around the world, Brad Pitt is covering his mouth, Matt Damon is in mid conversation with George Clooney, Jeremy Irons looks stunned, the Rat Pack are all laughing, Kirk Douglas, Steve Martin, Robert Deniro, Ronald Reagan and Frank Sinatra all smiling and signed thanking Anto for his service.

Cuff details

These days much of that one -to-one relationship between the shirt maker and customer is becoming eroded by the rise of the ‘stylist’ who becomes the go between celebrity and maker but to this day Anto’s enjoys consistent business from a loyal celebrity database and the reason is simple – they can make a shirt from start to finish on a pattern they develop in a factory that is located in the same city. Brands like Gucci and Tom Ford cannot offer such a service and since celebrities like things just the way they want them, Anto’s still thrives.

Not two weeks earlier they had completed 50 shirts for Tom Cruise for the premiere of his new movie as he travelled around the globe to release it. Of Tom Cruise they said that the bulk of his shirts were the same cut all in subtle shades of navy.

For films they draw upon shirt collars and cuffs that date back to the 1800’s and more recently they recreated a bespoke Hawaiian styled shirt for Ryan Gosling in La La Land as well as Deniro's shirt as he played Bernie Madoff. Every time they make a shirt it is still made from a cardboard pattern, the cloth cut by hand, sewed by a single needle plain sewer via seamstresses at their Sherman Oaks factory.

When we had finished our meeting, I was ready to be measured for a shirt but an old friend from Sydney had arrived to pick me up. At $375 as a starting price for a bespoke shirt I thought it quite reasonable and I was quite enamoured with one of the more beautiful dinner shirts in the window. Pressed for time I had to let it go, we were due to take lunch around the corner. I took a photo outside the Beverly Wilshire with a chap that was dressed in green and whose job it was to be friendly and give directions. I was wearing my Oz t-shirt, it was gold and green, shiny and new, designed after the staff who take care of Dorothy when she gets to the Emerald City. It could not have been a more appropriate shirt to wear.
We sat down to lunch and watched men and women struntz the promenade with fatted lips, coiffed hair, three piece suits, dangling jewels. It was all here, on show, a movie in the making. Ruby pointed out a woman in the distance “she was on Melrose place, do you remember the one with the drinking problem” .

Some words sounded in my mind “Keep on dreamin' - this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin'.”

Cuff details

Find out more or shop Anto shirts ready to wear range here

Sunday, May 28, 2017

More Portraits Please !

I love a good portrait sent in to us and this one is particularly wonderful. The subject is Peter Harris and he is wearing a lilac Le Noeud Papillon custom made shirt with one of our red lapel roses and a silk yuzen bow tie he purchased a month ago from us. One of the most alluring of the yuzen silks so far. Our customers are not just our customers anymore, not for the long term ones anyway. I have come to know them as friends because we exchange ideas like friends, we keep in contact like friends and we admire one another like friends do. 

Peter introduced me to the jazz musician Ute Lemper, he has given me quite a number of ideas for silks, for blog content and for my business. I can remember the first time I met him outside my store, he was impeccably dressed, so well spoken and mildly mannered. 

His jacket was a new linen silk commission from Ede and Ravenscroft and I think he did well not to use a pochette. The bow tie and silk lapel flower are more than enough and the use of solids to allow the bow tie to be the centre point of one's focus is a crafty bit of menswear. The bow is, owing to the Japanese artisans that made the silk, a work of art, and a work of art always is best supported by a border that complements rather than competes with the art.

Please, if you have a smashing photo wearing one of our bow ties, we'd love to see it.


It Was All A Dream

When Australians travel it takes a long time to get anywhere and in between you and your destination is this kind of in-between world of aircraft travel - of lights on and the rumble of jets, the serving of a meal, the pop of the first valium, then a groggy toilet run, a movie, back to sleep, lights off, shutters down, a snack, a glass of water, shades up, rubbery omelette and mushrooms and then the hellish nightmare of negotiating an airport at the other side. It reminds me of the slumbering in-between worlds in the Narnia chronicles but with some Nightmare on Elm Street added in for good measure.

You do your best to function at the other end but clearly you are not quite in your old world and not quite in the new.

My hotel in Los Angeles was delightful but I wasn't able to check into my room until 3pm and so I took a shower next to the bungalows and waited to be picked up to take my friend's dog for a walk and a frisbee. The dog was a Australian sheep dog, a ginger kelpie dog but for the moment I have forgotten it's name. But a beautiful dog, a beautiful coat. We played on a patch of wet grass underneath the Hollywood sign on a water reserve that seemed to be frequented by locals on one side and tourists on the other. I had arrived in a daze and yet somehow I had to pull through for an afternoon at the Soho House in Malibu. My friend was playing music there. I had a dinner back in West Hollywood at 8pm. I was in a new city, one which I hadn't visited since I was seven years old and one which I came to detest based mostly on the opinion of Woody Allen in Annie Hall, not through my own experience.

Yet as I drove around I felt this city was charming the pants off me. The flora was enchanting, jacarandas and bougainvillea, palm trees and cacti - all neatly organised to show off these wonderful houses which all looked so perfect and pretty. We moved from West Hollywood through Beverley Hills, then passed UCLA and Brentwood. I got caught up in the romance. I was having flash backs of Ford Fairlane, All Of Me, The Big Lebowski, 21 Jump Street, Booker, The Big Sleep, La La Land and every other influential bit of Los Angeles culture we'd come to absorb through the natural osmosis of television and cinema.

By the time I got to dinner I was just about a train wreck so I used a small nap, then meditation and alcohol to get me back into full swing and we went to some restaurant with some old friends at a place called Cecconi's in West Hollywood but not before taking some typical selfies in front of the Chateau. I returned to my hotel late that same night before trading my bow tie to see a woman take her top off at the bar, her gay friend egging her on. I popped a valium to help me sleep but it had the effect of making me realise I was human, that my body could only cope with so much stress, air travel, a full day in a new city, a big dinner and drinks - I was alone in a hotel where John Belushi died - what a sad death that would be - on your first night in a new city.

I was so happy when I awoke the next day. I was honestly surprised and I made myself a promise to calm down and get my head straight and focused on the trip ahead. I had to meet up with the family that ran Anto's shirts in Beverley Hills, and I was trying to line up an appointment with Cameron Silver from Decades in Melrose. I soaked in Venice and Abbot Kinney at some point, stood in a line for an organic coffee which seemed to take forever whilst a bunch of dudes who looked like they would otherwise be unemployable made absolutely no attempt to any kind of tempo.

The truth is we Australians live in these kinds of a rambling daze from the moment we step onto an aircraft until the moment we get home. And even now, still recovering from jet lag, I am wondering it it indeed all happened or whether it was all just some kind a dream.

One such evening was on a Monday night after returning from a wedding in Connecticut where I was fortunate to enough to have been invited and also to have made the bows for the wedding party. With the wedding all done and dusted I returned to New York to have my suit pressed and ready to meet a group of contemporaries at a bar of the choosing of Mr. James Andrew, blogger extraordinaire, one of the few who responded early on in the piece when I tried to get some international attention for our bow ties. We'd never met - that strange relationship you can have with someone on the internet - you talk but you don't really talk. You chat on whatsapp. You say hello at Christmas, add each other on Facebook - but you don't really know each other.

I had a certain nervousness. Not only was I meeting someone who had become a sort of modern day pen pal, but he was bringing along Scott McBee, his partner, as well as The Snob Report, The Italian Gent and The Style Professor. It was quite amusing, to meet all these handles as human beings.

It was a great night exchanging all sorts of ideas talking about who wore what and what bunches and which tailor and how much did they pay etc etc. It was just so nice to catch up with people who had an interest in the same things and who were genuinely interested in their clothes and not from a labels perspective, but from a make, construction, cloth, cut, texture, aesthetic perspective. We moved on from drinks to have pasta together at a local Italian restaurant, taking up one of their private dining rooms before we all disbanded without dessert. It was my last night in New York, my last night in the United States. You arrive in a daze, you scramble along each day, before you know if you have the moment you have been waiting for, the soiree you have been communicating about for weeks. Then poof, it's over, the moment is gone, nothing remains but a few digital images on an Instagram wall and some credit card slips you have stowed in your suitcase.

I sincerely thank those few that came for drinks. It was just so nice to meet you all and talk like human beings were designed to do.

The Rotunda at the Pierre

Left to right; The Style Professor, Scott McBee, The Italian Gent, The Snob Report (farthest back) , James Andrew and myself. 

I wore a Yuzen silk bow tie, Hermes pocket square and a royal blue barathea wool by Barrington Fabrics made by Leng Bespoke of Sydney. The shirt is a Le Noeud Papillon custom made shirt using SIC Tess fabric.  

Monday, May 1, 2017

A New Custom Backgammon Board For A Le Noeud Papillon Customer - Made By Geoffrey Parker In England

It is a very rare occasion that I am asked by a patron to make a backgammon board and it is such a privilege to see the result when it's finished. There was a lot of to and fro on this particular board with the end users wanting a board which was thematically in tune with their day harbour cruising boat. The logo and the name of the boat, which included a lyre, which pays homage to Orpheus, a passenger on Jason and the Argonauts boat, who plays music to subdue the sirens, needed to work in without cluttering the board. The story is better told by Wikipedia

Chiron had told Jason that without the aid of Orpheus, the Argonauts would never be able to pass the Sirens—the same Sirens encountered by Odysseus in Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. The Sirens lived on three small, rocky islands called Sirenum scopuli and sang beautiful songs that enticed sailors to come to them, which resulted in the crashing of their ship into the islands. When Orpheus heard their voices, he drew his lyre and played music that was more beautiful and louder, drowning out the Sirens' bewitching songs.

The embossing stamp was used on the cups, on the doubling cube and inside the right hand side pockets. 

If you would like Le Noeud Papillon to help craft you your ultimate backgammon board or poker set, do not hesitate to contact us on

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Interview: Dominic Sebag Montefiore - Creative Director Of Edward Sexton

The story of the Montefiores, as told by my underground informant Carlos Oppenheimer, began when Moses Montefiore, who made a fortune at an early age out of being the stock broker for Nathan Rothschild, began a life of philanthropy which still to this day benefits Jewish people all around the world. He died in 1885 leaving no 'known' children and bequeathed his estate to Joseph Sebag-Montefiore. 

The family, which by Oppenheimer's account is quite large, has never stopped striving to achieve and to contribute to British society and whilst the most famous living member is perhaps the historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore, whose documentaries (I've not read the books that form the basis of them sadly) are masterful tales on cities and empires, I recently noticed that another Sebag-Montefiore was putting his best foot forward at Edward Sexton.

Dominic Sebag-Montefiore (DSM) is the 'creative director' of Sexton these days, a title which, in a small tailoring outfit, doesn't really give the total picture. So I spoke with DSM a few weeks back to understand what his role is and from the angle of succession planning. Edward Sexton is now 70 and whilst he looks like a man who might chew his food well and live to 100, the tailoring business relies heavily on eyesight, shoulders, backs, joints and fingers. But finding the right younger blood to take up the slack is not easy, so there must be something rather promising in DSM for him to be chosen.

DSM is very proud of the Sexton history and intends to continue in that vein as Edward Sexton must inevitably wind back his role in the day to day operations. I asked him if he would take the business into a RTW line or expand it like some other more ubiquitous international brands we see today. He said he had no such expectation. Quality was paramount, so too was individual attention. DSM explained that whilst there may be a push in new directions and an expansion of existing services, he had no intention of Edward Sexton turning into a Giorgio Armani or a Ralph Lauren.

I think this is noble and exceptional. Here is DSM in his own words. 

Dominic, you have said that you would never want Edward Sexton as a brand to become a global behemoth in order to protect the quality and integrity of the brand, but could you see the style of Sexton ever being offered in RTW in perhaps the same way that Cifonelli has taken it’s creative and technical skills of tailoring into department stores?

We are proud of the Sexton signature look and want to help people who like what we do enjoy great clothes, beautifully made and a sensible price. We are keen to expand our offering, but at the end of the day we are a tailoring brand and that is at the heart of everything we do. Growth is a great thing but we do not want to get too far away from what we do so well.

The Sexton look is something which I myself have recreated but not to the same technical expertise and without a clear understanding of exactly what it was that I thought defined it. In my opinion, the look is defined by a slightly dipped and then clearly defined roped shoulder, generous peaked or notched lapels which extend near to the chest seams, a double-breasted front as preference, darker tones in blues, a cuffed trouser with pleat and a respect for the drape of fabric. Could you tell me in your words if I am right or correct me where I am wrong?

As what we do is bespoke we treat each customer individually and for that reason our house style is somewhat shifting, and over time our tastes change so we don't favour one thing over another. For example, recently we have been steering some of our more stylish clients to wider leg trousers with17”- 19” bottoms and full pleats, or even Hollywood tops on casual trousers. Shoulders have been moving from square to more pagoda shaped. But what I can say is we like a strong shoulder with constructed chest - with drape. We prefer a roped sleeve head and lapels that are long, low and leafy.

Dominic Sebag-Montefiore left with Edward Sexton right. 

I have always found that with sweeping lapels you require a higher collar stand on your shirt and I notice that you have often high collar stand peaked collars on your website with tie pins through them. Is this the only sort of collar you suggest that marries with the style of suit you make or are there others?

We are big fans of the peak collar as it works well for a formal Sexton look with our broad lapels, but it is not the only option. When choosing a shirt collar (and in-fact tie width and knot) you should consider the length and width of your neck in proportion to your shoulders and chest. That said the pin (and tab) collar can echo the sweep of our peek lapels elegantly and resonate with the 1920s reference of them.

The turtle neck sweater with an ES suit is a wonderful look. In Australia, however, the weather does not permit most men in major cities to wear a turtle neck to work because in the middle of the day, even in winter, temperatures can get quite hot. Can you tell me what you might recommend for Australian men as some light weight alternatives to a turtle neck that might give them a chic way to dress more casually with a suit during the week?

This is difficult because for me this is a classic winter look there are some good fine gage knitwear about with a high percentage of silk in which may wear cooler. If it is for more casual wear we have clients who wear their suits well with an elegant polo shirt or a nice quality t-shirt. A Breton stripe can be a good casual option. For t-shirts, something with a little line can add at bit of texture and make it drape in a way that lends itself more to summer tailoring than cotton. We also have some more flamboyant clients who will wear a soft silk shirt with the collar unfastened with their jackets.

Post Tom Ford and the spread of new MTM programs the oversized peaked lapel suit became so ubiquitous thanks to social media that it almost seemed like some chaps were flopping their lapel over their back before heading out for the evening (😊 ) . But this is not the Sexton way, and somehow your look has been persevered despite imitations. Can you explain what it is that defines proportions for you that makes the quality of your work stand out and why some of those that imitate tend to look tacky and over-stated?

We approach what we do taking inspiration from 1920s and 30s. We look back but don’t stare. Edward is old enough to remember seeing the films from this era before these proportions were reimagined in the 1970s - Edward was one of those doing the reimagining. So, I think we approach what we do with a direct reference to the elegance and style of the 1930s and perhaps others are going via the flamboyance of the 1970s. Don’t forget a lot of our clients are elegant businessmen who exist in a conservative environment so for some of them what we do is pushing the boundaries too far.

Matin Freeman wearing Edward Sexton in The Rake Magazine

You mentioned that you were interested in taking the web business in a new direction. Can you tell our readers about the challenges that smaller companies face when tackling production of stock for websites and about the changing way brands like yourselves have to evolve and change with the times?

The most important thing for us is to find workshops and manufacturers who want to work with us, and to look after the relationships. If I must deal with a shirt maker, for example, I don’t want to spend all day sending litigious emails and hassling them about little details. I want to work with someone who is nice to talk to and fun to work with, someone who gets excited about our new projects and pays attention to detail so I can trust in them and learn from them. Don’t forget I am a tailor first and that is what I like to spend my time doing, so if the business side of the web shop is not pleasurable it will get dropped very quickly. Because we are quite a small shop now, we struggle with managing stock of our shirts and find that we can be out of stock quickly on styles if someone writes about them, and it can take a few months to replenish stock as to make the project commercially viable we have to order quite a few shirts in one go.

What is the greatest piece of tailoring wisdom that Edward Sexton has imparted upon your since you began working with him and what is the most important business wisdom he has explained to you about running a bespoke atelier?

There are two. 1. A faint heart never won a fair lady.  2. Always stick to your knitting.

We spoke briefly about you wearing Chelsea shoes with suits, something which I adore myself. Can you tell us about your shoe and suit collections at the moment and if you are working on any new commissions over the coming months?

My shoe collection, I have a lot, but my tastes have changed recently so I am not that happy about many of them. I am loving my new bitter chocolate monk straps. I am working on for my next suit a light beige flannel suit with Hollywood top trousers.

Bianca Jagger - an icon of style - wore sweeping peaked and notched lapels that were cut by Edward Sexton under the directorship of Tommy Nutter in what is now a golden age of suiting which saw the likes of Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Ringo Starr and many more all wear the Nutters look which has evolved into the modern Sexton look.
The genesis of the Sexton look derived from Edward Sexton's days as the head cutter for avant-garde and showman tailor Tommy Nutter who died of complications from AIDS in the early 1990's.

Edward Sexton's relationship to rock n roll continues even today and many musicians still count on him to create the right sweeping look to wear on stage.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Zen And The Art Of Bonsai And Bow Tie Maintenance

Yesterday I bought myself a 'bonsai'  (Juniperus Squamata Prostrata 2005) for the Studio owing to some ridiculous infatuation I am having with the Japanese at the moment. I had a smaller less intense run of it about 12 months ago when, if some of you may recall, many Japanese ancient art references were used as backdrops for our bow ties in a series of photos for the blog and website.

It's grip this time around is starting to filter into my life philosophy and general psyche. Because the more I look at Japanese art the more I see references to other artists and their work. Brett Whiteley, for example, now appears to me as merely an evolved and Australian version of Japanese shunga art. His nudes take on almost the same contours and lines and I believe I read somewhere that he owned shunga art himself. 

Then, on another tangent, the Aesthetic, Audrey Beardsley, whom I had seen before but was re-introduced to this week by a guest at the Studio, it also carried the same references back to Japanese wood block printing.

Which brings me back to my bonsai. The word literally translates from Japanese into English as 'tree in a pot' but the word conjures up so much more than just a tree in a pot. I was in Caringbah the other day for work and I decided to stop into the local Bonsai nursery. I had driven past this business over the last 15 years and never bothered to stop in and since I was so immersed in Japanese culture I thought I might do well to pay them a visit. 

I walked amongst the nursery bewildered by what I saw. Conifers that had been clipped and pruned and maintained since the 1960's were there in pots looking absolutely stunning - a natural sculpture that was evolved from one persons imagination and a great deal of time and care to carefully shape and allow these plants to grow.

The owner, Leon, walked me around. He was Chinese but carried a sort of Mr Miyagi mannerism about him (though his accent was Chinese not Japanese) as I pointed things out. "That one", "that is $8000, I inherited it from my master, who had been working on it since 1972". 


"What do you think this is? You are not buying a pot plant, you are buying time, patience and nurture" . 

I took some more photos.

One part of bonsai culture is to make exact replications of larger trees, carefully pruning and maintaining them to be in the exact same proportions. Another part of the culture of bonsai is to create shapes and contours which are conjured up in the bonsai artists mind. Moreover, there is some fluidity to it, because the bonsai is always growing and changing, to the artist must continue to evolve with it by constant clipping and trimming, being mindful of the health of the plant when considering the aesthetic qualities. 

Bonsais are best kept out in the open with as much sun as possible, with the ideal place being somewhere on a garden bench. You can bring them inside to admire them and maintain them, but they need fresh air and sun too. As well as constant watering. Then over time they need to be replanted along with pruning and trimming. 

Something makes me want to make a good go of this bonsai. Maybe it's a metaphor for nurturing your business. Maybe at the end when I have sculpted it to taste it might turn into a silk. Maybe I'll grown bored of it and it will die or it will be too much maintenance and I'll hand it on to someone else. 

Time will tell, but I am certain that there will be plenty of lessons to be learned along the way.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Rest In Peace Don Rickles, I Miss You Already

Seeing Don Rickles on the tribute they held for him last year was really a good way to say goodbye. He was old and it was actually sad to see him surrounded by none of his peers - he outlived them all. 

His comedy was so good that to this day it doesn't matter how many times I watch him do faux Italian to Frank Sinatra on Johnny Carson or how many times I watch him say 'Reegan or Reagan, what do they call you?"  - I just burst out laughing and can barely contain myself. 

It comes at a time when this week I consumed two comedy specials on Netflix, Dave Chapelle and Louis C.K - both were terrific but they didn't have that special magic that Don Rickles had and his death, for me, marks the last final door closing on an era that has well and truly passed which will never be repeated again.

Reagan, Sinatra, Hope, Davis, Brooks, Martin, Heston - all those wonderful guests on the old Roasts, they're all gone. Now Rickles too.

Goodbye old friend, you never stopped making me laugh. 

Vintage Charvet And The Hidden Treasures Of Ebay

I think if I were to be asked to fill in a questionnaire about myself I would list Ebay as a hobby which was now perhaps something of a process addiction.

Sometimes I find myself unable to get to sleep and so I reach for my phone and check on the price of a Smythson diary. Then I'll do a quick search for Marco Pescarolo jeans or make a search under a luxury seller for everything that's in my size (don't ask). 

Unlike a regular retailer who might stock a small stable of brands and stock one or two types of black oxford shoes, Ebay is like going into some old monastery and being given the key to the library. It is like a tomb, but then it's also not. It's maybe better described as a jungle, where you can forage from the top of the canopy right down to the jungle floor and everything in between. However, unlike a jungle, there is some decorum because nearly all of the sellers are subject to being reviewed for their products and services, so even the hyena and the vulture are perfectly well behaved as they perform their function.

And we, as buyers, are not much different. We are mostly scavengers, trawling through a garbage heap looking for what's been undervalued or under-loved, also subject to review. 

A week ago I found an extraordinary thing on Ebay. As most of you who read this blog would know, my business was founded with a great love and appreciation for the institution that is Charvet of Paris. And even ten years on and having done a lot of great work ourselves, I still find myself having a certain sigh of romance when I think about the Parisian maker. 

Someone, somewhere, had decided to call it a day for this matching royal blue ottoman silk cummerbund and bow tie set and it had been moved to a clearing house somewhere in Chicago. I bought it because I was fascinated by the cummerbund - and I had wanted to know how they had made theirs in what appeared to be an  80's era make. 

When it arrived I opened it up and, as I often do, the first thing I do is give it a smell. This particular item had that smell of having had a long life with many dinner parties, a few speeches, a few liasons and then quite possibly a heart attack. I tried to imagine a larger than life American, possibly a lawyer, raising a glass to his friends at his Chicago men's only club with a spumante style of champagne glass, his stomach swollen and pressing heat and sweat through the marcella bib onto his cummerbund, slightly sweating at the brow and daubing it with his napkin.

We don't know the history of it but it's nice to think fondly that this particular set meant something to someone and had been worn a great deal. 

As I turned over the cummerbund I noticed that the bow tie was attached so I cut off the string that attached it to the the bund, the bow was a little manky looking so I thought I would give it a press and try to re-tie it but as I pulled at the bow the whole thing snapped and unravelled in front of me. It wasn't a self-tying bow tie at all, and that was an even bigger surprise than the cummerbund.

The bow was in fact a piece of batwing silk that had been knotted somehow and then had been attached to the rear strap with a stitch. It was the most unusual and most endearing and natural way I had ever seen a pre-tied bow tie be made and my heart started thumping for Charvet again.

The arrival of the set that day just happened to coincidentally occur when, the very evening before, I had caught up for dinner with a chief executive of a publicly listed property trust who had, as he had lowered himself into his chair at the table, plonked in the clean white linen space between my knife and fork, two Tom Ford bow ties. 

"Can you please re-tie these for me - I don't know who else to ask. Someone untied them on me. I can't work out how to re-tie them".

I looked at him and shook my head. 

There in front of me was a batwing and a very oversized modified butterfly looking shape where the blade on the right ended with a hook which then attached to a very elongated left wing blade. I think the last time I had tied a Tom Ford bow tie, after I removed the foam, was about five years ago. I was up for the challenge.

All three bow ties represented some of the hardest puzzles I have undertaken in the last three years and I would like to explain why.

Tom Ford bow ties, whilst they look exceptional when they are merchandised, were in fact extremely difficult to tie as a standard self-tying bow tie. I have since learned that this is an in-joke amongst some of the well heeled brutes of Sydney, that in fact, when they see someone wearing a Tom Ford bow tie, they walk up and untie his bow tie so that he is then at a loss of how to get the bow back to it's original form. It's kind of like what women do to each other when they throw champagne on the other's dress.... fairly catty, but highly effective. Added to this insult is that there are blocks of foam inside the Tom Ford bows which, once they are dislodged, are very hard to put back into place.

So my morning was spent dissecting and analysing these bow ties and when I posted the two Tom Ford bow ties back to said CEO, I had a sense of relief. They didn't look at good as when he'd bought them and it was quite difficult to even tie them given the placement of the right arm hook, but I got there. 

The Charvet pre-tied bow tie, however, was still a mystery. And it took me another 48 hours to work out how they had tied it. It was as fascinating as if I were playing with a Rubik's Cube for the first time. Did I turn it this way, did I push it that way, what hole did I poke it through, where did you attach the strap from?

My seamstress said to me "you are a twit, you should have brought it to me before you pressed it, I could have told you by the crease marks" , but it was too late and truthfully, I wanted the challenge.

Five years ago on a December night in a hotel room in midtown New York I cracked another secret of bow tie making and presentation, the act of tying a bow tie on a flat surface.  , and not since then had I had such a Eureka moment. 

As I often say to store staff when I teach them how to tie bow ties in different ways, once you master the skill, you can very near guarantee yourself a job in menswear retailing for the rest of your days.

As for how to tie the piece of silk below - I will leave it to our blog readers to work it out. And if you do, make an Instagram video and tag us. I'll send the best knotted one a free Yuzen silk bow tie on the house!

Friday, April 7, 2017

New Yuzen Silks Just Uploaded - And They're Very Sensual

The song goes 'I think I'm turning Japanese' and the more I dabble with Yuzen silk the more I am turning that way. My love for woven jacquard has not subsided and our own 'Great Wave Of Kanagawa' which is etched red on a royal warp is superlative, but it's not Yuzen. Yuzen is something that is unlike any other silks I have worked with in both weight and finish and it's a challenge to find the right part of each panel to create a bow and then select the correct reverse. 

A new batch is now online. They're about as sensual as Japanese shunga art. And perhaps they might lead to that at the end of the night. :) 

Shop them now.

Barrington Fabrics - For Those Of You Who Still Have A Tailor In The City Where You Live !

Recently I was approached on Instagram by Barrington Fabrics to try their range of wools for suits and jackets along with their range of linings. It coincided with me having had an urge to produce a new suit for the window of Le Noeud Papillon since we had been focusing heavily on art of recent and less on tailoring. In fact, it might have been over a year since I last made a suit which was unusual for us.

Two tones of colours I have recently been enamoured with are both royal blue, which you can see below as a wool and as the warp of our most recent 'Great Wave Of Kanagawa' silk as well as a kind of less than navy blue but darker than royal. That was the tone, which I have no describing word for,  which was first suggested to me by a patron of Le Noeud Papillon which I sadly was unable to keep happy as a customer. He had come bearing an image of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the front page of GQ before he had become PM and whilst he was still marketing for the job. He was wearing a beautiful blue suit, certainly not navy, definitely not royal. 

The customer had come to me to try an MTM suit service I was offered out of Asia which is very low cost and actually quite enjoyable if you know how to navigate their ordering system, which is mostly in mandarin. I had ordered the requested blue but it arrived and looked lighter than the royal below in colour and definitely not the less than navy colour desired. We went back to the drawing board and cut the customer a navy suit at our expense. It arrived, it was not the right fit in the shoulders, though the trousers were fine - how had the factory got the same measurements and made an ill fitting suit?  Then we went on to do a third suit, this time, once again, the jacket was slightly out and I was now very much out of pocket. I drew a line in the sand and the customer and I locked horns.

It is the reason I have never wanted and never will do suits as a core business. My experience is that customers of a bespoke or MTM suit service are never entirely satisfied and even if they love it when they first walk out of the showroom, chances are they'll come back with a list of grievances in six months time.

Personally, I am a lot more forgiving with my tailor. The ones I still choose to deal with I have learned not to spoil the apple cart with. For you never know who will cut your next suit and if you grind your tailor on every aspect of the suit, from wool colour to cut,  to construction, to the fine details,  you will eventually wear thin the relationship. I have trousers from a navy suit I cut with a reputable Sydney tailor almost three years ago that are an inch off on the hips. I never got him to alter the suit - because I knew I had pushed him to change the waist band from his ordinary construction to something I invented and more importantly, I knew I would one day want him to cut me another suit.

Which brings me to one very special point - the fabric itself. Often tailors who make suits don't have the time to become exacting wool experts for you in terms of selecting colours and weaves and usually only offer bunches which are often given to them by fabric merchants who frequent the tailoring house. But increasingly as businesses move onto the web and social media you can find many new businesses which vertically integrate their supply chain straight onto the web. One such business is Barrington fabrics and by speaking to their salesman Aman directly, I was finally able to secure myself some less than navy, more than royal blue wool  - a navy with a royal shimmer if you will. 

Barrington fabrics isn't the answer to all your problems when it comes to tailored suits - but it is one way to take one of the problem areas away from the tailor - by researching and buying a reputable Huddersfield wool directly from a business located near the weaving looms which you can then put straight into your tailors hands thereby removing one more link in the chain that might break your experience.

As for that tone of blue - I have decided to call it 'Turnbull blue' - because on the one hand it is conservative like a navy - on the other it has a sort of establishment blue blood shimmer about it on certain angles. I think that's rather fitting.

The Bow Tie That Sold For $1795 Australian Dollars - A Record For Le Noeud Papillon And Possibly The World's Most Expensive Bow Tie

I have a great deal to be grateful for this week. Firstly, I am alive and healthy and I am still able to do what I enjoy doing, namely the art of self-tying bow ties. Secondly, because something I had invested in some time ago paid off. By inlaying diamonds into an 18k solid rose gold clip for a bow tie, something that would be a hidden pleasure and never seen to the general public under a turned down collar, it was really on a whim or a folly that I could expect one of our patrons to indulge.

When I started considering who might buy such a thing I cultivated an idea of an eccentric billionaire from the Ukraine, an Arab prince or bored Russian. It was none of those people but instead a loyal and long standing customer of Le Noeud Papillon who took the plunge after he fell in love with our Yuzen silk bow ties.

As I write I can cast my head over the screen to the next batch of Yuzen silks that I have just been finished today and were photographed about an hour ago. I won't tell you which ones I love, suffice to say that some of them are almost as wonderful at the three below, which were particularly piquant.

And which bow had the clips? The bow on the far left below. It was just so unusual and such a one of a kind bow tie. 

I am aware that not everyone will want to own one of these bow ties, and I am just fine with that. But for those who are able to wear a reverso, who love the vibrancy of these silks I offer just one suggestion - let the bow tie speak for itself. A solid coloured wool for a suit and a white shirt is all it needs. I've seen our patron D. Meisenburg in the USA wear it perfectly with a grey suit and white shirt, whilst I myself wore one with a pink suit and white shirt the week before. On Sunday when I went out for lunch wearing one with a cashmere jumper, I couldn't help but feel I have crowded out the bow tie with the arglye weave of the sweater. I won't do it again.

Stay tuned. More will be on the website shortly. 

The far left bow was the one chosen for the 18k solid rose gold hardware and sold to a patron in Texas. 

The solid 18k rose gold with diamond inlay hardware bow tie which sold for $1795 this week of which we donated $400 to Barnardos charity which raises money for kids stuck in abusive homes. 

Our regular 18k rose gold plated hardware on a yuzen silk bow tie