It’s not enough to purely show off high-end brands or accumulate things in the name of luxury; what is becoming more and more imperative is the desire to be informed of the goods you’re buying into. In the world of horology, this concept is easy to grasp; in the world of fashion where trends begin and end in the blink of an eye, not so much. How do you ensure something sparks joy for you for the years to come? What you’re looking for isn’t just based on design or quality but an emotional connection to the craft.
Here, we spotlight a few brands who place craftsmanship first and foremost and create objects that connect with you today and outlast trends of tomorrow.
Marol used to be one of those small ateliers which made exceptional products but are so obscure that unless you were in the know, you would never have heard of them. The small-scale atelier based in Bologna has been quietly making shirts since it was established in 1959 by Rosanna Saguatti and her husband Luciano, and today is run by their daughter Manuela Vignudelli. But until Bo Yang, a sartorial former Canadian investment banker and commodities trader, was welcomed into the family business to help rethink its business strategy, the brand received an unjustifiably small amount of attention.
Yang had no previous experience in retail but had always harbored a love for aesthetics and quality menswear. What he saw was an unparalleled level of quality and refined style in Marol’s creations, and he knew there was potential to bring the brand further.
There’s so much attention placed on tailoring suits, but the majority of “bespoke” shirts on the market today are still sewn poorly. For Yang, bespoke doesn’t only imply a great fit, it had to be synonymous with the highest level of craftsmanship too. Superlative fabrics, mother-of-pearl buttons, to the shape of the collar and the proportions of the shirt, can be make or break when it comes to the perfect shirt.
Marol is quintessentially Italian and truly the essence of the stylish contemporary man. Its shirts are executed by female artisans over several generations. If you didn’t know where to find your perfect shirt before, well, now you know.
Right Foot Forward
John Lobb is one heritage brand that traces its roots back to the mid-19th century and still remains a family business today. Lobb was an extremely gifted shoemaker. In 1863, he became the bootmaker to the then Prince of Wales and by 1924, he had a steady stream of international clientele, including Hermès, whose harness workshop operated beside Lobb’s own shop on Regent Street.
When Hermès acquired John Lobb in 1976, it marked a new chapter for both brands. Now under the fifth generation of boot and shoemakers, John Lobb has steadily expanded its presence with bespoke ateliers in London and Paris, a By Request service and a growing ready-to-wear collection.
John Lobb shoes are unmistakably English in tradition, and with 151 years of shoemaking expertise under its belt, there’s no reason not to be. In the bespoke atelier, it takes true dedication from John Lobb shoemakers to create the perfect shoe; a team of at least nine different specialist craftsmen is required to complete a 300-step manufacturing process over the course of six months to hand-make a pair of boots or shoes to the client’s exacting demands.
One thing we know is these shoes are made to last. And who better to market its durability than HRH Charles? The current Prince of Wales is still sporting his pair of bespoke oxfords from the 1970s and they look better than ever.
Something to Howl About
The men are not excluded from Hermès’ silk scarves collection. What’s more, the bestiary on the silk scarves have been further transformed into miniature paintings on the Arceau watch dials. The new “Awooooo!” Arceau watch takes on the motif originally created for the line of men’s scarves and replicates it in all its wild glory through enameling.
Great skill is required to create the imagery of the silver wolf howling into the night in all its magnificent realism. The white enamel dial is first polished before the outlines of the motif is traced on to the dial. Then, several layers of enamel are fired for the painting to take shape in subtle shades of grey and white, against the star-studded night sky with a crescent moon. The watch comes in white gold in the signature Arceau watch shape with the stirrup-shaped lugs; and with only the hour and minute hands running, we can admire the craftsmanship on the dial in its full entirety. The absolutely elegant timepiece comes in a very limited edition of only eight.
A Work of Art
Hermès may have had its beginnings in horse harnesses and bridles, but more ubiquitous today are its silk scarves—it is estimated that one is sold every 25 seconds worldwide. But despite the speed at which the scarves are sold, fast fashion the scarves are not. A single Hermès scarf still takes artisans 18 months to complete. When the Hermès silk scarf was first sold in 1937, it was an immediate hit because it was made from imported Chinese silk that made it stronger than scarves available at the time. They were also rendered in a vibrant array of colors, made in its own factory near Lyon that is still running today as it had all the years before, with the same pride and respect for the meticulous craft.
Today, the allure of the Hermès silk scarf remains as strong as ever, under the design and direction of Alice Shirley, who has been designing scarves for Hermès since 2012. The new designs for Spring/Summer 2019 feature both new and existing patterns in a kaleidoscopic array of colorways, with prints of animals and nature, and the brand’s signature equestrian themed illustrations.
There are many forces to be reckoned with in the men’s fashion industry, but one who really deserves the leading title is Alessandro Sartori. Currently the artistic director of Italian luxury giant Ermenegildo Zegna Group with creative power over all Zegna brands and other creative ventures, Sartori is like no one else when it comes to reinventing the codes of menswear tailoring. The designer is known for his obsession over fabrics, his expertise in his sartorial craft and has a knack for marrying traditional tailoring with sportswear tech, refining waterproof and wear-resistant textiles to the lightest of nylon cloths to create his relaxed workwear aesthetics.
Sartori’s sartorial journey for Ermenegildo Zegna Couture Men’s Spring/Summer 2019 is marked by an intention to reinterpret the suit. The suit was the concept, a reference point; on the runway, however, there was not a single suit-suit to be seen. But who is to insist a tailored suit had to be an ensemble of matching garments, preferably with a canvassed shoulder and a notch lapel? If what the biggest menswear fashion company is saying is that this is the future of men’s workwear, then who are we to argue otherwise? The clothes are still pleasing to the eye, the savoir-faire is still there, the collection is still unmistakably Zegna, and you’re still in the safe hands of Sartori.
Fashion houses are well wary of the fickle nature of trends, and thus, when they set their minds on creating watch and jewelry lines, popular themes and fads of the day are the last thing on their minds. Instead, smartly so, they turn to their archives and search for lasting inspirations there.
For Dior, the inspiration was genius. Christian Dior was passionate about ball gowns. When the designer arrived in Paris to frequent the French capital’s most avant-garde theme parties, he designed elaborate costumes to match. From this passion, the Dior Grand Bal watch was born in 2011. The centerpiece of the Dior Grand Bal was the oscillating weight, displayed on the dial side like the skirt of the gown fanning out in the wind. The oscillating weight had always provided a great opportunity for the watchmakers at Dior to channel their creativity in, and now with the launch of the Dior Grand Bal Couture “created-to-measure” service, the same creativity is afforded to the maison’s clients.
Launched this year, the customization service allows you to choose each and every component of the Grand Bal watch and push Dior’s watchmakers to the limits of their know-how. You could choose a case in gold or steel, a bezel set with brilliant or baguette diamonds, to a dial in colored lacquer, mother-of-pearl or gemstones of various colors such as opal, veined turquoise, malachite and more. The centerpiece, the oscillating weight, can also be customized down to the smallest details. Whether your preference is for the finely latticed, draped, feathered, sun-pleated or beribboned, you can choose every element from color to its setting. The back of the watch can also be rendered unique with an engraved message or a sun sign constellation—the hallmark of the house of Dior.
The countless choices are all presented in a prestige coffret, and there is only a few circulating around the world at the moment. The customization process could also be done with a designer from the Dior creative studio, who will guide you through your choices, from conception to delivery in a short five months.