Archives de Catégorie: Interviews in English

Interview with Seo Ilwon, founder of The Klaxon

We are proud to present to you an interview with Seo Ilwon, founder of the Korean shoe brand The Klaxon (here is our first article about the brand).

Lire la version française ici.Seo Ilwon

FTDF: Can you tell us about the different steps of your career and your background?

Seo Ilwon: I started my career as a men’s fashion merchandiser in 2004. I have always been interested in shoes. And as time went on, I became more and more obsessed with the idea of creating my own brand of shoes. Thus being in my thirties I decided to fully dedicate myself to create a proper brand.vestadbeige3

FTDF: How did you come up with the Klaxon concept? And how do you define it and its style?

Seo Ilwon: The concept of The Klaxon has started from our own taste: we make the shoes we want to wear. If we don’t like a shoe, we will not produce it. Fundamentally, we are also very concerned with the practical aspect of our products.vestadbrown1

For instance, we prefer to use rubber soles instead of traditional leather soles for a more comfortable wear and easier care.7_4

Design is of course very important but we make no compromise when we select materials. We aim to make a quality product.

FTDF: Where do you find your inspiration when you create a model like the Falconry Mouton Boots? Do you consult archives?

Seo Ilwon: We try to develop interesting items every season. When we started to develop the Mouton Boots, we just wanted to design a winter shoe to protect us from the cold and the snow we have every winter. After drawing a few ideas on paper, we were reminded of the falcony boots our fathers wore while hunting during the winter.falconry the klaxon 1

That was our inspiration for the Mouton Boots.FALCONRY-SUEDE

Actually, most of our shoes are inspired by our surroundings and our lifestyle.falconry ver 02

FTDF: Are you inspired by other shoe brands?

Seo Ilwon: We do not focus on specific brands. We tend to focus on product and we always try to make something different, to bring something new to the table.

We try as best as we can to make sure that our shoes and design are not similar to what other brands have done.7_6

If we feel like the design is too similar, we daringly throw it away.pallasbootsgcxldarkbrown3

FTDF: What kind of materials do you use to make the shoes?

Seo Ilwon: We are using Vibram and Dainite soles and leathers from Horween and Charles Stead.7_3

Next season, we will also use Cat’s Paw rubber heels.Cat's Paw

FTDF: Where did your love for the VIBRAM MONTA G.BLOCK ECO STEP outsole come?

Seo Ilwon: It’s a classic model of outsole, but the color is cool.vibram

Above all, it is also great that it is made out of recycled rubber.

FTDF: Who is the "Klaxon Man"?

Seo Ilwon: He is just a lazy awesome guy!

Seo Ilwon 2

FTDF: Korean menswear knows a rapid expansion. Please tell us more about menswear in Korea (inspirations, culture, brands, etc.)

Seo Ilwon: Koreans very much love fashion and men’s fashion is developing and evolving very rapidly here thanks to the internet. Many young Korean men have a keen interested in fashion which is why the market has so much potential. But the market is still immature, men are just starting to be interested in their own personal style rather than blindly adjusting to fashion trends.  I definitely believe that the Korean market will soon be one of the most attractive fashion market in the world.7_1

FTDF: We know you try to export the Klaxon abroad. In which countries can we now find the brand?

Seo Ilwon: Our brand now has several retailers in England, Spain, China, Hong Kong and of course in Korea.

FTDF: Where do you see your brand in 5 years?

Seo Ilwon: I just hope that we will still be making products we are proud of and that our shoes will be available in as many countries as possible.the klaxon team

Thanks to Seo Ilwon for his availability and kindness. Paris, April 2014.

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Interview with Tony Gaziano, master shoemaker and co-founder of Gaziano & Girling

We are proud to present to you an interview with Tony Gaziano, renowned bespoke shoemaker and co-founder of Gaziano & Girling.

Lire l’interview en français.

Tony Gaziano

FTDF: Can you tell us about the different steps of your career and your background?

Tony Gaziano: Originally I was trained up to be an architect. That is how I first got acquainted with design. But I quickly decided that I was not interested in becoming an architect. I went into design of shoes and when I was about twenty I started working for a company called Cheaney. Most of the work I did for them was some subcontracted work for fashion brands such as Jeffrey West and Paul Smith. I worked there for several years mostly on design, I didn’t have any practical shoebuilding, it was all just drawing and range building.

After a while, I left and went to work for Edward Green. I started working on more classical footwear rather than the fashion houses. It gave me a deeper knowledge of the product, it was more about quality than fashion and seasonal runs. I worked there for two or three years and learned a little bit about handmaking but I decided I wanted to go deeper into it so I went to work for Cleverley. I have worked for George Cleverley for about seven years, first as an apprentice and then I managed the bespoke workshops which involved last making, designing, cutting the leather, stitching the uppers together and that’s where I met my partner Dean Girling. He was a subcontracted outworker craftsman and I was the craftsman that worked in house. That was fifteen years ago, we started working together but we didn’t have the intention of opening up our own company.Oxfords G&G

I was then contacted by the present owner of Edward Green who asked me to come back from Cleverley to design for the brand. The condition was that I wanted to set up a bespoke setup for Edward Green. So I spent basically the next two years creating a bespoke service for Edward Green.

Then, in 2006, Dean persuaded me to leave Edward Green in order to start up our own company. When we left, the bespoke service of Edward Green stopped and they introduced their Top Drawer range which I still think they are doing today.

In the mist of all that, I’ve done a lot of subcontracted design for brands such as Ralph Lauren and a few other fashion houses as well.

That’s it… Anything more would bore you!

FTDF: How do you reflect on the time you have spent at Edward Green?

TG: When I worked for Edward Green, I had no intention of leaving. I have worked for them twice so it is almost like my second home; I loved the time that I spent there. They are not particularly happy with me now but I still have a lot of affection for this company. Alongside us I think they make the best shoes in the country. Very well made structured shoe. It broke my heart to leave Edward Green but the boundaries were too strict, too classical for me, I needed to be able to create my own identity which is the reason why I left.Lapo Evening G&G

FTDF: You were a shoemaker but you launched a RTW brand…

TG: Thanks to my time at Edward Green, I had a vast experience on the manufacturing side as well and developing and designing lines of shoes. Unintentionally I was lucky enough to have probably the broadest experience in the country because in England you are either a London bespoke shoemaker or you are a Northampton shoe manufacturer. Nobody crossed over; we were the first people to bring a bespoke looking London shoe to the manufacturing side. There is a lot of symmetries with our business. People connect the Italian/English name to that contemporary style of shoes that we have which is English structure but with a little bit of a twist. It is not out there design but it is enough to get people to come out a little bit of their shell and to get more adventurous with their shoes.Hayes G&G

FTDF: Do you feel that a shoemaker has to go into RTW in order to get by. Did you feel you were bound to launch a RTW brand in order to make a living?

TG: When we started the company we were going to purely do bespoke, however RTW is getting better and the bespoke market is becoming more of a niche. Dean and I can make a shoe between us so we could have just stayed me designing, pattern cutting, closing and Dean making. We would have made a very nice living but we ventured into RTW as an experiment and once you started and the ball is rolling you have to roll with it.Double Monk G&G

FTDF: Being a craftsman how did you manage to cope with the hazards of industrial production?

TG: Very difficultly, look how grey I am! On a more serious note, building a factory today is very difficult because 90% of our machinery comes from the 1930’s/1940’s. Moreover it is not only finding the machinery that works but also finding the operatives who can use it. These days, people see in black and white: shoes are either made by machine or they are made by hand. But there is a middle area where there are machines, first generation of machines that were created to replace handmaking that are almost as skillful in themselves as making by hand. It is not about pressing a button, these machines are all levers, very mechanical.Wingtip G&G

Nowadays we have our own factory where everybody is a shoe geek but when we started, we had to work with other people who did not share our passion because they used to make a lower grade product. That is why setting up our own factory was really crucial.

FTDF: What are the specificities of Gaziano & Girling as a brand?

TG: If I had to sum it up, I would say that our drive was to manufacture a bespoke looking readymade shoe. That was the key. People thought that our intention was to make a shoe that was half continental, half English but that was not the intention. We wanted to bring the London bespoke world into readymade shoemaking and to be able to create a service where people could be able to buy that aesthetic without having to have it made for them.

FTDF: Your brand is young but has a very loyal following. What do you think attracts people to it?

TG: I think we were fortunate to hit the time when many forums and blogs exploded, that was lucky. Also when people look at the shoes, even if they can’t explain it, they see the quality, the lines, the passion that was put into it. Some people can talk about it forever, some people can’t but they can still see and feel the difference.Lapo G&G

Most of our customers up to now have been people who are passionate about shoes but we are making a good looking enough shoe which attracts new customers who were probably not into the welted trade before. These days, there is a luxury brand explosion and everybody seems to enjoy dressing again. In that way, we are a little bit lucky but also we are rewarded of all the attention and hard work we put in our shoes. We don’t cut any corners. Everything is done the way it should be done. Nowadays because of commercial fashion brands and people spending a lot of money on something that is not worth, they really understand when they see something that is.Tassel G&G

FTDF: Do you reject trends or do you embrace them?

TG: I kind of reject trends. I like timeless. Trends are for younger people than me.

FTDF: You are the figure of the brand, can you tell us about your partner Dean Girling?

TG: Dean is more the mechanical side. He is a little bit crazy with quality; he is our factory worst enemy! He has tremendous technical knowledge about shoes, he understands the mechanics of the shoes. If something is not right, he can walk into the factory and put it right. He lets me create, I let him maintain.Gaziano & Girling

FTDF: You are famous for you square toe, is it some sort of tribute to the masters shoemaker of the past Nikolaus Tuczek and Cleverley?

TG: A little bit. My favorite shoemaker was definitely Anthony Cleverley, whom I think was younger, and sharper than George Cleverley. During my time at Cleverley I fell in love with his shoes. Much of my inspiration comes from there, especially the Deco Line.Bespoke G&G

FTDF: What are the differences between the Deco Line and the Bench Made Line?

TG: In a nutshell, there is simply more handwork. For instance, we have to handcurve the waist. However, we use bespoke leathers for everything so quality wise  everything is on the same levels in regards to materials but there is a lot more handwork for the Deco Line. Also there was a lot more attention to the design aesthetic of the Deco. It is not to everybody’s taste, it is a little bit sharp for a lot of people but for us it is a special Line which in a way represents the 1920’s as opposed to the more traditional stuff which is inspired for the 1940’s and 1950’s.Deco-sole

FTDF: Would you agree that the Deco is the closest you could get to a bespoke shoe in RTW?

TG: I definitely think so.Holden Deco Line

FTDF: Where do you see Gaziano & Girling as a brand in five to ten years?

TG: I would like to have at least three shops, one in London, one in Paris and one in NYC. Moreover, the quality has to grow as the company grows. We cannot increase the production without increasing the number of craftsmen. It is a long process, it means lots of training. We don’t want to take over the world, but we want to get bigger while maintaining our philosophy and quality standards. It will be hard but it can be done.

We would like to thank Tony Gaziano for his kindness and his wit. We also would like to thank Marc Fass, owner of Calceom, who made this interview happen.

Paris, November 2012. All rights reserved.

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Classé dans Interviews in English

Interview with François Ferdinand, founder of J.Keydge

We are proud to present to you an interview with François Ferdinand, founder of J.Keydge.

Lire l’interview en français.F.F.

For the Discerning Few: Can you sum up the different steps of your career?

François Ferdinand: I started in Sales, first for a women’s underwear brand, then for a ready-to-wear company. However during this period, I sometimes played to my creative side. I took pieces I thought would fly, and had them manufactured. Because of my sense of style, I had no difficulty finding the appropriate retail outlets. Making a comfortable commission, I proved to myself that I could design and negotiate.

After 1974, I shifted to menswear. I became the French representative of Peyton a Spanish firm specialized in casual clothes. It was I who introduced their collection to key retailers in Paris such as Old England, Burberry, and Arny’s.

I began meeting people such as Bernard Marras, the art director of Cerruti, who asked me to make two models based upon his sketches.Ace JK

I then felt like developing my own collection, in a ‘casual chic’ spirit. A rue des Archives dressmaker I had met suggested he could produce such a collection.

This first collection, branded Veyrandes, included cashmere & loden jackets, military-styled worker’s jackets in Harris tweed, bush shirts and trousers suits in serge.

Orders came aplenty, at least in Paris, from the customers I just mentioned as well as from Marcel Lassance, who had just launched his own business.

Unfortunately, my partner was unable to produce the collection in his own workshop. We had to use subcontractors — which considerably increased the costs. This venture lasted just through winter.

A friend of mine in response to this setback suggested the time had come to be an entrepreneur. I knew he was right and took the plunge. So, I set up my own company, purchased the fabrics I wanted, and dealt with subcontractors. My products were sold under my own brand.


FTDF: What was the first brand you really developed?

FF: I first developed “Sunny Side”, a collection of trousers. Thanks to my previous work, I had the opportunity to meet a rather remarkable manufacturer.

Pleated pants were just coming into fashion, and I was one of the first to bring back this style along with Saint Laurent “Rive Gauche” and Renoma.

Although some Parisian shops required that the products sold on their premises bore their brand, Sunny Side developed nicely. Berteil flattered me by placing an order for +3,000 pieces, including trousers and Bermuda shorts for the Spring/Summer 1979.

That was when I started to show my collection at SEHM. To make a bigger impact, I enlarged my product ranges starting first with shirts, then adding ties, and finally jackets and suits.

At the same time, I opened a shop in the Eighth, at the corner of the rue Pasquier and rue Chauveau-Lagarde. I had taken up the lease of an old-fashioned English tailor named Lockwood. Although the store did not speak to the style trends of the time, it had a good reputation. Among Lockwood’s regular customers were some famous peoples as well, the Hemisphere crew.

Once in possession, I renamed the store, Veyrandes. The shop rapidly developed a following in the Madeleine quarter, which has a reputation for being menswear focused.

I must add that I never ran the shop myself. Three years later, the manager died in an accident. I was unable to find a suitable replacement and resold the business in 1986.SEHM

I carried on displaying my VEYRANDES collections at the SEHM.  The show was perfect for nurturing a growing clientele with people overseas such as John Simons in London with whom I still work.

It is thanks to John that J.Keydge appears in that Ivy classic book by Graham Marsh and J.P. Gaul, The Ivy League.  I am honored that we are on the Ivy short list of must haves.

Ivy Book JK

FTDF : You are also famous for your shirts…

FF: Jean-Marie Ménard was one of the best shirt makers in Paris, he was my subcontractor. After a trip to Mauritius for a professional trade fair, I suggest him to set up there a shirt workshop, noticing that all Mauritian factories was working on mass market products, a niche was left for high end product.Cruz

In partnership we opened a small factory called “Chancery shirts”, simultaneously, in order to provide orders with regularity, I opened a wholesale shop in the marais, under the name of “Selective” and I gave the management to one of my former employees.

Four years later, Jean-Marie Ménard died.  I went back to Mauritius with the intention of reselling the plant. I did not receive any decent offer,  However, I discovered two weaving factories on the island, which were able to supply excellent shirt-fabric, even develop special ones.

Fortunately, Jean-Marie Ménard previously recruited and trained a competent professional, Mr Busguth, who worked under him and who could now step into his position and nicely developed the business.

When, in 1994, I introduced the slack jacket to the “selective company”, the product proved to be a sensation.  Turnover from this one item quickly exceeded the shirts ones and we needed larger premises. So we moved to the 18° district. At the same time, Riverwood, a Belgian company, who wanted to buy Chancery, approached us.

From that moment, I have spent all my time and efforts developing the slack jacket.

FTDF: How did you come up with this slack jacket concept?

FF: During the Seventies, I would buy American jackets in secondhand shops. I loved their style, the absence of canvas, and their natural unpadded shoulders.Ace

I was not the only one to be attracted by this ‘unstructured’ type of jacket. In France, in the late Seventies, Marcel Lassance had a shot and Marc Miller also made an investment. However, the market was not ready, and their efforts came to naught.

Ten years later, I felt the time was ripe. The ‘morphological’ shoulder, fully natural, without any padding is hard to get right. The Neapolitans were the masters of this cut for bespoke.  With the help of an excellent pattern maker, I managed to get the shoulder just right.

Contrary to my predecessors, I did not want a formal jacket. I wanted mine to make another kind of statement: to the give the impression that the jacket was built like a pair of jeans. Hence, I used double stitching, underlined edges, lapels, pocket and flap frames.

For the pattern, I was inspired by the sack style made famous by Brooks Brothers and JPress. Such jackets are comfortable in the chest and waist. Although, the classic sack is a two-button affair, I opted for the more serious three-button design.

Apart from that, I simply used the concept of patch pockets with flap and one back vent. If you examine the Preppy style, you will see this signature as a style statement. I called my model Ivy.Ivy

It is my belief that the cultural metaphors around the jacket certainly contribute to the jacket’s continued success. It is as some style pundits state, “The Standard”.

For many seasons, this style was the only one in the J.Keydge collection. As treatments of fabric progressed, we too would add to our ranges with other fabrics and garment dyes and washes.

I knew that the jacket was in need of a name to distinguish it from anything else being sold on the market.

The press picked up the phrase ‘veste molle’. Many trendsetters were rallying around this name, but it was during a dinner party that, I had a revelation when asked about the product. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: slack jacket.”IVY Madras

It had the perfect ring in tone and insouciance. The next day, I registered the name as a trademark.

FTDF: What year exactly was this jacket created?                                                         

There was no precise year. It really evolved over a period of time. Time and development lead to its birth.

The jacket made its first public appearance at the SEHM in September 1990. It was featured in a fifty-square yard stall where I displayed my more ‘conventional’ collections.

To deliver the slack message, I decided to display the jacket impromptu, hung on a Thonet portmanteau, in a corner of the stand.Swing

People were intrigued. When I saw their reactions, I immediately realized I had hit the bull’s eye. When a customer picked up the jacket to examine it, I would say: ‘Try it on!’

Each time this trigger device worked. Looking in the mirror, the guy was surprised to discover there was no padding, but more surprised yet to see the jacket flattered his figure, giving him an air of authenticity.

FTDF: How did you develop the J.Keydge brand?

FF: SEHM made a major impact. At the September fair, I displayed to people in the trade the following summer collection. At this point, I was firmly of the belief that this was a summer product.

However, one of my customers asked if I could do him the favor of making a fall/winter version in tweed or corduroy. I complied and realized this jacket was perfect for all seasons.

By 1997, the SEHM was no longer what it was, and so I attended the Pitti Uomo in Firenze. It was if I hit pay dirt. I was solicited by both Italian and international customers. Even other exhibitors asked if I would produce for them as well.PITTI 2 PITTI 1

The Pitti Uomo is a great place to network. I met two excellent agents one from Milan and the other from Rome. After working with them for several seasons, the Italian market grew to represent 60% of my turnover.

The other 40% was divided between France, Spain, Belgium, Japan — and a dozen other countries where my products sold in few specialized shops.

FTDF : Where did the name J.Keydge come from?

FF: From my fascination with American culture and all things vintage. At a shop in Sausalito, I stumbled upon a used shirt with Keydges, printed on the chest. I dropped the “s” and that’s how J.Keydge was born.

Who was JK

FTDF:  Who were your first customers?

FF: The Italians were the first to blow my trumpet. Clothes and style in Italy is genetic. It’s in their DNA. They know how to wear clothes with élan, and are enthusiastic consumers. It’s no wonder that Italian menswear industry has conquered the world.

French brands on the other hand have lost their soul. I shouldn’t be too hard on my fellow countrymen. We do have many advocates of our style here.

While I have been to Japan and have 12 key clients, the product has not had the success it has had in Italy. The Japanese in my view are either too formal or trendy. Perhaps, my biggest mistake was to take on a local agent when clients preferred to deal with me directly.JK Beams

It didn’t take long to realize there was a worldwide market for this type of jacket.

At one trade fair, I met an American who was struck by our product. “Brooks Brothers in the mid-1950s did something like this.” I nodded.

Since the Slack has the nonchalance of jeans, its appeal is quite universal. Given a choice many people now prefer its construction to that of more formal lounge suit jackets.

FTDF:  What products are to be found in the current J.Keydge catalogue?

FF: Traditionally, the “Ivy style” represented 80% of sales. It’s appeal as collegiate, sport-oriented and comfortable made it uniquely attractive.

With the advent for slim fit craze, I had to be careful on which path I would walk. An abrupt change in model could be a turnoff. So I designed a more fashion-conscious style. The body fits tighter and the length is shorter. It is a type of Rat Pack redux.STONES

When both Michel Barnes and Albert Goldberg suggested I do more dressy styles. I took their advice although these lines took time to find their niche. Retailers were attached to the Ivy style.Suit JK

As you know however, people change and so does their taste. Thanks to our own in-house workshop, we are better equipped to accommodate different styles for both men and women. Although jackets are still our specialty, we do matching trousers, (slack-suits) riding coats, safari jackets, trench coats, and military capote.Mack JK

I should add, all models are not offered in any one-year’s given collection. We change fabrics, colors and adapt to any given trend. The thing I like most is the pieces should be seen as “classics”. That is to say, stylish and beyond any one fashion.

FTDF: We take it you were a role model for many people. Do you have many competitors?

FF: Where leaders dare walk, others will tread. This is particularly true in Italy. Competition they say is the best form of flattery. Many firms manufacture that type of jacket today. Some are expensive and some really cheap. I like to think of myself as a role model in this field where I have built a great deal of expertise.

However as Coca-Cola once said in one of their adverts, “it’s the real thing”. Likewise, if you want a Slack Jacket, there’s only one.JK

FTDF: How would you define the J.Keydge style?

FF: Design-wise, I always tried to give my models some cultural and functional relevance. I am attached to sobriety. I avoid frills and useless details. I pay specially attention to patterns. I also select fabrics very carefully and often work on them with the suppliers.  

Dressing up in one’s Sunday best is on my blacklist.

J.Keydge style is best defined as Nantucket & Portofino shaken not stirred.JK3

FTDF: What is the profile of the J.Keydge customer?

FF : First, he’s a connoisseur. He has a certain je ne sais quoi. Certainly loves clothes, but is not a fashionista. He is rugged in spirit and unafraid to express his authenticity. He lives life with gusto.JK4

FTDF:  Is the slack jacket a green product?

FF: Yes. Moreover, they are easy to maintain. Toss them in the machine and wash. Organic soap lets the fibers breathe.

FTDF: What is your personal style?

FF: My personal style has three reference points: Italian, English and American. Not in any particular order. All three cultures have shaped style and men’s habits when it comes to good taste and that certain La Dolce Vita attitude.

I think at the end of the day, I love the American approach best with their effortless way of being causal and chic as best embodied on the East Coast, and particularly in New England, the home of preppy chic. This is also the homeland of the original slack jacket.Prewitt J.K

They’ve taken the best Europe has to offer and made their own mash. Clothing innovations adored worldwide were born here whether we speak of selvage, jeans, oxford button-downs, the sack cut, and moccasins. Causal chic is an American style forte. Just think of the natural shoulder. It’s not for nothing that certain Italian firms have chosen “American” names to codify their brands.

FTDF: And your definition of elegance?

FF: If I had to choose one word, it would be simplicity. Simplicity embodies integrity and respect for self and others. Circumstances dictate what to wear and when. Never dress for show; it’s so false.

An elegant man knows the rules. Better still he knows when to break them. He also understands the glory of color without being a peacock.Quad JK

You know, often I come across complete strangers in my travels wearing my Slack jacket. It makes me proud because each was wearing it with “allure”, turning this simple garment into a personal statement of who they are. Sometimes it’s a Hermes Vintage Square causally stuffed into the breast pocket, sometimes worn over a black turtleneck or an incredible colored polo shirt.

However it’s done, I enjoy their unique style.

Many thanks to François Ferdinand for his knowledge and kindness.

Interview conducted by PAL and VM. Paris, July 2012. All rights reserved.

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Classé dans Interviews in English

Interview with Dominique Lelys

We are proud to present to you an interview with Dominique Lelys, designer of Arnys. Here is a link to D.Lelys’s personal website.

Interview en français.

FTDF: Can you tell us about the different steps of your career?

Dominique Lelys: It’s a long and beautiful story. After my O-levels, I followed a course at the Académie Charpentier, after which I was was admitted to the École Camondo. I graduated in 1982 as a designer and interior architect. I came to the fashion world by chance, as it were.

            I was a fan of the actor Philippe Noiret. One day, in an issue of Officiel Hommes magazine, there was a feature about his wardrobe in which the name Arnys kept recurring. So I discovered this brand and I started to buy a few gorgeous pieces — with my meager savings. Mr. Grimbert noticed I could draw, so he asked me to design some patterns for fabrics. I had never done that, but I found the idea fascinating. I started to work freelance for Arnys in 1983.

            Meanwhile, I had been a trainee at Hermès while completing my studies and worked for Ralph Lauren for a year. I also was in charge of several projects in the furniture and interior architecture area. And, gradually, I got a larger and larger clientele in the fashion business. Among others, I did scarves for the Paris Opera and I worked for Daniel Crémieux — still freelancing. Such stints brought me some kind of fame in fabric drawing. Arnys then asked me to helm their creative department. From then on — i.e. since the late 80’s — I have been working full-time for Arnys.

FTDT: How would you define your style?

D. Lelys: Let’s say I’m into classical fantasy, halfway through between the French and English styles. I dress in a very traditional way. I like garments for what they are, I mean I like to wear clothes in tune with the situation. I find it preposterous to wear a hunting outfit when you are not hunting or riding boots when there’s no horse around! I hardly ever wear tweed or corduroywhen I am in town. And, in town, I rather choose shirts with French cuffs while in the countryside I wear barrel cuffs.

FTDT: The Arnys catalogue contains quite a few hunting items.

D. Lelys: Yes, but it’s an endangered species. We still have customers for such items. So we keep some patterns in connection with that, but hunting outfits hardly exist anymore in the Arnys catalogue.

FTDF: How would you define the Arnys style?

D. Lelys: Definitely Rive gauche, but for a man whose culture makes it possible for him not to respect certain codes.

FTDF: Is Arnys the last defender of French chic?

D. Lelys: I do believe so. You won’t find such a style anywhere else.

FTDT: Exactly what are you in charge of at Arnys?

D. Lelys: Fabric design mainly, and silk. I work on the entire Arnys collection, even though such departments as sportswear attract me more than others. But Mr. Grimbert is in charge of 70% of the sportswear models. I am also responsible for the fine leather section.

FTDF: You’ve been working at Arnys for twenty-four years. In such a traditional enterprise, how much freedom is there for really new ideas?

D. Lelys: Much freedom, because creation is vital. Life is movement. Walking is a succession of steps. Admittedly, when you are in a traditional environment, you tend to use what’s already there. But this doesn’t mean you live on another planet. Whether you like it or not, you are influenced, you belong in a general trend. I don’t believe in ‘creative genius’. You are not a genius just because you do just anything out of nothing. On the contrary, you must have an extended culture, stretching beyond any given frontier. Culture prevents you from being impervious to what’s happening around you.

FTDF: Arnys seems to make a constant effort to open up, to communicate, especially with fashion shows, and to look for a younger clientele.

D. Lelys: That’s right. And there’s no alternative. We still have this image of a company specialized in clothes for senior citizens. That was socially true, when only fifty-year old people (or above fifty) could afford to buy Arnys. But our society is not what it used to be and more and more young men are out for quality products. We must take these younger customers into account, while keeping our ‘quality’ label.

FTDF: Where do you find your inspiration?

D. Lelys: There’s no rule. A tiny element can be influential. I once had the idea of a pattern for a tie just because, looking through the window, I saw a wrought iron balcony. Again, no creation without an open mind. Let’s say I am a sensor and everything can be inspirational.

FTDF: What are, of all things Arnys, the most Arnysian?

D. Lelys: Undoubtedly, the veste forestière, so extraordinary, so convenient. It was created in 1947 for a very famous French architect. And I think it was the seminal garment — an expression of freedom and suppleness.

FTDF: What period would be the best reference for elegance?

D. Lelys: If you ask me, England in the years ’20-’30. With the atmosphere you find in such James Ivory films as A Room With A View or Maurice.

FTDF: What are the great figures in style?

D. Lelys: Philippe Noiret was the reference. Now, I think Prince Charles dresses with class, really, and, no matter what they say, he keeps improving. And I also would mention actor Leslie Howard, not so well known, but whom I find particularly elegant.

FTDF: How can you define elegance?

D. Lelys: It’s a state of mind. I know I am rowing against the stream, but you shouldn’t show off simply to show-off. Do it with a pinch of salt. Be discreet.

FTDF: But a defender of classical elegance can hardly be discreet in 2012…

D. Lelys: You’re right. But you would hardly expect me to disguise myself! I am what I am. I dress up first because I like it; then because it’s a way of respecting the people I meet.

            Discretion is a matter of behavior. Putting on such or such colour, choosing such or such pattern is another story.

            Arnys hasn’t forgotten the XVIIIth Century, when you could unashamedly wear colour. Today, it’s grey or black for everybody!

            Many people believe their life is in their clothes. Big mistake! Dressing up well means dressing up so well you end up forgetting your clothes.

            I can give you an example of discretion. When Karen Blixen went on safari in Africa, she first had a travelling case made by Hermes. But she did that for herself, not to display it in countries where nobody knew what it meant.

FTDF: What companies or brands do you still pay attention to?

D. Lelys: On the fine leather front, Hermès. Style-wise, Ralph Lauren. Kiton also produces nice items. It’s not my cup of tea, but it’s high quality stuff. And I appreciate Berluti shoes, the bespoke ones.

FTDF: We know you are a fan of the traditional, straight metal razor… What can you tell us about the art of shaving?

D. Lelys: Whenever I can, I spend a good half-hour in the bathroom every morning: toothbrush, bathrobe, shaving are important. After getting out of the bathroom, I dress up in front of a mirror, but I never look at myself for the rest of the day. Getting ready is the main thing.

            My passion for the traditional metal razor is recent. First you cut yourself, but you learn fast. This passion fits into my old school persona. And I switched to Eau de Cologne thanks to the traditional razor. I don’t use eau de toilette anymore. Eau de Cologne is very masculine — there’s no spray. You rub, you keep a few drops for your handkerchief and basta!


            In this connection, I don’t polish my shoes anymore either. It’s become a kind of trend, but personally I no longer do it. Of course, I did it, for a long time, when I was young and I don’t regret it! But I think polishing is superficial. It means using an artificial technique to give some shine to something which does not shine spontaneously. Now I prefer to leave the matter to Time’s patina. Of course, I wax my shoes very regularly — after a few years they’ll shine like a pair of mirrors. But all this is a very personal matter and by no means a criterion of judgment.

FTDF: Which rules would you never break?

D. Lelys: I would never wear brown shoes with a blazer or a dark suit. But you have to evolve: such rules as ‘no brown in town’ probably no longer apply today. However, I’d never put on a tweed jacket, or a sports jacket, or my apron bluchers if I am invited for dinner in town. I did it, but I no longer do it.

FTDF: Conversely, are there rules you always violate?

D. Lelys: No, because it would mean I want to exist by my clothes only. Transgression should be elsewhere. Well, I realize I did some cloth-transgressing today: look, I am in navy blue and in green, and yet I put a red handkerchief!

FTDF: Can you explain why you wear black shoes with a blazer?

D. Lelys: It’s a matter of morphology. When I wear a blazer with flannel trousers, I don’t want people to look at my shoes. That would shorten my silhouette.

FTDF: Some people think — but we don’t — that only the tall should wear cuffs…

D. Lelys: That’s another story. It all depends on the width of the trousers. I wear trousers 17 or 18 cm wide in their lower part. It’s a question of balance and harmony.

FTDF: What kind of shoes do you feel for?

D. Lelys: Here again, my tastes are very classic and very British. I like apron bluchers a lot, penny loafers and Oxfords, which I only wear with suits.

FTDF: Can we say you are a French gentleman?

D. Lelys: It’s not for me to judge. If you ask me, a gentleman is a well-educated man, who knows the codes. He respects women. He knows the value of things and, above all, of people. You cannot call yourself a gentleman if you don’t respect people, no matter how well-dressed you may be. And culture is important too, even though you don’t have to be a Flaubert specialist to be cultured. Education is the main thing. I am convinced you can find gentlemen in popular milieux. 

FTDF: What advice would you give to people who wish to dress the right way and aim at this timeless elegance you embody — along the Arnys lines?

D. Lelys: Let them watch old movies and understand there should be no gap between silhouette and character, between cloth and age. To wear a hat or flourish a walking stick when you are young is out of place. I know what I am talking about — I did it! As you get older, you can allow yourself some fantasies.

            My most important advice: you must be aware that never will a garment make your personality. The truth is out there: charm, elegance, tactfulness towards ladies, open-mindedness. If, in addition to that, you are well-dressed, fair enough. But first things first.


Thanks to Dominique LELYS for his availability, kindness and expertise.


Interview conducted by VM and PAL for For The Discerning Few, Paris, March 2012.

No part of it can be reproduced without the authors’ authorization.

Translation by FAL.

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Interview with Michael Bastian

We are proud to present to you an interview with the American designer Michael Bastian who designs for GANT and Barneys and owns his own brand Michael Bastian.

Interview en français.

Credit: Raul Tovar

For The Discerning Few: You grew up in Rochester, New York in the seventies/eighties. How has it influenced your designs and your vision of menswear?

Michael Bastian: I would say I always go back to that place and that period every season. The men there always wore a more “deep woods” and rugged version of preppy: lots of corduroy, technical gear, down vests, work boots, flannel shirts with knit ties and a navy blazer. It’s still how I think guys look best.

Japanese style: a rugged version of preppy

FTDF: How did you dress when you were in your twenties?

Michael Bastian: I think I’ve always dressed pretty much the same way I dress today: a mix of casual sports stuff with more tailored pieces. All kind of mixed up and unstudied.

MB by Patrick McMullan

FTDF: What does preppy stand for as far as you are concerned?

Michael Bastian: I think “preppy” is just a fast and easy word to apply to classic American style – which at its best, is a mix of a bunch of stuff – classic Brooks Brothers, sports influences, military influences. But the most important thing is how it is worn: it should always look approachable and not look too thought out.

FTDF: How long do you think this preppy moment we are in is going to last?

Michael Bastian: Preppy never really goes away. I think it just sometimes get pushed to the back when the world becomes obsessed with brands and logos and things like that. Preppy is always more about the person in the clothes than the clothes themselves. The clothes themselves are actually very simple, so personal style becomes more important.

FTDF: Would you agree that every designer is influenced by a particular period? If so what is yours?

Michael Bastian: I think everyone becomes fascinated by the era when they were just becoming aware of style, but were too young to actually participate in any of the fun stuff. You always go back to that era and try to relive it as an adult. It always holds a certain attraction. For me it’s the late 70s and early 80s: post Studio 54, but pre-grunge.

FTDF: You have your own line/brand, MBNYC, but you also design for GANT and for Barneys, how do you manage to keep them separate?

Michael Bastian: Sometimes it’s hard to keep them separate, because I’m one person and I like what I like, but if I try to think of a different guy for each line it helps me.  For example with my own line Michael Bastian, I always personalize it and do what I want to wear myself right now.

Michael Bastian

For GANT by Michael Bastian, I think of who I was (or wanted to be) when I was in my 20s.

GANT by MB (2011)

GANT by MB (2011) – John Esposito

GANT by MB (2010) – CJ R.E. Ramos

GANT by MB (2012)

For Barneys, that guys is just the dressed up version of the MB guy.

Barneys by Michael Bastian

Barneys by Michael Bastian

FTDF: What are the 5 or 10 garments every preppy guy must have in his wardrobe?

Michael Bastian: 5-pocket corduroy jeans, navy cashmere crewneck sweater, blue and white striped oxford buttondown shirt, a down vest, a good pair of slim jeans, a navy blazer and a pair of cordovan penny loafers.

FTDF: You are famous for being inspired by movies. What movie has influenced you the most in terms of style?

Michael Bastian: That really changes every season, but I would have to say two movies, Jaws and Ordinary People really had a big influence.

FTDF: You are an American, and your designs have a strong American identity, however do you sometimes get inspired by things or people from abroad?

Michael Bastian: Well lately now that I’m spending a lot of time in Stockholm for my GANT job, I see a bit of Scandinavian style sneaking into to both collections. The people there really have their own style that is completely out of the gravitational pull of New York, Milan and Paris: cleaner and neater, but also more organic and handmade.

FTDF: You don’t seem really interested by fashion. Would you agree if we said that you were a menswear designer rather than a fashion designer?

Michael Bastian: I love this question! And you are right. There are lots of things in my life that interest me more than fashion. But personal style? That I’m endlessly fascinated by, and it often seems to be the opposite of fashion.

FTDF: What are your essentials for this summer?

Michael Bastian: A great new bathingsuit, a lightweight cashmere crewneck, a few linen-blend button down shirts, and my military shorts from Spring ’12.

We would like to thank Michael Bastian for his availability and his kindness. We would also like to thank Eugenia Gonzalez Ruiz for her crucial help.

This interview was conducted by VM & PAL. Paris, April 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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Classé dans Interviews in English