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Christopher Ward mag: worth a look

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

For the past two and half years I have been editing and writing the bi-annual magazine published by Christopher Ward Watches. This British company sells its handsome Swiss-made watches timepieces online only, so the mag is part of its marketing policy.

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As well as containing features about the company’s latest watches, the mag always had an appealing selection of general interest readers for the intelligent reader and I am proud to say that I write most of them!

This one is all about the beautiful yachts built in Ayrshire by William Fife in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. If you fancy one of these, it will help to have between £1 million to £15m to spend.

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Christopher Ward has many watches inspired by classic motorsport, so each issue has a feature about this subject. I am not a huge fan of car racing but even I can admire the superb lines of this Aston Martin DBR1, which won the Le mans 24-Hour Endurance Race in 1959. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Aston Martin company and CW has produced a watch that includes in its case a fragment of metal from the car that won the French classic race.

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Regular readers of this blog will know my love of taxidermy. For the latest CW mag, I interviewed Polly Morgan, one of the most celebrated exponents of the art – in the art world.

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I never need an excuse to write about Tom Phillips RA and his amazing collection of picture postcards. Just look at his studio!

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There are plenty of other features in the 48-page issue for Autumn Winter 2013. You can order one here, or read it online here. This issue is my last one for Christopher Ward Watches following my return to full-time working as editorial director of Drapers. It’s been fun, fellas.

 

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Smyth & Gibson UK-made shirts

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Northern Ireland used to be one of the biggest shirt-manufacturing regions of the British Isles. Smyth & Gibson in Derry is one of the few firms maintaining that tradition. The business is run by Richard Gibson and his wife Selena, who work in a former railway station with a glass roof which affords great natural light, which is ideal for shirtmaking. Making a reported 1,000 shirts a week Smyth & Gibson completes every stage from design to finishing in-house and with a lot of handwork. It produces both ready-to-wear and bespoke shirts and works with a number of leading brands and designers.

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The business has benefited recently from the involvement of Sam Morrison, who runs a number of fashion shops in Northern Ireland, including the Clockwork Orange chain. Sam and Richard kindly sent me three examples of their work and I am mightily impressed.

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I requested plain white cotton and three different styles of collar. The fabrics, from Italian and Swiss mills, are soft and comfortable. Made with 18 stitches to the inch, the shirts feature natural troca buttons and double split yokes.

The spread collar is nicely proportioned and I am enjoying the small rounded cutaway more than I expected. I would not have gone for it myself, but it has turned out to be a very nice surprise. It lends itself to a neat tie knot.

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My favourite is the tab collar because it is so hard to come by these days. I will be emailing Derry to put in another order.

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As the Smyth & Gibson site reveals, in the British Isles its branded shirts can be found in Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Brown Thomas and Sam Morrison’s Clockwork chain. Retail prices are around £125.

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Fashion: The Whole Story

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Thames & Hudson has just published a handsome 576-page volume entitled Fashion: The Whole Story. The ambitious work is a series of short pieces on the history of womenswear and menswear (with a strong bias to the former) from Greco-Roman times.

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I contributed a chapter on English tailoring in the late 19th century,

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plus an appreciation of the influence of Edward, Prince of Wales, who became Edward VII on the death of his mother, Queen Victoria, in 1901.DSC02514

My wife Jane Eastoe is also a contributor to this fine book, writing about daytime decorum of the 1950s, the fashion valkyries of the 1980s and second-skin dressing.

 

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SHARP SUITS in British Esquire

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

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My elegantly-dressed friend Richard James gave himself and me a plug in the October issue of British Esquire, with a cheeky mention of the first edition of my book, Sharp Suits. Published in 2009, Richard wrote the foreword and we had a very memorable launch party at his large shop on Savile Row.

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On page 85 of the mag, style setters are asked to recommend a favourite book and Richard picks Sharp Suits. Well done to the picture editor at Esquire for electing to show a great image of Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson in the movie of Guys and Dolls from 1955.

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This edition is now very hard to find as the print run sold out, but a revised edition was published this year, with a new foreword by Timothy Everest, who like Richard James is another find modern tailor.

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Argentum: la potion infinie

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Try as I might, I have never been able to get that excited about skincare products. Years ago I learned that all you need to look after yourself is “cleanse and moisturise, cleanse and moisturise”. For the second part of that regime, however, I can happily recommend Argentum, a lovely concoction to which I have come mildly addicted. This unisex product – known as la potion infinie or the infinite potion - has been developed by two friends of mine, Stephanie Thierry and Joy Isaacs, and as the name implies it takes its inspiration from the special powers of silver.

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In the UK, it is available to buy from net-a-porter. As the site’s description explains; “Harnessing the ancient power of silver – an element known for its powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties – as well as potent anti-ageing ingredient DNA-HP, Argentum Apothecary’s skin-quenching La Potion Infinie range regenerates damaged cells, nourishing and firming your complexion with visible effects.”

Order and you will receive a fine experience before you even apply the refreshing cream. The packaging is suitably stylish,

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and it gets better when you open it.

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At £147, Argentum is not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

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The forgotten Duke of Kent in The Rake

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

One of the more mysterious members of the modern British Royal family was the Queen’s uncle, George, Duke of Kent (1902-1942). The father of the current Duke (born 1935), Princess Alexandra, The Hon Lady Ogilvy (born 1936) and Prince Michael of Kent (born 1942), George was the now-oft-forgotten brother of Edward VIII and George VI. I have outlined his remarkable story and some of the myths about him in issue 28 of The Rake.

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Killed in an unsolved plane crash in northern Scotland, he was the first Royal to die in active service for several hundred years. His life before World War II was scandalous, with serial affairs with men and women, drug addiction, homosexuality and illegitimate children all linked to him. Added to all that, he was as much of a clothes horse as his older brother, Edward (the Prince of Wales, briefly Edward VIII and lastly Duke of Windsor). In 1934 he married Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (he was the last British royal to marry a foreign royal) and the pair became society favourites in the late 1930s.

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New Ben Sherman florals

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

My love of floral shirts is well known so I was delighted to receive from my pal Mark Maidment, CEO of Ben Sherman, a couple of fine examples from its autumn collection.

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This relatively subtle print is from the Plectrum collection. It uses a lovely cotton fabric from the Italian shirting specialist Albini,

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But even better, the shirt is made in England. Well done, Ben Sherman!

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I am also very pleased with my laundered floral print shirt, which has a delightful mini-floral print. This shirt is made in India.

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It looks great on its own, but like the other Sherman shirt, it works really well under a tailored suit jacket or blazer or Baracuta G-9. The attention to detail is very good.

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I am pleased that Ben Sherman still cuts a shirt to fit someone of my now substantial form! For more on this iconic British brand, head for this book 

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Bill Amberg’s leatherwork studio

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

The exceptional work in leather produced by Bill Amberg‘s studio is celebrated in my latest piece for billionaire.com. There are some great pix by Andy Barnham accompanying the piece.

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Although he’s been celebrated for his leather bags for men and women for 25 years and more, the bespoke commissions his London-based craftsmen and women undertake in furniture, domestic interiors, cars, yachts, aeroplanes and all manner of intriguing one-offs is less high profile. Bill’s passion for leather really comes through in his longish interview with me.

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Bill is well known for his dapper appearance, especially in tailoring. Yet when a simple cotton jacket that was too big for me came my way, the strapping Mr Amberg gave it a good home. One of his satchel-like bags was my leaving present from Drapers seven years ago and it’s still one of my favourites. It has aged beautifully and I use it regularly now that I am back at Drapers.

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Caroline Groves on billionaire.com

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Those nice people at www.billionaire.com have published my feature on women’s bespoke shoemaker Caroline Groves, who I first blogged about last autumn

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The billionaire piece is illustrated by some fine photos from Rachael King. Caroline has moved her workshop to London from the Gloucestershire retreat I visited, which should make it even easier for more women to discover her exceptional work.

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Here is Caroline at a Pattenmakers’ footwear dinner with legendary Mayfair shoe maker Jim McCormack

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My new grey flannel suit

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

I know I shouldn’t say this, but I can’t wait for considerably cooler weather so that I can give my new grey flannel suit a proper run out.

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It’s got a pronounced nautical look about it thanks to the efforts of Paul Munday, one of the guvnors at Meyer & Mortimer.

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It’s a 14oz Hunt & Winterbotham cloth, lined with Liberty Tana Lawn fabric, and sporting white mother-of-pearl buttons. The plan now is to wear it a few times (once the heatwave is over) then return to Paul for the inevitable minor adjustments to be made once the suit and I have got used to each other.

(And thanks to Fred Neiddu, late of Meyer & Mortimer, for kicking off the process a few months ago).

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