Creating an iconic product requires many things: a willingness to be innovative, cunning, commitment, a tolerance for failure and at least a little bit of luck. It goes without saying that it is even more difficult for a brand to do justice to that icon when releasing a new version forty years later, but Audemars Piguet (one of the few remaining family owned independent high-end watchmakers in the world) can feel secure in knowing that it has done both with the Royal Oak. In 1972, at the hands of respected designer Gérald Genta, Audemars created a luxury sports watch and named it for the “British Royal Navy battleships, themselves christened for the tree where King Charles II hid from his enemies,” a watch that has since gone on to become an icon. The revolutionary design of the octagonal bezel, which resembles the porthole of ship, has helped the Royal Oak easily become Audemars Piguet’s most famous timepiece.
During peacetime, ambitious officers would pursue almost any mission — no matter how dangerous — to advance in rank. One could presume that British Naval officer Robert Falcon Scott’s mission to the South Pole in the early 1900s could be classified under recognition-seeking endeavors, but there is no discounting the fact they were some of the most heroic adventures man has ever attempted.
A century ago Scott led the Terra Nova expedition, his second such attempt to be the first man to set foot on the geographical South Pole, but he was thwarted by rival Norwegian Roald Amundsen who literally made it five weeks ahead of Scott. Ultimately, Robert Falcon Scott – along with the rest of his polar party — perished on March 29th, 1912, nearly a hundred years ago to the day. These expeditions to the South Pole and the ones that followed have since become known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, which was likely a time much more punishing than it sounds.
With the centennial of Scott’s journey upon us, Esquire’s Nick Sullivan recently extolled the virtues of Scott and his Royal Navy officer’s uniform, the inspiration for the iconic American Navy Blazer. The jacket, which was originally called “Reefer No. 5″ was made by tailor Gieves & Hawkes, who supplied the Royal Navy with nearly all of their uniforms during that period. Interestingly enough the Savile Row maker still produces the classic jacket today, should you want a modern original.
There’s a sign outside of one of my favorite restaurants in New York that justifies its quirky existence with the following statement: “You either get it or you don’t.” I think the same can be said for Massimo Piombo’s new MP by Massimo Piombo collection. It is probably safe to say that many an ACL reader is not going to be up for the quirkiness or price tag of this new line. It is also presumable to consider that I would not be pulling these rigs verbatim, but the spirit of Piombo will certainly be my guide, and I am definitely a believer in Mr. Piombo when it comes to clothing.
Not content with having one beautifully made and insanely designed collection, Piombo got together with a little Neapolitan brand called Kiton to launch this new high-end label. The fabrics included in the range are sourced from all over the world, from Shetland to Nepal, the clothing is made almost entirely by hand (by Kiton) in Italy, and there is no chance of missing the fact that the color stories patterns are distinctly Piombo.
Slip down a drive way off a busy shopping street in Shanghai and you’ll discover an oasis of classic menswear from England. The Alfred Dunhill store in Shanghai occupies half of the Twin Villas, a beautifully appointed set of buildings that houses both the Dunhill flagship in mainland China and its Richemont owned cousin Vacheron Constantin. The Dunhill outpost is very easily one of the more tastefully arranged shops in the world.
The Dunhill portion of the Twin Villas occupies the first two floors with various rooms representing different categories of finely made goods. Leather bags, travel accoutrements and small items on the ground floor, bespoke tailoring upstairs with the bar and the sportswear rooms. Looking around, it feels like Mayfair for the Shanghai locals (or more specifically, like Bourdon House, Dunhill’s home in London), only without the jet lag. Though, if you fly in to China from New York, Mayfair might be a slightly easier journey.
You already know South by Southwest doesn’t lend itself to peaceful contemplation. It’s an endurance test for all involved, that reverberates long after you leave. Yes, it’s a crowded mess—overlapping with St. Patrick’s green-stained idiocy doesn’t help. But it can also be oddly intimate: You see bands in small clubs, carrying their own instruments, playing countless shows as their sanity wavers. In the best moments, you’re reminded of the elemental equation between musician and audience. It’s an attraction renewed in real time, one that outlasts clueless corporate sponsorships, new media gambits and apocalyptic meditations about the future of the recording industry.
A little while back I went to the preview for an auction of William Eggleston prints at Christie’s, a sale that was arranged to benefit the Eggleston Artistic Trust. It was a particu;arly interesting event for me for a few different reasons. First because I absolutely love Eggleston’s photography (and the man is one of my favorite living artists), and also because the auction consisted of large format digital pigment prints, a rare departure from the dye-transfer prints that helped solidify him as one of American’s greatest photographers.
It’s been an almost winterless year, so there’s a distinct possibility that we won’t even need a jacket as things could go straight to summer. I’m not complaining though, so don’t get me wrong. I’m also not mad at the new collection from Brooklyn-based Taylor Supply. Last season the brand made the decision to reel in distribution and focus on selling direct to consumers through its website. More and more I hear from small brands that pursue this model after struggling through the wholesale model. I have to think that cutting out wholesale distribution could only really work for a very small company or a very well funded company. The small companies don’t carry the overhead and the well funded brands can pump capital into marketing to help drive its message to consumers.