The thought of flying down to Birmingham, Alabama just to visit Harrison Limited is certainly something that has crossed my mind. At the end of the day I love clothing, but what I really love is retail. And when it comes to my favorite shops, independent men’s stores are by far my favorites. Case in point: Cuff’s Clothing in Chagrin. Men’s shops in the Southeast? That’s when things get really tasteful and very distinctly American. It’s both an aesthetic and an approach that I have come to appreciate and actively seek out as the true shops of this stripe are few and far between. While in Florence (Italy, not Alabama) at Pitti I spent about 30 minutes peppering the Oxxford Clothes sales guy about his favorite men’s shops, specifically in the Southeast. I wasn’t looking for stores with a more New England spin like O’Connells (I already know it, already love it), I was seeking classic, Southern, gentlemenly, tasteful, understated and confident shops. The Oxxford rep reminded me of Harrison Limited and here we all are. It was the perfect call out and it is an amazing place for true menswear.
My first encounter with the Topo Designs founders Jedd Rose (below right) and Mark Hansen was a perfectly orchestrated meeting over beers that happened completely by chance 4000 miles from home. A few months back I purchased a few items from the Topo online store and really came to love the design and aesthetics. I used the bags a bunch and more often than not people asked me where they came from. Intrigued I followed the guys on Twitter and Instagram and enjoyed the laid back and approachable nature of the company. That feeling came full circle when Mark and Jedd stopped me this week in a bar in Florence after a long day in the hot sun at the peacock friendly menswear trade show that is Pitti Uomo.
David Sokosh makes watches one at a time by hand in his studio in Brooklyn, New York. The watches are all crafted from from automatic movements of 70s era Swiss pocket watches. It’s a slow process (he’s currently has a 16 week back order) that produces really cool and one of a kind timepieces.
He started Brooklyn Watches after he was forced to shutter his Dumbo-based art gallery after the recession slowed things down. As he explains in yet another intriguing and genuine video from Etsy, Sokosh started making watches to sell at the Brooklyn Flea, just to give him something to do and to make some money. Eventually though, the watches gained a following and the endeavor turned into a full fledged business. It’s a great story and one that is beautifully captured in the video above. If there there were a silver lining to the recession, David Sokosh and Brooklyn Watches are certainly part of that narrative.
Tucked into an easy-to-miss shop near the Pantheon in Rome is leather goods maker Federico Polidori. Inside you will find a small selection of hand made items for purchase, but what Polidori really specializes in are beautiful custom made bags, holsters and all sorts of other high quality leather items. The shop is more workshop than retail space, with Federico’s workbench taking up a good amount of space in the main room. When I walked in I was instantly captivated by the product and started to bug the man with questions. He was gracious and patient with my questions, and my very limited grasp of the Italian language.
While it wasn’t easy for Federico or his wife Roberta to understand me, it was easy to see that the bags, wallets, belts and other items they make are very high quality. Leaving without buying something would have been criminal.
The good people of Mr Porter have set up shop on Gansevoort Street in NYC, bringing the online menswear destination to (real) life in partnership with USA network’s show Suits until next Sunday. I stopped by to check out the shop soon after it opened on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. Though to be honest, not anywhere near as surprised I was when I visited the Mr Porter offices in London this past winter — that place is insanity. The pop up shop has a limited selection of items from the online store which are available to buy on the spot (imagine that!) along with shoe shines, grooming services from Aesop and other worthy diversions. I think the aspect I found most interesting was an interactive installation that creates an interesting pseudo-physical shopping experience with Mr Porter. It was an intriguing way to bridge the gap between physical and virtual retail. At the very least it was an entertaining experiment that managed to keep my attention for a minimum 15 minutes.
The post about my time in Ischia wouldn’t be complete without talking a bit about my hotel on the island, the Mezzatorre Resort & Spa. I spent a good amount of time looking for a place to vacation for a few days before some business meetings I had in Europe this past week. I really wanted to further explore the coast of Italy, because in past years I have spent these early June trips in the south of France, a destination I hold as one of my most loved places for R&R. This year though I was hoping for something that could live up to the great times I have had before. Needless to say, Mezzatorre and Ischia far exceeded any expectations and has raised the bar for next summer.
Finding a place for me to vacation is not the easiest task. On business I don’t really have a lot of concern for where I will stay — often a Hilton of any color will suffice. So long as it is clean and well kept, I’m golden. But, when it comes to a vacation now that’s a whole other story. I agonize over where to stay when it comes to some of my few true holidays. Trip Advisor can be helpful, but I find most of the people on there are insane or just very easily won over and have tendencies to over rate things. So I’ve learned to look to people — people whom I consider to have all-around good taste — for advice based on their past experiences.
This time around I was looking to stay somewhere on the Amalfi Coast and I couldn’t seem to come up with anything I liked under $1200 a night (which is insanity as far as I am concerned unless it is a honeymoon situation). Eventually though I found the perfect person to ask for advice and he in turn offered up the Mezzatorre, which ended up being the perfect solution. That man? None other than Mr. Tom Kalenderian, the smartest man in menswear, Barneys New York GMM and all around good guy.
The islands of the Tyrrhenian Sea recently served me as the ultimate respite from my hectic life in the city. This past week I enjoyed three very short days off the coast of Napoli tending to the sun and sea in the paradise that is Ischia. And don’t feel like you need to wait until Agosto to enjoy the islands of Italy, June is the perfect time to visit as prices are better and crowds thinner, but the weather couldn’t be better.
The islands of southern Italy are famous for their idyllic surroundings and relaxed atmosphere. Capri is by far the best known of the bunch, but my vote goes for its larger sibling Ischia. The more time I spend on the Mediterranean, the more I want to be there. Frankly, it’s a very well-fed and well-tanned vicious cycle that is not to be missed.