Wandering into LeGrand Filles et Fils you can’t help but to be overcome by what has to be one of the best places to buy (and drink) wine in Paris. The front of the shop is the oldest portion of the operation and is by far the most aesthetically captivating. The visual symmetry alone is almost enough for me. Follow the space to the back and you will pass through a newer store area with even more wine related accessories and eventually you will find you in a comfortable tasting area with walls lined in even more wine, only now you’ve found the good stuff. That’s it, you need to pull up a chair and have a drink.
Stephen Bilenky has been making bicycles in North Philly for the past 30 years. His company Bilenky Cycle Works started out as a repair shop, and then soon after morphed into a custom manufacturer of great looking and highly functional bicycles. The operation was recently the focus of a mini-documentary which beautifully illustrates the commitment of American small batch bicycle fabricators. The film illustrates the commitment and skills that it takes to make high quality bikes like these. And while a Bilenky bike carries a significant price tag, one can easily see that these people are not exactly in this to get rich. Things like these bicycles take time, effort and know-how — money seems like it is the last thing Stephen Bilenky is interested in.
“By the work one knows the workman.” Jean de La Fontaine
Part of the motivation for starting ACL in the beginning was to celebrate the small-batch independent people that are working with their hands to design and make beautiful product. By identifying craft a key narrative of this site, I wanted to do my part to support the little guy that is investing everything he has to make a living with his own two hands.
I recognized that well-made things are the physical embodiment of hard work, time and expertise. These are attributes that deserved respect and, I thought, appreciation on a bigger scale. I also came to understand that, in the modern world of the super-fast-consumption-crazy Internet with everything warranting Next Day Air and the like, the small-batch slow made things that take time are actually worth the wait. This curiosity about what goes into things and how they are made continues to drive the site to this day.
You may know Michael Hainey from GQ, where he’s the deputy editor, a writer and resident wise man. He’s an elegant and reassuring presence in a menswear world that can breed exhaustion. You may also see Mr. Hainey on television, walking in the West Village or on your favorite street style site. He carries himself with a sense of courtliness that makes him seem approachable, which is very much the case. Prepare to get to know him much better—his new book, the memoir “After Visiting Friends”— is deeply personal and incredibly moving. It’s also a brilliantly reported, completely absorbing mystery about the death of his father, which happened when Michael was a boy. It’s a genuine accomplishment by one of New York’s dapper men of letters.
We spoke recently at the Spotted Pig.
David Coggins: The title of your book is “After Visiting Friends.” Can you explain what it means? It’s a good introduction to what the book’s about.
Michael Hainey: It’s the reason the mystery begins. You could say it’s a euphemism, but really it’s a line inside of a couple of the obituaries that ran after my father died. One said he died after visiting a “friend” and the other said “friends.” It gave an address in Chicago, so as a young guy I said “who are these friends?” So it’s the engine of the mystery.
What is it about Harris Tweed that gets me every time? I see it all over the place, collab’d almost to death, but still it never ceases to amuse me. Today I went by the Brooks Brothers offices to get a look at the fall 2013 collection. It’s a tricky thing, going to look at cold weather clothing when it is actually cold outside. Maybe tricky is not the word, maybe the term is torture? At any rate, they have some good stuff coming this fall including these Rancourt & Co. beef roll penny loafers made from a dark brown Scotch-grain leather and a Harris Tweed vamp. In real life the tweed looked slightly more grey than blue, as they appear in these photos — though regardless of the photogenic nature of the tweed, they are a handsome pair of shoes.
Two other examples of Harris Tweed footwear domination that come to mind are the Nigel Cabourn x Red Wing Munson boot and these Alfred Sargent Harris Tweed Seven Eyelet Boots. Don’t get too excited about either of those, I believe they are both long gone, though I could be mistaken.
It is officially glove season. Depending on where you live, the season can be either non-existent or seemingly never-ending. In NYC most of the time gloves are not required, but during most of the colder months I only need to deploy a lighter, more phone functional pair of wool fingerless gloves. Since I am not cleaning snow off a car, fingerless-ness generally isn’t a big deal. But when the weather turns bad (like the forecast is predicting for this week) and full coverage is needed, I opt for these very nice knit deerskin gloves from Newberry Knitting in Schenectady.
Classic looks, warmth and they’re comfortable — everything you need in a basic pair of gloves. In the past I’ve experienced some pretty poorly made ragg wool gloves which tend to shed the leather patch. Luckily, these gloves are of better quality and do not suffer those same issues. Hard to argue with for $22 and made in New York State. [Available at Kauffmann Mercantile]