Monday, January 30, 2017

In Search of Japan Blue - Indigo Dyeing at Wanariya Workshop, Tokyo

Shop Hands
Shop worker hands

Located in the Taito district of Tokyo, the Wanariya workshop is tucked away on a small street with a relatively inconspicuous sign written in Japanese. It's actually a little hard to know you're there, but then you smell it - the unmistakable and unique scent that I came to know as Aizome, or Japanese indigo dye.

Indigo Vats
Indio vats

"Japan blue" was first coined in the 19th century by British chemist R.W. Atkinson to describe the deep shade of blue achieved by Aizome, a process that dates back in Japan almost 1500 years. In fact, there are almost 50 different shades of Japanese indigo, but in modern times we're used to seeing Aizome in Japanese brands like Blue Blue Japan, Japan Blue, Kapital, and other specialists that have come to shine a spotlight on Japan as the premiere manufacturer of indigo dyed clothing in the world.

After poring over Styleforum's trip to Japan trying to map out my own last year, one of the things I knew I had to do the minute I came across it was to visit an Aizome workshop.  However, with wife in tow I knew I wouldn't be able to take a long trip out of central Tokyo as the StyFo crew had to the outskirts of the city. After some research I found Wanariya, and it was with a lot of excitement (and a little trepidation) that we made our way to the workshop on one of our last days in Japan.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Cowichan Sweater Design Contest at No Man Walks Alone

Here's something a little different: The guys over at No Man Walks Alone have announced a contest on their Styleforum affiliate page to design a Cowichan style sweater made in collaboration with Kanata Hand Knits, a Canadian company that has been producing hand-knit Cowichan style sweaters in heavy gauge wools since 1979. I, myself, own a traditional design vintage Cowichan (of unknown Canadian origin) I bought from my friend David Lochner over at Briar Vintage in Philly last fall.

The contest runs through Feb 1st, and the winner gets their design made for sale, a free sweater, and their name printed on the tag. There are no stated restrictions on the type of design aside from yarn color, though I would operate under the assumption that standard copyright rules apply.

Details can be found here on their original post, but it basically boils down to:

  • Download the pattern in Excel format from the original post, and fill in squares with the design in color (a depiction of the possible yarn colors is included, though the limit is three colors per sweater)
  • Alternatively, you can print it out and draw the design, though you will need to do so in a way that the colors are differentiated (for example, X or O's with a legend)
  • Submit your design to
If you are looking for some inspiration, simply image searching "vintage Cowichan" offers up a ton of examples as a jumping off point. For something more modern, my favorites come from the Vancouver-based company Granted, who made the sweater depicted below.

Granted x Bodega 2013

**Update 1/31/17** - Looks like they extended the deadline to Feb 6th, as posted on their website (easier to navigate than SF)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Suitsupply Outlet is Open

Outlet Link


I made a resolution not to buy as much stuff I don't need this year, but man does this sale test that resolve. The Suitsupply Outlet just opened today, and I'd highly recommend it to those who 1) know their sizes or measurements very well or 2) aren't looking for a first suit.

Suitsupply sells menswear in both slim and fuller fitting cuts, and also offers a gamut of fabrics and patterns from the plain to the more outlandish. As you might have guessed, what makes it into the outlet tends to be some of the louder fabrics and "statement" pieces as well as seasonal fabrics like heavier wools and lighter linens. The risk is that all is final sale, though I have seen some of it sell on eBay for more than the outlet charged in the first place (your mileage may vary). But for the right guy, who is looking for something a little different to fill out the closet or a good coat, it's hard to do better at these prices.

Outerwear especially is a great value, and for designs which you flat out cannot find usually until you hit a higher price point level. An extra plus is that outerwear also affords the ability to wear stronger patterns and different fabrics than you could in a suit made in the same fabric without turning a lot of heads. SuSu's Merano line is especially great, with features like turnback cuffs and martingale belt in addition to the fantastic cut. I have one in a brown wool herringbone that I got in last year's outlet sale.

I've been staring at this soft-shouldered, patch-pocketed Mercer wool alpaca suit for 20 minutes telling myself I don't have much occasion to wear suits, but the three piece design and fabric texture are telling me otherwise. Do me a favor and buy it so I don't have to keep looking at it.

Words of advice - if you're not sure about it (sizing or otherwise), do as much research as you can quickly to view size charts, fabric swatches, maybe some fit pics here and there online or pieces getting sold secondhand to compare color, etc. I say quickly because once word is out, this really is a minute to minute type of sale, and one that no one really knows the frequency of.

But DAMMIT that Mercer suit. Look at this fabric swatch. LOOK AT IT.

I need to go walk this off.

Bonus pick:

Friday, January 6, 2017

What I Wore Today - The Crombie Great Coat

Okay, so yeah, I get a little jealous when I see pictures of other guys running around in light jackets in the middle of December. It's been grim in Philly recently and more days than not it's pretty frigid, pretty grey, or some combination of the two. Despite that, I could never give up the cold weather entirely for one simple reason: it affords the opportunity to wear some heavy outerwear.

This past summer, I did a short post about buying offseason when I picked up a Crombie "Theodore" great coat in the dead heat of summer. It sat in my closet for months before the weather called for it, but the wait was well worth it. It's a double-breasted monster in heavy wool and cashmere, with dramatic lapels, martingale back, horn buttons, and a below-knee length hard to find in an ocean of mid-thigh length topcoats. It's got enough weight to make you really feel it on your shoulders, keep you warm in the real cold, and drape in a way lighter fabrics can't match. The design and construction quality are very traditional but outstanding, and up close they're even better - a test most garments can't stand up to.

Gratuitous watch pic
When I was just starting to make an effort in dressing better years ago, I bought a Zara DB overcoat at MSRP around $280, which in comparison looks and feels like an absolute charade of synthetic shenanigans and cut-rate construction. It's one of those purchases that make me cringe in retrospect and bust out some high school level alliteration, but we all had to start somewhere I guess. At less than twice the price I paid for the Zara coat, it's a little hard to describe how much better the Crombie is, but I'll give it a shot. Imagine you have two choices in front of you: the first is an Aston Martin, and the second is a go kart someone painted to look like a car. Or maybe you have the opportunity to bid on a date with Giselle, or you could spend half the money to go on a date with your uncle in a dress and some lipstick. I don't know which uncle - the one with more body hair.

I guess what I'm trying to say is you can't fake quality, and real cold calls for a real big coat sometimes.