Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Where the Wild Things Are: wear the movie

I totally missed Where the Wild Things Are as a kid. At first I thought this was because I was too old for the children's book until I found that it was first published in 1963. So it must be because it was American.

I know Lizzie didn't miss it, because we still have all the toys and figurines from her childhood peeping over the top of high shelves in the office here, threatening to launch theselves at my head. It was the book that her dad read her to get her to go to sleep, and knowing Lizzie, it must have been good to have kept her quiet.

I've already posted on the the film, directed by Spike Jones, which is due for an October 16 release, and now we have the movie tie-ins.

They don't come much wilder than a clothing collaboration with New York label Opening Ceremony. As well as some fur-trimmed winter wear, you can even get an adaptation of the wolf suit worn by the hero Max in case, presumably, you got a spare $610 kicking around for a fancy dress costume.

Still, dressing up as children's book hero fantasies aside, the blokes' side of the collection has got some half decent gear, such as the Ira military jacket. Don't even think about the white fur hoodie with ears. You will be arrested.

As for the girls' dresses, you're going to need to be a little more than a wild thing to wear one. But you won't get cold.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Hats off to headgear

Hats. I must have about 10,000 of them, baseball caps, woolly hats, hats for snowboarding, cycling, for pretending I'm a member of the special forces. I even bought one of those full face balaclavas once, for a fancy dress party. Went down like a bearskin at a Peta conference.

Headwear is the affordable accessory when there's nothing else to find. As well as ties, but I have a thing about ties, you could call it a fear. I am most unconfident in selecting a tie. So hats it is.

Thing is these days the time never seems right to be wearing a hat. Maybe on a Saturday morning when going to the end of the road for a paper. Or at a fancy dress party. Or a hat party. I've always thought it might be fun to get a pith helmet for a party. That and a blunderbuster and tropical fatigues. Any other time during everyday life, they just seem too, well, young.

Which is why I was relieved when I discovered Rapha and its selection of caps for cycling. Here was an excuse to wear a hat. Rapha produces racing caps, which are short-peaked cotton numbers; winter caps, which are warm and have fold-downable ear warmers; and last year the cycling brand released a line of tweed caps intended for nothing more than swanning down the road on one's cycle in a dandy manner.

Before I got the chance to really get any wear out of my tweed cap, I crashed the bike and under intense pressure from loved ones, invested in a helmet. So that's the excuse for wearing caps while cycling out the window. Granted, they do fit under a helmet, but at the expense of dignity.

But yet again I am tempted by Rapha's new range of Gentleman's caps. These are truly dandy. More dandy even than last year's tweed affairs. There's one in Barbour-style waxed cotton, a grey felt piece with an embroidered feather on one side, and even one in black with white polka dots, although that to me looks like something one might wear to compete in the 3pm at Aintree.

It's really only a matter of time before one of these is sitting on my swede, such is the lure of a new hat.

It will make me look younger, after all.

Friday, 25 September 2009

OK, that's enough of the summer

We're now coming to the end of September and I'm still walking around in shirt sleeves. Not good in the jacket department - my Visvim Ketchikan got an outing last week but more because it was new than due to any real temperature or climatic requirement, the exception being our Kew Gardens trip when it got such a drenching that I think it leaked. And it's Gore-Tex.

Thing is, at this time of year I want to be wearing a jacket, as my thoughts turn to wrapping up against the elements. The mags are full of autumn winter campaigns and models peeking over chunky scarves, head to toe in the latest duffel, while outside it's like the tropics. At least it is during the day. If you're out without a coat after dark you've a good chance of contracting pneumonia, unless you live in Newcastle when it has to be -10 before coats come out.

That's why this time of year becomes a minefield in deciding an outfit. Too hot for a sweater, too cold for a t-shirt. I've already failed miserably in predicting the temperature and ended up lugging a coat around or shivering in a short sleeved shirt.
In that respect I have one thing to say to the weather: Get on with it. We've had a good summer, got a bit of sun. July was crap but you redeemed youself in August. You know you're going to get cold so just get it over with. I've had enough of all these inaccurate outfit predictions.

The rate things are going I could start a new career as a weatherman.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Tour of Britain / Essex 100 bike ride 19-20/09

It's one thing to stand there and watch a bunch of cyclists bomb around the streets of London in the final stage of the Tour of Britain, camera at the ready, in a vain attempt to capture them before they dash past in a blur of multi-coloured spandex. It's another thing entirely to understand how they feel.

Having witnessed that final stage in London on Saturday, plotted up outside Embankment station on a balmy September afternoon, I had a good idea of the kind of effort required to complete the eight stages of the Tour across some of the more difficult terrain the UK has to offer. At least I thought I did until I completed my own equivalent of a Tour of Britain stage the following day.

The Essex 100, a 103.4 mile jaunt through the rolling hills of the Essex countryside, does not in itself match in length an average 130 mile tour stage, but in the absence of a direct train route to the Chelmsford start I decided to bike there. The 18 mile trip, along with a two mile search for the Essex County Cricket Ground took my total ride up to 121.4 miles in one day, which would qualify.

It nearly killed me. No exageration. The journey to the start by cycle had been a foolish move, with more hefty hills than I have ever remembered travelling by car, and a nasty headwind to sap my strength. The headwind seemed to blast in to me on every turn of the first 70 miles or so of the ride proper; I felt the pain of every mile and on the last, cruel climb before I stopped for lunch I'm sure I felt muscles popping in my thighs.

If the lunch stop hadn't arrived when it did, my ride could have been brought to an abrupt and premature end. That little village hall was like an oasis in the desert, with its foldaway tables straining under the weight of cheese sarnies, peanuts and fairy cakes. In the kitchen they were ladling out tomato soup.

This worked wonders for the remainder of the ride. Well, that and having the wind in my favour, tagging on to the back of a team, an energy gel I'd been saving and a glut of descents. I was a rocket. Mark Cavendish would have had a job catching me.

All the same, with 10-miles to go my arse cheeks had gone numb and my neck felt like it had a red hot poker stuck in it. Turning that corner into the cricket ground and catching sight of Lizzie waiting for me at the finish line almost had me in tears.

How those Tour of Britain riders keep it together after eight days of it is beyond me, not to mention the Tour de France riders after three weeks on the bike. I'd be blubbing like a baby.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

One year of Dunhill at Bourdon House

The first rule of dressing for an event - if an invitation suggests a dress code of smart / casual, a gentleman will invariably err towards the smarter end of the scale, particularly if that event happens to be Alfred Dunhill's celebration of its first year at Bourdon House.

This is a fact I should have taken into account when deciding upon a simple shirt / jeans / shoes combo to go with my trench coat for the party. Naturally, the ensembled gents resplendent in sharply tailored suits were far too polite to make me feel in the least uncomfortable, but it was all I could do to stop myself from requesting a nifty little number from Dunhill's ample suit department: "Just add it to the tab, squire. Stick a tie in there while you're at it."

It only seems like yesterday that Britain's premium menswear brand moved from among its peers on Jermyn Street to take up residence in its new home just off Berkeley Square in Mayfair, but it has evidently been a year already.

Occassion enough for a party, billed as a debate between Toby Young and Andrew Roberts and focusing on two subjects, each proposed by Toby Young: 'History is bunk', and 'Snobbery is a vice.' The former topic, taken from an apparent quote from Henry Ford, no less, was on the face of it nothing more than an inflammatory statement, the touch paper to which was lit by Mr Young, with his argument that historians had quite regularly made a complete hash of recording past events, and quite competently snuffed out by Mr Roberts, who did not omit the fact that the actual reason we were sitting in that very room was to celebrate an episode in the history of Dunhill.

The second subject offered a more balanced argument, this time Mr Young got the upper hand, helped in no small part by the fact that his elevation to the status of Society Buffoon of London was not helped by his start in life at a lowly comprehensive school. Mr Roberts pointed out that we are all in some way or another, snobs, be it in terms of the school we attend or even the type of music we listen to. But his argument failed to swing the audience, even if his overwhelming drubbing of Mr Young in round one sent him home with a £10,000 cheque for the charity of his choice.

But the real debate took place prior to the debate. The question on everybody's lips was "won't those langostines make an awful mess of the displays as they are being pulled apart?" Not many dared to discover the answer by trying to eat one, tasty as I'm sure they must have been.

The whole event was a joint effort between Dunhill and GQ and the debate was presided over by editor Dylan Jones. This is the second such collaboration, following Dunhill's sponsorship of the Man of the Year awards.

For a far more comprehensive report on the evening's event's you can read GQ's here.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Porsche 911 Sport Classic

Porsche is one of those brands that has become a victim of its own success. Possibly the only supercar marque that can be regarded as truly reliable (the rest being mostly Italian), it has become the transport of choice of any bounder in possession of a credit card. The result of this is a car maker with enough money to buy Volkswagen and more Porsches on the road in Essex than there are Ford Fiestas.

So what is a prospective Porsche owner to do? The answer has been provided by the introduction of the best looking 911 to roll out of Porsche's Stuttgart factory since Steve McQueen got behind the wheel of a Spyder.

With a tailfin and wheels reminiscent of the RS Carreras of the 1970s, the 2010 911 Sport Classic is all you could wish for in a new Porsche. It has the best bits of the bygone days with the sort of spec and performance you would expect from a new car.

It packs a punch to match its looks, powered by a 3.8L flat-six lump with DFI producing 408 hp, a top speed of 302kmh, and a specially tuned exhaust system which amplifies that trademark engine note.

Truly gorgeous in a light primer grey with subtle dark grey stripes from front to back, only 250 to be made and €200k.

I'll have one for Christmas please.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Heritage brands raise their game

It seems that something good is coming out of the recession for the luxury heritage brands of Britain. Whereas for decades the likes of Burberry, Aquascutum and Barbour were quite happy to pedal out the same tired old macs and wax jackets, with no discernable reason for anyone other than the elderly or farmers to buy them, the recession has sharpened their claws, made them hungry for a new generation of customer.

We've had a succession of frankly groundbreaking announcements from the higher echelon of this fair country's clothing brands over the past couple of years. Who would have imagined that Barbour would collaborate with a Japanese designer, or that Dunhill, once a stuffy old label better known for its cigarretes, would employ Jude Law as its masthead and Kim Jones as creative director?

The momentum is gathering pace too, and has even moved up to the corporate side of things. Earlier this week, Burberry made it into the FTSE 100, thanks in no small part to an insatiable Japanese appetite for its trademark house check and the need of every tourist who visits London to go home with a Burberry trenchcoat. The arrival of creative director Christopher Bailey has also helped bring the brand back up to date.

Then yesterday it was announced that Burberry rival Aquascutum has been saved from impending doom by fashion entrepreneur Harold Tillman, who has bought the company from its Japanese owners. To complete the hat-trick Cheaney, a Northamptonshire shoemaker which had been under the Church's umbrella, has been bought from Prada by Church's founders William and Jonathan Church.

But the real progress is being made with the products.

Over at Dunhill, Mr Jones wasted no time in digging out the brand's archives and resurrecting some of the key pieces with added tweaks for the autumn/winter collection, his first at the brand.

The Barbour Beacon heritage line is a welcome departure from the traditional line. The label, whose jackets are the required uniform of the country set and anyone with a horse, has launched a capsule line of driving, cycling and motorcycle jackets with Japanese designer Tokihito Yoshida. On top of that the brand has opened a Heritage shop just off Carnaby Street.

Belstaff is leaps and bounds ahead. It was taken into Italian ownership a few years ago and the brand has since dragged itself out of the greasy biker pits into which it had fallen, to become the darling of the euro-set, although it didn't do itslf many favours by sponsoring Ewan MacGregor's jolly round the world on a bike. No collaborations in sight for Belstaff yet though.

This whole collaboration and guest designer business is something the luxury street brands of Japan have been doing for years. It didn't take long for Nike and Adidas to get in on the act and now it seems to be the done thing to refresh a tired brand. A bit like getting a makeover.

It certainly seems to have done the trick.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Is that a mammoth tusk or are you just pleased to see me?

Nobody can tell you why woolly mammoths really became extinct. They managed to live through the ice age so they were a fairly hardy bunch. Maybe the world got a bit too hot for them.

Those enormous beasts with their massive teeth and tusks the size of scaffold poles are consigned to history lessons and bit parts in Ice Age the movie. Which is kind of good, because at least we don't have to sidestep rampant woolly mammoths on the commute to work.

But they didn't die in vain, as Dunhill has discovered. The luxury menswear brand has sourced some nomadic herders from Russia who do a neat little sideline in digging up mammoth tusks. Most of the northern hemisphere is evidently littered with them. Being 30,000 year old ivory, they haven't rotted, are officially fossils, and make rather nice toggles.

They make up a small part of Dunhill's new creative director, Kim Jones's forage through the brand's considerable archives to resurrect and refresh some of the more classic forgotten pieces. The autumn winter collection is lined with exotic skins and uber-lux options.

All good for getting the conversation going around the fireplace, and as far as talking points go, having a bit of mammoth dangling off your duffle coat is as good a starter as any, you'll surely agree.