Trainers or sneakers attract geeks. Like moths to a flame, or maybe the moon, ‘sneakerheads’ catch the bug and find it very hard to shake.
Oliver Wrigley is a sneakerhead and his new premium British footwear brand, Oli X Oliver, was inspired by his love of footwear and his desire to offer a comfortable range of shoes without compromising on style.
Left - AW18 Oli X Oliver - Mid-Top - £175
Each shoe is produced in Portugal from the highest quality leathers and hardware. The main vision for his collections was to produce shoes with clean lines and subtle detailing. He has done this by minimalising the number of visible seams.
At the recent Jacket Required Trade Show, where he was previewing SS19, Oliver was even showing me how the cardboard shoe boxes were the highest quality he could find and he knows it’s the small details and the attention they need which makes the sneakerhead’s heart beat faster.
Left - Preview of SS19
These are premium, but are priced competitively, and his second collection, AW18, is just about to drop in stores now.
Right & Below - In the Portuguese factory
I first saw The Silted Company over a year ago at the SS18 SEEK trade show in Berlin. I was taken with the striped 'Cali' shirt for SS18 - pictured - and the liked the idea of a relaxed, surfer brand yet with the slick manufacturing of Italy. Time flew by and I didn’t get a chance to feature them. When I saw them again at this year’s Pitti Uomo in Florence it reminded me what a good, young brand this is. Especially for summer.
Left - SS18 Cali Shirt
The brand is strongly inspired and influenced by the culture of surfing. Their collective is made up of surfers, designers, musicians, photographers and innovative directors, "embracing the curious side of the way of thinking and positive changes in the world”.
Right - SS18 Alar Jacket - €195
"Perceiving Endless" is their motto, it contains the past, present and future.
Born in Emilia Romagna in Northeast Italy, The Silted Company did not immediately taste the world of surfing, but it was their admiration towards the sport and the culture that brought them to "feel the sea inside”. This label feels young, contemporary and sporty while retaining the quality, which I love, from made in Italy.
Left - Preview of SS19
One of the things I love about Pitti Uomo, the menswear trade show held in Florence twice a year, is the exceptional quality from brands you’ve never heard of. I almost wish I had a shop to sell all these brands, but, disappointingly, you need a very tasteful and trusting customer to make it work, because many consumers are hooked on known brands.
It’s comforting to know that high-quality still exists and is to be found in small and, often, new companies.
Left - The Silk Shirt Company - White Luxury Silk Shirt - £800
One such company is The Silk Shirt Company. Doing exactly what it says on the label, it was incorporated in January 2016 in London ‘with the intention to produce the finest luxury silk shirts and to establish itself as a top tier luxury clothing brand’.
Left - Feel like a casino owner - Sam Rothstein, Robert De Niro’s character in Casino
You’ll probably already know about my obsession with silk shirts ATM - Read Trend The Return of 'The Sexy Shirt’ and these really do look the business.
Established by Ajay Valecha, of Indian decent and born and raised in Accra, Ghana, who moved to London in April 2014. The Silk Shirt Company’s shirts are made in Italy with the finest silk from Como.
There range is currently mostly block colours with a few patterned varieties. They had some beautiful baby blue and pink shorted sleeved shirts for the new SS19 season which are giving me pure Sam Rothstein, Robert De Niro’s character in Casino. They are expensive, but they look it.
Right - The Silk Shirt Company - Luxury Silk Shirt - £800
When I started in this business summer shoe options consisted of cheap flimsy flip-flops or jelly-sandals for those pebbled British beaches. There was little or no choice and there certainly wasn’t any style - even though jelly sandals are kind of bad cool ATM FYI!
Anyway, let me introduce ‘CASABLANCA 1942’ who are making some of the nicest and most beautifully crafted hot weather shoes I’ve seen. Started in May 2014 by Gabriela Ligenza, and inspired by the classic film and the year it was released, the shtick is raffia.
Left - Cesare
The uppers are made from breathable natural raffia woven in Mogador, Morocco, and then construction takes place in Italy using the finest sustainable leather from French and Italian tanneries.
Right - The raffia comes from the raffia palm tree in Madagascar
The raffia fiber is obtained from the raffia palm tree, commonly found in Madagascar. The leaves of this little tree are cut into parallel lines resulting in the long fibers used in the weaving of the shoes. Unlike straw, raffia is stronger, hard-wearing and will mould to the feet when worn.
Polish-born Gabriela trained as an architect and interior designer at Fine Art Academy in Warsaw. She also designed hats before this venture. Based between London and her design studio south of Florence, Italy, she travels extensively for her inspirations and research. Gabriela has collaborated for the last 20 years with leading accessories and shoe designers for global brands like Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Martin Margiela, Missoni, Paul Smith and Stella McCartney to develop hand woven raffia shoes produced using entirely traditional hand weaving techniques, but combining the craft with Italian know how and quality materials.
The idea for Casablanca 1942 was conceived whilst sitting on a beach under the stars watching the film, Casablanca, with the background sound of the Atlantic and thinking “what would Rick wear in this intense and sweltering city?”
Each pair takes at least a day to make so the shoes are made in limited editions. After all, "true luxury should be not about the price, but in the uniqueness of the product," she says.
Left - Lace Up Trainers £260
Gabriela believes that helping local cooperatives to incorporate external developments and training improves the marketability of the local skills and products, respecting its identity, distinctiveness and preserving sustainability on a grass roots level.
Gabriela says the shoe styles are inspired by “trying to design the perfect summer shoe for my husband so he can get inspired to go on holidays more!”
There are a few thing to know to get the best out of your pair. You may find that the shoes are a bit tight when you wear them the first time, but they will soon give as they moulds to your feet. You might want to wear them with socks for the first time for your own comfort, but they are designed to be worn bare foot in very hot weather.
Right - Woven Loafers - £228
If you feel that it rubs a bit too much on a certain area, it is recommended that you apply a wet cloth on this part of the shoe while it is on your foot, in order for the raffia to mould to your foot more quickly.
Raffia, being a natural fiber, will feel very comfortable without socks as the fiber will keep your feet fresh and naturally ventilated. As they become yours, “they are even more special even when they start wearing in and fraying a bit,” says Gabriela.
These are really elegant and artisanal summer shoes and I don't think the photographs do them enough justice after seeing them in person at the recent Pitti Uomo show in Florence.
Available at Harrods in the UK
Annoyingly, when practicality rears its head, design is often compromised. But not this time. I first noticed the ‘McCaffrey’ brand, very recently, in Paris at the men’s trade shows. What looked like a selection of beautifully made shoes was quickly shown to offer an extra, simple and effective detail for cyclists.
At the back of each shoe is a reflective tab you can simply flip up when on your bike. It would even work when worn as a pedestrian during the darker evenings.
Left & Right - McCaffrey - Suede Derby Shoes - £370 from MRPORTER.COM
Founded by Robert McCaffrey, and available exclusively at MRPORTER.COM, the concept arose on Robert’s first day as a design lecturer at Glasgow School of Art. His formal shoes were unsuitable for even the short journey by bicycle so development began on enhancing traditional shoes to become suitable for city cycling.
Robert's background includes roles as Design Chief for Belgian fashion designer Dirk Bikkembergs and senior footwear consultant for LVMH and Adidas Y-3.
McCaffrey footwear combines technical innovation with world-class craftsmanship - they are made in Portugal, near Porto, in the historic shoe making district, by a 3-generation, family run company - to provide performance and elegance for today’s smart city traveller. Said to be inspired by today’s zeitgeist movement of ‘active-travel’ which encourages walking and cycling, McCaffrey has developed and patented an exclusive range of features for pavement and pedal.
Left - McCaffrey - Leather-Panelled Suede Slip-On Sneakers - £275 from MRPORTER.COM
Right - McCaffrey - Leather Boots - £440 from MRPORTER.COM
Anti-slip soles and handy side zips increase their practicality and showcase Robert’s 20 years’ design experience in the fashion, luxury and sports industries.
It's not often safety looks this good. I don’t even own a bike and I want these.
When I was shown a few pieces from ‘Basic Rights’, at a recent press day, I thought it was just another rich boy trying to reinvent the white T-shirt. Do we need more expensive basics when we’re quite happy with what we’ve got from Uniqlo and various other affordable retailers? Fast forward a few months and it’s clear this is something far more thoughtful and serious.
Left - Basic Rights SS18 inspired by Marrakech
Founded by The Vaccines’ lead guitarist, Freddie Cowan, what may have started as a desire for a good T-shirt and trousers has flourished into a full tour wardrobe. Like any clever fashion entrepreneur, he’s enlisted a master architect to help with the design and cut of the pieces.
Right - Basic Rights - High Waist Linen Trousers Brown - £160
Savile Row master tailor, David Chambers, who had previously made clothes for Freddie’s parents, and an expert with 50 years’ experience, is helping to translate Freddie’s ideas into form-fitting items.
Having learnt under Fred Astaire’s tailor and spent his apprenticeship making trousers at Anderson & Sheppard, he has made suits for David Hockney, Manolo Blahnik and Terrence Conran. Men who certainly know a thing or two about good design.
Founded in 2016 in New York, Basic Rights is launching in the UK, this season, with a collection inspired by Marrakech. High waisted linen trousers, Western jackets and camp collar shirts are seen on a pair of models mirroring Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix.
These items are simple yet have identity. Prices are good: £40 for a tee to £230 for a Western satin jacket. I’m excited about this brand purely because of the expertise of David. Finding a good pair of nicely fitting trousers is often very difficult. I have high hopes for these high waisted pairs and can’t wait to try them.
Right - Mick & Jimi fighting for their SS18 Basic Rights
Left - Striped Collarless Shirt - £110
See more here
Another California based and made basics brands? Sound familiar? Read about The Death of American Apparel here
This time it’s different. Driven by Founder and Creative Director, Adam Vanunu, Cotton Citizen is about experimenting with colour and mastering the art of garment dying. A curated palette of super saturated, eye-catching coluors are released every season, created exclusively with their exclusive dye house’s capabilities.
Inspired by destinations around the world, Cotton Citizen is designed and produced in Los Angeles. Each Cotton Citizen piece is as unique as the person who wears it.
An off-shoot of his family’s American Dye House business, which he took over when he was 20, Cotton Citizen launched with a T-shirt line in 2012, sold exclusively at Fred Segal.
Adam still develops all the dye colours and washes the mens and womenswear collections by hand. He picks the fabric and launders it before he cuts and sews it, just so all the shrinkage gets out.
When Cotton Citizen dye, they provide a colour fascinator to the washes so that the colour doesn't bleed or fade and it stays as rich as the first day you got the shirt.
Everything is made in the U.S. from 100% cotton.
TheChicGeek says, "I really like the vivid oranges and greens with coloured flecks for SS18 and while it is relatively expensive you are paying for the individual attention to each garment."
Left & Right - Cotton Citizen - Sweatshirt - £170, Jogging Trousers - £170 Available at Harvey Nichols