In Good Nature: A No Man Walks Alone x Stoffa Collaboration

Until recently, "collaborations" have been mainly in the purview of streetwear. They're a way for companies with specific strengths or areas of expertise to create something unique together, sort of like how academics from different fields might come together on a project. Growing up, I've always associated the term with Nike, or how a cut-and-sew company might collaborate with a cool brand specializing in screenprints. But as the fashion industry has increasingly embraced streetwear in the last ten years, even luxury lines are marketed under the flashing neon-lights sign of "collaboration." Collaborations are a way for companies to generate not only products, but also online content and interest in today's noisy, crowded market.

The best collaborations involve companies with distinct points of view, but aren't worlds apart. Last week, two of my favorite companies, No Man Walks Alone (a site sponsor) and Stoffa, collaborated on a project called In Good Nature. It's a fall/winter capsule collection that includes dramatic overcoats, patterned tailoring, lounge jackets, drawstring pants, and camp collared shirts with generously sized chest pockets. Like the two companies involved, the collection straddles the line between classic and modern, allowing you to style the clothes in various ways (more on this later).

The name In Good Nature refers to the team's goal of producing clothes with minimal environmental impact. Stoffa founder Agyesh Madan sourced deadstock Italian wools originally made in the late 1990s and early 2000s, saving material that would have otherwise been discarded. You don't often see collections like this because larger brands need enough cloth to produce massive runs. NMWA and Stoffa were able to use these remnants because they made a small capsule collection through flexible Italian factories ("The clothes are made in the same way we would do a one-off MTM," No Man Walks Alone founder Greg Lellouche explained). They also sourced natural, undyed fabrics from the Yorkshire-based mill Marling & Evans, which specializes in this sort of cloth. Most fabrics are chemically treated to take on the color palette of your wardrobe. Undyed fabrics allow the natural color of an animal's fleece to shine through. They're typically cold in hue, have some visual depth (since the fibers haven't been dyed into a flat uniform color), and range from grey to taupe to chocolate brown.

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This Summer’s Best Shirts

Fall/winter style is all about outerwear, but the shirt comes into its own in the summertime. What's typically considered background material for a nice coat or jacket becomes the centerpiece when it's too hot for layering. Unfortunately, there are few guidelines for choosing a good summer shirt. Basic white poplins and light blue oxford button-downs are wardrobe staples but a bit boring by themselves. Summer prints can vary wildly, leaving many people confused about what to buy. So this season, I've compiled a list of what I think are some excellent options, along with tips on how to wear specific shirts and what aesthetics they fit.

THE USEFUL BLUE SHIRT

In the most famous shirt-related scene committed to paper, Daisy Buchanan is described as sobbing stormily into thick shirt folds, her head bent and voice muffled as she cries about how she's "never seen such beautiful shirts before." The shirts had been thrown onto a table, mounted high into a soft, rich pile, and came in a spectrum of rainbow colors, including, as F. Scott Fitzgerald vividly described, "coral and apple green and lavender and faint orange with monograms of Indian blue." The enchanting description beautifully captures the decadence of the book's main character, the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby. But if you want to build a useful shirt wardrobe, you should stick to just one color: light blue. 

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The New Faces of Tailoring

About ten years ago, I traveled to Naples, Italy to interview bespoke tailors for some stories I was writing for various outlets. When you interview enough tailors, particularly those of an older generation, you will hear the same stories repeated. This typically happens over a strong cup of espresso, sometimes called na tazzulella e café in the local dialect, which is chased down with a small cup of water and a bite of dark chocolate. Whenever you walk into a tailor’s workshop, the first thing they’ll ask you is, “Ve site giè pigliato o’ cafè?” (Have you had coffee?). I was told by a Neapolitan friend that the polite thing to do is always answer in the affirmative. Since I had to interview three or four tailors each day, I went through every day shaking from caffeine. When a tailor makes you coffee, he or she will make two cups — one for you and one for them. Then they'll sit down with you and proceed to complain.

Neapolitan tailors are worried that the tailoring trade in their area will die out in a generation or two, as young people don’t want to make clothes for a living. They also believe that young people don’t have the time or temperament to perfect tedious tailoring techniques, which require years of practice. Many of these older tailors entered their trade when they were young, some as young as eight years old. Today, such practices are no longer possible because of compulsory schooling. One tailor swore to me that you have to train for at least twenty years before you can make a beautiful suit. “Once someone graduates from university, it’s too late for them to become a tailor,” he confidently told me. I wanted to believe him, so I nodded gravely.

While on that trip, however, I was allowed to tour the backrooms of some notable workshops, including those belonging to Rubinacci and Sartoria Formosa. There, I saw young tailors quietly sewing away. It’s true that the labor pool is shrinking — tailors are dying at a faster rate than they’re being replaced. Several cutters in the United States have told me about their difficulties finding skilled coatmakers in this country, so they’re left bundling pieces of cloth and sending them around the world for making. But young tailors exist, and their scarcity has only made it more exciting to see people entering this trade. In the ten years since I made that trip to Italy, I’ve come to know a few. Here are four operations that I think are particularly interesting.

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Excited to Wear This Spring

For the past few years, whenever we're about to start a new season, I've been doing roundups about things I'm excited to soon wear. These lists are about what I'm interested in at the moment; they are not meant to serve as shopping guides for seasonal essentials (which invariably repeat the same yawn-inducing basics). But hopefully, between the entries, styling suggestions, and innumerable photos at the end, you can find some outfit ideas for your wardrobe. Here's this year's spring list. You can also revisit the lists for spring 2019 and 2021 for more warm-weather outfit ideas (2020's list was about life at home).

COTTON SUITS

Europeans and North Americans felt the Industrial Revolution not just in social terms, but also tangibly on their skin. Before the revolution, most Westerners wore and slept on linen, which was typically grown on local farms, spun at home, and made into moisture-wicking bedsheets and clothes. But changes in international trade, the invention of the cotton gin, and the evolution of factory cotton production made cotton incredibly cheap, relegating linen to buckram and underwear by the mid-19th century. Today, cotton is so ubiquitous that it's described as "the fabric of our lives." We wear it as shirts, shorts, pants, jackets, and even shoes. But for suits and sport coats, the fiber is often overlooked, sometimes even reviled.

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Six More New Brands I’m Watching

Fashion is often criticized for its creative destruction. Trends are constantly coming and going; new brands are always emerging. What some see as a pointless field, I see as a subject where there’s always something fresh, something engaging, something different to talk about. For the past few years, I’ve been doing annual roundups about new brands I’m watching. To be sure, not all of them are actually new — some have been around for a while. But they’re new to me and, hopefully, you. This year, I have so many brands on my list that I decided to break this post into two parts. The first part was published two weeks ago. This is part two.

HUSBANDS

The lines on Husbands' tailoring are as strong and well-defined as the facial features of the company's founder, Nicolas Gabard. Gabard is a strikingly handsome Frenchman who wears suits and sport coats with Cuban-heeled side-zip boots. In a previous life, he worked as a lawyer to please his father but soon found himself rummaging through flea markets on weekends in search of vintage clothes. Now he has his own clothing label, Husbands, which is headquartered in the affluent 2nd arrondissement of Paris, a stone's throw from Palais-Royal. Husbands' tailoring is youthful, sleek, and above everything else, sexy. Their suits have defined shoulders, wide lapels, and a dropped buttoning point, giving the wearer strong, architectural lines. Yet, there's also a natural elegance to everything, as the full-bodied jackets have leafy skirts that sway like fronds. The high-waisted pants have long, slightly flared legs shaped like ringing bells, hinting at movement even when the wearer is standing still. "Husbands' style is about getting off the beaten track -- risk-taking," founder Nicolas Gabard tells me. "In that respect, the Husbands' style borrows its boldness from the Italians, which is then counterbalanced by the rigor of the English line. Husbands' style is therefore resolutely French: at the crossroads of these two territories."

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Six New Brands I’ve Been Watching

In an interview with The Telegraph, Patrick Grant of Norton & Sons once described fashion as being an “ever-moving feast.” I find that the quick-paced nature of fashion -- where things are constantly being created and destroyed -- makes the field endlessly interesting. There’s always something new, something different, something to talk about. For the past few years, I've been doing annual roundups on new brands I find to be interesting. To be sure, not all of them are new -- many have been around for years -- but they're new to me. This year, there are so many brands on the list, I'm splitting the post into two parts. Here's part one, with part two coming in the next installment. 

GHIAIA CASHMERE

When Davide Baroncini left his job at Brunello Cucinelli, he didn't want to work for another luxury label. It would be strange, he said, to suddenly go from telling people that Cucinelli makes the best clothes to championing Tom Ford. So he started his own brand, Ghiaia Cashmere, which is named after the smooth pebbles found on the shoreline of his native Sicily. Baroncini says the name represents him returning to his roots, the memory of feeling the ground underneath his feet. It also suits a company specializing in thin, luxurious knitwear designed for Mediterranean climates, such as Sicily and Baroncini's newly adopted home, Pasadena. Plus, it sounds nice, so long as you can pronounce it (say it slowly, it's jhe-EYE-ah).

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No Man Walks Alone’s Winter Sale

No Man Walks Alone is a sponsor on this site, but as I've mentioned in the past, also one of my favorite stores. Whereas most shops specialize in either tailored clothing or casualwear, No Man Walks Alone does both, helping guys build a more well-rounded wardrobe. Founder Greg Lellouche used to work as an investment banker on Wall Street, where he regularly wore bespoke suits and handmade ties. He knows his way around a tailored wardrobe, but from years of experience, he also has a strong eye for casualwear. At his shop, you can find everything from hard-to-find Japanese labels to contemporary-styled Belgian brands. 

This morning, they started their winter sale. You can find discounted items in the site's sale section and the items' respective categories. You don't need a discount code -- prices are as marked. However, all sales are final, so you'll want to double-check measurements and compare them to garments you already own. Note, since it's sale season and we're still in a pandemic, No Man Walks Alone warns that they'll need a little more time this week to ship out orders. Expect your order to ship within five days of you placing it. 

If you're looking for some suggestions, here are some items that I think are notable. 

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Bookcore: How Everyone Is Dressing Like a Bookstore Regular

Getting something from Community Bookstore felt more like spelunking than shopping. The second-hand bookstore, located on a street corner in Brooklyn, was a dark, cavernous space filled with worn paperbacks, dusty toys, and vintage records. The shop's owner, John Scioli, was a self-described hoarder unable to turn away book donations. Inside of his shop, piles of musty books stood waist-high, some half toppled, and items were stacked on top of each other at awkward angles, making a trip down an aisle feel like "high-stakes Jenga." The shop was so densely packed that light from the buzzing fluorescent tubes overhead never penetrated to all corners. Scattered books underfoot buried the worn grey carpeting underneath. It was impossible to find anything here — you had to aimlessly browse or ask Scioli for assistance. He had a Dewey Decimal System inside his head that allowed him to find anything. Just don't ask for a recommendation. In a crotchety interview with Gothamist, the white-whiskered bookseller dryly said: "I hate [when people ask for book recommendations]. 'What should I get my father for Father's Day?' I don't know your father."

In an era of minimalist shopping spaces and customer-centric service, Community Bookstore was a strangely beloved institution. It had no traditional storefront or signage, and the only worker, the owner, kept unpredictable hours. Yet, it was a fixture of the community, cherished by "regulars, neighbors, dinner dates, bookworms, French transplants, Spanish tourists, Italian grandmothers, and authors acclaimed or otherwise." Like an old-school tailor or barber, Scioli saw generations of people grow up in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Those who initially stopped by as children to play with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures later came in as adults to buy bedtime storybooks for their children. When Scioli closed his business and retired in 2015, the store generated an outsized amount of press. The New York Times wistfully wrote of it: "The Community Bookstore is not the kind of place one goes for the latest bestsellers, literary magazines, a coffee, or an author talk. It is a place to rummage and ruminate, a place for treasure hunters and lost souls as much as bibliophiles."

Americans hold the idea of bookstores near and dear to their hearts, although independent booksellers have seen better days. Around the turn of the 20th century, New York City's Fourth Avenue was home to nearly fifty bookstores, many with used hardbacks stuffed into rollable carts displayed outside of their front windows. There were once so many bookstores located between Union Square and Astor Place, the district was nicknamed Book Row. But after the Great Depression, skyrocketing rents, and those original booksellers retiring and then dying (with no one to take their places), the bookstores that used to be a fixture of literary Manhattan faded away. Today, only one bookstore from Book Row is still standing — The Strand, now headquartered on Broadway in the East Village, where it moved in 1957 to escape high rents. Insiders say that The Strand has only survived because it's a family's passion project. "[T]he Strand is, when you get down to it, a real-estate business, fronted by a bookstore subsidized by its own below-market lease and the office tenants upstairs," Christopher Bonanos wrote in New York Magazine. "The ground floor of 828 Broadway is worth more as a Trader Joe's than it is selling Tom Wolfe. When a business continues to exist mostly because its owners like it, the next generation has to like it just as much. Otherwise, they'll cash out. If Nancy stays, the Strand stays. If her kids do, too, it stays longer. Simple as that."

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Six Excellent Winter Sales

There's always a consumer hangover the day after Christmas, when you see the festive red cups are empty and colorful wrapping paper is littered all over the floor. And yet, it's hard to ignore that after-Christmas sales are the best sales, rivaled only by Black Friday. This morning, a bunch of stores launched their after-Christmas promotions, including the one that's on everyone's list -- Mr. Porter. If you're still feeling a bit spendy, here are six excellent winter sales.

MR. PORTER: UP TO 50% OFF; NO CODE

Mr. Porter's sale selection is enormous, so the best way to tackle the inventory is to filter for brands. Some of my favorite labels here include Chimala, Margaret Howell, and De Bonne Facture. These companies don't make statement pieces (for the most part). Instead, they specialize in deceptively simple clothes made with interesting details or silhouettes. This ecru De Bonne Facture sweater has a wonderfully nubby texture that will add visual interest to any outfit. Margaret Howell's loose-fitting mock neck would look great with a pair of cords and some Birkenstocks. The ribless hem makes the sweater look a little more easygoing, while the high neckline frames the face. I also love everything from Chimala. Their boxy, unisex clothes look like the kind of covetable vintage worn by people who know all the best record shops. 

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Seven More Black Friday Sales

Later today, I'll be posting a full roundup of every Black Friday sale worth checking out. The list will be published at Put This On, and it'll be updated until the end of Cyber Monday. In the meantime, here are seven more noteworthy sales, along with some suggestions of what items to check out. Along with yesterday's list, you should have some good shopping options this weekend.

KIKA NY: 20% OFF;  CODE BLACKFRIDAY21

When Kika Vliegenthart moved from the Netherlands to New York City in the early 1990s, she intended to study film but somehow ended up working for Barbara Shaum, the legendary leatherworker who made things for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Shaum passed away a few years ago, but her legacy remains through the people she taught, Vliegenthart among them. These days, Vliegenthart runs a company with her life and business partner, Sabine Spanjer. Their company, KikaNY, transforms top-end Italian leathers into bags, belts, sandals, and other accessories. There's something bohemian and uniquely NYC about their work -- reminiscent of the Arts & Crafts Movement and 1960s East Village aesthetic for which Shaum became known. Their leathers are softer and gentler than the stiff bridle leather you might get from an English maker, such as Equus Leather, but no less durable. I like their belts, which are the kind of thing you'd expect to see at a Brooklyn boutique with potted Monstera plants growing in the corner. The 1.33" double-o ring belt, in particular, comes in just the right size for casual wear, and the leather ages wonderfully. The No. 8 and oval buckles look nice, too. 

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