The gentlemen of New York
Thursday 31st of May 2012

During a recent trip to New York for The Rake, my blog and general R&R, it struck me how small a world the artisan and bespoke community in the city is. Less big apple, more cumquat.

The prime object of the trip was to meet Rake contributor Bruce Boyer, someone I have long communicated with by email but have yet to meet in the flesh. Unfortunately it turned out Bruce needed shoulder surgery (get well soon Bruce) and was bed-ridden the whole time I was there. But it felt like Bruce was constantly with me, such was the number of times his name came up in conversation.

Having coffee with another Rake contributor, Christian Chensvold, at the Plaza, Bruce was naturally discussed. The two are good friends and are both involved with a new exhibition and accompanying book. Bruce came up too, though, umprompted, while touring around Phineas Cole with its designer Ralph Auriemma. See article here for my rather verbose piece on Ralph’s mastery of colour.

I think I brought up Bruce while interviewing Mark Rykken, new head of Paul Stuart’s Custom department, but I really can’t remember (see article here). Certainly, it seemed a little spooky that it turned out Mark spent the vast majority of his career working with Alan Flusser, in Washington DC, New York and elsewhere. Alan was my next appointment.

Many people, of course, had warm words for Alan Flusser, the author of the best menswear book in existence – Dressing the Man – and currently working on the authorised biography of Ralph Lauren. With Alan, however, we ended up talking a lot about the lack of good assistants in menswear boutiques, and how “clothing, being a visual medium” needs to provide its customers with constant visual stimulation. Preferably on the assistants. They should then be knowledgeable enough to tell the customer what else he can or should buy in order to dress in a similar way.

That led to analysis of good stores, such as Paul Stuart, Bergdorf Goodman and Ralph Lauren. Bergdorf I was seeing that afternoon, but thankfully Ralph Lauren had been the previous day. Otherwise I would have started to be a little freaked out.
Downtown and uptown may be a decent distance apart geographically, but the personalities link – and almost everyone knew Leffot founder Steven Taffel (shown at top). Indeed, he may have got more mentions than Bruce – simply because in a few short years he has established by far and away the best men’s shoe store in the city. Everyone knows Leffot or goes there. Often both.
Kirk Miller of new tailor Miller’s Oath isn’t far away, and of course he connects to his brother Derrick over at Barker Black on the other side of downtown. Both connected up to midtown too.

I’m not sure what to read into this tight little web of wonderful gentlemen, except that perhaps New York needs some more artisans and sartorial advocates to swell its numbers. There are definitely bright spots, but one feels privileged to be in London. 

Yes, you are fortunate to be in London. I'm from Atlanta and I felt priviledged when I visited New York for the first time a few months ago. There is a huge lack of sartorial awareness. If you felt a lack of anything in New York then I must make a voyage to London (to have all of my shirts done by Turnbull and Asser!)
2012-06-03 18:24:25
Simon you were an absolute delight, everything we Americans expect of you Brits.
2012-06-04 15:41:12
Christian Chensvold
Unfortunately, being an artisan requires that someone teaches you the proper way and typically you must start early.  If even someone wanted to be an artisan and/or was talented enough to be one, I doubt ther would be anyone around to teach you.  Artisans are disappearing here in the U.S.
2012-06-22 21:49:17
Greg S. Sklar

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