If dressing well is an art form, then a bespoke suit is your canvas. If you want to create a masterpiece, then you’ve got to get down and dirty with the details and by that I’m talking about accessories.
Women understand this more so than men – many a cunning cougar, or flighty fox knows how a simple frock from Top Shop can be elevated to dizzy heights when teamed with a strappy pair of Louboutins and a Hermes Birkin.
It’s the same for men. A simple black Mohair suit will own that cocktail party when worn with a summer weight cashmere scarf, tied nonchalantly underneath it, a crisp white shirt and a hanky stuffed rakishly into the top pocket.
Yes, it is the little things that count and will become your trade-mark, and so this month has seen the official launch of the Michelsberg Accessories website for men who laugh loud, live fast and dress proud.
It’s an outrageously indulgent collection of silky loveliness, with some “Casino” style socks and “Steed” umbrellas thrown in for good measure. There is however one thing that is missing and that is shoes.
Without doubt, they are the singularly, sexiest, most important item in a gentleman’s wardrobe and is where mere mortals are transformed into sartorial giants.
I am a huge fan of Jeffery West, although I’ll occasionally flirt with Oliver Sweeney, and have made it my mission to seek out the finest foot candy available to humanity. I’ve already commented on the likes of John Lobb and Berluti but have recently heard incredible things about one of the four remaining shoe manufactures that remain in the UK.
So, I jumped in my car and headed to their factory in Northampton to find out more about the wonderful world of Edward Green.
Established in 1890 the business has been run for the last ten years by Hilary Freeman, who took over, when her partner, the legendary shoe designer John Hlustik sadly died.
Employing 55 craftsmen and ladies, they make 55 pairs a day, of which 80% are exported, and prices start at £585 with their ‘Top Drawer’ range starting at £995.
But before I get into the detail, let’s look at some wonderful, unadulterated shoe-porn:
I love manufacturing businesses and the thing that really hit me when walking round the factory was just how much a truly artisan business this is. Much of the work is done by hand, using the simplest of tools, and what impressed me most was the genuine passion, pride and love for their craft that was apparent in everyone I met.
The shoe-making process begins with cutting out the leather pattern with a ‘clicking knife’, pictured below, named such because of the noise it makes when slicing through the leather.
Then these pieces are passed on to Jill for ‘Skiving’ (pictured below) whose job it is to grind down the edges of the various leather components so that when they are assembled and sewn together, no lumps are visible.
The process is so traditional that they actually make their own needles, using pig’s bristles, to then sew the shoes upper together with waxed thread.
Next step is the ‘lasting’ process where the leather upper is stretched over the wooden last (which gives the shoe it’s shape) by Eddie, both pictured below.
I particularly enjoyed watching the Goodyear Welt being stitched to the upper and insole of the shoe, which is used as an attach-point for the sole. The space is then enclosed and filled with cork under which the wearers feet ‘bed down’ and make their own unique incredibly comfortable fingerprint. How cool is that.
Heels are hand pinned and then it’s off to the polishing room to Tim who applies the hand worked patina, applied in several stages. This ‘antiquing’ process was developed by John Hlustik and is a closely guarded secret.
And a visit to Edward Green would not have been complete without meeting Gary “The Slipper King” who makes these beauties featured below using a ‘cemented’ construction.
On the way back to the office we passed the ‘sale rail’ and bugger, I did it again and added another pair of lovelies to my collection.
My time with Hilary and the good folk of Edward Green was utterly memorable and I look forward to meeting with them again next month at the big Italian Menswear show in Florence, Pitti Uomo.
I must say, at times I do love my life