As some of you may remember, I spent a madcap week in New York City and Boston last month. On Tuesday, also Wednesday morning I rushed around Manhattan and checked out a lot of stores, before leaving for the Artisan's Collaborative at Louis Boston. I didn't have time to check out all the stores in detail, so I mostly focused on shoes. A few impressions: Paul Stuart - this was my first stop (it was the closest to my hotel.) For those of you who are into shoes, it's a must see. I was stunned the selection. As most of you know, they are made by Grenson. Price point is about $580 for the models with the plain sole, and $620 for those with the "half black" sole finish. They have come out with a new last - very long, slim and elegant, and with a chisel toe: Definitely a must see. I will be calling them as soon as the sales start. Also, I checked out the suits. The Stuart's Choice suits (the expensive ones with the canvas fronts, handpicked lapels and handstitched buttonholes.) are made by Isaia, as are the lower priced Italian-made models (to Gian Luca Napoli standards.) Dunhill - I liked the look of the store, very nice. I went there to check out the Poulsen & Skone shoes. I must say I was disappointed. They are nice shoes, but definitely overpriced for the quality. 99% sure they are made by C&J, but not quite to handgrade standards. Funny story, the salesman tried his hardest to convince me that they were made by Poulsen & Skone, the bespoke shoemaker. 'Only for Dunhill' or something like that. I was obliged to tell him that I actually had a pair of real Poulsen & Skones from the George Cleverley era. That should have been embarassing for him, but I doubt he had any idea what I was talking about Â The Reindeer Calf shoes were cool, too bad I didn't have a spare $1500 on me... Kiton Store - Didn't actually go in, but walked by it on the way to another store. The funny part is, I realized after walking a half block that the guy talking on his cell phone in front of the store was Ciro Paone. What a trip. Â Saks -They have a very wide shoe selection, with plenty of solid, basic choices. The EG's were the nicest thing there, and they were the cheapest in city. Overall though, I found the selection rather uninspired. Lot's of ugly shoes, and not many stunners. Bergdorf - great store. The To Boot boutique had a small selection of Lattanzi, Kiton and Mantellassi with some nice models. If you are in $750-$2000 shoe market, then it's worth a visit. In the tailored clothing section, I was impressed by a new line of suits they had. I can't remember the name (maybe private label, they were hanging next to the new Hickey Freeman line) but they were a great entry level suit. Price was about $900 and they had a canvas front (very light canvas,) almost no shoulder padding and a slim cut. If you are interested, talk to Martin Flaherty as he was very helpful The MTM Bergdorf Private Label suits (Castangia) were a solid value as well, starting at $2200 I believe. I've seen a lot of truly amazing Bergdorf merchandise in the last few years, so I was surprised to find a rather conservative selection of Kiton, Brioni and Luciano Barbera. Very nice, just not as bold as some of the things I've seen from them before. Â Barney's - I only checked out the shoes, but they were worth the trip. While not the highest quality selection in the city, it was far and away the broadest and most imaginative. They have Zegna, Harris, Lidfort, Bettanin & Venturi, Crockett & Jones Handgrade and Peluso among others. The Lidfort and Bettanin shoes are very nice, albeit slightly overpriced for the quality ($700-$1000.) But there are some great models there. Definitely worth a visit during the sale season. There was already a decent selection of sale shoes. Â Davide Cenci - A nice store. I only saw shoes by Gravati, don't know if they carry anything else. The suits are mostly Belvest or Saint Andrew's. There are some great things there. The coolest thing I saw was a dark brown briefcase with a cognac panel on the front - made to look like the store logo. I wanted it. Santoni - A really great store. Excellent service, the guys there are very nice. I loved the shoes of course. My favorites are still the classic whole-cut and Norwegian-front Bentivegna models, but some of the new stuff is amazing. They also had the nicest driving shoe I have ever seen (handmade line.) Â Lattanzi - mind blowing. There are a few RTW models, all very nice. But the majority of the shoes there are samples for their bespoke program. As such they have had extreme care lavished on them in the antiquing and polishing phases. The results are breathtaking. The only downside is that they will set you back $4000-$10000 a pair Jay Kos - I've read a lot of bad things here, but my experience was good. I got caught in a rainstorm on the way there and looked like a drowned rat by the time I got into the store. Yet the ladies there were extremely nice, and very helpful. Wonderful, and very eclectic merchandise. The tie and cufflink selection were among the best I have ever seen. The Edward Green's were indeed more expensive, but not by as much as I expected. They seemed to average around $900 or so. The suits were by Castangia, which is a good thing in my book. Vincent & Edgar - the sign said no admittance without an appointment, so I gave him a call and asked if I could come in. He said to come back next week. Oh well. Of course, if it were just me in there making shoes by hand, I wouldn't let in any looky-lou's either. On Wednesday afternoon we drove to Boston. Setup for the Collaborative was on Thursday, and the show itself was Friday/Saturday. About Louis and the show: Louis is very impressive from the outside. It really stands out from the surrounding stores. And what's inside does not disappoint: At first glance the merchandise doesn't have the visual impact of say, Wilkes Bashford or Bergdorf. But after my first day, I figured out what was going on. They have done away with the store-in-store format and have thoroughly mixed the merchandise up. So when you look at a wall from a distance, it's not as stunning as it would be if it had, say, a whole rack of cashmere Kiton sportcoats. But when you actually start browsing, the reason for the presentation becomes clear. Mixed together as they are, every item can stand out on its own. When too many luxe items of the same type are grouped together they tend to cancel each other out. This is not a problem at Louis. You 'see' the merchandise more than you do at other stores. Also, they are grouped in such a way as to suggest combinations that you might not have considered, but which work quite well. In fact the theme of the show was 'the marriage of tailored clothing + sportswear' - great theme. Of course I'm biased, as it very much describes my own approach to dress. The tailored clothing selection includes Oxxford bespoke (only US location,) Kiton, Brioni, Belvest, and Luciano Barbera. All the companies cut the coats the way Louis wants them - at the moment they are doing a shorter, slim-fitting jacket with narrower lapels. Very light canvas and little or no shoulder padding. 99% single-breasted, I think I saw only one double-breasted jacket. A great cut really, just as at home with jeans as it is with flat-front trousers. Interestingly, and most appropriately, they are doing their ties much narrower than usual to go with the narrower lapels. There are a few shoes left from Lattanzi and Mantellassi, along with cuurent models from Vass and Kiton. A very cool selection of casual shoes as well. I didn't have much time to check out the sportwear and designer collections in detail, but what I did see was very nice. Louis definitely lives up to its rep. Worth a special mention was the sales staff. IMO it's the best I have ever encountered, anywhere. Louis calls them consultants, not salesmen, the difference being that they are salaried. No commission, therefore no high pressure salesmen. Most of the consultants have been there over 20 years, and it shows. Truly nice guys, and very good at what they do. The show went well. I got to spend two days with the US reps for Oxxford, Kiton, Luciano Barbera, Belvest, Brioni and others. To a man, they were really nice guys.. I was pleasantly surprised. Massimo Bizzochi is a great guy to talk to, very jovial and personable. Michael, Barbera's US rep is one of the funniest people I have ever met. Mike Cohen, President of Oxxford, was there. Funny story, he brought a navy double-breasted suit with him but he decided to wear the jacket with grey flannel slacks instead. He looked like a million bucks, so I don't want to hear any more from ya'll about not being able to wear a navy suit coat as a blazer The Oxxford guys were IMO probably the best dressed guys there. Oh, and the highlight of the show for us reps was probably the free food. All from Louis' restaurant - Restaurant L, and all EXTREMELY good. If you are in Boston, I would recommend eating there. A few pics: The store The first floor: Kiton Oxxford Bespoke Barbera Our table/me Our table/Gabor Sorry I didn't take more pics.. It was a really busy week. Let me know if I missed anything and I'll try to remember.
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6/1/04 at 7:34am