For me, the most impressive thing about a designer or an entrepreneur in the fashion business is that they make money by selling their tastes to others. I’m pretty sure of my taste, my sense of colour and of sartorial propriety, but I’m still a long way off having the confidence to risk my own money selling that taste to others. Such is the risk of business.
Will Boehlke in San Francisco recently took just such a risk with the launch of his online store.
Long the author of probably the best blog on classic men’s style in the world, A Suitable Wardrobe, Will decided to expand his recommendations of particular garments and manufacturers to actually stocking them himself and making many European names available to a US audience.
These include: E&G Capelli, Neapolitan maker of ties; Simonnot-Godard, French maker of linen handkerchiefs amongst others; Inis Meáin, Irish maker of knitwear; and Saphir, French manufacturer of shoecare products. None of them are names that will be that familiar to a gentleman on the streets of London; they are likely to be even less well-known with the average American, a continent away from all these suppliers.
And this has to be the biggest potential for an online store like A Suitable Wardrobe. If it can bring to a whole new audience the carefully sourced products of a different part of the world, tastefully selected and intelligently sold, then it is good news for all of the world’s craftsmen, patiently following traditional methods and pursuing the very best in quality. It is what the internet was supposed to do: lower the barriers to trade and create a million niche markets.
At a time when every high street in the UK looks increasingly like every other – and it is apparently a curse that has already overtaken much of the US – targeted, reliable online shopping is a wondrous saviour.
Will’s taste turns to the more traditional even among fans of classic styling. He likes ascots and neckerchiefs, sleeveless cardigans and linen caps. But he also has a great eye for colour combinations – his selection of pocket handkerchiefs is ample demonstration of that, particularly the paisleys. Welcome too is the style advice he provides with each item. At a time when possibly the hardest thing for a man is to feel confident in his use of colour, recommendations on what base colours in accessories to pair with tan or pale blue suits is a boon.
While Will’s biggest audience is in the US, it is not that easy for in London to get hold of ties only sold in Italy or knitting done in Ireland (outside a quick trip on easyJet). So the store is welcome news for me too, and I recently ordered the shawl-collar Aran pullover, a Capelli tie, a Simonnot-Godard handkerchief and some Saphir polishing products. I highly recommend them all.
Here’s to Will, for his sense of venture and his contribution to European craft. I hope the store prospers and grows.