A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Amos Sulka & Co.: The Cashmere Overcoat

Once upon a time, A. Sulka & Co. was the preeminent clothier for the affluent from New York to London to Paris. The company’s loyal customers included such notables as the Duke of Windsor, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill, Clark Gable, Rudolf Valentino, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gary Cooper, and various members of the Kennedy and Rockefeller clans.

After Amos Sulka’s death in April 1946, the company remained a well-regarded institution among the international elite. The haberdasher had a shop in Paris on the Rue de Castiglione and in London on Old Bond Street. In addition to stores in Chicago and Beverly Hills, the company was well-represented in New York City with brick-and-mortar shops on Park, Madison, and Fifth Avenues, as well as a boutique in the Waldorf-Astoria. 

Sadly, the rise of business casual and CEO "dressed-down" chic was too much for the venerable institution to overcome. The last of Sulka's shops closed almost 10 years ago, but one can still find great examples of the classically-styled and wonderfully well-made offerings on display at A. Sulka & Co. There is perhaps no better testament to the fine works of art created at Sulka than the fact that one can still expect to pay hundreds of dollars for vintage bath robes made of vicuna or fine silks,  in thrift shops or online at eBay. 

Despite the company's poor financial footing in the latter decades of the twentieth century, Sulka pieces from the late 1980s to early 2000s did not suffer from any precipitous decline in quality. Consider this single-breasted 100% cashmere overcoat that I recently discovered. The grey Sulka tag would seem to place the date of manufacture somewhere around the 1990s.

 The manufacturer's tag inside the inner pocket identifies this particular item as having been made for Sulka by Saint Andrews - a fine Italian clothier that has provided suiting for Ralph Lauren's Purple Label  line since that esteemed icon relieved England's Chester Barrie of the manufacturing responsibilities for the Purple Label clothing line in the early 2000s. Its not outside the realm of reason to expect to pay approximately $4000-5000 for a similar camel-colored cashmere overcoat from Saint Andrews today.

While the demise of the venerable House of Sulka remains a sad tale, one can take some comfort in the fact that the company's offerings remained of the highest quality unto the end.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Brunello Cucinelli: The Overnight Bag

The Cucinelli Dust-Bag: Could it be cashmere?

I had a few hours to kill one afternoon last week so I decided to head over to the Brunello Cucinelli sample sale. The sale was located in what appeared to be BC's corporate showroom at 58th Street between Third and Lexington Avenue. There was clothing and accessories for both men and women, but I wasn't planning on purchasing anything - famous last words.

I've been on the look out for a travel bag for some time, but I could never really find anything that caught my eye. Swaine Adeney Brigg makes wonderful leather goods, but I was looking for something not-so-classically British in style. I'm certainly an Anglophile, but I wanted something with just a bit more spice to it. 

In the back corner of the showroom, I spied a table of leather goods that appeared to have gone largely unmolested by the gathering hordes of female shoppers (I point the finger at the fairer sex here because men at sample sales just never seem to exude the same level of maniacal intensity). I have a weak spot for lighter shades of brown, so this particular overnight bag's combination of leather and canvas really jumped out at me at first glance.

All things being equal, once you begin comparing bags in the $2500-3000 range,you'll probably be hard-pressed to justify any bag over the quality goods produced by SAB or Globetrotter. While Brunello Cucinelli has certainly amassed quite a following in the last few years due to luxurious fabrics, particularly his cashmere goods, I think its fair to say that his reputation as a maker of leather goods trails behind that of SAB. On the other hand, BC on the whole would probably be considered more stylish or fashionable than SAB, but I suppose reasonable minds can differ.

Now with all of that being said, if you're lucky enough to find an item that you've been looking for in a style that appeals to you at 85% off the retail price of $2565, it's pretty much a no-brainer.

Hopefully, I'll have a chance to put the bag to good use this summer. I've been hoping to break out a pair of Edward Green saddle shoes that I picked up at Ralph Lauren, and while the picture above doesn't do the color justice, the leather color of the bag is quite similar to the burnished portions of the saddle shoes' edwardian antique patina. 

Now I just need to work on an outfit . . .

[P.S. I also picked up a sweater that I'm selling here. If anyone's interested, shoot me an email.]