The Pantalones
November 21, 2012
The Pantalones Sits Down With Maine’s Rancourt & Co.:

Interview Series No. 5 -
The words “quality” and “heritage” are thrown around the menswear community a lot; maybe even enough to dilute their true meanings. However, when you have shoes that are made to order in Maine, by a family who has been doing it for over fifty years, it’s hard to think of two words better to describe a product of such beauty. Those shoes belong to a fantastic company named Rancourt & Co. I was lucky enough to get to chat with Kyle Rancourt and learn a little bit more about the brand and the beautiful shoes they produce. Enjoy:



What is your name and position at Rancourt & Co.?

Kyle Rancourt. Vice President, in charge of sales, marketing, and brand direction.


What kind of product does Rancourt & Co. produce?

We produce leather footwear, specifically genuine handsewns and Blake welt stitch constructions. We specialize in hand sewn shell cordovan. All of our shoes are crafted by hand and are completely re-soleable. 


What kind of guy would wear shoes made by Rancourt & Co.?

The truth is I think any guy could wear our shoes, our product offering is becoming so diverse that I believe there is something for everyone. However, our customer is one who cares about quality, heritage, and service.


I understand that Rancourt is a multi-generational family business. What is the story of Rancourt & Co.?

My grandfather emigrated from Quebec when he was a young man to work in a shoe factory. He eventually started his own shop which transformed from a moccasin shop to a fully function shoe factory when my Dad joined him in the early 80’s. Being a contract manufacturer for larger brands, their companies were bought and sold a couple of times. Over three years ago my father and I decided to buy back some of the assets from the company he sold to and start Rancourt & Co.. Over the years my Dad has worked with the likes of Cole-Haan and Allen-Edmonds, traveling the world and learning about every aspect of the shoe business. This is the knowledge and experience that is embodied in our company today.

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(Source: mypantalones)

October 25, 2012
The Pantalones Sits Down With Washington D.C.’s Hugh & Crye:

Interview Series No. 4

Chances are you’ve had an off-the-rack shirt that doesn’t fit your body the way you’d like it to. If that’s the case, let me introduce you to Hugh & Crye, a company who focuses on the body type instead of just labeling a shirt S, M, or L. I was lucky enough to get to talk to Hugh and Crye’s Pranav Vora and Philip Soriano. I got to learn a little bit more about the brand, and catch a glimpse of what’s in store for the future. Enjoy:

What are your names and positions at Hugh & Crye?

Pranav Vora - Founder and CEO

Philip Soriano - Director of Customer Experience

Could you tell us what kind of product Hugh & Crye produces?

Phil: We offer our customers better fitting men’s garments. For now, we produce ready-made shirts and have jackets on the way. We’ve also added limited runs of accessories like ties and pocket squares.

Is there a certain kind of guy who would wear Hugh & Crye? 

Pranav: Our customers tend to be well educated, ambitious, humble guys. They appreciate the fit and quality of our shirts, as well as our easy customer service.

I know you guys have an opinion on this issue, so I have to ask; what’s wrong with the accepted standard for shirting among men today?

Phil: Off the rack shirts are made for the masses and, therefore, fit very few men well. Mass shirt makers use sizing systems, like S, M, L or Neck/Sleeve measurements to determine a guy’s size, neither of which tell you anything about the shape of the torso. The result is a shirt where neck and sleeve fit perfectly, but the body is billowy, or a decent fit through the body where the sleeves are too short and the collar is too tight to button – we see it time and time again.

I personally think the dress shirt is something men take for granted. What is the importance of a good dress shirt?

Pranav: Agreed. The dress shirt is a foundational element, that can be worn for nearly all occasions. When a guy wears a dress shirt that actually fits, it adds a bit of confidence, gravitas, and class. 

In my opinion, you guys have revolutionized the way ready to wear shirting is classified. Can you tell me a little bit about the way your shirt sizes are labeled and the origin of this sizing system?

Pranav: After a few sewing classes and a ton of research on shirt making, we measured a bunch of friends and family members who were lean and athletically-built. We quickly saw that you could group guys based on their body types - the shape of their torso. We launched with 6 sizes, thinking that was all we needed. A year later, we had 12. Think of it this way: 3 sizes (Short, Average and Tall), in 4 fits (Skinny, Slim, Athletic and Broad). 12 total. If you’re a lean or athletically built guy - we’ve got you covered in a way that no off-the-rack brand does.

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(Source: mypantalones)

July 25, 2012
The Pantalones sits down with London’s Hard Graft:

Interview Series No.3

Hard Graft produces some of the most beautiful cases, sleeves, and bags available on the market today. I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk to James, founder of Hard Graft, and learn a little more about the construction, materials, and make-up of these insanely beautiful goods. Enjoy:

When was Hard Graft created, and what led to the creation of the brand?

The spirit of Hard Graft began in 2006 were we created our first leather laptop sleeve, we officially founded the business at the beginning of 2008.

What type of products does Hard Graft produce?

We design all kinds of lifestyle and tech accessories, from small goods, which include felt and leather iPhone cases, iPad cases and Laptop bags. Our newest venture is larger travel luggage made from British heavyweight waxed cotton canvas and Italian vegetable tanned leather. 

Where are your pieces produced?

Our complete range of goods are handmade by a family run workshop in Italy. We’ve been producing with “The Brothers” and their artisans for such a long time that we’ve created a really strong bond. There exists a mutual understanding and big respect for each other’s skills. The Brothers take our designs and develop them with us, whether it’s on one of our several visits to the workshop or through Skype. Together we make sure that every single rivet is reinforced inside and there are no critical points which could break. We work very hard to make sure your hard graft product will accompany you for years to come.

Is there a certain type of person that would buy Hard Graft? 

All our handcrafted felt and leather goods are sold through our online store, therefore we hardly ever meet our customers face to face, making it quite difficult to categorize our customers. As a quick rule we would say: design conscious, quality loving, young creative online shopper. But we see a big variety of people who see different things in our goods visiting our site. 

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July 17, 2012
The Pantalones sits down with Norway’s Berg&Berg:

Interview Series: No. 2

If you’ve been around the menswear blogosphere, chances are that you’ve heard of the men’s accessory powerhouse that is Berg&Berg. Based in Oslo, Norway, Berg&Berg is run by the husband and wife team of Mathias and Karin Berg. I was lucky enough to have a chat with Mathias and learn a bit more about the brand, the launch of some new products, and how they do modern elegance so damn well. Enjoy:

When was Berg&Berg created, and what led to the creation of the brand?

We launched the brand and webshop in November 2009. It started as a part-time project of passion - we both had normal white collar jobs back then. We really wanted to create something real, not just memos and powerpoint presentations, and after considering a few options, starting an accessories company seemed like the most exciting idea. We traveled to Italy, looked for the best manufacturers and suppliers, and the project was born. Seeing something you have designed turn out great and then hopefully go on to be appreciated by a customer is a great feeling. It would be hard to go back to a normal office job now.

What type of pieces does Berg&Berg produce?

We started with ties, scarves, pocket squares, socks, and cashmere accessories. This fall we are very excited to launch our leather goods and knitwear collection.

Is there a certain type of guy that would wear the accessories that Berg&Berg produces?

I think it´s fair to say that a typical customer is not only interested in the style and design of the product, but also the history, the fabric, the construction and the origin. After talking with quite a few customers, my impression is that they are very knowledgable. I remember reading a New York Times article last year about the new breed of menswear bloggers that “look at men’s fashion the way other guys look at cars, gadgets or even sports”- I think that many of our customers feel the same way.

The knit tie is an essential for the type of man or blogger you just described, and it is certainly one of my favorite products produced at Berg&Berg, for the reason that they are not so simple. What are some of the ways you deviate from the standard solid knit tie?

We try to go beyond the standard silk knit tie and work with other fibers as well, like wool, cashmere, and even linen. The linen knit tie has actually been our most popular item this spring; those things are quite hard to predict in advance. In addition to selecting new, interesting yarns, a knit tie can be woven in many ways to create interesting structures, and we try to do that as well. With the patterns, it´s a balance of creating something interesting that remains classic and will work for many years. 

One of the things I think Berg&Berg does beautifully, and something you just mentioned, is balance classic elegance with contemporary liveliness. How is this balance achieved?

We have a classic and traditional foundation, with regards to design and quality, but we aim to create pieces that are versatile and can be worn in many ways. For years now, classic pieces have been worn by our generation in ways not strictly adhering to the rulebooks of classic clothing: classic tailoring worn in a modern way and classic pieces worn with casual clothing and streetwear. As much as we love a classic navy suit with a spread collar shirt and regimental tie, we try to create a collection that fits a modern customer.

We also try not to be too serious and exclusive in our communication. Although we take the collection very seriously, we don’t have to be that serious. A personal, informal dialouge with our customers is definitely something we value. 

Fabric is obviously a large part of achieving your aesthetic and making an accessory stand out. What goes into the selection of a fabric at Berg&Berg?

It’s all about finding the right mix of texture, colors and pattern, and i’s no secret that we prefer classic patterns that work in a modern setting. We started out building a collection based on our own tastes, and after a while you get sort of a sixth sense telling you “that’s a Berg&Berg fabric.” The fabric selection is a very fun part of the product developement process, a phase where everything is possible. After a while there are always some darlings that have to be killed though.

Berg&Berg seems to take inspiration from a multitude sources. Where does the inspiration for a Berg&Berg piece come from? Does your Norway home play a large role in inspiration?

Yes, inspiration definitely comes from a wide variety of sources; books, movies, music, and of course Tumblr, haha. Being Scandinavian definitely plays a big role. Although a paisley tie or a tartan scarf is not Scandinavian style per se, I believe our Scandinavian viewpoint on classic style gives us a modern, contemporary edge.

Alright, you have to pick two ties, two pocket squares, and two pairs of socks to wear for the rest of your life: go.

Pocket square:

  • White cotton or linen 
  • Dark silk or wool paisley 

Ties:

  • Solid navy silk tie 
  • A grey herringbone cashmere knitted tie

Socks: 

  • Over the calf ribbed wool sock. Navy with light blue dots
  • A heavier wool sock for the colder days

What can the menswear enthusiast expect to see from Berg&Berg in the coming season, in terms of product, material, and inspiration? 

We are so excited to finally show our customers the leather goods collection this fall.  We have worked on this for quite some time now, and it has been a long process to get all the details right. We had many rounds of sampling before we finally found a perfect leather and perfected the features. The collection will definitely be a great addition to the brand. Also the knitwear turned out great, and I believe we found a spot-on balance between modern and classic styles.

(Source: mypantalones)

June 29, 2012
The Pantalones sits down with Montreal’s Dolbeau:

I recently snagged a linen tie from Canadian menswear company Dolbeau. When I got the tie, I was intrigued by both the quality of the product, as well as the brand itself; I had to do a little research.

I was lucky enough to chat with David Gross, chief designer at Dolbeau, for some details and behind the scenes information about one of Canada’s finest menswear labels. Enjoy.

 

David, how long has Dolbeau been in existence?

Dolbeau’s been kicking it since early 2010. David Caplan and I started the business when we were still in college. Caplan was studying Biochemistry, and I was studying Accounting. We started working on Dolbeau full-time just 6 months ago (January 2012). Since then, we completely changed the site and all the products. We’ve learned a ton about business and manufacturing since we started. It’s been a hell of a roller coaster ride… Fun times!

Give me the rundown, how and why was Dolbeau created?

Caplan and I have a history of starting small web-based businesses over the years. We’re startup guys, and we love the challenge of business, but we also love good design and aspire to create a business based on design. Before Dolbeau, we never really sold physical products. One day I approached Caplan with the challenge of starting Dolbeau. At this point in time I was going crazy following about 300 menswear blogs and was getting really into the idea of personal design (i.e. fashion).

It dawned on me that online was great for a few things, including universal access to exclusive items and direct-to-consumer sales. We noticed a lot of custom suit and shirt makers popping up everywhere. We thought that the challenge of fit and construction would be too much of a headache, and we probably couldn’t compete on price if we were going to be making everything in Montreal. That’s when we decided to focus on accessories, which are usually one-size-fits-all. We first offered them bespoke and customizable and with fabrics and finishes no one else was offering at the time.

What kind of goods does Dolbeau produce?

Our core products are unique accessories: ties, bow ties, scarves, pocket squares, and now bracelets. Every single product is handmade right in our studio in Montreal. Each item is cut and sewn individually, the old-fashion way, which really allows us to produce an incredibly high quality product every time.

We also do just about everything else in-house, including the web design and development, which is a huge part of our business. Caplan is a web developer by trade, and I’m a visual designer. Together we’re able to really produce a high quality web experience.

I don’t think there are many other small companies like ours that put as much care and attention to detail into their online store and physical products as we do.

Is there a certain type of guy that would wear Dolbeau?

The guys that wear Dolbeau typically have a good idea about their own personal style. Accessories are the finishing touches to a man’s outfit and these guys are well aware. Anyone that wants to stand out and own something unique would be attracted to our product considering they are limited edition and made of awesome materials.

Everyday when you wake up you have an opportunity to design yourself. At Dolbeau we take that to heart, and I think a lot of our customers do too!

Most people would think that the world of neckwear leaves no room for creativity, but Dolbeau creates products that defy both boring neckwear and played out trends. Where does the inspiration and vision come from in creating a piece that is unique and on point?

We get that all the time from traditional old-school business people in the fashion world. “A tie is a tie!” … “You can’t design it”

I think that’s BS. You can make anything better. When our team decides to do something, it’s going to be the best or we aren’t going to do it at all. We don’t screw around. We reversed engineered the top ties in the world and designed our custom patterns, with which we cut our ties based on them. We built each product from the ground up. If you don’t have a good blueprint, you’re not going to have a good tie.

We base most of our fabric selections on what we see online… No medium of information dispersal is as fast as the internet. No magazine or trend can travel faster then the net. I scour hundreds of #menswear blogs like yours and I see what the real tastemakers are doing and wearing. This, in addition to what real people on the street are wearing, is what inspires me.

You brought up the fabrics, and in my opinion, they are one of the most interesting and impressive parts of your ties. What goes into researching and ultimately choosing a fabric?

We have spent countless hours picking and choosing our suppliers, and we work with them very closely. We contact them daily with ideas and new things that we’re looking for. We mostly work with Japanese mills directly, because they dominate in good quality, unique fabrics. Their fabrics also have that “Free & Easy” look and feel to them, which we love.  The Italian and British mills we work with have amazingly long and cherished histories, some going as far back as nine generations. I feel that each product should have an amazing story. Where did it come from and why does it exist? That’s what goes into each of our fabric selections and designs.

Dolbeau gives me the feel of an extremely personalized company. What makes your relationship with your customer different than the other brands?

Well, first of all, we’re a tiny team of passionate guys and girls. Dave and I do all the customer service, which always seems to surprise people, and Carina (my girlfriend) does most of the PR. We’re always looking out for our customers and doing the best we can for them, because we know how good it feels to have a personal relationship with any brand. We’re big fans of other businesses known for their service (like Zappos) and brands that have a similar passion, and we try and emulate them as much as possible. It goes further than just service though. Our products have that same value. We design in a way that our garments should last a lifetime, instead of making disposable crap. It’s like the difference between a pair of Red Wings or a pair of cheap boots you picked up at Walmart. A lot goes into making a product that will last and age well with the owner.

Your ties are made-to-order. What are the steps in the birth of a tie?

Made-to-order is real luxury. It means that the tie you get in the mail is made fresh for you, only after you order it.

  • Step 1. We mark the pattern onto the fabric. This is done the old school way with a piece of fabric chalk. Just like on Savile Row.
  • Step 2. We cut the fabric by hand with a pair of incredibly sharp shears, which can take a while depending on the fabric and the shape of the finished tie.
  • Step 3. We sew the pieces together (blades, neck piece, and tips) on a nice old sewing machine with the highest quality Gütermann thread.
  • Step 4. We meticulously fold and lightly, very lightly, steam the tie into its finished shape.
  • Step 5. Next, the back of the tie is closed up with the slip stitch, which is all done by hand. It has to be one continuous thread going up the whole length of the tie.
  • Step 6. After the slip stitch is complete we can further shape the tie by applying steam. 
  • Step 7. Finally, all that’s left is to admire the tie, pack it, and ship it!

Your team seems to be a closely knit group of creative people. Is it all work at Dolbeau, or is there some play?

I’d say that it’s mostly play at Dolbeau. We’re just a bunch of young people working together in a room, all kinds of fun things happen during the day! We try and have as much fun as possible when designing and working with others. I think we take our work as seriously as possible, but we are having a great time doing it.

Last question, what can we expect from Dolbeau, in terms of product and inspiration, for the coming season?

I think we will be trying to introduce more eccentric pieces, some more unexpected, weird products. Stuff you’d never see anywhere else. I’m thinking more colour, more print, and unique fabrics and textures. We also want to get more competitive with the price point… to give people something that’s high quality, but at a price they can have fun with! So look for remarkable design and exclusivity at seriously awesome prices.

(Source: mypantalones)

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