92 A New lease on leather
It is said that not every man in a suit and tie is a gentleman, and that not every gentleman wears a suit and tie. This statement rings true in a world where formal dress has become the exception to the norm and is seen only under exceptional circumstances. we are in an era where more and more men are embracing a casual sophistication, a personal expression of style, instead of sticking to the more traditional and established codes of dress.
This evolution of men’s style is seen most often in the way clothing is designed and made, with an item like the suit, once the true sign of a gentleman, having evolved from an understated show of taste into a key fashion statement. while there is still exceptional demand in certain circles for a work of art from a master tailor (think of the likes Zegna and the other high-end brands in the hallowed corners of london’s Savile Row), most retailers these days offer suits in different and daring cuts using nontraditional fabrics and trimmings.
The same can be said of men’s accessories. In recent years, there has been a boom in the sheer range of accessories a man should have in his fashion arsenal for those occasions where dressing up is required. Bright and bold socks serve to show a playfulness of character, with brightly coloured suspenders thrown in for an added visual “pop”. lapel pins in all shapes, sizes, and colours are nonnegotiable in any sartorially savvy man’s armour, while pocket squares have become an art form in itself.
However, it is the humble tie that has seen the greatest revolution of all. In fact, it’s only once studying the history of the necktie that the changes to its nature, design, and usage become glaringly obvious. Unknown to most, the tie is not a new invention at all and has been noted since as early as 221 BC, when China’s first emperor, Shih Huang Ti, and his terracotta army were buried in an underground tomb in Xi’an: each one of the life-sized militia member replicas wore a necktie.
It took quite a long time though – until 1840, to be exact – before the word “tie” became the commonly used moniker (replacing “cravat”), and another 24 years before the first mass-produced, readyto-wear tie was patented and achieved popularity in Germany and the United states. Designer ties only saw the light of day in the 1920s, and the windsor knot was not invented until 1936. Befitting its era, one of the quirkier – and surprisingly popular – styles saw its birth in the early 1980s: skinny leather ties, typically worn against paisley or pinstriped shirts.
some 30 years later, two gentlemen – Dévan swanepoel and Patrick Musil – met while working at a design studio in Cape Town. They discovered several mutual likes, and shared a deep love and appreciation for south African arts and crafts. Being design-focused, and inspired by the drive and culture of the country, it didn’t take long before they set out to establish their own lifestyle brand using leather as their medium. The product? skinny leather ties, complemented by leather bow ties and leather pocket squares.
Quite aptly, the duo named their company WEEF. “The name comes from the Afrikaans word weef, which means to weave different elements together,” explains swanepoel. “In WEEF’S case, it’s weaving cultures and people together. And not forgetting that leather also weaves really well with almost all other materials.”
In the early days, multiple production companies were approached to create their first designs, with varying degrees of success. However, as passionate creatives, and after much work and deliberation, they decided to invest in their own equipment and team, in the process acquiring the creative freedom to turn their wildest ideas into actual products while providing meaningful work and income for local makers and suppliers.
“leather has a timeless appeal even in its most basic form; it’s a very unique material,” swanepoel says. “Its versatility, uniqueness, and sustainability makes it the perfect material for crafting the finest products. It only gets better with age, creating a product that will last for years to come. Each tie is traced, cut, skived, sewn, turned, branded, ironed, and packed in-house and by hand.”
Today, WEEF is considered a high-end international brand, with an office in Austria and shipping throughout south Africa, Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United states. This premium nature is not only seen in the craftsmanship of the product, but also in the overall attention to detail: each item ordered from WEEF is presented in premium, sustainable, and recyclable packaging that makes for the perfect gift, and is strong enough to withstand all shipping elements. Apart from the actual product, customers also receive a hangtag with a unique production number and the craftsman’s signature, a cotton travel bag, as well as a product information card.
Born out of love, passion, and attention to detail, the WEEF team’s approach to their product is meticulous and inspiring, and proof that being a gentleman never goes out of style.
For more info, visit www.weefwear.com and follow WEEF on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @weefwear.
Dévan swanepoel (left) Patrick Musil (Right)