92 A New lease on leather

SLOW Magazine - - Edition 40 -

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.

92

Dé­van swanepoel (left) Pa­trick Musil (Right)

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