I have an artist friend of mine who gets very upset with me when I don't name a new artist. He has a doctorate in fine arts, so I am not doubting that he has his reasons to be upset with me.
However, my experience is the moment that you tell everyone your trade secrets you are soon to lose your competitive advantage. One former illustrator of ours, Dick Carroll, now works for The Armoury in New York and I noticed that within a few weeks of being employed there he was sketching away for them in between selling suits and shirts.
In another instance, a chap who had done some graphic design for me in Sydney was visiting a tailor when he announced that he had designed a few silks for us. The first question the tailor asked after my graphic designer stopped bragging was "where does he get his silk" . In turn this caused a rupture between myself and the graphic designer who one week later announced that he simply refused to do another design for me without having direct access to the loom.
The old Greek adage, once relayed to me by an Irish Catholic who was enamoured with the merchant Greek class, was that the secret to success in business was to hold your supplier and your customer very close, but to make sure the two never met. The truth is, it's not that hard to find a silk loom. It's not that hard to make a bow tie either. But it's the relationships that you forge between your loom, your seamstresses, your graphic designers, your artists, your freight companies, your landlord and, most importantly, your customers, that keep you in business.
That is why the other night, when an illustration artist sent through his first sketches for my new pocket square and I was blown away with the first sketches, I asked him to come up with a pseudonym. For those of you who have read the blog for a while, you'll know that Carlos Oppenheimer is a pseudonym for a friend of mine who is the director of a public company and whose name can't be mentioned along side a running commentary on menswear and fashion. I love a good pseudonym - so I left it with said artist to tell me his when he felt he had found something he was happy with.
The work, which is based on the three fates, the Roman 'parcae' will take some inspiration from Greek mythology, something from Gauguin, a little from the graphic artist Dave Smith, and a touch of impressionism. Our aim was to continue on that theme we spoke about a few blog posts ago - that infatuation I had with the idea that our live's are like woven yarn; spun, measured and cut off by three fates. It makes me think of quilts, fabric, spinners, artisans and, most of all, women. My relationship with women has always been complex and most men would be reluctant to admit to it, but a part of me fears and dreads women.
They are beautiful and whimsical, they are ever-changing, never fixed in one spot. Rarely do we understand them. Most of us men are ruled by them from cradle to grave. I spent my formative years trying to dodge my mother's relentless nagging and reminders. Then later as an adult you spend your best years believing that you are in a desperate need to find the right sort of woman so you can marry and settle down - only she becomes just as domineering as your mother. Later still you have your own daughter and you think perhaps now, with this innocence in front of you, that you understand women and their role in your life. But it doesn't take long for her to learn the ropes and pretty soon you are running around to meet her needs too.
And so, for a simple man mind like mine, prone to conspiracy theories and easily distracted by story over fact, it's quite alluring to think that your entire fate is in the hands of three whimsical women who spin, measure and cut off your life.
We men, we think we are kings and that is our folly. We work for women our entire lives and as much as we enslave women, they enslave us back - they just play a longer and more thought out game. We are kings of a lifetime, they are the queens down through the ages of ages.
Here are the first sketches of the three parcae - and yes, my ilustrator has been informed that he was missing an 'r' on the banner.
Once the sketch is complete the artist will vectorise the entire picture, lay down colours and then it will go to the printers where, depending on the complexity and prices, we will choose between a digital and a screen printed process. Fingers crossed, this will be one of those pocket squares you keep forever.
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