Seersucker ‘n Bourbon In New Orleans

brooks_seersucker

“Because you fancy a walk in the garden district…”

Flaunting seersucker in the sweltering heat is a hat trick. The people of New Orleans do it best. Perhaps its the mint juleps, iced bourbon, eating Po’ Boy sandwiches, or all that jazz.

Recently, I was getting monsoon flashbacks while stalking out first editions of William Faulkner and jazz vinyl. Fortunately, I was sporting a pair of Madras shorts, white polo shirt and a gray ‘n white striped seersucker sports jacket. Actually, the jacket was slung across my shoulder in this heat. But these are trifles.

Anyway you cut the watermelon for dessert, New Orleans is a thriving multicultural bouillabaisse with style and elegance. There is no better city I know to listen to Billy Holiday on a late summer evening.

miles_seersucker

“When you’re in the mood to swing…”

Speaking of style, we can thank J.Haspel for the seersucker suit, a genuine preppy wardrobe stalwart. This fabric was discovered in British India. Now, if a cloth can stand up to the humid heat of Chennai, it can stand up anywhere. Personally, were I in India, I’d opt for a lungi. However, lungis are not likely to make style statements in Old Easy. No siree! In fact, I’d probably get bounced out of The Commodore quicker than you can say jack rabbit three times backwards. Better stick to a sleek seersucker and crisp white shirt.

For the style curious, Haspel has been cranking out crackerjack seersucker since 1909. Although this brand will be unfamiliar to all but the preppy savvy, it’s certainly worth a detour to this town and pick one up. I for one just love those gentlemen, who have been responsible for keeping this American institution alive with their custom. To the firm’s credit, it continues to embrace classy instead of pandering to the vulgum pecus.

The creator of the seersucker suit, Joseph Haspel was also famous for never wearing socks. I’d love to credit him with this preppy style reflex. A social networker of the highest water, he pulled off a Richard Branson by swimming the Mississippi fully clad in his seersucker suit. It was a brilliant promotional coup for his innovative wash ‘n wear fabric. Before you could say drip dry, seersucker was adopted as a badge of summer nonchalance. It’s not surprising that the Ivy crowd took it up in spades in early 1960s.

Damon Runyon referred to this suit as “a badge of affluence.” 

Continuing to perpetuate the firm’s heritage of good taste, Haspel offers everything a gentleman needs to embrace warm weather. They do not however, offer Mint Juleps. For that you will have to repair to the Commodore’s bar in center of town.

bourbon_seersucker

“You’ll know what I mean when you miss New Orleans…”

Article Title: Seersucker ‘N Bourbon In New Orleans
Photographs: (1)brooks brothers (2)archival (3)Haspel

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at RedHerring, a digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand.

For further inspiration
Visit RedHerring: Life In The Fast Lane

How To Overcome Your Worst Fear

sun_dealing-with-fear

“When the sun gets in your eyes.”

One of our worst handicaps is to be overcome by fear. Whether it is fear of the unknown or fear of tackling obstacles, this emotion can be crippling. Nobody is immune, and it is a classic drama set up and perpetuated by our own minds. Although the mind can be a great tool when properly harnessed, left to its own devices, it can and often will run amok.

Sometime ago, a dear colleague shared with me a small parable on the power of fear warbled by a great sage. Even though the actual story took place in India and is set within a distinct cultural context, the message is universal. Give in to fear, and you are cooked.

The Road To Nowhere
“Many years ago, a hermit returning from the Himalayas met the Goddess of Cholera on the road to Chitta. It is a small village buried in the deserts of Andhra Pradesh.

She had just returned from a Kali festival, where the villagers had partied and sang devotional songs long into the night under a canopy of evening stars. While the people sang, there was joy. Their minds were focused. Under such conditions, fear could not penetrate their hearts. So, the Goddess set about her task and then took a nap under an old pipal tree.

When she awoke the following morning, the Goddess found the population in a state of shock. News rapidly spread throughout the village that 10 people had died during the night. Many others were soon diagnosed in critical condition. Even the local physician was perplexed. What type of epidemic could strike a whole community with such lightening speed? Prior to yesterday not a soul had so much as a cold.

ames_overcoming-fear

“Because everyone loves a good shadow play…”

The mayor quickly called an emergency session of town elders. Some came. Others got away. Of those who attended, each member began to speculate. Was the water contaminated? Were there some mysterious spores in the air? Whatever the reason, panic ensued. Some ran through the streets thinking it was Godzilla. Others barricaded themselves in doors or hid in basements. No matter what action plan they implemented the same nagging question held ground: How could there be so much happiness one moment, and then the pallor of death in the next? Under such conditions, was it any wonder that fear was rife in this normally placid village.

As the Goddess was getting ready to continue on her tour of this desert region, she came across a very concerned hermit who lived in a palm frond shack just a stone’s throw from where she spent the evening.

Unafraid of the Goddess, the hermit shyly approached and begged for a brief audience. She quickly consented.

“How many souls have you gathered into your lap? asked the hermit.

“Only the number in my hands”, she replied.

The hermit nodded his head when he saw the number. Despite his intense spiritual sadhana, he still couldn’t fathom the reason. What the hermit couldn’t know was that the Goddess did not relate the entire story. Witnessing the anxiousness starting to manifest on the his brow, she decided to take this stoic ascetic into her confidence.

“Truly speaking, prior to the festivities, there were hundreds of casualties before I had arrived. When the party was in full swing, every mind was concentrated and focused. The moment everyone went home, the community reverted back to its former mindset and anxieties. It was at this point I set about my business which was to take only ten souls; the rest died out of panic and fear!”

“What were they afraid of?”

“That’s the thing. Nobody knows. Fear only lurks in the shadows. It cannot be exposed to the sunlight. In the light, everything has clarity and is stripped away. The villagers had become so afraid, they locked all their doors and windows, blocking out any trace of light. Is it any wonder that they cannot see what is so clear to you and I?”

babaji_overcoming-fear

“Within every challenge lies the solution…”

Understanding Your True Nature
The sage who narrated this story to my colleague used the above parable to further explain a crucial lesson for anyone interested in real Spring cleaning:

“Man is Aathmaswarupa (self-embodied), that is Abhayaswaruupa (fearlessness-embodied). If only everyone knew their real nature, then there would be no room for fear or cowardice.

The main aim of cultural education should be to teach people how to cultivate mental calm and courage. If each individual feels kinship with everyone else, then the world is indeed blessed. There is no room for fear. When we are born, we all cry out, Ko’ham, which is Sanskrit for “Who am I”? When we depart this world as each of us must, we should utter So’ham, which is Sanskrit for “I am He”. See Me in each other, and your hearts will always be filled with an ever lasting divine flame. Fear can never enter here for it is my abode.”

Much food for thought as we ourselves tackle new challenges and clean out our own inner closets.

Article Title: How To Overcome Your Worst Fear
Photographs: curated by ES

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at CAREO, a career management consultancy under the WCW brand.

For further inspiration
Visit CAREO: Life In The Fast Lane

Polo Shirts Come Of Age L!VE

lac_polo-shirts

“From the hipper side of the preppy universe…”

“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.”

(This is not a quote from Bilbo Baggins.) – Walt Whitman

My current collection of polo shirts are ready for the dust heap. Its time to buy replacements. For casual chic, nothing beats polo shirts in my view. The existential question debated between self and flesh and blood was which ones?

The issue was settled on the basis of which polo shirts are robust to take the beating the open road provides and their countless washings. My second criteria has been one of my pet peeves over the last few years: nothing made in ailleurs. I might admire these countries for many things, but when it comes to heritage and integrity I want to be able to rely on the actual provenance of the brand.

Thirdly, I appreciate when my polo shirts have integrity. This term is open to a never ending debate. F&B defines this as the cut. He prefers those polos with a slimmer silhouette. He claims this gives him more lank. He’s over six feet and feels short. I don’t know what you think, but this is ridiculous. Needless to say, bucked up by a couple double espressos we set forth in the summer rain to sort out the polo shirt conundrum.

And then it hit me like a ton of Lego. Of course, the old stalwart Lacoste. So we toddled over to their flagship store on the Champs. All the product ranges are on display, and better still the sale is in full throttle. If you are seeking iconic preppy classics, you will find this establishment polo shirt heaven. The brand today is not fussy or starched. It’s young vibrant and I believe if Rene Lacoste was vivant today, he’d love what the firm is up to. It’s a perfect example of how not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

All the shirts are 100% long fiber Egyptian cotton and made here in France. You heard that right folks. At the original factory in Troyes. Not shabby, what do you think! The colors are steadfast and do not bleed nor do they shrink unless you do what someone I know by the name of Cracker did. Namely take her white polo shirts and boil them at 60 degrees centigrade.

hiro_polo-shirts

“Perfect if you are one of the seven samurai…”

For the hipper side of preppy, I recommend Lacoste L!VE. My F&B went gaga over a grey T-shirt featuring a tattooed Japanese sumo wrestler in the style of Hiroshige. Before you could say, lunch at Frenchie-To-Go three times backwards, he was waxing lyrical about each collection as well as unearthing creativity behind the latest. Clearly Lacoste has taken tradition and gave it a goodish twist.

I myself am quite content with the classic polo in terms of color and size. Allows me just enough room if I want to be self indulgent at the next BBQ cocktail party we’re headed to later this evening. Our host, a beak by the name of Brother Whitefish says, he’s featuring Tutu by Miles Davis.

Content as clams, we walked out of Lacoste with a dozen summer shirts between us. Pure preppy polo heaven I thought as we headed to the metro. Get over here post haste, if you want to profit from this exceptional sale. Cheers!

Article Title: Polo Shirts Come Of Age L!VE
Photographs: Lacoste

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at RedHerring, a digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand.

For further inspiration
Visit RedHerring: Life In The Fast Lane

Putting Loafers Back Into Weejuns

swim_weejuns-loafers

“You didn’t get all dressed up for me…”

Spring is here in all its glory. You can smell the heat with the sun on your face. No Oxford lace ups today, thank you. I want loafers comfort and relaxed elegance sockless and fancy free. No loafers are more Ivy style than Bass Weejuns. This iconic shoe has been admired by the Italians, the French and adored by the Japanese.

Let’s face it, sports shoes outside the gym are naff. They send the wrong stylistic notes. Weejuns on the other hand, offer causal grace when strolling the boulevards of Paris. They’ve adorned the feet of Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and yours truly. They won’t go amiss on your feet either. Think Cape Cod or Southampton and you’ll be reaching for your Weejuns.

Curiously, loafers first made its appearance in New England in the 1930s. The first firm to construct the model on a mass scale was G.H. Bass and sold under the trademark, Weejuns. This soft and causal shoe was an instant hit.

In those days, New England and particularly Maine was the bastion of American shoe manufacturing. Today with minor exceptions, the shoe industry moved to other shores. Bass Weejuns however, can still be procured. If you are blessed, you might be able to scrounge up a vintage pair somewhere online.

wee_weejuns-loafers

“Foot candy worthy of Hyannis Port…”

Just last week, I accidentally stumbled into a Parisian boutique, which is selling an English overstock of the originals sent from the States in the 1960s. I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

In case you are wondering how the shoe was nicknamed loafers, I’ll tell you. In American slang, the term refers to someone who just lounges about. Because it has no laces, it is easy to slip on and off. Therefore, it is considered the “lazy” man’s shoe. The welt is Goodyear. Casual from the start, they embody what some call the Ralph Lauren style. Ralph Lauren has been strongly influenced by the aesthetics of New England. Examine his current shoe collection. Loafers of various persuasions always dominate.

Some loafers sport tassels in the front. This gives the shoe a slightly more formal appearance. Allen Edmonds is responsible for introducing this style trait. For cordovan purists, Alden remains the loafer of choice.

ankle_loafers-weejuns

“Nothing beats casual elegance…”

The French Touch
In France, the artistic director of Weston, Michel Perry was inspired by American loafers and created the “108”. His loafers embody that French je ne sais quoi. Weston’s have adored the feet of Francois Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, and even the former president, Nicolas Sarkozy. The house has given an assortment of names to the shoe over time such as the “Janson-de-Sailly” in honour of one of Paris’ most exclusive lycees. It is considered by the French to be the Rolls Royce of loafers. It is available in most sizes and widths. Now if you have feet as wide as bear’s paws, you can still find your size. Best of all, these French loafers include hand stitching and over 200 manual operations.

Many loafer mavens however, prefer those designed by John Lobb, whose prêt-a-porter line is owned by Hermes. The current “Buckingham” version is quite retro and is a big hit in European circles.

Off the Champs Elysees on the rue Marboeuf, is the establishment of Berluti. Olga Berlutti designed a special pair of loafers in the 1960s for Andy Warhol, which has since become a signature icon of the house. Parisian dandies are swept off their feet by this model with its cured Venetian leather.

michael_loafers-weejuns

“Darling, I’m impressed…”

Probably one of the hottest name brands in loafers is Tod’s. Despite the American sounding name, Diego della Valle established his firm in Italy. Their shoes are renowned for their rubber nubs on the sole of the shoe. The glove leather sobriety has generated an army of followers.

Just check out their book, The Italian Touch, and you will see why. You will soon find yourself reaching for the phone in order to book tickets to Tuscany. The Italians have an unwavering knack for taking English or American products and turning them into something extraordinary.

At first glance, they look like they are made in the USA. On closer observation, you notice the quality of the leather, the softness, and the styling. These loafers could only be Italian. Nobody has mastered causal chic like the Italians. Giovanni Agnelli may have loved American brands such as Brooks Brothers, but he put everything together with “La Dolce Vita” élan.

Article Title: Putting Loafers Back Into Weejuns
Photographs: curated by ES

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at RedHerring, a digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand.

For further inspiration
Visit RedHerring: Life In The Fast Lane

All Aboard The Paris Hanoi Express

queue_paris-hanoi

“Because you love making new friends…”

All aboard the Paris Hanoi restaurant express. Sounds like an Agatha Christie novel. Can’t you just picture the dialogue: “Oui, mon ami Hastings. The rouleaux du printemps at Paris Hanoi are a délice. And the nems are perfection.”

“Are you sure Hercule? I mean, wouldn’t you rather fancy an Indian curry than Vietnamese food?”

“No Hastings, I would not. The mix of the raw and the cooked at Paris Hanoi is good for the little gray cells. And the parfum, c’est magnifique!”

rouleaux_paris-hanoi

“When you love the beauty of SE Asia…”

Now Poirot, certainly travelled on his belly to recoin an old phrase from the little general. I can’t blame him. This restaurant, Paris Hanoi, will not disappoint for its saveurs in the kitchen. Located at the heart of the Bobo universe deep in the eleventh, P-H is pure Paname.

The way Paris Hanoi has been popping up in the French media of late, you would think that Parisians have just discovered Vietnamese food. Au contraire. What is happening is a Southeast Asian food renaissance with French finesse. Add the simple fact that this has become a tout Paris favorite, and you’ll understand why the lines outside the door pack this place to the rafters.

In terms of style and decor, the ambiance is simple and clean. The food is light and flavorful punctuated with lime, fresh mint and coriander. There is a freshness about this place that more typical joints in this genre simply lack.

paris-hanoi_paris-hanoi

“Because you’re in the mood…”

The vibe is fashionista. You are guaranteed to be sitting cheek to jowl with models, artists, and designers. Foodies adore the aromatic and perfumed flavors Vietnamese cuisine delivers when prepared by the right hands. The kitchen is run by three brothers: Mido, Jean-Phi and Hando. The beauty of their artistry is arranged on the dish. It is hard to know what to order first.

I recommend starting with a Vietnamese salad, spring rolls or nems. Afterward, go for a Bun Bo Hue, Pho, or brochette de poulet. Whatever you decide, I counsel coming with friends so you can share in the plentitude. If you find it hard to choose, look at the dishes of your neighbors and point. We came with the RedHerring gang recently. My gosh, I thought I was at a fiesta. Chilled Sinhga beer was making the rounds. People laughed, slurped and crunched away.

One word of caution: the crowd is dense. So either come early or late. Opening times for lunch are noon. Cash only. Don’t expect the waitress to smile and say: “Hi, my name is Babette and I’ll be your waitress today”. However, the food is glorious and Paris Hanoi is worth the visit.

After your meal, you might be tempted to buy the restaurant’s cookbook, which was published last year by Marabout. The recipes are easy to make and the book is a delight to the senses.

Bon Appetit!

images_paris-hanoi

Paris Hanoi
47, rue de Charonne
75011 Paris

Article Title: All Aboard The Paris Hanoi Express
Photographs: curated by ES

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at RedHerring, a digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand.

For further inspiration
Visit RedHerring: Life In The Fast Lane

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MBA: The Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook

meeting_MBA-Admissions

“Building one success story at a time…”

In recent conversations at an impromptu forum, I found myself challenged by several professionals contemplating the use of MBA Admissions consultants. It was interesting what they said.

One flannel suited chap blithely stated, “MBA Admissions consultants are for losers. I have no interest. Besides, they’re costly and make promises they cannot fulfill.

Another Chanel suited figure added, “You would think that. However, I have it on good authority that a great consultant can give you a leg up. Given the intense competition to get accepted, I want the best shot I can get.

Now, please understand I am not trying to change people’s minds. I’d rather discuss why strategic planning can make your career aspirations happen. In my experience, I found that the terms of engagement must be personalized and well thought out. Were I an MBA candidate, I would relish an actionable step-by-step roadmap to eliminate the guesswork and the anxiety.

How To Choose
There is not one road to get accepted to a top MBA. The more savvy MBA candidate realizes that the MBA Admissions game has changed. Professional counsel can deliver quantifiable results when you know what you are buying. The best advice I can give to someone shopping around for help is to choose an organization you feel comfortable partnering with.

Many firms on the market peddling services are just coaching factories. Is this what you want? Or do you prefer the counsel of professionals who really care about you?

The Value Proposition
Fees vary among service providers, but the variations are negligible. Some firms offer packages. Others charge by the hour. Packages appear to be the best deal with their all inclusive features. However, sometimes an hourly rate is more appropriate. Why pay for something you won’t take advantage of?

robot_MBA-Admissions

“Because everyone needs a personalized game plan…”

Opportunities
To the uninitiated, the entire MBA application process appears as an exercise in witchcraft. The magic is hard work. To not loose time, work with people who understand how the admissions process actually works. Working with a former admissions officer is not guarantee that you will be accepted at Harvard or Stanford. What you really need is content strategist familiar with the science of personal brand management.

So what should an MBA Admissions consultant provide?
Outstanding knowledge of the business education industry. Secondly, they should match your aspirations with your career objectives. Sometimes, there is no point to just applying to the top 4 business schools unless your credentials are exceptional. Choosing the most appropriate target schools is the first key step to success.

This is where content marketing can help you make the sale. An expert can position your pitch on the basis of what you’ve actually done. Most essays or personal statements submitted to the leading MBA programs read like they were written by an admissions consultant. Don’t fall into this trap. Avoid cliches and flamboyant prose.

Some of us are advised by friends or family. This may work for you. Our advice is to choose professional counsel with discretion. Make sure that the firm you work with actually cares about you and your ambitions. Service must be personalized to be effective. Otherwise, it is bog standard and a waste of time and resources.

blac_mba-admissions-consultants

“Yes, I’d like to book an appointment…”

Where most MBA candidates make mistakes is when they try to cut corners. So, they write their own essays. Afterward, they approach an MBA Admissions consultant, asking for a quick edit. Why pay someone when you have a spelling & grammar check on your computer? What you really need is powerful feedback that generates original ideas to brand your MBA application.

Considering the cost of an MBA, don’t you think it is worth the investment to go all in? We do. For that reason, we’ve listed below a few suggestions to get you started:

7 Pointers From The Content Strategist Playbook
1. Assessment
Assess your strengths and weaknesses. List the key attributes which makes your profile distinctive. To be successful, you will need to highlight your UQ (uniqueness quotient). Each one of us is distinctive. However, as George Orwell might have stipulated, some of us are more unique than others.

2. Strategic Plan
Outline a strategy, confirm your call to action, scalability, and opportunities. Start with a professional evaluation from your current employer. Next draw up a target list of desirable business schools. Keep abreast of deadlines, the financials, recommenders to be selected and contacted.

3. Personal Brand DevelopmentHave you identified the DNA of your personal brand? If not, find someone who can assist you. It will make your essays personal as well as professional. The business schools are seeking a well rounded and cultured audience. To learn more, study the culture and the curriculum. By doing so, you will better understand your target market audience.

4. Lay An Appropriate Foundation
It’s not enough to simply put up your name on essays someone wrote on your behalf and call it a day! Make your working relationship with an MBA Admissions consultant a partnership.

5.Stand Out
Apply strategies, which make your profile stand out. Evangelizing your personal brand is only part of the picture. You will need a compelling storyline to make your profile stand out from the crowd.

success_MBA-admissions

“Because we’ve got you covered…”

6. Contact Alumni
Speak with alumni. The more recent the alum, the more valuable their insight will be on how the school currently operates. It is always wise to visit the campus and attend an information session when feasible.

7. The Interview
When you are invited to an interview, you are almost there. Leave nothing to chance. Train with an communications specialist used to handling the press. If they’ve trained CEOs, they can certainly train you. Remember, this is when you must seal the deal.

If you have questions, contact CAREO for a free professional evaluation.

(If you have enjoyed this article, please click the thumbs up icon and let us know! Be social & share.)

Article Title: MBA Admissions: The Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook
Photographs: curated by ES

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at CAREO, a career management consultancy under the WCW Group brand.

For further inspiration
Visit CAREO: Life In The Fast Lane

#Career #CareerAdvice #MBA #MBAAdmissions

Dateline Florence: Because You’re Hell Bent On Leather

ponte_italian-style

“For those lovely evenings…”

Hell bent on leather for a gentlemen is not a question of S&M. It means finding the right bag. Bridle leather is stiff, but Italian leather is sprezzy.

Enter Wanny Di Filippo, the founder of Il Bisonte. To meet with Wanny in the flesh is quite a treat. Now, if you have never heard of Il Bisonte, you are in for a surprise. If you are an old Bisonte aficionado than you will rediscover why you fell in love with this brand. This firm of artisans was always hell bent on leather.

Launched 40 years ago in tiny workshop-boutique in Florence, Il Bisonte embodies La Dolce Vita. Walk down any street in this town and you are overwhelmed with creativity and beauty. Every church is adorned with Renaissance masterpieces. Eat at a local trattoria such as Vini, and you will never go home. No wonder Florence has such a reputation for splendor and leather craftsmanship. The setting is so inviting that Gant Rugger made Florence their narrative for their Team Americano collection two seasons ago.

Before I get carried away, our story begins in 1970. It is here in the heart of town on the narrow via del Parione the whole show kicks off. Before you can say Michelangelo three times backwards, Wanny is making leather handbags, travel satchels, briefcases, leather wallets, belts and accessories.

For anyone with a leather fetish, your lust will definitely be satisfied here. The leather products stand as a testimony to Wanny’s good taste, craftsmanship, and understatement. The shop captures his DNA, which in essence incarnates his vision of beauty. What is it that gives Italians the innate quality to do such wonderful things with leather?

Many have tried to imitate Italian leather techniques. No one has ever succeeded. It seems genetic. Unique leather treatment techniques are coupled to unalloyed craft of the highest caliber. Just touch a pair of Wanny’s driving shoes. The skin is soft and the patina is magic. Last time I was in town, I succumbed to pair in cognac. Although there are a multitude of color choices, the natural shades age best. They quickly take on your personality . So what is it that makes this brand so special?

bisonte_italian-leather

“When you are looking for something soft as butter…”

The secret lies in the use of natural vegetable-tanned cow-hide. The leather arrives at the store in the purest, palest tan. It darkens with time, sunlight and handling. Years ago, I asked Wanny why the bison logo. Here’s what he said:

“I’ve always been fascinated by the peace and strength bison convey. For centuries these animals were the very source of life for the people who roamed North America. Nowadays, it is a symbol that I proudly use to sign my product.”

These are the words of a true romantic. What I also admire about the man is his authenticity. The firm refuses to sell out in the old meaning of this term. Il Bisonte is infused with the idealism of the 1960s and 1970s. For lovers of all things preppy, you cannot go wrong here. There are no gaudy gold buckles or “in your face” logos on Il Bisonte products. Just outstanding quality and unique design.

Considering the times in which we live, the firm manages to perpetuate this legacy with sustainable growth. Although the articles are no longer made in their original workshop, they are still manufactured the old fashioned way in the Tuscan countryside.

The best term I can use to describe the house style is simplicity. The founder continues to work and takes real joy in shaping with his own hands the designs he conjures up each season. No wonder the store has such a cult following. Just ask one of the cognoscente to show you their bag or wallet.

Recently, I paid a visit to the store’s Paris branch, and I collared a catalog. You’ll never guess what? The catalog is in Japanese. It features the entire Bisonte range for both men and woman. The Japanese recognize great leather craft as easily as they can identify the freshest sashimi.

Since I am in the market for a briefcase, I found just what I was looking for and light as a feather. As the delightful sales woman and I spoke about the details, I could picture Wanny Di Filippo holding the bag himself sauntering around Florence. Perhaps this is also part of the brand’s allure. He is a complete original. This gentleman doesn’t just make leather goods. He is an artistic eccentric, who loves waistcoats, colorful scarves, and is not adverse to excellent cigars.

bisonte2_italian-leather

“Home on the range…”

I totally appreciate why Wanny lives and creates in Italy. Here living well still resonates with the fervor that continues to give meaning to La Dolce Vita.

(If you enjoyed this post, please click the thumbs up icon and lets us know! Be social & share.)

Article Title: Dateline Florence: Because You’re Hell Bent On Leather
Photographs: (1) curated by ES (2)(3) Alessandro Moggi

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at RedHerring, a digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand.

For further inspiration
Visit RedHerring: Life In The Fast Lane

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Dateline Paris: In The Heart Of Papa Sapiens

papa1_french-food

“Where the roots of terroir run deep…”

Paris is home to some of the finest food stores in France. One gem I know you’ll want to discover is Papa Sapiens. This amazing boutique is located at 7, rue Bayern in the seventeenth. Let these French food specialists fill your larder with treasures.

The guys ‘n gals who run this place are fanatics of organic charcuterie, artisanal beer, wine that won’t give you a headache, chickens which glow, and even Breton biscuits from Belle L’Isle. Best to come with a donkey. This way you won’t have to struggle with the metro.

tart_french-food

“Because you love to shop with your donkey…”

Let me just whet your whistle further. Bread fans will adore the sour dough rye that puts Poilâne to shame. Here you can nab candied tomatoes from Marc Peyrey, cornichons from the only French grower left in the country, jam made in copper vats, and this is just for starters.

The enterprising souls who launched this venture are Alexandra Lepage and Christophe Perruchas. They are hospitality incarnate and offer tastings on just about everything in the store. One particular weakness of mine is jabugo.

Do you know that eating this pork fat is actually good for you? I thought not. Not just any fat, mind you, but the fat from Patta Negra. This pig is semi-wild and cured in Spain. Its sole diet consists of acorns, herbs, and weeds. The taste of this meat will melt on your tongue. French doctors claim the fat has the same quality as pure virgin olive oil. Not bad, what? Papa Sapiens sells a wine from the Jura, which is the perfect accompaniment. Tastes a bit like sherry, but is more complex, and is in fact one of the greatest wines this country produces. So what’s happening?

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“It’s time to take stock…”

France is in the midst of a food revolution and Papa Sapiens is just the tip of the iceberg. It is pure Paname and is being driven by intersecting factors. People no longer are content with industrial food, which lacks character and is insipid. They want the real deal. Parisians in particular are obsessed with terroir. Because of globalization, great products are harder to find. Supermarket chains are clearly the worst offenders with their relentless drive towards mediocrity.

Fortunately, organic products have gone mainstream. Thankfully, we have people like the folks at Papa Sapiens, and a new generation of entrepreneurs committed to excellence. New magazines such as 180C are acting as catalysts to a public ready to alter its eating and drinking patterns.

For French foodies, this is great news. Bon Appétit!

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Article Title: Dateline Paris: In The Heart Of Papa Sapiens
Photographs courtesy of papa sapiens

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at RedHerring, a digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand.

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Where Nautical Meets Naughty

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“When do you think the boat will be ready…”

Where nautical meets naughty? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s in the Haut Marais district of Paris. Sounds a bit like Rodgers & Hammerstein’s, South Pacific, don’t you think? Thank goodness for all things, Saint James. I’m waiting for the big kahuna, Mai Tai in hand. Makes me feel like if a catch a wave, I’ll be standing on top of the world.

Earlier this morning, I begin fishing around in my mahogany chest for that Saint James jumper. You know the one, which flaunts horizontal stripes. I am feeling rather naughty today. Here awaiting my inspection is my favorite navy with red horizontal stripes. It is just the ticket to brave nature and be nautical.

Now, were I Jean Paul Gautier, I’d dispense with my nautical Saint James jumper and paint my chest. My son claims that I never really grew up. What he is really pointing out is my continual love affair with striped nautical jerseys and sailing shirts with three-quarter sleeves.

Originally made for the French Navy, the Saint James sweater and shirt have been immortalized by the likes of Coco Chanel not to mention a whole bag of other celebs. Just think, this nautical style was loved by Picasso and Brigitte Bardot. The Japanese buy them by the box load. Just last weekend, I saw a gaggle clean out the store in back of Place de la Madelaine.

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“Because you love all that jazz…”

With the St Trop’ crowd, Saint James remains the nautical standard. Yes, I know there are others, but this one to quote Jeeves, “stands alone“. Speaking of Jeeves, I wonder what the blazes is keeping that man. I’ve been waiting for my tea for ten minutes now. Nothing rockets my engines better than a good morning cuppa.

If you are in France, be sure to put the factory where Saint James is still made on your must see list. The firm is located in Ducey. It’s the sort of place people dream of. What’s the term I’m looking for? Ah, yes. There it is: buccolic. It’s a fortified town of only 3,000 souls, and it straddles Lower Normandy from Brittany. It is a jewel of a region. It is also a hop, skip, and a jump from Mont Saint Michel.

Now, the Mont has always been part of the St. James logo. The coastal flats are still home to grazing flocks. Although the wool used no longer comes from here, they still manufacture in Normandy. When you visit, Yannick Duval, the company director will explain to you the fabulous evolution of Saint James, and how this region gave birth to a wealth of knitting expertise, which is still used. The people who work at Saint James are proud of their enterprise.

Did you know that 400 tonnes of wool are used per year?

I thought not. I am sure though that you do remember that it was Coco Chanel, who made the sea shirt into one of the hottest unisex styles of all times, when she first introduced them into her Deauville shop in 1917. The rest as they say in show business was history.

The French refer to this classic as the Mariniere. With years of experience under their belts, the company understands that both the wool and the cotton behave differently depending on the humidity in the air. Speaking of the wool, it is a natural fiber, which retains the original lanolin. It has a dry, some would say, rough feel to the touch. It is this sought after quality that makes the item indispensable to sailors and style mavens alike. Since workwear has been gathering more steam among the Fashionistas, it is no wonder that major designers such as Junya Watnabe and Jean-Paul G. continue to work with the firm.

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“When you’re sailing to Tortuga…”

Recently, I treated myself to another Saint James jumper in ecru wool with the navy stripes. Well, considering the damp climate, it made sense. The dry wool which is perfected and unique to this part of the world is ideal for European climate.

Listen to this: Did you know that each stripe represents a victory of Napoleon over the English at sea? Interesting, what! Such trivia makes owning these jumpers such a pleasure.

Ah, there’s Jeeves now with my tea, not too hot, not too cold, and not a drop in the saucer.

Article Title: Where Nautical Meets Naughty
Photographs: (1)(2)curated by ES (3)Saint James

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at RedHerring, a digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand.

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Visit RedHerring: Life In The Fast Lane

Dateline Greece: Why Homer Is Always Relevant

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“Because you’re waiting for the water taxi…”

Sailing Greece, I discovered that reading Homer is always relevant. Shrouded in mystery, he is so contemporary. Imagine breaking crust with this gent. I found wine dark seas pursuing dolphins and the children of Odysseus such as the Colossus of Maroussi. George Seferis was heartbroken every time he thought about Hellas. Once the blinding blue is etched on your mind, you will too.

Sailing Greece is more to me than my love of boats. Perhaps, the Retsina went to my head more than 20 years ago. Playing backgammon and idle chatter with fishermen can do this to a chap. The people are charming and natural story tellers. I’d love to state that I met him in Piraeus. Perhaps we all have. From the first moment sailing Greece, I encountered a light that pierces the soul and gives birth to love.

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“Look dolphins…”

As a creature of rational habits, Greece stimulates my blood. There is nothing to comprehend except the appreciation of bouzouki.

On my maiden journey, I was swept away with Syrtaki and Zebekkiko. I cavorted through the tavernas of Athens until I was shanghaied to the shores of Sifnos. There I encountered authenticity, worthy of verse. At first, I thought it was the heat and ouzo. The ancient rivers run deep. Circumstance brought them out. Before I knew it, I was off with Pan to God knows where. Clearly, sailing Greece is not for the foolhardy.

I am reminded of that haunting quotation in the Revelations of St. John The Divine (1.Rev 1.8):

“… I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”

Saint John always did have a way with words. I’d like to think he was inspired by the pleasure of sharing a table with friends eating grilled octopus marinated in wild oregano.

Tavernas are a showcase for theatre. It’s the place your inner being demands to be refreshed. You see, sailing Greece is an odyssey to the core of your own being. It’s where the soul arouses the senses of charmed moments, laughter, and contemplation. Who knows, you might even learn to dance! Conversations are whispered and on other occasions animated. You’ll simply love tavernas for the camaraderie not to mention the food.

Sailing Greece, head for Crete and tales of the labyrinth. The freshness of the bread is perfect to rub olive oil or to nibble a crumbly piece of feta. Take port and rejoice. When it comes to the table, seasonality still carries weight. What could be better than a dozen mezes spread across a checkerboard cloth.

Take the two sisters who run the Dome Hotel in Chania. They make the most amazing rose petal jam you will ever taste. Eaten with Greek yogurt and you will start re-evaluating your career options. This is a good town to begin. When possible, leave your car and walk in the hills. Let the landscape act as your guide. Let your feet start you off on your first journey. Who knows Gnosis may not be far behind.

In the winter, stews hark back to antiquity. The meats, vegetables, and herbs simmer for hours giving slow food its original content. Stuffed peppers can be found in many cultures, but few are flavored with sultanas, nutmeg and mint.

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“Because no man or woman is an island…”

Curiously, each dish has a story culled from someone’s grandmother. I love the fact that Greek cuisine is based on the humblest of ingredients such as chic peas, wild greens, garden vegetables, yogurt, and fish.

What I also find uncanny is that consumption is based on products sourced locally. Perhaps this is why dishes with similar descriptions are often quite different from one part of Greece to another. Take the spicy shrimp served on the island of Symi. The shrimps are tiny, briny, and laced with spices reminiscent of Asia.

Even the ubiquitous country salad, can vary tremendously. When it comes to Greek wines, imbibe. Most think of Retsina and turn up their noses. Although I love this simple country wine properly chilled on a hot summer’s day, the country produces some outstanding vintages grown across Macedonia and the Peloponnese. The Mecouri family do a red wine to die for. I once made a blind taste test with a close friend in the wine trade from Bordeaux. He was blown away when I told him the wine was Greek.

With thousands of islands to visit, you are spoiled for choice. Eschew the places mass tourism destroyed. The mysteries of Eleusis await anyone with an open heart. Mingle with the people and feel their pulse. And don’t forget to keep a copy of Fagel’s Homer in your pocket.

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Article Title: Dateline Greece: Why Homer Is Always Relevant
Photographs: curated by ES

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at RedHerring, a digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand.

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Visit RedHerring: Life In The Fast Lane

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The French Touch: Identifying Shooting Stars

audrey_style-french-touch

“Some claim the French Touch is in the tap water…”

Fashionistas love the French Touch. Who doesn’t! Invited to a charming restaurant, I jumped at the chance to pin down the undefinable. We foregathered at a rather discrete gem at the far end of the rue Saint Honore. At the table were a distinguished cast of cognoscenti. With cocktails in hand, we set about our business.

Table talk centered on a host of topics. One pundit wondered whether you had to be born here to craft or brand the French Touch. Another stipulated that it was not an issue of ethnicity. She said, “It is a question of expressing a style vernacular suitable to our distinctive culture and heritage”.

A blue suited fellow exclaimed, “There’s more hear than meets the eye. Are we focusing on style or mere fashion?”

I could feel his lament for I knew how much he treasured French artisans and their distinctive sense of craftsmanship. His view was that craftsmanship has suffered in recent years. However, one great thing I have always loved about this country is its capability to renew its traditions. Style must be contemporary to be valid.

The hotter the debate got, the more I mused that we were arguing over terminology. I wondered what Molière, the French dramatist would have brought to this round table. Hey, Paris has a latin soul, but it was nothing several Mojitos couldn’t cure. As the starters arrived, the general consensus was that identifying the French Touch is similar to spotting a sea dragon riding the wind.

Our guests, I might add, were not hide bound bores. Quite the contrary. They relished innovative design, new players as well as more established houses. Off the record, one Lagerfeld disciple added: “Luxury brands like any other retailer deal in bottom lines. Fashion is a world driven by constant change. However, we must set the mood and the tone. Stagecraft fuels the imagination and gives special meaning to the fashion shows in Paris.”

It is true that Creatives directing major brands try to cajole and persuade an ever-fickle public. Magazines such as Vogue focus on shaping taste and generating desire. However, despite the glossies, predicting the next big thing is akin to watching the weather forecast.

Some of our set claimed that fashion is designed in a showroom. Others stipulated that it was branded in the street by savvy souls who know how to put it all together. In reality, the French Touch draws its inspiration from multiple sources. Where the concept of timelessness was once a by-word for quality, today French luxury is the effervescence of shooting stars. Take a journey over to Louis Vuitton on the Champs-Elysees showcase. Engage with the current zeitgeist.

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“It’s hard to beat the French Touch when it comes to style…”

Real style is intangible and is intrinsic to a person’s persona. The concept of The French Touch is not any different. It is easy to identify, but quite difficult to replicate. It is as one lovely figure among us noted, “a state of mind”. The French actress, Marion Cotillard encapsulates the French Touch to perfection in Woody Allen’s film, “Midnight In Paris”.

Lea Seydoux is another beauty who radiates the French Touch.

Just imagine you are dining with her. She is sheepishly looking at you with those hypnotic eyes, and then says in that most Parisienne of voices: “Mon chou would you care to share a bottle of Foufoune. If this happens to you, you are done for. Cuite. Take it from me, you’ll fall in love and most likely live here for the rest of your life.

For those who aspire to capture this French look, study Audrey Hepburn for guidelines. Although she was not French, she was not born in the States either. There is something quite mystical about her persona. She captivates. In her film with Fred Astaire, she causally remarked, “I am not beautiful; I have a funny face.” Ever the gentleman, Fred Astaire responded, “What you call funny, I call interesting.”

Audrey knew she had allure. Her clothes personified her character not the other way around. She was an ambassador for Hubert de Givenchy, and wore his clothes with panache. However, because her beauty was so natural, she was just as much at home in a pair of jeans. This is not just style but real class.

Perhaps the best personification of the French Touch is Ines de la Fressange. Several years ago, she published La Parisienne, which was an international best seller. The book oozes with French style cues. Today, Ines is 50-something, and just as captivating as when she modeled for Chanel. She is living proof that the French Touch is not about age. It’s about being classy.

Visitors and designers alike claim that in this city men and women dress better. They certainly carry themselves differently. Body language also impacts on how someone can make clothes and accessories stand out. This is where that certain je ne sais quoi comes into play.

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“Because you want a touch of class in Paris…”

That something special is well articulated in Ines book. It is also lovingly captured by fashion photographer, Scott Schuman. He has the uncanny knack of demonstrating how personal and organic the French Touch, really is. Anyone can look great; it is a question of attitude, not money. Visit his website, The Satorialist. There are reams of pictures taken in Paris, which encapsulate the French vibe.

I have another dear friend who claims that The French Touch is in the tap water. Drink the water at will he laughs and “voila”. Here, I am not so sure. The “Chateau Robinet 2015″ is barely drinkable. Perhaps, the water he was referring to, came from Reims in bottles, labelled, Bollinger. Baudelaire claimed that all French women had beautiful legs because they spent half their lives walking up and down countless flights of stairs.

Someone remarked to me just the other day that everyone should have an uncle called “Christian”. It is true that Dior had certainly added to the modern vocabulary of contemporary woman. His feel for shape and color were unique. He knew how to drape fabric across a woman’s body. His genius was to let a woman’s body speak with its own voice without calling attention to the clothes. Elegance is always a point of subtlety.

Away from the world of haut couture, Paris has a vibrant street style culture. It draws from native and foreign influences. Some of the current trends are drawn from workwear and vintage military apparel. For example, a trend gathering steam is the craze for French vintage military jackets. Those sailor shirts made popular by Coco Chanel are back big time. Times at Saint James couldn’t be better. Designers have been borrowing workwear concepts for ages. Jean-Paul Gautier is just one of the best.

Want to laugh?

One of our readers was asking what color do dapper French gents prefer for shirts. At first, I thought this was an existentialist question. I was about to consult my annotated copy of the Being & Nothingness by Jean-Paul Satre, and caught myself saying, “Wait a second. Color is personal”.

The French like the Italians are fond of blue and white stripes of assorted persuasions. This classic can be worn with or without a tie. Speaking of ties, the bow tie has made a smashing comeback. This would have pleased my father no end. I find that bow ties are not only great in summer, but pass muster all year round. In case you would like to start fostering a collection, why not head over to Charvet near Place Vendome. Talk about the French Touch!

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Article Title: The French Touch: Identifying Shooting Stars
Photographs: curated by ES

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at RedHerring, a digital communications agency under the WCW Group brand.

For further inspiration
Visit RedHerring: Life In The Fast Lane

Leadership: How To Tackle Authenticity

roy_leadership

“Who ever heard the sound of one hand clapping…”

The best leaders are free from compulsive instincts. They see their career as a mountain stream. Man or woman, they have transformed their need for applause. They roam in the world as lions of self control. They take pleasure in thunder and rain because according to fortune cookie wisdom, the true sound of leadership is silence.

To really exercise leadership, it is best to be authentic. Take for example, a master chef I know. He works at Wo Fat’s Cantonese kitchen and is know by the name of Mencius. He could speak volumes on leadership. However, he is more at home selecting the finest ingredients from the market. Wok hay drives him crazy. That’s what you would expect from a Taoist leader, who favors the meditative breath of fire.

On the other side of the world, Socrates taught another path to leadership. He too was obsessed with self-mastery. He understood that diligence and astute planning took place in silence. To settle his mind, he would stroll the streets of Plaka. Although the tavernas and cafes are filled with rhetoricians, he would go for insight elsewhere.

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“Captain, I’ve spotted Isle della Muerta…”

Simply put, Socrates preferred to watch the fisherman. He’d contemplate their banter and salty songs. He loved to watch them tenderize the evening’s octopus on the rocks. Performing humble tasks emptied his mind. In this emptiness, he found the meaning of all things. Perhaps, we should do likewise.

Emptiness is often confused with ignorance. Ignorance however, is more than a lack of knowledge. A lack can be sensibly remedied. It is a question of training. Real ignorance is the misapprehension of all things. Take the case of the Buddha. Although not a sailor, he desired more than a career sea change. He desired smooth sailing.

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“When your reflection is just a fleeting fantasy…”

Determined to achieve this state of being, he sat under a fig tree, legs crossed in a full lotus position. He was resolved not to budge until he was filled with clarity. By learning this lesson, he saw leadership was a question of equilibrium. The mind is a close friend of ignorance and this is the trap. Give the mind conundrums, and it will smile and spin in a vortex of relentless aggravation.

On the other hand, you could give the mind something nobler to consider such as the following Taoist proverb: “The sound of water is silence.”

Mojito?

Article Title: Leadership: How To Tackle Authenticity
Photographs: (1)manofthemmnt (2)curated by ES (3)stayfr-sh

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at CAREO, a career management consultancy under the WCW Group brand.

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