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AWL AND SUNDRY BESPOKE SHOES

Awl and Sundry bespoke shoes.

Awl and Sundry bespoke shoes.

I was recently introduced to handcrafted custom shoes by Awl & Sundry through an exciting collaboration with Vibeke Grytbak. These smashing brown suede chukka boots I am sporting were exactly what I was looking for – a classic look for Autumn/Winter ensembles and something versatile that works well for both casual and more dressed up looks.

Awl and Sundry shoes fill a niche for those who like the idea of exclusive bespoke shoes (and who doesn’t?), but who don’t want to pay the exhorbinant prices of, say, John Lobb or George Cleverly. Awl and Sundry’s shoes are hand made in Tuscany – one pair at a time – using only the highest grade full grain leather and they use proprietary 3D technology to give you the most perfect, personalized fit – oh, and they are less than $500. Think of how many ill-fitting and uncomfortable shoes you’ve purchased throughout your life! Well you can forget about that ever happening again.

Today I paired my chukkas with terrific Brown Watch wool tartan pants by Phineas Cole at Paul Stuart.

Stay tuned for much more and do peruse their website and Instagram feed to inspire YOUR very own pair of bespoke shoes!

VERSAILLES: A PRIVATE INVITATION

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Being forever fascinated by Versailles, I’m beyond thrilled to bring you Flammarion’s fabulous new book, Versailles: A Private Invitation by Guillaume Picon with photographs by Francis Hammond.

Of course there have been quite a few books on the subject, but I can say that this latest endeavor truly stands out with its many new and rarely seen before vantages – and it is a fascinating read as well. Photographer Hammond has been given unrestricted access to every possible point on the property (this is indeed a private invitation) and brings to bear all of his own creative sensibilities to capture the power, splendor, and grace that so pervades all of Versailles. And with complementary aplomb, writer Picon provides deep scholarly insight into the Kings and court life of France and presents fresh and illuminating source material that captures the very essence of Versailles.

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

photo by Francis Hammond from the book, Versailles: Private Invitation. Flammarion

As you may know, one of my favorite maxims is “imagination becomes reality,” but when I say this, I don’t mean to imply that things manifest without proper causes and conditions. Any great unfolding requires some fundamental (read: elemental) ingredients like singularity of vision, sustained effort, and of course material resources. The meeting of Louis XIV with the genius of André Le Nôtre, and the subsequent forty year undertaking to transform nine hundred and seventy-seven acres of marshes, grasslands, and forests into the crystalline grounds we experience now in the gardens of Versailles is one of those superlative examples of total alignment. And if we are considering my aforementioned maxim, then I have to say my experience at Versailles via “Versailles: A Private Invitation” has me thinking BIG! How about you?

Versailles: A Private Invitation is incredibly inspiring and a delicious read. Do snap up a copy! You won’t be disappointed.

SECOND BLOOM: CATHY GRAHAM’S ART OF THE TABLE

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I was lost in an Instagram K-hole a while back and stumbled upon a post by my exquisite friend Howard Slatkin. He was sharing his excitement for his friend Cathy Graham’s upcoming book, Second Bloom: Cathy Graham’s Art of the Table. Being intrigued myself, I clicked over to her page and was of course immediately smitten by her work, and became an an instant fan! It wasn’t long before Graham and I struck up a friendship online, and when her delicious book was released, she sent me a brilliant boxed edition. I was simply enthralled by the beauty and whimsy of it all.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be treated to a lovely luncheon and studio visit with Graham. She was brimming with a wild charm and incredible warmth. We discussed her RISD days, her move to New York City, and the evolution of her career as artist/illustrator as well as the journey of life with all of its joys, sorrows, twists, and turns.

Cathy Graham and James Andrew

Cathy Graham and James Andrew

Second Bloom: Cathy Graham’s Art of the Table is thoroughly imbued with Graham’s unique charm, and reveals her elegant and eclectic approach to entertaining. Her perfectly decorated homes (by former Parish Hadley designer William Hodges) in New York City and Nantucket provide a perfect backdrop for Graham’s creations – a blending of super a chic style with retro and vintage elements giving all a deeply nostalgic feel while still maintaining lightness and freshness. Her vision transports one to a gentler time – something I think we all could use more of these days!

From Cathy Graham's book, Second Bloom

From Cathy Graham’s book, Second Bloom

From Cathy Graham's book, Second Bloom

From Cathy Graham’s book, Second Bloom

From Cathy Graham's book, Second Bloom

From Cathy Graham’s book, Second Bloom

From Cathy Graham's book, Second Bloom

From Cathy Graham’s book, Second Bloom

I think Constance Spry (one of Graham’s favorites) captures Graham’s mandate quite well: “Do what you please….Just be natural and lighthearted and pretty and simple and overflowing and general and baroque and bare and austere and stylized and wild and daring and conservative….Open your mind to every form of beauty.”

Certainly words to live by!

Second Bloom: Cathy Graham’s Art of the Table, is an inspiration on so many levels – not only offering endless ideas on entertaining and creating uplifting external surrounds, but on an inner level, it’s a call to personal healing through creative effort. Graham herself conveys that her work provided her great solace following a divorce – and she invites all of us to look for new and wonderful beginnings – a second bloom – even in the midst of the end of things!

Once you’ve read and enjoyed every picture and word from Second Bloom: Cathy Graham’s Art of the Table, you will be wanting so much more. Thankfully Graham has branched out and is offering a product range based on her work. See her site here: Cathy B Graham.

Among the many items, you’ll find beautiful ceramics, sumptuous limited edition Cathy Graham prints by Dean Rhys Morgan, and a candle that she had originally created with her late friend Robert Isabell called White Flowers – now with a few revisions and updated ingredients. (Graham has had the candle produced by fragrance guru extraordinaire Laura Slatkin of Nest). Stay tuned – there will be so much more from her we are assured!

Handmade decoupage classic style vase, designed by Cathy Graham crafted by Scott Potter

Handmade decoupage classic style vase, designed by Cathy Graham crafted by Scott Potter

Available on the Cathy B Graham site.

Available on the Cathy B Graham site.

A limited edition print by Cathy Graham.

A limited edition print by Cathy Graham.

Keep updated by following Graham on Instagram here: @cathybgraham

I’m pictured lunching with the endlessly talented and lovely Cathy Graham, I am sporting a Tom Ford moss green tweed windowpane suit, lavender stripe cotton shirt, off white wool knit tie, lavender and brown silk dot print pocket square, saddle leather loafers, Hermes Cape Cod Deux Zones watch, and Seaman Schepps cufflinks in walnut, rosewood, sandalwood, ebony and citrine. My fragrance is Creed Original Cologne.