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Articles

Transitional Dressing

Kamau Hosten

It’s that annoying time of year where the weather can vary wildly even within a 24-hour period. Cool in the morning, but cold enough for a coat; warm in the afternoon, but not rolled up shirtsleeves warm.

For the more tailored days, I’ve taken to wearing jackets made of overcoat fabric, like this one in Hazelnut. I had this made with a quarter-lining, so as to not overheat should it get too warm during those days of spring.

Hazelnut Wool/Angora jacket by KAMSTEN, grey textured turtleneck by Luciano Barbera, dark wash denim by Zanella

Hazelnut Wool/Angora jacket by KAMSTEN, grey textured turtleneck by Luciano Barbera, dark wash denim by Zanella

This color is relatively neutral and can be paired with flannel trousers and a simple dress shirt or knit. On the other side, swap this turtleneck out for a sweatshirt and jeans for a more weekend-ready look.

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For the breezier mornings, add a lightweight scarf to finish off the ensemble.

Staple: Grey Birdseye

Kamau Hosten

Right after the versatility of navy, grey is another staple in an uncluttered wardrobe. Like navy, it’s home in both business and more casual settings. It has the dressiness of black and the cool factor of navy. It’s both a day and an evening choice, with a swap of underpinnings. The texture of birdseye adds a nice layer of visual interest, yet it’s still serious when it needs to be

Grey birdseye suit by KAMSTEN, black turtleneck by Ted Baker, Watch by Issey Miyake

Grey birdseye suit by KAMSTEN, black turtleneck by Ted Baker, Watch by Issey Miyake

Here, Alexander paired a grey birdseye with a black turtleneck. It’s an easy addition to take any lingering stuffiness out of the suit. With norms shifting, neckties are no longer specifically required in many professional environments. Yet there are still expectations in regards to dress. Knits are a lovely, if slightly more casual, option to pair with tailored clothing; it’s less business-centric than a dress shirt, and adds a dash of cool.

Other details like one-button, low stance and a wide peak lapel also work to make this piece feel less office and more nighttime. However, and this is crucial, it can serve both.

Grey birdseye suit by KAMSTEN, black turtleneck by Ted Baker, black Chelsea boots by Paul Smith

Grey birdseye suit by KAMSTEN, black turtleneck by Ted Baker, black Chelsea boots by Paul Smith

The Shell Cordovan Derby

Kamau Hosten

Among the footwear essentials, a solid derby holds a permanent place on my list. It fits the aesthetic from more relaxed ensembles all the way to cocktail attire.

Heinrich Dinkelacker, the storied German footwear brand, reached out to me to try a piece from their collection. I’d been looking at other shoes in shell cordovan, but the sole was always a little too thin. I wanted something with a bit more heft, but still had a sleek-ish profile. The Rio Plain C was the obvious choice. It’s a genuinely lovely shoe. The last is slightly rounded, which has a classic appeal. The sole is sturdy, ideal for traipsing around New York, or anywhere really.

Rio Plain C Cordovan Derby from Heinrich Dinkelacker, Jeans from Gap

Rio Plain C Cordovan Derby from Heinrich Dinkelacker, Jeans from Gap

It’s equally at home with ripped denim as it is with a Hopsack suit. I always favor versatility in pieces over something intended for only one use. The Rio C delivers. What’s more is that it’s rather comfortable, I walked for a solid 8 miles on a Sunday and was fine. The shoes break in quickly and with relative ease, another plus towards this option.

I won’t go into the technical details, the company illustrates those nicely on the website. However, cordovan is incredibly sturdy and a great investment.

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A Word on Authenticity

Kamau Hosten

I chuckled while reading an old interview in which Lionel Messi chronicled his 17+years of immeasurable work to become an ‘overnight success’. Arguably the world’s greatest footballer, he had a humorous perspective to this concept of rapid success. It’s even more evident in this social media age. There’s a prevalence of ‘successful’ imagery: you’ve got to show you’ve achieved more than have. To that, the idea of success of about gain, rather than a more abstract sense of impact. The former is hollow, yet celebrated.

As I began this journey into a brand, I’ve struggled with the idea of posting imagery that indicates how smooth the journey is. Well-meaning advice leans towards the “fake it ‘til you make it” mantra. This is what I have because of what I’ve done; I’m accomplished. Supporters of this school of thought say that, to engage with potential clients and investors, you need to look the part. It suggests the brand they’re buying into is of some value and repute. That, I can agree with. But it’s not the entirety of the journey. I don’t think masking failure, or viewing it as such, are a detriment to a brand. Rather, it’s just a more genuine component of said venture.

I know I’m not alone when I say social media has forced us to place disproportionate value on the peaks of our respective journeys. It’s disingenuous. There’s maybe an inherent sense that followers, and potential clients, appreciate the flash and trappings of doing well. Face value can be such BS though. Cars and locations can be rented, followers can be purchased. I’m guilty of it. The rationale leans towards ‘well, this is for the end game.’ That doesn’t mean I felt any less cheesy for flexin’. However, the picture-perfect imagery of “Influencers” and emerging brands lack a purity about them when they don’t balance the glitz with the grit. Both are equal parts in any journey.

I’m certainly a proponent of showcasing successes, but in order to capture a genuine sense of growth, it’s only right to display the struggles on the path towards it. That sort of authenticity is endearing to me and, I hope, others who appreciate the true path to growth.


The Velvet Tuxedo

Kamau Hosten

Black tie is among those opportunities a man has to feel a little James Bond-esque; dashing, elegantly dangerous, and striking in a very restrained ensemble. The power has been, and will continue to be, in the details. There are time-honored avenues to travel to set yourself away from the pack, if just so. Velvet is one of those options; it adds both visual interest and is a baby step out of the box when done with the coordinating trousers. It’s a little more rakish than just a velvet dinner jacket. A full suit leaves others inspired, maybe scared, even perplexed. All reasons to go for. That’s why I wanted this to be the first piece I made for Kamsten.

Double breasted velvet jacket and trousers by Kamsten, Chelsea boots by Saint Laurent, Frames by Tom Ford

Double breasted velvet jacket and trousers by Kamsten, Chelsea boots by Saint Laurent, Frames by Tom Ford

Wearing something formal typically means an evening shirt, bow tie and some sort of formal pump, slipper or plain oxford. That is always a stunningly simple combination. However, I like the idea of having some fun with your formal pieces. This velvet feels a bit more partyish than a tuxedo in wool. There’s a fantastic, touchable component to it. I’ve paired it here with a simple cashmere crewneck and black chelsea boots for a looks that’s more downtown lounge, than banquet. It’s more rewarding to get mileage out of special pieces. There’s no reason anything should only be designated for one or two events a year. Break up the pieces; wear the trousers with a leather jacket or the jacket with ripped jeans.

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The classic details of black tie; the satin cuffs, waistband, piping, and lapels, are here, yet the ease of the crewneck balances it out. The all black makes everything just a bit more mysterious, yet stylishly so.

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The large lapels perhaps aren’t for everyone, but they do make a statement. It’s all in-keeping withe DGAF spirit of velvet. It stands out, but for all the right reasons. Why not?

Kamsten Basics Package

Kamau Hosten

Here at Kamsten, I feel strongly about making tailored clothing accessible.

With that, I’ve sourced some additional fabric which I’m using to introduce a basics package. I’m offering three essential shades: navy, grey, and black, in two models: a more conservative two-button, notch lapel, and the house style, a one-button, wide peak lapel for $895. Customizations will be limited, but the garments will still be MTM.

For an additional $100, a dress shirt in white, light blue, or stripes can be added.

Please reach out at kamau@kamsten.com for any questions

Democratization of #Menswear

Kamau Hosten

Sometime, during the throes of #menswear, the shift to rule-driven pursuits overruled that core individual approach to clothing and presence.

It was that devotion to the guidelines of tasteful dressing that prompted followers to adhere so fiercely to the point of costume. Subsequently, they, we really, derided peers for as little as a tie that was not at the appropriately askew angle.

The level of nerdery and exclusivity never sat well with me, despite my initial longing to blend in to this crowd of aesthetes. The jackets deemed worthy of conversation had to be from obscure corners of Florence or Naples. The trousers - never with belt loops- had to be cuffed. Plain bottom? The sign of an amateur or, even worse, that the wearer bought his trousers off the rack! It’s a very Us vs. Them mentality.

This collective body of individuals, yours truly included, found themselves at the fringe of a casual-society. The masses, we deemed, were untidy, their collars sank down below their jackets, which were boxy and bland. We found refuge in one another. That guy, over there, across the street one block away had some impressive waist suppression. His sleeve pitch was nearly flawless, we noticed from a distance. Similar quotes, like when Karl Lagerfeld pronounced, he could spot a Cifonelli shoulder from a distance of 100 meters resonated with us. Some of us worked directly with tailors or brands, observing the painstaking process of creating bespoke garments. Others poured their energy into research and historical elements relevant to modern clothing. Others launched their own lines, determined to put their own sartorial spin on the sphere of the industry. With that learned information came chips on the shoulders of some in the menswear crowd. That’s just a shitty way to operate.

It’s lovely now, these days, the lines are firmly blurred. Brands like Rowing Blazers and Todd Snyder are great representations of that blending of worlds. They’re taking the worlds of skilled craftsmanship and melding them with the streetwear and sportswear in ways thats both refreshing and accessible. I’m pleased. Listen, there will always be those who pride themselves on exclusivity; being part of a small members-only club. That’s wonderful. But I appreciate a move towards the democratization of menswear. It is, and should be, for everyone who seeks it out. Besides, looking good and feeling good has a transformative power that shouldn’t be reserved to the well versed.

To continue that evolution we must expand our definitions of what constitutes proper attire. Take into this the context of culture: background, surroundings, upbringing, exposure. All of these facets serve as perspective to one’s outlook towards clothing.

Interview With Kamakura Shirts

Kamau Hosten

A few months back, Kamakura Shirts asked me to participate in an interview describing their shirts. Having established a good relationship with the team at the Madison Avenue store, I happily obliged.

 

In this video, the process and history of the company is articulated by the CEO Yoshio Sadasue. About a dozen shirts in, I can safely recommend them. There's not a shirt company that compares within that sub-$100 price point.

Take a look.

The Neckerchief: A Champion of Summer

Kamau Hosten

Despite the inclination to don fewer layers in the summer some, such as the neckerchief, are proven to combat the oppressive heat. Like much of traditional menswear, this isn't a new accessory or approach, just one that's stylish and makes sense. That should satisfy both the dandy and the pragmatist. 

Jacket: Suit Supply, Shirt and trousers: Brioni, Neckerchief: vintage from my mother's scarf drawer, Pocket eyeglass holder: Caruso, Rose lapel pin: By Elias

Jacket: Suit Supply, Shirt and trousers: Brioni, Neckerchief: vintage from my mother's scarf drawer, Pocket eyeglass holder: Caruso, Rose lapel pin: By Elias

This one, in green with a faint white windowpane was an old scarf of my mother's. The green gives the white shirt a necessary lift as well as compliments the high blue of the blazer.

A small scarf or triangle piece of fabric loosely tied around the neck serves to absorb sweat as well as protect the neck from the sun's rays. That's the practical end. The less pragmatic point is that it looks pretty damn good. The open shirt gets tiring, yet a tie is too much of a commitment during heat waves. Enter the neckerchief. It adds the visual interest where a tie would go, with a less formal feel, but still dressed.

Imagery of the legendary Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief, has been used over and again to emphasize this stylish choice. So, in a momentary dearth of creativity, here's the photo again.

The colors are complimentary, enough for you and a retired cat burglar. The idea is pretty simple though. The scarf may be wrapped, knotted or just kind of arranged around the neck. There are no bonus points for intricate knots, just a sense of relaxed confidence.

I know, I know, despite it's practicality, this may be a more daring choice for some men. I still encourage it. As with any sartorial step, make it once and see how it goes.

 

Part IV: Fluidity

Kamau Hosten

Elegance is fluid. The graceful man exudes a certain freedom of self, allowing himself to release not all inhibitions, but arbitrary restrictions. Within him is a sense of joviality that works in tandem with a requite respect of occasion. Both are equal parts of the gentleman, neither no more important than the other. He remembers to have fun, to be accommodating, to release...

CONTINUED HERE

Part III: Equanimity

Kamau Hosten

Elegance is equanimity. The root of it being a demeanor that one exudes throughout scenarios. Within that air is certain calmness. That’s not to indicate a lack of excitability or exuberance, but rather the art of maintaining one’s composure. This is a life long effort. This takes patience, a sense of awareness, and an exhausting commitment to the high road...

 

CONTINUED HERE

Part II: Authenticity

Kamau Hosten

Elegance is authenticity.  There’s distinct line in the sands of disposition. On one side, there are those who do their best to play a role for the sake of promoting themselves: the man who uses the “right” lines to satisfy his amorous ambitions, versus the romantic who’s sincere in his words and actions. It’s an overall approach that takes effort.

Part I: An Introduction to Elegance

Kamau Hosten

To be elegant is to glide through the vagaries of life with a consistent, and understated refinement and dignity, regardless of the scenario. It, the core of elegance, is a sense of grace and humility that lingers with others long after a brief, yet pivotal interaction.  There is a distinct, and nuanced, appreciation of beauty in carrying out even the most mundane duties...

A Series on Elegance

Kamau Hosten

As of the beginning of August, I started a series on elegance in collaboration with the good gentleman at Genteel Flair. As part of the collaboration, a weekly feature on what it means to be elegant, broken down in evolving components, will appear on Genteel Flair, with a teaser on this site.

 

The series further enhances my take on what elegance truly is more than what it isn’t. Much like the overall theme of this site, elegance is far reaching. It encompasses how we carry ourselves. To whittle it down, it’s about making those choices that be laborious, initially, but yields greater, more satisfying results in the long term. Short cuts are popular these days, but not always advantageous. 

Summer Suit with Angel Bespoke

Kamau Hosten

Though the maxim for combating the draining summer heat is to wear less, the clothing-minded man will take no part in this suggestion. Although this is his down season, he has duly brought out his panama hat, string loafers, popovers and unlined jackets while cashmere rests comfortably in his spare closet.

Seersucker, solaro, linen and fresco are all king fabrics of warm-weather due to their breathability. Another, one I’ve just had made, a wool-mohair blend, has proved to be just as effective.

Needing something simple and versatile for the summer, I visited Angel Bespoke, opearted by Angel Ramos, who I’ve come to call a good friend over the years. Ramos’ house style, has a few immediate characteristics that appealed to me: soft shoulder, broad lapels, and nipped waist.

Wool/Mohair Suit by Angel Bespoke, Linen Shirt by Gitman Vintage, String loafers by Meermin, gold rose lapel pin By Elias, frames from SEE Eyewear

Wool/Mohair Suit by Angel Bespoke, Linen Shirt by Gitman Vintage, String loafers by Meermin, gold rose lapel pin By Elias, frames from SEE Eyewear

I went with a 3-roll-2, which is when the top button is essentially a design feature, rather than a useful fastening point. It makes a suit a little less corporate and softens up the image of the wearer.  We discussed lapel width, and I opted for a 4-inch with a higher notch. When the middle button is fastened it lends a dramatic appeal to the V created. Additionally, the relatively closed quarters (below the middle button) coupled with the slightly suppressed waist create a clean silhouette. 

Smaller, but more noticeable details like the Milanese buttonhole and operational sleeve buttons aren’t necessarily useful, but are touches that add a more artisan feel to this suit. The barchetta pocket, which is essentially a curved breast pocket, has a uniquely dashing appeal, especially when compared to its rectangular sibling.

The higher rise allows the trousers to fall more naturally. The inclusion of buttons for braces will ensure the cuff shivers just so over the shoes versus a lower rise, which will inevitably slide down a bit. What's more, the larger waistband is cleaner, giving the suit a uninterrupted look. Low rise waistbands tend to buckle under the pressure of movement throughout the day. What's more, when the jacket is button, a trousers with a proper rise leaves the suit looking finished. Lower rise trousers run the risk of leaving an unflattering bit a shirt showing when the jacket is fastened. 

To complete this summery look, I opted for a decidedly casual button down linen shirt and green neckerchief. The colors pair together nicely and are balanced by a simple white handkerchief.

 

All photos by Bevin Elias

 

Panama Hats, A Summer Staple

Kamau Hosten

Though the pattern of weather sees spring transition to summer, it seems New York has gone from winter to summer, then back to mild winter. There was precious little time to appreciate those ideal, 70-degree days of April before temperatures peeked in the upper 80s just this week.

With that, I, like many of my clothing-enthusiast e-friends, have begun reaching for the time-tested, warm weather arsenal of gear. None top off the unlined linen and seersucker-champions of the summer-better than the Panama hat. To continue the pursuit that is menswear, I just needed to find one. Enter Flamekeepers Hat Club.

Flamekeepers Hat Club owner Marc Williamson displays a navy Panama Hat.

Flamekeepers Hat Club owner Marc Williamson displays a navy Panama Hat.

The Harlem shop, previously covered on this website, has grown in both stock and notoriety as it approaches its first anniversary at the end of the summer. I chatted with owner Marc Williamson, who’d just completed a weekend displaying his goods at a menswear-geared Pop Up Flea shop, held bi-annually in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York. Having now spoken with him several times, before I uttered a word, he knew I was in to ready myself for summer. And to the Panama hat section I darted, picking up a few. As I tried on the lot, spending far too much time in the mirror, Marc discussed the process of the Panama hat.

Panama hat by Flamekeepers Hat Club; frames by SEE Eyewear, jacket by Club Monaco, polo shirt by Uniqlo

Panama hat by Flamekeepers Hat Club; frames by SEE Eyewear, jacket by Club Monaco, polo shirt by Uniqlo

“It’s really a scientific process,” explained Williamson, about the production of the hats. Made from the toquilla palm, which is native to coastal areas of Ecuador, the weaving process can take anywhere from days to months, depending of a number of factors, according to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The open weave makes it a popular choice for the warm weather, as it allows the wearers head to breathe.

Despite the name, the hats are very much Ecuadorian in origin. Two widely accepted foundations for the name come from the hats being first shipped through Panama, then Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president, being photographed in one during the construction of the Panama Canal. The name stuck.

Jacket by Suit Supply, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, trousers by Brioni

Jacket by Suit Supply, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, trousers by Brioni

The hat itself, often light in color, pairs well with seasonally suitable garments in lighter fabrics. Despite a sometimes lapse in formality during the warmer months, the Panama hat adds that touch, dresses one up a bit.

Darker options are often very elegant, and tow the line well between the seasons. For the follow up feature, I will explore the benefits of that route.

 

Photos by Bevin Elias

The 'Non Functional' Scarf

Kamau Hosten

Though the seasonal weather is rarely predictable, staying armed for it is the surest way to combat the conditions. Following winter is a mid-season of sorts. It’s not quite spring, but it’s no longer frigid. Whereas heavy overcoats have long been put at the back of a closet, linen jackets are not yet the norm.

Transitional dressing has been covered before, no doubt. Lightweight spring jackets, perhaps layering, are both fixes to this in-between season. With that, my best weapon during this period has been a series of thin scarves: silk, silk/wool or silk/cashmere blend.

Silk/wool scarf from J.Crew, Jacket and shirt from Barney's NY, pocket square from Kent Wang, frames from SEE Eyewear, lapel pin from by Elias

Silk/wool scarf from J.Crew, Jacket and shirt from Barney's NY, pocket square from Kent Wang, frames from SEE Eyewear, lapel pin from by Elias

Worn with a sport coat, they provide just enough warmth for the brisk mornings, and coverage from the whipping winds. To be clear, these aren't winter scarves. I'd be a fool to opt for one of these during a sub 20 degree day. A good friend of mine refers to them as the 'non-functional' scarves; since they provide little substantial warmth. To my point, they're ideal for these more mild days.

Silk/wool scarf 'Around the World' scarf by Monsieur Fox, jacket from Hardy Amies, Shirt from Kamakura Shirts, frame from Tom Ford, trousers from Brioni, lapel pin from By Elias

Silk/wool scarf 'Around the World' scarf by Monsieur Fox, jacket from Hardy Amies, Shirt from Kamakura Shirts, frame from Tom Ford, trousers from Brioni, lapel pin from By Elias

Silk and wool/silk blends work well due to the relative fineness of both. They're both soft in addition to being a stylish element to an otherwise muted ensemble. I look for a strong contrast when pairing mine with sport coats. Since every other component is toned down, the scarf is given greater emphasis; standing in for a tie or a pocket square.

Vintage scarf (taken from my grandmother), Jacket from Angel Bespoke

Vintage scarf (taken from my grandmother), Jacket from Angel Bespoke

New York certainly takes her time, tip toeing into Spring but these additions make it a bit more doable. Soon enough, though, it'll be linen season.

All photos by Bevin Elias

The Gun Club Check

Kamau Hosten

With respect to the navy jacket and its versatile appeal, it does become rather a dull reach-for. For the odd jacket aficionado, a windowpane option, a houndstooth and the gun club check are all suitable alternatives to the always-tasteful navy.

Coat by Isaia, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, Tie by Josiah France, pocket square by Kent Wang lapel pin by By Elias,

Coat by Isaia, shirt by Kamakura Shirts, Tie by Josiah France, pocket square by Kent Wang lapel pin by By Elias,

However, when the large check teeters on ‘too much’ and a micro check doesn’t provide enough, the gun club offers that crucial balance. What’s more, the (typically) brownish tones lend a decidedly casual nature to the coat. The pattern registers as a near-solid from a distance, but on closer view the eyes get a bit of visual interest. The blue overcheck in the coat and that of the jacket are in harmony, and the seasonally appropriate tie is the finishing touch.

The check, according to author and menswear historian Alan Flusser, was a Scottish pattern, The Coigach, adopted by an American gun club in the late 19th century. The name became synonymous with the club. It's popularity as an off jacket continues, with the name firm.

Trousers by Brioni, monk straps by Howard Yount

Trousers by Brioni, monk straps by Howard Yount

Because of the neutrality of the tones, it’s easy to pair with equally neutral colors that pick up the coats base colors; the blue oxford here. The texture plays especially well with trousers in flannel and suede monk straps. Mid-grey and blue-ish grey trousers offer the nicest compliment to the pattern on top. That contrast is pleasing, as brown trousers may come off a bit too stark.

Pinned By Elias

Kamau Hosten

When the art of dressing is practiced and edicts of style are employed, therein follows a pragmatic approach for men.  Whereas some aspects of tailored clothing lend a touch of practicality, others serve to diffuse seriousness; adding a touch of gentility at the same time.

There is a breast pocket. Naturally, something should fill it; either a hand-rolled silk square or a linen handkerchief, the latter pocket addition being utilitarian in nature.

The lapel has a buttonhole; some device must go there, one presumes. For the clothing-enthusiast, this is yet another area in which one may display either a flower or another personalized ornament or pin. Kofi Annan utilized a white dove pin, the symbol for peace and hope, in his lapel during his tenure heading the United Nations. Pierre Trudea, the late Canadian prime minister relied on the powerfully vibrant, and more dandyish, red rose. The imitable Fred Astaire swore by the quiet simplicity of the white carnation.

Lapel adornment beyond the established flower has increased in popularity in the past few years. Some of this can be attributed to a certain component of younger men hungry for a greater sense of formality in the art of dressing, and who readily embrace this sense of formality.

While the classic flower or boutonnière is still very much a staple, social media that modern gift and curse, has propelled felt flowers and other accouterment to the forefront, especially for the man looking to separate himself from the pack. A decade ago, before 'Like' and follows were part of the collective lexicon, when television and magazines were the source for style inspiration for the majority of men, there was hardly a lapel decoration in sight. Perhaps the dashing or dandy would add that final touch of gentility, but they were in a gross minority. Following 9/11, no politician would dare be caught without an American flag pin.

As cyclical as menswear is, clothing-obsessed men on Internet forums popularized little twists to the lapel adornment.

From silk knots to medals to whimsical pins, the adornments began to look similar, almost trendy. Enter By Elias, a menswear accessories firm founded by FIT alum Bevin Elias.

A Grenada-born turned Brooklynite, Elias was fascinated with menswear from a young age. That interest, according to Elias, is rooted in his West Indian heritage.

Myself and founder, Bevin Elias

Myself and founder, Bevin Elias

“My family always made certain we were put together; shirts and trousers always crisply pressed,” said Elias.  “It was important in the Caribbean culture. They believed looking put together gave you a leg up.” This was especially crucial for blacks, emigrating from the West Indies to America. Elias maintained that sense of propriety. His time at FIT and subsequent positions in luxury retail only strengthened his focus on the what he calls “the finishing touches.”

Fueled by a passion for menswear and desire for something to fill the paucity of choices aside from the standard lapel flower, Elias came up with the idea for his own customized pins in 2013.

Gold rose By Elias pin

Gold rose By Elias pin

"When the conversation about the boutonniere began, I said I didn't want to take the traditional route," recalled Elias on a conversation with his then-fiancé. "I was thinking about something unique, something I could keep."

A stroll past a midtown NYC button shop proved serendipitous, as Elias spotted a silk button that resembled a flower and the idea was birthed for the wedding accessory he and his groomsmen would wear for the big day.

"I wore it around and to work and a lot of people liked it," recalled Elias, in between sips of a latte at the quaint Nolita patisserie, Ceci-Cela. "I started making a few as a hobby."

The hobby, and that initial silk button, has since evolved in the nearly two years since Elias first conceived the pin from silk button to metal bees, fleur de lis and rose pins. The initial response was a good learning experience, despite less than positive wholesale results. Elias presented the product to large retailers who liked the collection, but thought the product less than substantial.

“One upscale retailer said the pins were beautiful, but weren’t substantial enough,” Elias recalled.

With the advice, Elias and his team reworked the production and streamlined the selection. The rebrand proved successful. In the late summer of 2014 By Elias and A Custom, a quaint Greenwich Village atelier came to a wholesale agreement. This was the first step in widening the brand's audience. 

Following that, Garibaldi Lavena, Director of Client Services at Paul Stuart, contacted Elias and a partnership ensued. An exclusive collection was produced for the upscale retailer and, for Elias, a spot in the vitrines of the one of the most respected men's shops in the United States.

By Elias now only produces pins in 14K gold and silver, with a renewed focus on the "elegant finishing touches of both male and female clients."  

What Elias stresses throughout our meeting is the importance of the entire experience. From the personalized stationary to the cashmere-lined, custom-made box, no detail is ignored.  Harkening back to his childhood rearing or the finishing details.

The hashtag, #100pinned began as an attempt to promote each new pin, to reach not only his social media audience, but the followers and friends of each person he snapped a photo of, wearing a By Elias pin.

 Since its inception, Elias has made his way across the country and, most recently, the Atlantic, pinning clients in an effort to solidify his position as a top accessory designer gaining attention. At Pitti Uomo 87, the bi-annual menswear trade show in Florence, Italy, Elias was able to experience for the first time, the global response to the product as well as conceive a few as-yet-be announced collaborations.

"To see the global response motivated me to create expand, to create more." That more includes a foray into cufflinks and collar bars as well as the larger arena of menswear accessories.