Few events on the calendar are as captivating as Artisan Day. The allure of meeting such a diverse group of makers and brands, all together in one place, can only be surpassed by the sheer number of discoveries that abound at the annual gathering. It’s an amazing opportunity to talk to designers one-on-one about the exceptional craft on display.
Meeting the Neapolitan tailors from Finamore serves as a perfect example of such a connection to craft. Typically, a custom shirt would require a trip to the famed shirtmaker’s bottega in Napoli. You couldn’t usually have Creative Director Paolo Finamore meet you in New York to personally fit your shirt. Unless, of course, it’s Artisan Day and Paolo is right there dispensing style advice and providing the perfect opportunity to learn more about all of the hand-work and detail that goes into every Finamore shirt.
At one point, he walked around the counter containing his wares so that he could remove his beautiful double breasted jacket to show me his shirt. “See the pleating where the sleeve connects to the arm hole?” Paolo asked me. “That’s the difference between something made by hand or by machine.”
There’s also a history lesson to be had. I learned a lot about Irish knits after speaking at length with Tarlach de Blacam, the founder of the Irish knitwear brand Inis Meain. He helped me understand exactly what a true fisherman sweater looks like. “Everyone who sees Steve McQueen wearing a highly decorated white Aryan sweater is mistaken,” Tarlach told me as we looked over a table filled with beautiful knits. “That white sweater is what the fishing villagers wore as their Sunday best. The fishermen wore a much simpler navy sweater that wouldn’t show dirt in the same way.” I also learned how the company has harnessed the skill of indigenous Irish knitters to make some of the finest sweaters anywhere.
Despite the name, Artisan Day is as much about exclusive pieces as it is about craft. The eyewear masters at Oliver Peoples were on-hand offering what has to be the highest level of customization you will ever encounter in a pair of glasses. The options available to personalize your glasses were amazing—everything from mixing materials to stamping your name or monogram on the temple was doable, which is crazy because the idea of customizing glasses in that way is something I’ve never even thought possible.
Milanese tie maker Bigi was present too, offering made-to-order ties, in any shape or width, in any of the hundreds of exclusive fabrics the brand has available. Third generation tie-maker Paola Bigi walked me through the collection and spoke about the company’s workshop in the center of Milan, where they have been making ties for generations. “Next time you are in Italy, you have to come to visit us.” She insisted. I can only dream of such an adventure. Come for the neckties, stay for the pasta.
Denim upstart Re/Done revealed a very early—and exclusive—look at the brand’s first men’s pieces—not to mention the dozens of other interesting and interactive things to experience at the event. One could easily devote an entire day to working your way through the men’s store.
Whether you’ve set out to up your sartorial knowledge or just in search of some seriously special exclusives, Artisan day is the perfect storm of hand-made menswear goodness all together in one place. Too bad we can only do it once a year.