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Feature: Fall Fashion: Extravagant Tastes

William Kissel

Over the course of his 25-year career as a bespoke shoemaker in London, Jason Amesbury has crafted footwear from almost every skin imaginable: calf, ostrich, crocodile, snake. But a request from a particularly fastidious client bewildered him. The gentleman said that he did not want shoes made from any of the aforementioned hides. When asked what material he had in mind for his footwear, he replied, "dinosaur."

Calls such as this, for ever-more-exclusive materials, are challenging the collective imagination of the menswear industry. Fabric makers and knitters are responding by weaving cashmere and vicuña with fine furs to create increasingly luxurious blends, and leather goods makers are experimenting with ostrich, python, peccary (wild boar), pony hair, eel, and shagreen (ray or shark skin)—hides that can transform wardrobe staples into heirlooms.

Brioni created a limited-edition paisley necktie made of silk embellished with 24-karat gold threads (to commemorate Neiman Marcus’ 100th anniversary in October). To their camel hair and cashmere topcoats and knits, Stefano Ricci and Belvest have added detachable collars and linings made of beaver, mink, and other furs. Similarly, Loro Piana combined sheared mink with its baby cashmere to create reversible scarves and fur-lined cardigans. And new weaving technologies have enabled Canali, Corneliani, Pal Zileri, and others to create plush knitwear from fine cashmere blended with yarns spun from chinchilla and mink.

Shoemakers—whether by client request or not—also are using exotic materials and employing novel construction methods. For example, Isaia, known best as a suitmaker, fashioned a pair of sneakers from its wrinkle-, stain-, and water-resistant Aquacashmere, a proprietary fabric that it originally developed for its tailored clothing. In a more formal vein, California bespoke shoemaker George Esquivel has partnered with fine jewelry designer Rosalina Lydster to create custom-made, monk-strap, alligator footwear adorned with precious-jewel-studded buckles that also can be worn as cuff links.

Amesbury did address the request of that persnickety customer who asked for footwear made of prehistoric pelts. He devised a technique for chemically treating and manipulating leather into a lumpy green hide that mimics the perceived texture and appearance of dinosaur skin. Amesbury’s solution may not have been as monumental as, say, inventing time travel, but it did please the client.

Belvest, 212.317.0460, www.belvest.com
Bottega Veneta, 212.371.5511, www.bottegaveneta.com
Brioni, 888.778.8775, www.brioni.it
Canali, 212.767.0205, www.canali.it
Catherine M. Zadeh, 212.274.9984, www.catherinezadeh.com
Chrome Hearts by optical shop of Aspen, 949.360.1010, www.osainternational.com
Cole Haan, 800.201.8001, www.colehaan.com
Colombo, distributed through Glazer Imports, 212.582.0042, www.lanificiocolombo.it
Corneliani, 212.593.1155, www.corneliani.com
Dolce & Gabbana, 877.703.4872, www.dolcegabbana.it
Gaziano & Girling, +44.1536.511022, www.gazianogirling.com
George Esquivel, 714.670.2200, www.esquivelshoes.com
Giorgio Armani, 212.988.9191, www.giorgioarmani.com
Glashütte Original, 866.203.8699, www.glashuette-original.com
Guccci, 800.456.7663, www.gucci.com
Isaia, 212.245.3733, www.isaia.it
J. Amesbury & Co., +44.20.7377.2006, www.amesbury.co.uk
J.M. Weston, 877.493.7866, www.jmweston.com
J.W. Cooper, 305.861.4180, www.jwcooper.com
Karen Karch, 212.965.9699, www.karenkarch.com
Leiber, 866.601.2530, www.judithleiber.com
Loro Piana, 212.980.7961, www.loropiana.com
Louis Vuitton, 866.884.8866, www.louisvuitton.com
Marcoliani, 212.957.9466, www.marcoliani.it
Pal Zileri, 702.732.2100, www.palzileri.com
Petronius, distributed through Ellegi, 212.246.7034, www.ellegifashion.com
Stefano Ricci, 212.371.3901, www.stefanoricci.it
Tardini, 212.586.1186, www.tardini-accessories.it
Trianon, available at Meriwether, 415.359.1111, www.meriwether.net
Versace, 212.317.0224, www.versace.com
William Julian, 860.844.8440

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Photo by Ted Morrison