Friday, 6 August 2010

The double belt comission mission

"This outfit needs something a bit out there to ensure that people don’t mistake it for something someone who has opted out of fashion would end up in. But what? Statement necklaces are overdone. A jacket would look too trussed-up. A thin double belt would probably do the trick, but we didn’t have one to hand. And there’s a good reason for that: they’re hard to find, apart from Hermès’ £600 one." Lisa Armstrong in Saturday's Times on the perils of teaming classic trousers with a classic shirt... obviously not one of life's more serious issues, but then this is not one of the internet's more serious blogs.

I've already flagged up the dangers of the fashion classic appearing plain old boring. Armstrong's suggestion of a thin double belt is a rather good one, but they really are difficult to find.
Earlier this year I tried on my first double belt at a little boutique in Muswell Hill called Charli where my lovely friend Miss Laura Trouble works (you can also see her walking around the streets of London in the nude on MTV or youtube at the moment - I am in awe of her bravado).
The belt actually came with a hideously expensive silk shirt dress that was nice but nothing special. But that thin strip of burnt-caramel coloured leather that came with it turned it into one of the most desirable pieces in the shop. Suffice to say I couldn't have it, but it has been haunting my dreams ever since, in as much as a cured, dead bit of cow can.
There are a handful of double belts currently available to buy in your average outlets, although surpsingly few of them are any good. And they're exceedingly rare in the second-hand places I tend to haunt.

This one by Michael Kors is quite nice, but still pricey - $350 on the Saks website

These two, by French Connection (top, was £40 now £26) and ASOS (bottom, £15) and both available on the ASOS site, are just a bit too fussy

So I had one made just for me at the Stables Market in Camden, which was unexpectedly satisfying.

Moustys is a traditional style leatherworkers in the middle of the sprawl of the newly-refurbished Stables. I must confess that my brother was the first to discover them, for reasons we shall not go into here, but it is something of a find in London.
The friendly man who runs it will practically bend over backwards to help you and always has a smile despite being completely rushed off his feet with customers.
My request seemed rather tame compared to some of the more elaborate pieces he's been comissioned to make recently, including the wide dragon belts with glaring red eyes that feature on Moustys' website. He also regularly does wallets, bags and sword sheaths. 
For me he made a camel coloured leather double belt with a plain square silver buckle and a silver loop at the back. He left it extra long at my behest so I can knot the end.
It's only been a few days, but the raw leather, much sturdier than the buttery soft versions you would get from a premium label, is already starting to break in and I plan to wear it for a very, very long time. And it was less than £30.
But perhaps the best thing about owning this particular belt was watching it being made. I walked up, asked for what I wanted, selected the skin and the belt was created in front of me using tools and methods that haven't changed much in hundreds of years. Far more satisfying than buying something ready made. Sadly, I could only afford to buy the one, but I can guarantee I will be returning for more one-off comissions at a later date...

 (Wown with Margaret Howell skirt and T shirt at the office at an ungodly hour)

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