Keepers is a semi-regular series of events held at the Singapore jeweler Carrie K’s premises. Each event features a different theme, but they all highlight artisans with small businesses.
The third edition of Keepers had a menswear theme. Tie-maker Vanda Fine Clothing, leather goods label The J Myers Company and the fine shoe maker Ed Et Al. These three are already well-known among regional menswear obsessives and dandies, but Keepers was the rare occasion where one could sample all their wares in one place.
The Vanda Fine Clothing table appeared to be the busiest of the lot. It was regularly swarmed by men seeking a live tie-making demonstration from proprietors Gerald Shen and Diana Chan.
The process is quite straightforward, involving cutting the cloth precisely, ironing in the creases and rolling the edges, and finally sewing the two pieces together. But it is elevated by Shen and Chan’s exacting quality standards and insistence on doing everything by hand.
As an example of the self-taught duo’s dogged commitment to quality, I know a customer who was sold a supposedly defective tie at a discount. But he searched in vain for the defect, and eventually gave up, content to enjoy the lowered price.
Vanda’s ties (from S$125) are extremely light, and are usually made with a luxurious “six-fold” construction, which literally means its been folded six times inside — which is plenty of expensive cloth. They are not lined, so they don’t have that crunchy, heavy, feel shared by almost all off-the-rack neckties. They are made of custom woven silks from Vanners, an ancient British mill, as well as wools and other cloths of a similarly distinguished provenance.
The J Myers Company’s table was laden with exotic skins (small alligators, actually), dangerous looking leather-working tools and the wallets, belts, and key fobs that self-taught leather-worker Jeremiah Ang turned them into. J Myers carried a line of belts, small leather goods and bags in the past, but Jeremiah says he will switch his focus to high-end watch straps soon. A leather NATO strap is in the works, apparently, so watch out for that!
Shoe label Ed Et Al was tucked away in the ‘office’ part of Carrie K’s atelier. That’s OK, because it gets plenty of exposure with a ready-to-wear range, in its second season, that’s available at Front Row at the Raffles Hotel Arcade (from S$280). Sales have been brisk, I have been told. The Ed Et Al range includes most of the canonical pieces in a man’s shoe cupboard, ranging from a penny loafer to a desert boot and a full-brogue oxford. They are all named after a Singapore landmark, so you’ll see the Shenton, the Changi and, less poetically, the Merlion, in the catalogue.
Ed Et Al also has a made-to-order and a bespoke service, where owner and trained cordwainer Edwin Neo will personally fit and make a pair of shoes to your specifications. The difference between the two options is several hundred dollars, and the ability to specify your own last, which is the device that dictates the final shape of a shoe.
The day was exceedingly hot, but the event organisers had the foresight to invite an ice-cream maker, Cremier, and a champagne specialist, Lollapalooza, to share their wares. Cremier’s version of an affogato doused in both coffee and Japanese stout, went particularly well with one of Lollapalooza’s champagnes.
Keepers boss, the eponymous Carolyn Kan’s collections had something for the men, too. Her braided leather bracelets (US$88), treated with a metallic finish, would not look out of place on a summering Italian gent.
Kan’s women’s collections, which are her main focus, and her custom work with silver, were wide-ranging and plentiful, and, sadly, beyond the scope of this article. I can only note that the Heavy Metal collection, large statement leather pieces with a realistic metal finish, were quite arresting.
Vanda Fine Clothing is available online.
Ed Et Al’s collection is available online and at Front Row, Raffles Hotel Arcade, #02-09 North Bridge Road, Singapore.
The J Myers Company products are available online.
All pictures, except the first one, courtesy of Carrie K.