Looking good and dressing well is a necessity. Having a purpose in life is not – Oscar Wilde
Small seeds are sown (and one day to be sewn)
I lived in London for some years, working a little, studying a little. And I made an important discovery: Jermyn Street and its wonderful shirts.
I window shopped the street in the evenings, admiring the beautiful displays of shirts. Research I now call it. Finally I bought one shirt from each of my carefully chosen shirt makers. Seven in all, from the top end down to the apparent bargains.
After a year of wearing them I also discovered, as with anything, you get what you pay for. Like a hi fi set, to move from good up to great. costs a bit extra. I settled on one shirt maker, established at the very end of the 1800’s. They represented for me, not the best price, but something more important: the best value.
When I returned to Johannesburg, I was introduced to Louis Gwatkin, a Savile Row trained suit and shirt maker, legendary bespoke tailor to the household names of many of our captains of industry, commerce, banking, law, advertising, stock broking. And a Raconteur – capital R.
Louis became my shirt maker until he retired, then I went back to my old Jermyn Street shirt maker, buying by mail order.
When our South African Rand became so weak and I couldn’t afford them any longer, I decided to make them here. Who better to talk to than Louis.
Almost an end before the beginning
But Louis had disappeared – dementia, died, gone back to UK, definitely dead, were the answers to my inquiries, no telephone record of him anywhere in South Africa.
At last I tracked him down, hale & hearty, retired to Cape Town where I also now live. He had no interest in returning to work, thanked me for thinking of him, and wished me luck.
Next day my phone rang. Louis Gwatkin, when shall we meet? Tonight, I said and went out to buy a couple of bottles.
We talked for hours, the bottles long empty. We decided to make shirts. Proper Jermyn Street shirt-maker’s shirts. The very best. Available ready to wear. And the name Louis ii came like a genie from the bottles – the return of Louis.
The many disappointments
Next day our journey began. Two years of disappointments. Everyone we spoke to said we’re wasting our time, our standards were impossible to achieve. Every gung-ho recipient of our sample fabrics called weeks later: sorry, more complicated than we thought. I’m not sure why we didn’t give up. An Edison type of madness.
Just before we decided to have the shirts made in Europe, we discovered a small and specialist shirt factory whose owner understood how to produce the quality we wanted. We showed him what we wanted. And even he refused to make them.
Our meeting lasted ten minutes before he ushered us to the door – our shirts, he said, will be too time consuming; they’d take three times longer to make than the very best shirts they were already making.
Quite so. We expected that, and to pay for it. We convinced him to try.
Finally, the end of the beginning
Our beautiful two fold (2×2) Egyptian cotton fabrics and mother of pearl buttons were handed over. Some months later our first batch of Louis ii Shirts was delivered. We were happy. The seamstresses – chosen from the very best in a top class local facility – were also happy for an opportunity to work to such high standards.
About the shirts
The fabric for each Louis ii Shirt is cut by hand, then delivered to our skilled seamstresses – world class is apt – who craft each shirt with single needle stitching, non-fused (loose interlined) collars and cuffs, raised placket, gussets, split yoke, and pattern matching on patterned fabric shirts.
Each shirt is made by eighteen skilled hands. Eighteen hands individually craft just one shirt. Your shirt. To the standard of proper Jermyn Street shirts.
Then they’re ironed, folded, and placed in a presentation box for delivery.
A Louis ii Shirt is not a brand so much as a garment with a provenance. A membership badge to an exclusive sartorial club. It is style rather than fashion.
We proudly offer you Louis ii Shirts.