FEBRUARY 2012 - The General Aesthete

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Bellocq Tea Atelier

An appreciation for best-quality tea, artisan craftsmanship, and a shared aesthetic vision resulted in tea “atelier” Bellocq. Founded by Heidi Johannsen Stewart, Michael Shannon, and Scott Stewart, the trio shares a history of creative credentials, from product design and editorial work at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, to work with fabrication firm SAAW.

In addition to the finest of pure teas, Bellocq offers their evocative, bespoke blends; from Charleston (a black tea created for and inspired by the country residence of Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant), to The White Wolf (a studied mélange of white peony, cedar, juniper, and mint), their evolving collection aims to satisfy both traditionalists and the sophisticated tea explorer.

Considered design choices in regard to packaging and brand image, from handsome metal caddies, to lush photography, make it obvious that Bellocq’s dedication to quality extends beyond their tea. This approach serves as a reminder that a very simple preparation can be one of unflawed elegance.

Bellocq teas are available at the Bellocq Atelier in Brooklyn (open Fridays and Saturdays), at several stockists both domestically and internationally, as well as online at Bellocq.com.

Above: “Twelve Months of Bellocq,” $390
Photo: Anna Williams

B&O Play Beolit 12

Known for exceptionally sleek design and premium performance, Danish brand Bang & Olufsen prices their home electronics accordingly. However, the brand recently introduced a sub-brand, B&O Play, intended to extend Bang & Olufsen’s reach, and also serve as a gateway for customers that may not be able to afford the higher-end line. While devotees might find this “accessibility” off-putting, Bang & Olufsen assures that the brand’s integrity is fully applied to B&O Play.

The first B&O Play product introduced is Beolit 12, a portable sound system designed to work with Apple’s AirPlay technology, allowing you to stream directly from device to speaker. It employs a 120-watt amplifier, two tweeters, and a 4-inch subwoofer, demonstrating surprisingly powerful sound for such a compact device.

Designed by Cecilie Manz, the Beolit 12 is wrapped in a solid aluminum grille, has a minimal control panel at top, and is finished with an Italian leather carrying strap. While Beolit 12 is without excess, and clearly exceeds the design presence of similar items on the market, it also subtly distinguishes itself from the more disciplinary design approach Bang & Olufsen typically takes.

Beolit 12 is $800, available at Bang & Olufsen stores.

Izola Home

Izola is a collection of utilitarian home objects that have been designed to last the test of time, look like they came from another time, and still incorporate a little whimsy. Based in heritage themes, Izola delivers mercantile-style, tried-and-true staples, but avoids compromising quality for trend.

My favorite of the bunch: Izola’s bamboo toothbrushes that have been embossed with 3-month windows to encourage proper changing.

Above, clockwise from top left: Green Moss Candle, $35; ‘Months’ Toothbrush Set, $12.50; Tick Marks Flask, $25; Apothecary Soap Dish, $20

Lars Andersson FW12

Of growing up in Sweden, Lars Andersson says “everyone learns how to knit, it’s a cultural thing.” He started at the age of six, and it can easily be said that not everyone learns to knit as remarkably as Andersson. After attending fashion school in Sweden, he transferred to FIT in New York, where he honed a narrative for his style: dark Swedish influence combined with New York “cool.” In 2011, Andersson was awarded Sportswear International’s Best Newcomer Award.

From the finest of Japanese and Italian yarns, Lars and his team of knitters hand produce each garment at his studio in Brooklyn. Presenting both a men’s and women’s collection seasonally, Andersson is able to maintain a distinct identity and introduce new ways of realizing knitwear.

His F/W 2012 men’s collection is heavy on draping and layers, but the silhouettes read very clearly, and are not overshadowed by the darkness (both in style and palette). There is a level of craft that, in lieu of looking homemade, is polished, albeit casual. The pieces are relevant, but without excess, allowing  for a garment that will maintain its importance in your closet, transcending seasonal trends.

More at: Lars Andersson

Fleur Mécanique by Frédéric Malle

Having built a reputation as one of the most innovative, open-minded fragrance houses, Frédéric Malle’s evocative scents are treasured by niche perfume lovers, without being dependent on the masses or industry standards. Giving perfumers the right to use fragrance as an open-ended art, where the common restrictions are not applied, allows the company to veer in untraditional directions. By broadening the brand to include home fragrance, Frédéric Malle has once again exercised an unusual, but very special approach.

A suite of home fragrance products including candles and fragrance-infused rubber mats (the futuristic version of a drawer or closet sachet) are great ways of exploring Malle fragrances off the skin, but perhaps the most unique is ‘Fleur Mécanique,’ a rechargeable home fragrance diffuser that works with the intention of introducing the aura of fresh flowers to your space. A display-worthy piece of contemporary design, the small device is fitted with a bottle of fragrance, and quietly emits the natural odor of a bouquet of flowers, or one of the seven specific space fragrances designed for the machine.

Fleur Mécanique is $280, and available exclusively at Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle boutiques in Paris and New York, as well as online at Frédéric Malle.

Ron Dorff

Ron Dorff, the men’s sport and athletic-wear collaboration by Swede Claus Lindorff and Frenchman Jérôme Touron proposes a perfect medium between pure Swedish functionalism and simple French classicism in design. The carefully edited, highest-quality collection relies on the classic sportswear design of yesteryear, abandoning excess embellishment, and relying on smart, clean staples – gym clothes with considered design, but not overly-designed (as most big brand gym wear seems to be).  The Ron Dorff signature slogan “Discipline is Not a Dirty Word” finds its way onto several of the garments, and is clearly applied to the brand’s design philosophy, as well.

In addition to the sportswear collection, Ron Dorff also offers a men’s body care line, Skärgård. Developed exclusively by Face Stockholm, made in Sweden, and with a fragrance inspired by the bracing winds of the Swedish archipelago, Skärgård positions itself as line that fits perfectly into the lifestyle Ron Dorff clothing inspires.

The Ron Dorff collection is available worldwide at such stores as Colette in Paris, Harvey Nichols in London, and Jeffrey New York. The full collection is also available online at rondorff.com.

Above: “Discipline” Sweatshirt, $130
More at: Ron Dorff

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

1. Vosges Red Fire Milagro Heart of Love, $4; 2. Hudson Baby Bourbon, $50; 3. EXOvault Aluminum & Wood iPhone4 Case, $155; 4. Cire Trudon ‘Nazareth’ Candle, $85; 5. Smythson Passport Wallet, $140; 6. Michael George NYC Short White Tulips, starting at $100

Olive Oil

With the public becoming more and more educated about food and quality of it, it is surprising that there is still a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding something as commonly used as olive oil. Here is The General Aesthete’s primer on buying and using olive oil:

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Acne Studios FW12

Jonny Johansson’s F/W 2012 collection for Acne played with the idea of artificiality, which led to the incorporation of faux materials and unusual forgeries one might not expect, or even identify immediately. This concept was made especially attractive by the way the garments were presented, everything looked new and young, but assuredly elegant, and not cheapened by any degree. An emotional dialogue was introduced through the palette, from all-out black to unpredictable colors and subtle, but suggestive heart prints. Abrupt combinations of lengths, and structural, but not stiff cuts, made for a fresh collection, something Acne has a record of being able to do very well, without veering far from the established model.

See the collection at: style.com
Photos: Marcus Tondo

Acca Kappa

Established in 1869, near Venice, Italy, Acca Kappa has built a reputation for fine Italian quality and dedication to simple, but luxurious product. Originally focused on the production of hair brushes and accessories (of which Acca Kappa is still renowned), the brand has developed a full line of bath and body product, as well as dental amenities. With a distinguished history, from royals to luxury hotels, Acca Kappa does not need to rely on any modern gimmicks or trends. Still in the family’s hands, Acca Kappa is presided by Ms. Elisa Gera, the great-great-granddaughter of the original founder, and the company’s products are still being made in Italy.

One of Acca Kappa’s primary draws is stately, simple packaging design, the ultimate representation of what is inside.

My favorite of Acca Kappa’s catalog is their Muschio Bianco (White Moss) line. Based in two of the most lauded Mediterranean plants: lavender and juniper, White Moss reads as warm and clean, with a discrete sillage, and no cloying soap smell, suited to both men and women. Also worth noting are their top-notch men’s shaving accessories – finished in chrome and badger bristle, and elegantly fitted with White Moss shave soap.

The commonality that runs through all of Acca Kappa’s product is that simplicity and integrity reign; from best-quality botanical ingredients, to the subtle impartation of fragrance in their products, everything translates as minimal, without being linear.

Above: Muschio Bianco Aqua di Colonia, $60; Ivory Shave Set, $225
More at: Acca Kappa