In a previous article, I mentioned that native prints are not common among Ivy retailers today. This possibly overreaching assessment prompted me to make a more thoughly investigation of current offerings.
I approached O’Connell’s, the purveyor of all things traditional and known for its expansive collection of old stock. I struck out in finding any vintage heyday batik, but manager Ethan Huber shared with me the news that he was successful selling native prints last year and is offering again this year. The supplier of O’Connell’s native fabric items is Bills Khakis.
Readers who have followed the brand over the years have watche it go from one product to many. I asked founder Bill Thomas about native prints, and he said he’s offering the Parker model short in a kalamkari fabric. Kalamkari is an Indian fabric similar to batik. “The patterns were discovered in the archives of an old mill,” says Thomas. “It went back 50 years and took two days to look at all the samples of madras and kalamkari.” The fabric was introduced on a whim and is one of the more playful items in the collection. Thomas admits that Kalamkari is “off the register” both in wildness and in production. The hand-screening technique used creates imperfections in the print design. The shorts offered by Bill’s are in a 4.5-ounce cotton and 9.75 inseam. The Bills website offer two colors of Kalamkari shorts, golden sand and beach grass. Thomas suggests pairing them with solid polos, washed oxfords and chambray.
Bills also produced other colors and patterns for their wholesale clients. A darker midnight color was offered and was picked by Khakis in Cincinnati, Assortment in Key West, and Orvis in New York. O’Connell’s of Buffalo has a kalamkari in a medallion print. O’Connell’s also still has some of last year’s bohemian paisley trousers and shorts. I mentioned to Ethan Hubar that I had a pair of Bill’s lobster batik shorts. In that wonderful way of sartorial one upmanship that lovers of GTH practice, he told me had the same pattern in a trouser.
Moving on to other clothiers, Brooks Brothers currently has a batik belt available:
And Sid Mashburn is showing ties, pocket squares and d-ring belts, the likes of which haven’t been seen for years:
General Knot & Co. is offering batik, but the best-looking native print is their hand-blocked silk square:
R. Hanauer offers a French cotton fish print bow that is very vintage batik-like:
Native prints may be tough to find, but they’re worth looking for if you walk on the wild side of Ivy. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP