Victor Besnard is a brand that may be unfamiliar. I did a review of the shirt, but thought you should get to know the creator behind it first. The shirt is very much like the man, old school European artisan standards with classical DNA. Here’s Victor.
Me: Tell me the story of the shirt.
Well, I guess it started with the first oxford cloth button down shirt I ever purchased. About 15 year ago, I worked in a high-end menswear store which was the first – and only – store in the Netherlands to sell Brooks Brothers Black Fleece, a high-end collection designed by Thom Browne. The Black Fleece OCBD was inspired by vintage Brooks Brothers shirts and made from heavyweight oxford cloth. It became my favorite shirt and I wore it until it was in threads.
When I started Besnard, the first product I launched was an OCBD in white, blue and blue university stripe. I wanted the same heavy-weight oxford cloth that would only get better with age. I finally settled for a sturdy 180 grams two-ply fabric made from American Pima cotton. It might feel a bit stiff when you wear it for the first time, but it softens after a few washes.
The story of BESNARD started when I found a bespoke suit in the attic of my parents’ house. This suit was made by my great-great-grandfather A. Besnard, who owned a tailoring shop in the Hague (La Haye). I wasn’t aware of this detail of my family heritage and, coincidentally, at the time I held a part-time job at a bespoke tailor. It just felt like I was meant to continue his legacy.
I started working on a concept for my own label in the spirit of my ancestor and decided to change the focus from bespoke to ready-to-wear, while maintaining the same level of quality and craftsmanship as tailoring. I admire traditional craft and many of our products are still partially made by hand.
Me: The white oxford can be a utilitarian shirt, you great it like a luxury item. Which I love. What’s the strategy there?
With our roots in bespoke tailoring, we aim to maintain a certain level of craftsmanship in our (ready-to-wear) products. For our shirts, we chose to focus on handwork that we believe adds the most value. Each shirt is cut by hand to ensure all patterns match. We selected four handmade steps that not only look aesthetically pleasing but also have a functional benefit. The collar, armholes, buttons and gusset are all attached by hand.
It might sound like a cliché, but personally, I would rather buy a few good garments and wear them for a long time than have a high rotation of items of lesser quality. I continue to wear my OCBDs long after they start fraying around the collars and cuffs. In fact, I actually like them better when they’re a bit worn in.
Me: I notice the collar is a little longer, which I suspect services a thicker tie better. What re the other benefits?
The collar points are between 3.25 – 3.5 inches long, which is – in my opinion – the perfect length for a button down collar. It makes a nice collar roll and works well with a tie. Fred Astaire is a great source of inspiration to me, he wore his shirts with a relatively small knot. The proportions are just right.
Me: The size is perfect. It is not a slim cut, it is not boxy. Do you recommend people size up? This fits perfectly.
Next to craftsmanship, we pay a lot of attention to creating the right fit. Our starting point is to develop one fit and then never change it. This way customers always know what size to buy, and that they can buy their favorite shirt again in the future. I would say our shirts are cut slim but not tight. When in doubt, I recommend customers to size up (cotton cloth will always shrink a bit)
Me: Care recommendations?
I always wash a new shirt cold the first time. After that at 30 degrees Celsius with a low tumble. I remove the shirts promptly after washing to avoid wrinkles to dry in. Then I grab the collar and give it a firm shake. This makes the ironing a lot easier (or redundant).
Me: What else should I know?
A nice little detail that I haven’t mentioned is the conical cuff. Each shirt has cuffs that are cut in a conical style that hugs the wrist. It enables a better fit as it tapers along with the sleeve, in contrast to the straight barrel cuff, which can seem straighter and looser.
The review comes Friday, but if you want to dig around yourself first, here is Victor’s site.
Like Kent Wang, the site and Victor’s collection are not purely Ivy, but there is definitely quality Ivy in there.