Vicuña: One of the Most Coveted Materials in the World

I was in Loro Piana years ago when I first learned of vicuña. I had picked up a sweater, and it melted in my hands like butter. I immediately bought a few items including one of their scarves, which I wear every time I’m in Aspen or on an unusually cold day in New York. It’s practically weightless but keeps me incredibly warm.

Vicuña Scarf
Christopher R King Vicuña Scarf bought during his trip to Peru

While to those that have not experienced it, it may not be the most obvious status symbol of wealth. However, for those that do know and appreciate the value of this rare material, there is nothing else like it in the world.

Loro Piana Vicuña Sport Coat
Loro Piana Vicuña Sport Coat

Vicuña clothing was originally made only for the most elite in ancient times. This ancestor to the modern alpacas was a wild species that was sheered every few years to produce the best wool on the planet. It is also the smallest of the Camelids family and lives at altitudes over 10,000ft. Vicuña wool is fine and contains fibers that are hollow and that interlock in a way that holds in warmth without the extra weight.

Loro Piana Vicuña Coat Lining
Loro Piana Vicuña Coat Lining

The wool from these creatures is like no other in its ability to protect one from nature and in its comfort. Imagine the indigenous peoples of Peru parading their elite around in warmth and comfort. The Inca believed that the vicuña was a representation of a woman whose hair was made of fine strands of gold. At a production of only 9 ounces of raw fiber every two years, of which only 5 ounces can be used, vicuña is produced much more slowly than other natural ones. The material is so great because unlike sheep’s wool and other materials, vicuña do not produce lanolin which makes it light and hypoallergenic.

The regulations that surround the incredible vicuña fiber have been crucial to the production of the wool. With the conquest of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador began the massive devastation of the population of vicuña. In the 1960’s the estimated population was down to roughly 6,000 vicuñas. In a cooperation between U.S. groups, the World Wildlife Fund, Peruvian governmental organizations, and others the creation of a team to protect and increase the number of the wild animals helped to get the population up to over 70,000 in the Andean region. In 1994, once the numbers of wild vicuña were high enough, the wool began to be sold worldwide at a premium price, and the ban was lifted on the sale of vicuña fibers by the Peruvian government. The idea was to directly financially support the community that had brought them back from almost extinction. All of the sheering and production of fiber has to be done ethically so that the animals don’t get hurt.

Loro Piana Vicuña Jacket
Loro Piana Vicuña Jacket

Today prices for vicuña wool are more than $2,500.00 USD per yard, and a single scarf can cost around $4,000.00 USD. This is an experience that is an investment in a piece of clothing that will be with you for life. There are only two options for purchasing vicuña yarn from South America on the world market. These two companies are Loro Piana, owned by LVMH, and Agnona. If they don’t want to sell to a company, they can merely force you to go to the other who can also turn you away if they like. There are also limits to how much material they will sell to any one vendor.

Loro Piana Vicuña Top Coat Lining

Reserved originally for royalty, and known for its rarity, unique softness and warmth, the value of a vicuña article cannot be overstated. You are getting the best. This is one of the finest and most exclusive materials, and worth every dollar.

Designing A Custom Wardrobe

One of the first lessons that I learned as a successful entrepreneur was that you have to dress for success. When I first became truly successful, I decided I needed to create a wardrobe that communicated to people something about my personality and what set me apart from my competition. That has always been my unwavering attention to details and my discipline to execute to perfection.

So how do you communicate this through clothing?

For me, it starts with the fit. If your clothes don’t fit right, then it shows you don’t care. It says that it wasn’t worth the extra step or extra money to make sure the hem fits right or the sleeves hit the wrist at the right place. It can even be a form of a distraction if you are always pulling at the fabric that isn’t fitting correctly. But when you walk into a room wearing a suit with a perfect fit, there are no distractions. The only thing people are going to notice is that you know what you are doing.

But beyond fit, you have to talk about fabric. I am lucky enough to be able to wear clothing made from some of the finest, rare fibers in the world. And as a result, I have honestly come to appreciate them. This also communicates to those in the know that you have refined taste and an appreciation for real luxury goods, not just labels.

I also need to be comfortable, which is why I eventually started keeping a tailor on retainer. If I’m sitting in a meeting, conscious that my shirt feels too tight across the back, I can’t focus on a project’s finances or timeline. I need to be as comfortable as I am confident.

After years of having my clothes tailored, I made the confidence-building leap into custom bespoke tailoring with companies like Kilgour on Savile Row and the venerable Italian fashion house Brioni, which offers an exclusive bespoke service dedicated to creating your personalized wardrobe. When you are selecting Savile Row or an Italian fashion house, you know that all these garments are modeled and handcrafted with unparalleled craftsmanship and highly trained master tailors.

Brioni for example, offers more than 800 variations of wool, light cashmere, wool and silk in a wide variety of colors and patterns. You can select your fabric, model, cut, and fit, as well as lapel shape, buttons, lining, shirt collar, and cuffs either in the VIP room at any Brioni store or the comfort of your home or office. Lifestyle, ergonomics, gait, and body type are all considered before a new pattern is designed from scratch.

Christopher R King during a Brioni Fitting

Its codes of craftsmanship are rigorous. Creating a Su Misura suit for a client is a 220-step process. Buttonholes are hammered by hand; jackets pressed more than 80 times to contour fabric to a client’s body.

Just becoming a Brioni master tailor is an arduous process, with barely a dozen students accepted into its Scuola di Alta Sartoria school in Penne, Italy, every year.

Another building block of my wardrobe is Tom Ford, which produces suits known for being edgy and masculine. Before launching his line, the Texas-born Ford was the creative director of Gucci for what I consider some of its best years.

Tom Ford suits are structured and inspired by Savile Row tailors (although produced in Italy), while Brioni suits are in the Italian design tradition. Brioni and Tom Ford have both designed suits for heads of state, powerful executives, and James Bond. I also love the trimmer cut suit with the deconstructed jacket by Brunello Cucinelli for the summer months to stay cool and still sharp enough for business. But even the best suits, the best fabric, and the best fit doesn’t communicate everything. It is also how you put it together, the watch you wear, the briefcase you carry, the shoes. But now as the founder and designer of a new luxury company, I can create pieces for my wardrobe that I only dreamed of doing before. It is just a matter of time before I can share all of that with you.

Tricks of the Tux

Like ordering fine wine to perfectly pair with a meal, most people don’t know how to coordinate the elements of a tuxedo. But unlike wine, learning about how to dress in proper black tie can be pretty simple if you have the right guidelines. I emphasize “guidelines.”

But first a little history on the tuxedo for those of you (like me) that love the back story. The concept of the tuxedo first emerged in the UK in the 1860s when Edward VII, Prince of Wales opted for a tailless jacket to be worn as formal evening wear. His Savile Row tailors made the custom suit, and the style eventually made its way across the pond. By the 1880s, it was extremely popular with New Yorkers in the wealthy upstate enclave of Tuxedo Park, hence the name. The addition of the bow tie came a bit later though. Originally worn by Croatian mercenaries during the 17th century, bow ties spread around France in the 18th century. But it wasn’t until the late 19th century that Pierre Lorillard III, one of the original developers of the Tuxedo Club—a country club within Tuxedo Park—matched a black bow tie with his tuxedo jacket for a formal event. The look caught on, and the concept of “black tie” was born. Of course, I love this story since it is about a king that broke the rules.

It is pretty incredible when you think of how long this look has remained the same. Sure, there are a few variations, but the overall look of the tuxedo remains the standard attire for formal affairs, so it is good to know the basics.

For starters, I don’t follow trends, but I definitely have my own style. I grew up looking to icons like Frank Sinatra, and you see even today their style was on point. Stay traditional. Black is the obvious color choice, but midnight blue is an excellent way to stand out without calling too much attention to yourself. The midnight blue is still elegant but has a little more personality, and I love it paired with my custom John Lobb velvet slippers. It is one of my favorite looks. Recently, I was at the Tom Ford store on Rodeo Drive and was getting one of my cocktail jackets altered (as shown in the pictures). While the incredible satin pattern is different than the typical black or navy I wear, the cut is traditional and the tailoring impeccable. Like I said, keep it appropriate, but it is okay to make a statement.

As with my suits and shirts, there is no substitute for a well-tailored bespoke tux. In fact, this is one garment you should always have custom made for you, if you can. For those that don’t have the option of hitting Savile Row, I suggest going to Tom Ford or Brioni, who make an incredible made-to-measure tuxedo. The classic look for the tuxedo will have larger lapels and should be a shawl collar or peak lapel, preferably in a one-button or double-breasted option. No one understands the importance of that better than Tom Ford, whose attention to detail is amazing. “I probably do have an obsessive personality, but striving for perfection has served me well,” the designer has said.

For me, living in Beverly Hills, I have always been fond of the Tom Ford store on Rodeo Drive. (If you’re heading there, be sure to ask for Jason.) They won’t fail you for an immediate off-the-rack option. They can get you fitted right away and have your garment tailored properly quickly.

Tom Ford White Dinner Jacket with Shawl Collar

Finally, put it all together. A proper tuxedo is about more than just a jacket and bowtie. These are a few of my guidelines and points I have learned along the way. Try incorporating a few and see if it works for you.

Jacket: I do not consider a notch lapel to be formal attire. I see trendy red carpet looks in notch lapel or a grey tuxedo. In my opinion, you should always go for a shawl or peaked lapel. The jacket should be a one or two button, or I also prefer a double-breasted jacket, which is a little more formal and is an exceptional fit for a slimmer man.

Tom Ford Velvet Peak Lapel Cocktail Jacket

Pants: These should match the jacket. Whether you choose a grosgrain-trimmed lapel or all satin, the stripe down the side of the pants should coordinate. You should also pay attention to the pant length. They should be a little shorter and not have a break as suit pants would. And they should never have a cuff; they should be flat front and not have pleats.

Tom Ford Satin Tuxedo Pants

Shirt: My favorite is a custom, crisp white Brioni. However, I do own a light blue one to pair with a midnight navy tux when I want to be more expressive. I also love monograms on my custom shirts. Of course, monograms for my suit shirts are done on the front panel of the shirt below the chest, but on a tuxedo shirt I have it done on the sleeve, so the cummerbund doesn’t cover it. Also, I always suggest showing a little more cuff on your tuxedo.

Custom Brioni Tuxedo Shirt for Christopher R. King

Bow tie: Learn to tie a proper one. And please don’t wear a clip-on tie, unless you are under the age of 16. Always make sure the material matches your lapel and trim on the side of the pants. I also love wearing a satin scarf if I choose not to wear a bowtie. Don’t dress down your tux with a satin necktie instead of a bow tie. The whole point of a tux is to dress formally.

Tom Ford Midnight Navy Satin Shawl Tuxedo

Shoes: I love velvet slippers. But the main guideline here is that your shoes should match either the fabric of the satin or grosgrain.

Those are the basics and of course, just my guidelines. Take them or leave them. You can take it from there. Just like everything I do in life, I learned everything I know from the experts. Follow the guidelines, but make it yours. Even if you don’t have a reason to wear a tux now, you never know when the occasion will show up, and you want to make sure you are communicating the right statement.

You never forget your first Greubel Forsey

It was a piece of art. It was a white gold, Double Tourbillon that inclined at a 30 degree angle with a navy blue crocodile strap. I had lost my first fortune with the real estate crash in 2008 and had just hit a milestone with my new ventures. The first time around, I didn’t make the kind of sustainable investments that I do now. But I had grown so much and now had such a deeper understanding of intelligent investing opportunities. I knew not only would a watch like this hold its value, but it also told the story about where I was now. This was the statement of my new direction and outlook on life.

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degrees
Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degrees, Rose Gold with White Dial – $500,000

I love the philosophy of this brand because they have always been so focused on creating something both technical and artistic. They understand the person that wants something made with the finest craftsmanship and creativity, and most importantly, accuracy. This isn’t for the person that just cares about labels and status. This is for the person that has distinctive taste and experience, and truly appreciates the painstaking levels needed to create perfection. To me, labels are for telling people who you are, craftsmanship is showing them.

Greubel Forsey IP1
Greubel Forsey IP1, Platinum, Limited to 11 Pieces – $650,000

To give you an idea of this intense watchmaking process, you need to understand that it isn’t just what you see on the outside that counts. The Greubel Forsey watch is a meticulously designed timepiece that has multiple tourbillons and wheels with the intention to improve the accuracy of telling time. Hundreds of parts are finished by hand, for a total of 400 to 500 man hours per timepiece.

Greubel Forsey GMT
Greubel Forsey GMT, Platinum with Black Dial – $630,000

In my opinion, Greubel is by far one of the rarest and finest watchmakers in the world. Their standards of excellence are unsurpassed. They create extremely limited edition pieces that exceed the expectation of any collector. In fact the Sapphire Project pictured below only has 8 made in the world. Its price tag is $1,150,000. When you already understand the uncompromising level of work that goes into every single piece, it is no surprise to hear that they continued to push the limits. With this piece, they chose the more difficult, expensive route using large blocks of sapphire crystal to craft a 3 piece case, instead of going the less risky, less expensive route of using multiple smaller crystals to create the different components. But the end result is that you have full access to the intricate details of this watch from every angle, capturing every movement in its best light.

Greubel Forsey Sapphire Project
Greubel Forsey Sapphire Project, Special Execution – $1,150,000

Now at this point in my life, I have become more of an avid collector and continue to grow my collections and investments. If it is the first time for you, I recommend speaking to someone who can really give you the insight you need to find the one that is best for you. I have worked with Steven Rostovsky in Beverly Hills for years because of his passion, knowledge and his understanding of horology. He is a collector first, but has also been dealing in high end collectible wrist watch market for over 16 years. You want an experienced dealer when you are making this type of investment. I recommend first choosing something that speaks to you and then consult with an expert on the investment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get into the details on what makes it so special. Learning about the history and uncovering all of the fascinating components that make this brand unique are all part of the journey.

Greubel Forsey QP Equation
Greubel Forsey QP Equation in White Gold with Anthracite Dial – $750,000

Wingtip, Cap Toe, loafers, Monk Strap, Do You Know The Difference?

Wingtip, Cap Toe, Loafers, Monk Strap, Do you know the difference?

They say you don’t know a man until you have walked in his shoes. You could learn a lot about me, walking in mine. I appreciate my life and the journey it took me to get here. I earned my way here and am privileged enough now to have achieved great success and can wear the shoes I always dreamed of owning. Not because of the status, but because of how it makes me feel.

But let’s talk about shoes.

I see a lot of guys just wearing the wrong shoes. Listen, I get it. I didn’t grow up knowing this stuff either. But I saw the difference it made in the way I appeared and the way I felt when I was taking those meetings, pushing for the next level and just trying to make it happen. So, if I can help someone else with what I have learned, then I want to do it.  I personally think man or woman, everyone should invest in at least one pair of nice shoes.  For now, I want to talk to the men.

Let me go into a few basics. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules and depending on where I am in the world, I have broken these rules too. So, let’s just call these guidelines.

Wingtip: One of my favorites, a classic shoe. The toe cap has a full brogue and is usually perforated and serrated along its edges. Most have decorative perforations on the cap. This shoe almost always has laces and is worn best with a suit. I have more than a dozen pair of these shoes in all leathers and variations especially crocodile. By far the best of the best in my opinion.

Cap Toe:  This is my least favorite but was really popular in Britain. It is an Oxford shoe with no seams, apart from the one seam across the toe cap. It’s always a laced up shoe and considered a staple dress shoe all men should have. It is also considered more conservative than the Wingtip. I have only one classic pair of these from Tom Ford in Crocodile, but still my least favorite.

Monk Strap: This shoe style does not have any laces, but instead uses a buckle and strap to secure the shoe, and is by far one of the most beautiful shoes a man can wear and is considered moderately formal. I have mine in Crocodile and Suede and I always feel special when I am wearing these types of shoes.

Loafer: This is the most casual out of this list. It is a slip-on shoe that comes in many styles from the classic loafer to the driving shoe. I have these in so many variations to pair with jeans or for summer and casual outings.

When you choose an inexpensive pair of trendy shoes, it can just kill your entire look and make everything you are wearing look inexpensive and in poor taste. That can translate into communicating to a potential business partner or associate that you don’t really care, or you aren’t in it for the long run.

The reality is that if you purchased a really well-made Italian shoe with leather soles and paid around $900 to $1500 for those shoes and cared for them, they can last you a lifetime. I have shoes from over 15 years ago that I still wear today, stored in their cedar shoe trees, with dust cover and original box.

Of course, if you really have the funds and want to take it up a notch, go for the custom Tom Ford crocodile shoes that cost around $15,000 and communicate that you have both confidence and taste. If you want something that will last, go for timeless style. An elegant, quality shoe will last a lifetime if you take care of it. For me, I have been obsessed with crocodile shoes in monk strap and loafers.

Whatever you do, always be you, always be true to your style and your preference. Just remember that the shoes you wear is also telling a story. Just make sure that is the story that you want to tell.