Robb Read: Breaking Fashion’s Cycle

Luxury brands are finally taking sustainability seriously. But why now?

By Marc Abbott 25/05/2021

Using recycled and past-season fabrics is one of the most innovative things we can do right now—it’s what modern luxury looks like.”

Designer Stella McCartney doesn’t mince her words. Perhaps not unexpected given she’s long been carrying the (recyclable) can as fashion’s eco frontrunner and a standard-bearer for sustainability across the industry.

“And if we want to keep producing luxury fashion that’s not harmful to our planet, then it’s the way we have to go.”

Responding to the environmental crisis and various negligible, standard manufacturing processes has, until recently, proved little more than lip service— pledges have been made by some of the world’s commanding fashion figures with little actual action following.

But the past 12 months have proven different. There has been an unmistakable surge in the use of recycled fabrics, upcycled garments and deadstock materials, infusing stylish and exciting collections of menswear and beyond; garments designed and produced, ultimately, with newfound ethical credibility.

Many such materials are a direct response to the most widely acknowledged environmental crisis: plastic waste. Econyl—one of the most commonly adopted fabrics in notable collections from the likes of Prada, Gucci and Burberry— is a sustainable nylon yarn made from discarded fishing nets, carpets and other industrial plastics.

Recycled polyester has also been employed as a replacement for goose down in padded outerwear from the likes of Ralph Lauren and Ermenegildo Zegna. Wool, especially cashmere, yarns have been rewoven from factory and post-consumer waste to create sweaters and coats by Marni and the aforementioned McCartney.

Elsewhere, surplus fabrics have been pressed into action to create stunning pieces from Louis Vuitton and Alexander McQueen, Loewe has upcycled military tents into luxury garments and the choice of recycled menswear, as we continue into 2021, is vast.

McCartney frames such change by pointing to Covid-19. “I think the pandemic has really put everything into sharp focus,” she says. “It’s perhaps encouraged this trend for using recycled fabrics. For the first time in history, we can truly measure the damage done by human activity and we have seen in such a short period of time how incredible nature is and how she bounces back so quickly, so I think brands have really been inspired to act.”

Alessandro Sartori is the artistic director of Ermenegildo Zegna. He agrees with McCartney’s sentiment—that fashion’s reaction to a global resource crisis has
been quickened by recent events.

“It’s evident that we need to take care of the planet and its natural resources to build a better world for future generations,” he offers. “And I think that the pandemic has accelerated attitudes.”

Sartori’s Zegna solution is encompassed by a #UseTheExisting brand ethos—clothes manufactured by reusing discarded materials from pre-existing garments and waste sources. A shining example of this is the ongoing Achill farm tailoring project—two-piece suits remixed and rewoven entirely with merino wool remnants from Zegna’s sprawling Australian farm located in southern NSW.

“This is an ever-evolving project to make the dream of zero waste possible,” says Sartori. “It’s our promise to rethink our supply chain by giving new life to pre-existing or post-consumer materials.”

This circular production process also informs Zegna’s outerwear, such as a 100 per cent recycled nylon padded jacket with replacement down insulation, as well as luggage and accessories across its most recent collection.

Recycled coating and layering pieces such as these have been a common thread in numerous recent capsule collections.

Prada’s Re-Nylon range came from repurposed ocean plastic and includes both long- and short-sleeved zipped shirts, a blouson jacket and sleeveless puffer.

Emporio Armani has worn its heart on its sleeve—or at least the torso—with a range of menswear staples under the umbrella of its “RE-A” capsule. The company’s “I’m Saying Yes to Recycling” motto is boldly emblazoned across standout pieces such as a recycled wool/polyamide sweater, field jacket and timepiece featuring a recycled nylon strap.

Burberry, meanwhile, turned up the heat with notable statement pieces from its ReBurberry collection of garments, born from the label’s commitment to recycled fabrics and bio-based materials. Its reversible check nylon puffer jacket, created from recycled polyester and nylon, features a Burberry house check and is also available as a gilet.

Polo Ralph Lauren’s Earth Polo is manufactured from recycled plastic bottles, while its Custom Packable vest and jacket not only employs repurposed plastic waste for its Primaloft padding and nylon for its outer but is also—as the name suggests—customisable with different colours, logos and even your name.

Maison Margiela and Marni are also onboard, with recycled and regenerated pieces proudly influencing recent drops.

In Milan, the recently reinstalled cool that has come to cloak Gucci also means a greater emphasis on sustainability—though the Italian standout has for some years now used recycled wool. Last year, the label—as led by acclaimed maestro of reinvention, Alessandro Michele—overtly announced that it had hit the eco button in a large way, with a debut Circular Lines “Off The Grid” collection. A typically lively and genderless array of ready-to-wear elements, shoes and accessories, it includes low-top sneakers (even the thread they’re sewn with is recycled polyester), a zip-up jacket and a vast choice of wallets and day bags.

The materials for the entire collection are either recycled, organic, bio-based or sustainably sourced. Crucially, many of these Econyl examples are not only recycled but also recyclable.

“Recyclable garments promote circularity and will not end up in landfill,” insists McCartney. “And this also provides opportunity for innovation.”

Besides offering a soft regenerated cashmere sweater and a recycled puffer blouson, her eponymous label led the way in recyclable pieces with its Loop sneakers. Using a method of attaching the upper to the sole without glue (usually full of harmful chemicals), at the end of their lifespan they can be taken apart and recycled. McCartney’s KOBA “fur-free fur”, introduced in 2020, is made from plant-based materials and recycled polyester, so it too can eventually be recycled.

“Right now, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is burned or landfilled every second; less than one per cent of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing,” says McCartney. “This means 99 per cent of all textiles and fashion is waste—that’s about US$100 billion of materials wasted each year. It’s crazy, but it can be turned into a business opportunity.”

It’s an opportunity that’s been fully grasped at Louis Vuitton. One of the biggest causes of the waste to which McCartney refers is excess “deadstock” fabric (which lingers unused in factories) and garments that are simply disposed of (having failed to sell by the end of a season or in a sale).

LV’s men’s artistic director, Virgil Abloh, found a creative solution for the label’s SS21 collection, creating more than half of the looks from either material recycled from deadstock, or upcycled from previous outings. Reconditioned garments at his 2021 Tokyo show last autumn proudly wore Louis Vuitton’s new “Upcycling Signal Logo”.

It’s been a similar scene at McQueen of late—its 2021 menswear collection was designed during pandemic-enforced lockdown and created predominantly from stock fabric which has been printed or over-dyed.

Such strong moves further McCartney’s assertion that “brands shouldn’t be afraid to use up fabrics they have left over from previous seasons.” But this use of surplus fabrics isn’t always restrained by the fashion house’s own stock.

Jonathan Anderson created a collection for Eye/Loewe/Nature strongly inspired by military surplus—repurposing army jackets, vintage fleeces, military tents and flannel check shirt patches for pieces such as shorts and a patchwork cotton shirt.

“Surplus and excess materials are abundant and only waiting to be incinerated; there is so much opportunity for creativity,” says Christopher Raeburn, whose RÆBURN label produces garments under its RÆMADE banner and which are upcycled from the likes of bivouacs, anti-gravity suits and air brakes.

Adopting an unwavering re-use approach is just one of several hurdles the industry faces if it wants to forge a better future. And McCartney believes that for further engagement of superior sustainability practices, greater external assistance, guidance and policy is required.

“One of the biggest things standing in the way of making real change is our governments,” she says. “We’re coming together as an industry because governments have failed to enact any meaningful legislation to the protect the environment.”

McCartney believes companies that choose to use sustainable materials, via the likes of recycling et al, should be incentivised via legislation.

“Offering lower import tariffs could accelerate the use of these materials. Right now, it’s a cost to the business which prohibits some from embracing more sustainable options.”

But are financial incentives of concern to some larger fashion houses clinging to historical industry traditions?

“I have great respect for the history and the craft of what I do, but the way things are done, the fabrics that are commonly used, they haven’t changed in a century. So, I do think there is a resistance to innovation in certain parts of the industry.”

McCartney has a firm ally in Alessandro Sartori—keen to stand by her, and beyond that, to prove that their aligned approach has finally moved well beyond fashionable tokenism. “If we all work together with the same mindset, we can make the difference,” states Sartori. “Zegna’s green philosophy began in the 1930s when our founder, Ermenegildo Zegna, began planting 500,000 conifer trees across the landscape surrounding his wool mill. We continue to maintain this ecosystem as our commitment to the future. And all the fashion industry should care about it.”

Ultimately, though, such change needs to be embraced at consumer level.

“I think customer attitudes towards sustainable fabrics have changed over the years and people are now more open to trying new fabrics,” offers McCartney. “As long as they’re getting a beautifully made product, it doesn’t matter if it’s not made from a traditional material.”

Given some of the newfound practices, consumers are not only offered beautiful products but those that are truly unique. “Based on the result of our upcycling, no two RÆMADE products are the same, resulting in truly exclusive, innovative and treasured pieces,” says Christopher Raeburn, who is also the global creative director of Timberland, another label to have committed to a net positive impact through a combination of circularity and regenerative farming practices by 2030.

“If anything, the exclusivity, uniqueness and craftsmanship behind RÆMADE is a strong appeal for traditional luxury consumers,” continues Raeburn. “Look, the pandemic starkly evidenced the dangerous cycle of overproduction and overconsumption we are in—we need to stop making more stuff. But I think we’ll look back on 2020 and, despite the challenges, we’ll know this was the moment we woke up to our obligations.”

That recognition of obligation, the spirit of collaboration and the need for accountability are points at which modern and youthful consumers make valuable brand connections. And McCartney firmly believes (as Whitney Houston once famously chimed) that the children are fashion’s sustainable future.

“Today’s youth have shown time and time again that they’re natural-born activists and are willing to say ‘no’ to the status quo. They’re the ones standing up and telling us our house in on fire and that we need to respond because we are in a crisis.

“It’s now cool and modern to wear something made from recycled or repurposed fabrics, and it’s amazing to see so many brands follow suit in recent years. But it’s clear we still have such a long way to go.”

That it has taken climate and health crises of global proportions to get us to this point is lamentable. But the rising number of designers finally showing a demonstrable commitment to finding a solution to fashion’s questionable former ways lends hope for the future.

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The Tod’s SS25 Men’s Collection in Milan Was a Showcase of “Artisanal Intelligence”

It was also the debut men’s collection by creative director Matteo Tamburini.

By Josh Bozin 20/06/2024

Earlier this week, Tod’s presented its SS25 men’s collection at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (PAC) for Milan Fashion Week, where all eyes were fixed on Matteo Tamburini and his debut menswear collection as Tod’s newest creative director.

Striking “a balance between tradition and modernity”, was the former Bottega Veneta designer’s intention, and indeed his showcase offerered a spotlight on the quality, materials, and detailing that are central to the Tod’s wardrobe.

“The collection is more about subtraction rather than addition, highlighting the very elevated, timeless and relaxed materials,” says Tamburini via a statement.

Tod’s

In line with Tod’s restrained design codes, the garments presented were characterised by timelessness, unmistakable Italian flair, yet a casualness appropriate for everyday wear. Only the best leathers were used in the collection—thanks to the Pashmy project, which Tod’s unveiled in January to champion high-end Italian materials—used in creating garments like the Tod’s Bomber, the Gio Jacket, the Shirt Jacket, the Di Bag sack, as well as footwear staples, like the Tod’s T-Riviera.

Of course, the iconic Gommino driving shoe wasn’t without an update, too: you’ll find a new sabot interpretation, as well as the Bubble Gommino introduced in a new boat model with the T-bar accessory.

“Craftsmanship” was at the forefront of messaging, with chairman and chief executive officer of the Tod’s Group, Diego Della Valle, reiterating the message of honouring artisanal arts in an increasingly digital-first world.”[It’s] important to uphold artisanal intelligence, keeping under control artificial intelligence as it is now developing rapidly and powerfully,” he said via a statement.

“Individuals and artisanal intelligence at the centre, with its traditions and values, will contribute to keep artificial intelligence in check. Our Italian craftsmanship and supply chain can be an example of the combination of tradition and the new speed of artificial intelligence.”

tods.com

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Pitti Uomo’s Best-Dressed Men Cut Through the Noise With Personal Style

From vintage gems to tasteful tailoring, attendees of Florence’s biannual tradeshow brought their best sartorial selves.

By Naomi Rougeau, Lorenzo Sodi 20/06/2024

Whether or not you’re well versed in the ins and outs of Pitti Uomo, the biannual menswear tradeshow in Florence that brings together buyers, press—and, naturally, a vast ostentation of peacocks—the chances are that photos from the gathering are still making their way into your newsfeed. You might even smirk at the mention of it. To be sure, you’ll encounter plenty of “overdressing” strolling through the main venues but by and large, great personal style manages to cut through the noise.

Part of what makes the Pitti scene so exciting is that menswear moves relatively slowly. It’s less about seeing something earth shatteringly new but rather gradual shifts and discovering fresh ways to put things together. Menswear regulars such as Alessandro Squarzi, owner of a considerable vintage archive that influences his Milanese boutique Fortela, can be relied upon to provide inspiration on how to make tried and true staples and silhouettes feel modern.

Speaking of new old things, vintage fashions made their way into the chat in a big way this June, whether in terms of rare finds or sustainable efforts via upcycling, fabric development and natural dyes (Paris-based De Bonne Facture achieved an ideal medium brown using coffee, for instance). At the heart of the conversation was another bona fide vintage guru Maurizio Donadi who made a case for the timelessness and democratic nature of indigo with his centuries-spanning exhibit of antique garments from around the globe.

Below you’ll find a dozen of our favorite looks from Pitti Uomo 106, lensed by our eagle-eyed street-style photographer Lorenzo Sodi. We hope they inspire.

Lorenzo Sodi

A lesson in simplicity and the power of a classic palette—good quality vintage accents such as a turquoise embellished belt buckle add interest to timeless workwear. Ray-Ban’s universally-flattering Wayfarer sunglasses are the perfect finishing touch.

Lorenzo Sodi

Sans suit and shirt, the neckerchief (of which there were many at Pitti), adds a welcome dose of colour to a white tee and relaxed jacket and proves that sometimes one choice detail is all it takes. A well-loved, slightly-too-long belt and canvas Vans contribute to the casual harmony.

Lorenzo Sodi

Whatever the weather, you’ll find Douglas Cordeaux, from Fox Brothers, looking immaculate in shirt and tie… and a suit made of one of Fox’s many fabrics. British elegance, embodied.

Lorenzo Sodi

Relaxed elegance is the foundation of the Brunello Cuccinelli brand. Here, the maestro himself shows us how it’s done in a double-breasted linen ensemble featuring a few personal flourishes.

Lorenzo Sodi

Designer Alessandro Pirounis of Pirounis offers a masterclass on the rule of three with a contemporary twist, subbing the usual jacket with an overshirt of his own design.

Lorenzo Sodi

A renaissance man takes Florence. True to his roots, US Marine veteran, Savile Row-trained tailor and photographer Robert Spangle blazes a sartorial trail that’s all his own.

Lorenzo Sodi

Cream trousers are an essential element of elegant Italian summer style. Designer Nicola Radano of Spacca Neapolis channels one of the greats (Marcello Mastroianni) in a dark polo of his own design, collar spread wide across his jacket’s lapel for a welcome retro lean.

Lorenzo Sodi

Proof of the power of tonal dressing, that can create an impactful outfit just by sticking to the same colour family. A chic ensemble and in some ways an elevated version of the double-denim look, every element is working hard in service to the whole.

Lorenzo Sodi

UK-based stylist Tom Stubbs has long been a proponent of blousy pleats, lengthy db jackets, and statement-making neck scarves and here, in vintage Armani, he embodies the louche, oversize look that many designers are just now catching up on.

Lorenzo Sodi

A tailor splitting his time between Berlin and Cologne, Maximilian Mogg is known for his strong-shouldered, architectural suiting. Yet in Mogg’s hands, particularly with this non-traditional colour scheme, the effect is always modern and youthful.

Lorenzo Sodi

If Max Poglia’s relaxed Hawaiian shirt and suit combo is any indication, summer has truly arrived. But it’s an excellent example of how to wearing tailoring in more casual fashion. This cream db would look perfect with shirt and tie at a wedding in August and just as chic here with slippers and a laid-back shirt.

Lorenzo Sodi

Another example of how tailoring can be laid-back and breezy for summer, from a dude who looks no stranger to enjoying the best of the warmer months. Jaunty pocket square, sandals, untucked linen shirt…go forth and emulate.

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The 13 Best Watches From Pitti Uomo, From Rolex to Patek Philippe and Piaget

Each year in Florence, Italy, men walk the streets in the finest fashions, and they pair their watches perfectly.

By Allen Farmelo, Lorenzo Sodi 20/06/2024

Pitti Uomo is a major fashion gathering in Florence, Italy where brands bring their best to buyers and fashion editor alike. But, perhaps more interestingly, Pitti Uomo transforms the streets of Florence into an urban runway on which guys from around the world with more than a passing interest in style go about their business—even if in some cases that business seems just to be hanging around waiting to be photographed—in their best threads and, of course, some excellent watches.

We pondered the relationship between men’s fashion and watches in more detail earlier this year, and what’s fascinating about the intersection of fashion and watches is how to situate the timepiece within an ensemble. To give you a sense of how that plays out, this year we saw a tonal pairing of a tasty vintage Rolex GMT Master Pepsi (red and blue) with rose and mid-blue summer plaid, and we saw high-waisted military green Bermuda shorts paired intelligently with a beat up old Elgin field watch with a matching green strap. Both looks were killer, the watches working as perfect accents, and there are many more great pairings to consider below.

As is often the case at fashion shows (including Pitti Uomo in previous years), Rolex dominated. Horological snobs might look down on this choice because the Crown is so often the default choice for so many, be they collectors signalling their access to rare references or those just getting into this obsession. But a more nuanced read on this tendency is that Rollies are fabulously versatile watches that one can rock with each new outfit—which some men will swap throughout the day. Breakfast might call for a casual look, lunch something more daring, and dinner that perfect summer suit. What better than a Rolex for all occasions?

But it wasn’t just Rolex at Pitti Uomo this week. The urban catwalk brought out Paiget, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Cartier, as well. But our favourite watch was a vintage Tudor Sub on a turquoise bracelet.

Below are the 13 best watches from Pitit Uomo 2024.

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The 10 Best Omakase in Sydney

Sydney’s best Japanese chef’s-table dining experiences.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 06/06/2024

In Japan, where food is a cultural art form, omakase stands for traditional Japanese foods made with seasonal ingredients. A good omakase meal, prepared with purity and mindfulness, can make an unforgettable imprint on the culinary memory. Yet in a land defined by seasonal traditions, omakase is a relatively new concept.

Omakase originated in Japan in the 1970s as affluent Japanese began to dine more regularly at first-rate sushi counters. Bowing to the expertise of the sushi master, omakase loosely translates to “I’ll leave it to you.” In a setting where money is no object, letting the chef decide was designed as a chic way to take the awkwardness out of ordering.

In Australia where there’s an abundance of fresh seafood, omakase menus have experienced a recent rise in popularity. Today omakase is any series of small dishes served directly by the chef to the diner. Each part of the meal is presented on beautiful ceramics and lacquer wear, with a great —and somewhat— intimidating reverence for elegant details. It’s a chance to see a chef’s knife skills up close and get a feel for their cooking style.

Omakase menus are based on whatever is freshest at the market and can be influenced by the chef’s mood, expertise, and response to the guest. They can be slowly paced like a ceremony—hushed and reverential—but they can also be rowdy, humorous, and personal.
Here we give you 10 of the best to try in Sydney.

Yoshi’s Omakase at Nobu Crown Sydney

Crown Sydney, Level 2/1 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo. Open: 12–3 pm, 5:30–9:30 pm Phone: 02 8871 7188 Reservations: F&B-SYD-Nobu@crownresorts.com.au; $380 per head (including matched wine and sake). Crownsydney.com.au

Sushi Oe

16/450 Miller St, Cammeray; Tue – Sat. SMS only 0451 9709 84 E: jizakana16@gmail.com Phone: 0426 233 984 $230 per head. jizakana.com.au

Kisuke with Yusuke Morita

50 Llankelly Place, Potts Point; Tuesday – Saturday: 17:30 – 10.45 (closed Sunday/ Monday) $185-200 per head Kisukepottspoint.com

Haco 

102/21 Alberta St, Sydney. Lunch, Friday to Saturday 12 -2:00 pm Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday 5:45 pm – 8:1 5pm (closed Sunday & Mondays) P: 0408 866 285                                     E: haco@hacosydney.com.au; $150 – $210 Hacosydney.com.au

Kuon

Shop 04 2/58 Little Hay St, Sydney, Lunch: Fri-Sun 12:30 pm. Dinner  Tue-Sun 5:15 pm or 7:45 pm sittings.  Reservation via SMS at 0488 688 252; $220 per head @kuon.omakase

Sokyo 

The Darling, Level G, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont. Open dinner Monday to Thursday from 5:45 pm P: 1800 700 700 $300 per head Sokyo.com.au

Kuro

368 Kent St, Sydney; Open Tue – Wed – Thur: 6 pm Fri & Sat: 5:30 pm P: 02 9262 1580, reservations@kurosydney.com $220 per head. Kurosydney.com;

Choji Omakase

Level 2, 228 Victoria Ave, Chatswood —upstairs from Choji Yakiniku. Every Monday to Wednesday at 6.30 pm. One seating per day only. $295 per head. Chojiomakase.com.au

Gold Class Daruma

The Grace Hotel, Level 1/77 York St, Sydney; 12–2:30 pm, 5:30–9.00 pm Phone: (02) 9262 1190 M: 0424 553 611 booking@goldclassdaruma.com.au·$120 – $150 per head Goldclassdaruma.com.au

Besuto

Besuto Omakase, Sydney Place precinct, 3 Underwood Street, Circular Quay. Omakase is available to book for dinner – Tuesday to Saturday. 5:30 pm & 8pm sittings. From $250. Besuto.com.au

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is no soy and wasabi offered during my omakase meal?
Even though sushi and sashimi are being served, the chef is serving each piece of sushi so quickly and directly that the chef is applying the wasabi and soy to the sushi themselves. Watch as they brush the top of the fish with soy and dab a tiny amount of wasabi on the rice, under the fish. You should not need to add extra, and in fact, it can be insulting to the chef to add more. Bathing the bottom of the rice of your sushi in soy sauce is considered bad manners, as it is seen as detracting from the flavour of the fish.

Nobu, Sydney

Can an omakase experience accommodate my dietary needs?
Although there is often little variation once the chef has set the daily menu, some customisation is possible. Advise the restaurant when you book and remind them of allergies or aversions again as you sit down. They will let you know when you book if your allergy is possible for the chef. Japanese menus feature a lot of seafood and dashi so accommodating a no seafood request can be genuinely tricky.

What are the golden rules for chopstick etiquette?
Use your chopstick holder in between eating, rather than putting chopsticks on your plate. Don’t use your chopsticks to gesticulate or point; if offering food to someone to try, never pass food directly from your chopsticks to theirs. Rather place the food onto a small plate and let them pick it up.
Never touch communal or shared food with your chopsticks. The longer, slightly larger chopsticks are like sharing cutlery, never put these in your mouth.

Without a menu, how can I know what I am eating during omakase?
Omakase is often a no-menu situation, and you are expected to try new things. Attending an omakase experience with an open, trusting mind yields the best results.
There are Wagyu and tempura omakase that reflect the chef’s personal predilections and training, but in a standard luxury omakase, the format will include a lot of freshly caught seafood and will usually kick off with a delicate appetiser. This will be followed by a sashimi and sushi course, a savoury egg custard (chawanmushi) with meat and seafood, a cooked or blow-torched market fish, a soup course, and dessert.

Can I talk to the chef during omakase? What is the protocol?
Guests at an omakase experience are welcome to ask questions of the chef; in fact, interacting with the chef is part of the experience. It is considered polite to ask questions or inquire about the food so they can explain.

What is best to pair with omakase  in terms of drinks?
In general, wine and sake are a perfect match for omakase. Aged fish and vinegar have strong umami flavours so depending on which course you enjoy, different wine and sake will pair well. Dry chilled sake is a great choice. Amazing sakes are imported into Australia, so trust the restaurant to advise you and take you on a sake journey at the same time.  If you don’t like sake, drinking chardonnay, a crisp young riesling, or even a dry complex Riesling is also totally acceptable. All three styles help bring out the flavour of the fish. Champagne can also be good. Try a blanc de blancs— 100% chardonnay —for a great way to start the meal. As you progress, remember that sake is good for dishes with a strong taste, such as uni and eel.

Nobu, Sydney

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The Sonos Ace Headphones Are Music to the Ears

The audio giant has (finally) revealed its foray in the personal listening category.

By Josh Bozin 20/06/2024

In the ever competitive market for premium headphones, few brands have captured the hearts (and ears) of audiophiles, professionals and enthusiasts alike. Bowers & Wilkins, Bose, Sony, and even Apple come to mind when debating great audio brands in 2024. Then there’s Sonos.

For over 20 years, the American audio manufacturer has been lauded for its high-end capabilities, particularly in a home setting; Sonos changed the game for the integration of home entertainment. But it had yet to venture into the realm of headphones.

Until now. Earlier this month, the company marked its long-awaited entry into the personal-listening category, with the launch of its highly anticipated Sonos Ace over-ear headphones.

“Fans have asked us for years to bring the Sonos experience to headphones,”says Patrick Spence, CEO of Sonos, “and we knew our first foray into the category needed to champion the type of innovation and sound experience Sonos has become synonymous with.”

Sonos

On paper, the Sonos Ace is an enticing proposition: a premium over-ear headphone featuring lossless and spatial audio, intuitive Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and Aware Mode. Most appealing, however, might be its new immersive home theatre offering; the Sonos Ace can pair to compatible Sonos soundbars with just a tap of a button. The new TrueCinema technology, which arrives later this year, will precisely map your entertainment space and then render a complete surround sound system for an unparalleled listening experience.

Sonos

Retailing at $699, they aren’t exactly cheap, and there more affordable headphones that compete with Sonos in terms of audio output and high-fidelity sound. But where Sonos thrives is in the details. Available in  stealthy black and pure white, the Sonos Ace are sleek and stylish right out of the box. Sure, there is some resemblance to the Apple Air Max Pro—arguably its greatest rival in the over-ear headphone segment—but Sonos has also added its own design touches, and it’s clear the Ace was made to look and feel as good as it sounds.

Its distinctive, slim profile elegantly blends metal accents with a sleek matte finish, and thanks to the use of lightweight, premium materials like memory foam and vegan leather, you get an airy fit that isn’t overbearing, even after extensive use. The design of the Sonos Ace is also intuitive; tactile buttons make controlling the headset a cinch, and pairing with Apple or Android devices is also straightforward. The dedicated Sonos App is also helpful for customising (somewhat) your listening experience, from altering EQ to turning on certain capabilities, like Head Tracking.

Sonos

It does fall short on a couple of key fronts.  I was expecting more from the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) for over-ear headphones of this price point; there’s no way the ANC as it stands will filter out the sounds of a plane engine, for example. I also found the Sonos Ace has an issue, albeit subtle, with the mid-bass, which can sound muddy and lack punch at times.

But these are small nits. The Sonos Ace only adds to the company’s impressive standing as an unimpeachable innovator in the audio industry.

For more information, visit Sonos.

 

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