After a week of meetings in Cape Town, I decided to extend my stay and reach out to my good friend Sergio to see if we could perhaps set up another lunch. He was staying at La Residence in Franschhoek and invited me to come out and join him for the afternoon.It was another sunny winters day in Cape Town (I don’t think this place gets winter) and I didn’t need much convincing to take a drive out to the winelands for some fine dining in the valley. La Residence is one of Cape Town’s most awarded hotels, finding themselves in the ‘best of’ category for some or other prestigious award year after year! When you arrive, you quickly understand why. Not only does the opulent chandelier clad interior make you feel like royalty, the staff do everything they can to treat you like royalty. “This how every day should start” I thought to myself smiling.
I found Sergio enjoying a glass of white wine in what the hotel calls ‘Persian Alley’ – a large outside terrace covered in larger than life Persian rugs. He was wearing a charcoal double breasted suit, an open collared white shirt, brown tasseled loafers and a leopard print pocket square. That’s right, a leopard print pocket square. I had to ask why. “For a gentleman to appear perfectly dressed, one item at least should not match” he says to me. That’s strange, I thought matching was a good thing, what gives? He responds by asking me what I think of the hotel lobby, “Beautiful” I say, he then points out that the beauty of the lobby is in it’s imperfection, almost everything is hand carved and nothing really matches yet it all comes together perfectly. “You never want to appear perfect” he says “It makes you unapproachable and that’s the last thing you want to be”. Okay, I think I get it, and make a mental note to pick up a statement piece when I get back.
Executive chef Lennard Marais meets us to find out what we would like for lunch (there’s that royal treatment again) he suggests the local salmon trout served with seasonal vegetables on a bed of pureed butternut, I jump right on to that while Sergio asks for something on the lighter side, commenting that a summer body is built in winter, I laugh and comment that his double breasted suit does seem to fit him perfectly so the ‘lighter lunches’ must be working. He tells me how long he’s been searching for that perfect double breasted suit, something that not only fits perfectly, but that you can dress up classically with a tie and a pair of brogues or dress down with a pair of white sneakers or loafers “like the Italians” he says. In the end he decided that charcoal worked perfectly, and found fastening the bottom button gave the suit a perfect snug fit.
I questioned his decision in breaking one of menswear strongest rules of never fastening your bottom suit button, he replies by telling me he should also be wearing socks with his tasseled loafers and a tie with his shirt “but if we never break the rules a little we’ll never move fashion forward will we?” he finishes. He has a good point, and in the spirit of breaking rules, I decide to order a glass of the locally produced Rosé – who says men should never drink pink drinks.
Our lunch arrives and Sergio’s salad looks like a work of art with its spiraled vegetables all perfectly placed amongst some fresh bocconcini mozzarella and sprinkled macadamia nuts, “it almost looks to good to eat” he says and I think back to our earlier conversation about perfection. My salmon was just as beautiful, but we both cleaned our plates and spent the rest of the lunch chatting about breaking rules and achieving perfect imperfection before saying our goodbye’s.
I drove back contemplating how some rules should not only be broken, but completely replaced, like Sergio’s tasseled loafers with no socks – not so long ago this would be completely absurd, but today the opposite is true. Maybe we should all be a little braver with our fashion, maybe we should all break the rules a little more, I smile, but decide to stick to the speed limit anyway. I guess some things shouldn’t be messed with.