Top-notch ties

Recent innovations may seem subtle, says Tom Stubbs, but to aficionados, tie design is moving up a notch

Kenji Kaga
Kenji Kaga

So what’s the story?” demanded my editor, whose appetite for the new is unsurpassed. I have some remarkable ties to talk about, I tell her, involving refined use of colour, creative embellishments and inventive weaving and printing. It might not be world-shaking news, but men who still value the tie as a personal style signifier will appreciate its subtle significance.

From left: Tie Your Tie silk tie, €200. Uman silk tie, £150
From left: Tie Your Tie silk tie, €200. Uman silk tie, £150 | Image: George Ong

“The tie is a simple object, yet so revealing of one’s personality,” says Greg Lellouche, founder of online retailer No Man Walks Alone. We are talking about Tie Your Tie, the cult Florentine brand bought by Japanese style maven Kenji Kaga in 2011. Kaga has revisited the label’s archive through the prism of Japanese refinement, resulting in more muted colours than was typical of the brand’s style. There are silk club stripes in faded sepia (€200) and jacquard silks with insect or peacock-feather motifs (€200). Asymmetric patterns adorn some ties, while others have hand-embroidered edges. Even more impressive is the Kenji Kaga Three Fold Tie collection (€200 each), a semi-bespoke expression of the Tie Your Tie ethos. The fabrics are more akin to those used for fine sports jackets: hopsack wool/cotton blends and slubby wool/silk/linen mixes and well-suited to their hand embellishments. Some have rows of bold cross-stitching, others are embroidered with chain-stitching. Stores that carry Kaga’s designs host events at which individual embroidery can be ordered along with various linings, initials, crests – whatever clients wish.

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How does Charvet director Jean-Claude Colban describe the ethos of its new ties? In a word, denim. “The new elegant-yet-casual dressing styles led us to the idea of denim and indigo-inspired ties [£165],” he says. A schappe silk yarn is combined with organzine silk to produce a matte mélange effect, while a mouline twist of two shades results in a mid-indigo blue tie, referencing denim’s dressed-down diagonal twill grain (also in silver). For the gentleman looking to subvert convention a bit, there are new shades of red and purple achieved using the same mouline technique, which find their way into both checked and solid-colour ties.

From left: Kenji Kaga wool/silk/linen Orlo Margherita tie, and wool/cotton Sashiko Becco tie, both from the Three Fold Tie collection, €200 each
From left: Kenji Kaga wool/silk/linen Orlo Margherita tie, and wool/cotton Sashiko Becco tie, both from the Three Fold Tie collection, €200 each | Image: George Ong

Technique is also paramount at Uman, the luxury men’s atelier established by Caruso chief executive Umberto Angeloni. Uman ties fuse oriental and western floral designs; tonal silk prints depicting plum blossom, sweet orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum are scattered with western flower motifs, the small repeats popping in contrast to the subtler oriental background, as on a bamboo print with a bright white Rose of York pattern (in brown or navy, £150), or representations of chrysanthemums (£150). They’re special compositions, made versatile by the fact that all Uman ties are reverse-printed, with one side showcasing a monochrome version of the design. Also dabbling in the doppio-sided tie game is Rubinacci, which has recently altered its printing technique to feature contrasting patterns. The Mary Quant-esque flower-print silks (£150) are charming, but it is Rubinacci’s bold, bashing, old-school checks (£150) that really work for me.

From left: Uman silk tie, £150. Jupe by Jackie silk Clooney for Hockney tie, €250. Drake’s silk/cotton/nylon houndstooth bouclé tie, £125, and silk/linen tie, £125
From left: Uman silk tie, £150. Jupe by Jackie silk Clooney for Hockney tie, €250. Drake’s silk/cotton/nylon houndstooth bouclé tie, £125, and silk/linen tie, £125 | Image: George Ong

Material invention seems to be a trend in itself; witness new weaving techniques at Drake’s, where silk is “self” checked (whereby a pattern is achieved with textures instead of colour tones). It’s as if the fabric is cross-hatched with a scratchy pen nib, with polka dots then applied freehand across the contrasting pattern (£125). There are also jacquards in bold houndstooth and polka-dot motifs (£125), the fabric a hefty silk/linen mix with a bouclé feel to it.

From left: Rubinacci silk tie, £150. Turnbull & Asser silk London Ripped tie, £125
From left: Rubinacci silk tie, £150. Turnbull & Asser silk London Ripped tie, £125 | Image: George Ong

Over on Jermyn Street, Turnbull & Asser is turning out some surprisingly edgy designs, including a silk series called London Ripped, featuring prints that simulate one pattern being ripped away to reveal another beneath, such as a Prince of Wales check “torn” in strips atop line drawings of London monuments (£125). There is also a new seven-fold tie in black lace/silk with polka dots (£225), an unusual style statement made with an exceptional level of construction.

A selection of Charvet schappe silk/organzine silk ties, £165 each
A selection of Charvet schappe silk/organzine silk ties, £165 each | Image: George Ong

But it’s the ties designed by Dutch embroidery specialist Jackie Villevoye, who works for Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons, that are the real thrill. At Jupe by Jackie, Villevoye has enlisted a collective of embroiderers in India to make ties that show off appliqué and metallic threading techniques. Blades that are 3½in wide amplify the raised hand-embroidered stripes on navy or charcoal silk (from €90). And I’m knocked out by the even bolder 4in ones: some boast embroidered circles or amoebic forms, called Clooney for Hockney (€250), on chocolate or navy silk; others feature silver-thread motorcars or hippy-motif flowers (€170). And should this not be enough, Jupe by Jackie now offers a customisation service, and makes bow ties and pocket squares – all using the same ethical production processes in India.

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