You Didn't Know We Design Our Own Silks?
It struck me as odd but acceptable that one of most loyal customers for years was surprised when he saw me sketching a silk one day. I told him that I was designing a new silk and he said "you design your own silks?" .
Admittedly he was a fan of our Japanese yuzen bow ties but I had never considered that any of customers hadn't worked out that we design our own silks from scratch.
So I thought I'd share with you something about that.
Firstly, we don't design all our own silks. A portion of our silks are merely grosgrains and satin silk and various types of weave that are developed by the looms. In this instance my job is to merely choose colours and weights. This is not as easy as it would sound. Because a silk can behave in all manner of ways so its about touching and feeling your way through hundreds of swatches or trusting the right person, as with the advent of COVID, to work with you over Whatsapp to make the best selection.
Next are the designs that the looms weave. Much of this I am not interested in. Looms weave very traditional designs because that's what sells and most men who buy ties are conservative and need them for work. That's a different proposition than what's required from a bow tie customer who seeks out a unique design to work in a smaller space around the neck. So of thousands of designs I would look at on each tour of duty to Como, Italy, I would perhaps select 50 that I would add to our collection of silks.
Finally, there is our core passion, which is to say we design silks in that artisan way that are completely by hand using computers to enhance and translate those designs into what the Italians refer to as "realizing" the designs. And it's more complicated than you might imagine and sometimes requires many hands to be involved.
To give you an example I am posting with this post a ylang ylang flower I sketched yesterday. I will eventually want this silk as both a woven jacquard and a printed silk. I can get more detail out of the printed silk but it is the woven silk that needs to be perfected the most because this is what drives our core fabrics used for bow ties.
In this instance I sketched a ylang ylang flower by hand whilst look at images I'd save to my iPhone which sits next to my sketch bag. Once in pencil, I go over the lines with a fine architect's felt tip pen, ensuring that the right weight and details are added to the design to ensure that it will be represented in the various disciplines and techniques we will deploy the design - from woven fabrics right through to embroidery.
Once the inking of the sketch is done it then goes onto a computer where it is vectorized in layers. This is important. A design can go completely wrong at this stage or it can really come to life. You won't know until you do it.
If all goes to plan, as each element is added to the vector you start to bring the elements together to form the one design. In the past for example this may have been a skull and pistols, today it is somewhat more sophisticated, for example, we are currently working on ingredients that make up perfumes, from orchids to vanilla beans to ylang ylang flowers.
Occasionally, when we are short in time, we also add to these designs vectors that we can source from graphic designers who have already completed items which would otherwise take us months to complete. This for example has been done in the case of our Australia design, where in order to complete this work it would have taken months to do, we were able to bring this down to weeks.
Needless to say, so many of our bow ties start with a hand sketch. Our Botticelli began after a visit to the Ufizzi. Our Da Vinci after I read Walter Isaacson's biography of Leonardo. Our ylang ylang flower pictured, after I began researching Madagascar for our blog article. In short, we do whatever we can and resource whoever we can to make sure that every time you log onto our website you see something unique, something that you can't find anywhere else. Whether it is a triple warp garza grossa, a fatted grosgrain, a limited edition hotel stamps or our most recent perfume silk designs, or for that matter our artisan Japanese silks from Kyoto, we strive to make you products you can't find anywhere else regardless of whose hands have been involved along the way.