I'll officially own up to it. Style Salvage Steve and I are in fact sad acts who sit at home getting excited about PDF lookbooks, designer blogs and pictures of factories at work. Our blogs don't work in tandem but there can be a crossover and in this instance, I couldn't help but follow up on his post about accessories label Marwood - actually, accessories is too broad a description - specifically Marwood is all about neckwear.
In menswear I feel like a jaunty skinny tie or a dicky bow tie has become rather hackneyed and pushed into a style cliche but designer Becky French, who began Marwood after stints at Aquascutum and Ralph Lauren, sheds these associations by creating her bow ties and ties by turning to supremely well crafted materials such as woven silk, wool and traditional English spun lace. Furthermore, it specifically the English lace that also means Marwood's neckwear has an appeal to women that French herself emphasises through her lookbook as well as her very inspiring inspiration blog.
It was this lace that also got me intrigued by its craft and inception and why French decided to use it so heavily for her first collection for Marwood. This isn't just a British made product for the sake of stamping 'Made in Britain' on the box and by utilising a dying trade, French is in fact upholding a tradition that is worth preserving if the lace used in the ties above is anything to go by.
How did you first hap upon English lace makers and what is it particularly about English lace that makes it so special?
A friend had visited an English lace manufacturer and thought it would be of interest to me. Since starting the Marwood blog I have loved the behind the scenes process and found it integral to designing the product... knowing how things are done and why; the amount you learn from the manufacturers is invaluable. Also, I had just picked up a vintage English lace collar piece as inspiration and so the timing was perfect.
I visited the family-run lace manufacturer and found that they've been making specialist spun lace using Leavers machines since 1845, creating their own unique patterns along the way. John Leavers developed a machine in 1813 that produced patterns and backgrounds at the same time. The Leavers machine introduced the production of intricate lace patterns similar to those created by hand - these patterns are created by trained draughtsmen. Leavers lace can be cut and it won't fray due to its construction of loops and twisted cotton. The recognisable feature of this factory's lace is small cotton nodules that are raised off the surface.
Is it a dying craft?
Definitely. When I went to the factory I was shown around every part of the process by Kate who works there. The fascinating machinery and process is so specific and requires constant man power and attention to draught the patterns, set up the machines, fix them, understand them and maintain the standards. It is this man power and expertise that is a rarity now as people aren't training to do the jobs and many of the last ones in the know are reaching retirement.
Through her blog, you get the feeling that French is determined to explore the full extent of possibilities and nuances of the necktie communicated through her research imagery and daily snaps that she takes herself. She may even move onto another product with the same level of dedication once neckties are exhausted but for now, her quest to revive this sartorial tradition in a way that doesn't feel cheap or cliched (see the piles of elastic bow ties at any random high street store) is in full swing with this first collection dropping into shops like bStore in June. She's also fuelling the bow tie/neck tie cause for girls and though I've never quite pulled it off with finesse, her words and imagery present a compelling case...
What are your favourite instances of women in ties/bowties and do you think that it's quite difficult for women today to incorporate it into daily wear?
I love Patti Smith's iconic look - the tie is not too precious on her; done up or undone it looks effortlessly cool. Having said that, the YSL tuxedo look is always fixed to perfection and that is one of the most provocative looks created for a woman. It can be tricky for women to incorporate a tie in to daily dress without it looking forced but I know friends who wouldn't think twice about it and they would rock it in their own way - it just depends on someone's personal style. It can definitely work though!