Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of one of our true favourites; Drakes (of) London.
Drakes specialise in making handmade ties and superb range of knitwear and gentleman’s accessories. Drakes is currently the largest independent producer of handmade ties in England. It carries out numerous quality checks on each of its ties, as such that quality has become legendary. The firm has also cemented fashion credentials by collaborating with art student favourite Comme des Garçons and all-American stalwart J.Crew among others (including Holborn favourites; The Armoury and Monocle). All the ties are still handmade by experienced craftsmen and women at Drakes Factory in East London.
My own personal admiration to Drakes was founded from the two knitted ties that I have from them (by way of Mr Porter). I find them endlessly wearable, matching them up with suits, coats and even a trusty old Barbour – such is their versatility. They also seem to be the ties that people notice at work; the old broker (red faced, claret stained) will lean in and ask ”That’s a bloody nice tie”, ”yes”, I will respond, ”it is”. The quality of my Drake’s ties is such that they have outlasted many others from larger brands, holding their shape, stitching and colour better than the rest.
So when I caught up with Claire Thomas at Drakes I had to ask her…
What Makes a Drake’s Handmade Tie So Special?
What follows is Claire’s generous account of their Tie-making process:
”Our ties are cut by hand from generous blocks of the finest silks, using a different set of patterns for each quality of silk. The generous blocks allow all three parts of the tie to be cut “fully on the bias”, and also insure sufficient cloth to create a deep fold at the back of the tie so it can be hand slipped more securely.
The three silk tie parts – the blade, neck, and tail – are first joined together, then a pure silk tipping is sewn into the blade and tail. Our 36 oz silk foulard prints are self-tipped with the outer fabric. The open-tipped tie is inspected for correct length, precision of the tipping, and smoothness of the jointure. The tie is now ready for the important art of hand slipping.
The artisan slipper carefully folds and pins the interlining into the tipped blade until the correct shape has been achieved. Then, using one continuous length of silken thread in the time-honoured classic slip stitch, the slipper joins the tie silk together with the interlining. It’s a delicate operation because the folded back join must be kept in the center of the tie and the interlining and tie silk must be carefully taken up by the slip stitch without piercing the surface of the tie. The tie loop, cut from the same silk block as the tie, is then inserted into the back seam at a precisely measured point and caught by the slip stitch. The interlining edges must be firmly against the silk but not taut; no wrinkle or tightness must appear.
Leaving a slip knot – the functionally important hallmark of the handmade tie – inside the fold at the tail completes the slipping. The knot’s function is to take up the stretch in the silk that occurs during the life of the tie. The tie and the interlining are then as one.
The tie is again inspected, gently hand pressed, and the keeper loop is carefully folded back onto itself and hand sewn at each of its four corners onto the tie. Finally, having undergone 18 separate quality checks during production, the Drake’s label is stitched on by hand. The finished tie is now ready to be put into its protective cover and boxed ready for delivery” .
Here is just a small fraction of the current collection which is being enthusiastically coveted by the writers at The Holborn: