There is one essential to a quality tie: the slip stitch. This is a loose, hand-sewn stitch along the length of the tie, usually finishing in a loop of excess thread at its smaller end. It enables the tie to move along its length, and recover after being tied. It is an easy thing to spot – just look at how long and irregular the stitches are down the back.
After the slip stitch, quality in a tie is about the silk and small aspects of construction. Kiton ties, for example, are made in a very similar way to other handmade ties – such as those at Drake’s in London, which I have covered before in more detail. There are just two differences: the silk is folded over once more on either side, making a five-fold construction, and each silk square is cut individually, rather than 40 at a time at Drake’s. (I am no expert on silk and so can’t speak to quality there.)
Do these things make any difference? Well, many people like the artistry of a multi-fold tie but it has little practical value in how the tie hangs. The cutting of silk pieces individually should make it more accurate, and I saw evidence of particular attention to detail in the way the tips were carefully trimmed by hand, to get the pattern lining up along the bottom. But again, any difference is minor.
The biggest way in which Kiton is different is its innovation and flexibility. London manager Riccardo Renzi, for example, has a series of ties made in just one piece. No front and back parts, no tipping, just one long piece of cloth folded in half – to give itself backing – and then folded in a three-fold construction.
Of course, this couldn’t be done with silk – silk squares don’t come that big. Rather, it is done with Kiton suiting cloth: very fine worsted and some hopsacks in a cashmere mix. The idea might sound horrible, but in a puppy tooth pattern or plain navy it actually has a very subtle matte texture, somewhere between normal wool and jacquard silk ties. Easier to clean, too.
It requires a lot of cloth, as all that folding has to be done on the bias (diagonal) across Kiton’s exclusive suitings. They are therefore very expensive: at least £450. But although they are only available in the London store in small numbers, this does not add to their expense: Kiton’s individual making system means it can be very flexible, making each tie (or suit) different if needs be, and so coping with Riccardo’s odd little experiments.