Talking with Kenji Kaga of Sevenfold (and Tie Your Tie) recently threw up some interesting questions around what makes a tie appear vintage.
Kenji is heavily influenced by 1940s-1950s styles, as is evident in his tailoring.
But he freely admits that many of the tie and handkerchief designs he produces wouldn’t have actually been worn during that period. So what gives them a vintage look?
“Texture is important. We associate vintage silks and wools with a dry feel, and a matte finish,” Kenji says.
Colour, too, is key. Often old ties will have faded and be less vibrant than when they were first worn. So we associate more muted colours with a vintage look.
This is most evident in the silk swatches that Sevenfold offers to customers.
The set of three below, for example - a pink, a green and a blue - are all more muted, chalky shades that you would get from a Drake’s, Bigi or similar.
It was also nice to see more restrained designs in the swatch selection, because people can easily be put off by Kenji’s unusual - and often bold - designs.
It won’t be a surprise to readers to learn that most of the ties shown in the images here - from the Sevenfold showroom in Florence - aren’t ones I would wear.
And Ethan at Bryceland’s in Tokyo has some beautifully subtle navy and brown designs - which manage to appear both vintage and subtly modern. (Example below.)
The different brands can also be confusing, and come with a lot of back story.
As briefly as possible:
- Tie Your Tie was an Italian shop founded in 1984 by Franco Minucci, which also later started its own tie factory outside Florence.
- The brand and factory were bought by Sevenfold in 2011 - except for the rights to the brand in Asia. (The shop became Simone Righi.)
- Kenji Kaga was the manager of the tie factory, and became the creative director of the new Sevenfold/Tie Your Tie.
- But in Asia, they can't use the Tie Your Tie brand, so they have used brand names Sevenfold, Kenji Kaga and now a new one, Atto Vannucci.
- Ties labelled 'Tie Your Tie' in Asia are therefore from a separate company and separate factory. Tie Your Tie in Europe and the US, and the other three brands, are all from the same company and all made in the Florence factory.
- This June, Kenji is opening a new Tie Your Tie store in Florence.
You can see how this could all be confusing - particularly so for retailers like The Armoury, who have had all three labels (not Atto Vanucci) on their ties in Hong Kong and New York over the years.
Kenji is also now presenting 'Kenji Kaga' as a separate brand working with more unusual handwork and embroidery.
You can see examples of the designs below. Beautifully executed, but probably a little too quirky for me.
However, it's important to say that all ties out of the Florence factory over the years have generally been united by an attitude to precision and pressing.
The ties have tended to be lightly pressed, meaning the blade does not sit flat and square, but is more rounded at the edges - almost tubular.
This has the effect of feeling more natural, as if you are wearing a simple piece of rolling silk. The ties are often untipped to the same end.
The flipside is that the tie can feel less formal. But this is a tiny difference in an age when so few men wear ties at all. (And in any case the pattern and material will have far more bearing on formality.)
The level of precision is also very high on Kenji’s ties - as seen most clearly in the fineness and balance of the hand-rolled tips.
“Craftsmanship like this is something I’ve always loved working on with the tiemakers,” he says. “Getting it perfect and then seeing what else the technique allows us to do.”
The brands are brought together by this approach in the workshop (there are nine staff in Florence currently, making entirely for Sevenfold) and by Kenji's aesthetics.
In the UK, Tie Your Tie is stocked at Exquisite Trimmings and has recently started doing trunk shows in Selfridge’s.
Elsewhere around the world, it is stocked at Brio in Beijing, Double Monk in Melbourne, and various shops in Korea and Japan.
In the image above, I am wearing:
- My Sartoria Pirozzi corduroy/cashmere suit
- Denim shirt from Al Bazar, Milan
- Cashmere tie from Drake’s
- White linen handkerchief from Anderson & Sheppard
Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man