A Talk with Ian Segal of Nine Lives Clothing

If you haven’t heard of Tokyo-based brand Nine Lives clothing, you’ve been missing out. Their line of high quality denim, cutsews, and heavy outerwear is produced in Japan, and combines the quality and material know-how of a heritage brand with the razor-sharp edge of Japan’s v-kei and mod scene; all of it seen through 9L’s particular, ‘piratical’ lens. If you’ve been looking for a new rider’s jacket, a sashiko-embellished varsity-jacket-turned-chesterfield, or beautifully realized jacquard-weave flannel shirts, you’ve come to the right place.

I spoke to Ian Segal, who’s approximately one half – the American half – of the operation, and asked him about the brand, about his clothing, and about how he went from being a poetry editor in New York to making rock ‘n roll clothes on the other side of the world. 


Jasper Lipton:  How did you end up in Japan in the first place, after working as – correct me if I’m wrong – a poetry editor for the New Yorker? Which is also awesome.

Ian Segal: It was fun. Yeah, I always say I was a Lehman Shock baby. I graduated into the maelstrom there, and I took a consulting job in LA to get home – my dad was sick, so I wanted to be close to home. When the market looked like it was turning, I headed back East, as that was still where it seemed I had to be to build a career. I was making electric guitars – shittily, I might add – in my girlfriend’s basement in central New Jersey while I was applying for jobs, and in the same week I ended up interviewing at the distressed debt desk at Merril Lynch and the assistant poetry editor position at the magazine. While I was in the Merril interview – and mind you these buildings were directly adjacent to each other; Condé Nast was in what’s now the H&M building. So the same week, I go in for these diametrically opposed job interviews, and the Volcker rule was announced while I was doing the Merril Lynch interview, which more or less iced the job opening.

I mean, I was happy to have Obama win the Presidency, but he was sort of surreally speaking through the television while I’m in the middle of the interview, and everyone was sitting there a little dumbstruck as to what we were all still doing having the conversation. So I ended up at the new Yorker, and that was really fun – did it for about a year and a half and met basically all the people I wanted to meet, in terms of meeting all my heroes. It was an honor to do it. But I was young – I was 25, maybe, and I’d have these experiences where I’d go to parties and people would be like “Oh, you’re the New Yorker guy,” and I was like “No, I’m Ian.” Have you done any New York living?

JL: I’ve been around a little bit, yeah.


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Kotaro and Ian of Nine Lives

IS: The thing about New York, in contrast to LA – and this is an LA partisan thing to say – is that New York is a renter’s city, and LA is a homesteader’s city. There’s this idea in New York that there are all these great jobs, all this great opportunity, but there’s always a line of 100 people to jump into that position behind you. You’re still a cog – you’re maybe a beautiful cog, and it’s an honor and a privilege to be a cog in that industry, but nevertheless you’re a cog. Whereas to me, LA still has a little bit of the – you can go and build your own fuckin’ life.

So anyway, after about a year and a half at the New Yorker I realized that everybody was either only there for a year and a half or two, or they were lifers. And it’s one thing to be a lifer there if you’re coming in as a journalist and you’re 35, and you’re like, “This is it, pinnacle of journalism, I’m gonna do this,” but the idea that you’re gonna be a lifer as a poetry editor is sort of an oxymoron to begin with, and I just was like…I just needed to do my own shit.

So very randomly I was given a job doing real estate, like, asset management and finance stuff in Tokyo – that was 2011 – so then I came over here, and I was doing that for a little while. It wasn’t a very good gig, but I didn’t really have enough money to get home, and I didn’t really want to come home with my tail between my legs just totally flamed out on something. So I was just in a holding pattern.

I went out to dinner with an acquaintance of mine, who I’d met through Josh Warner, of Good Art Hollywood; he was a Japanese designer and we went for drinks, and he was asking what he could do to do a little better in the States, and in the West. We were a little tipsy, and I was like, “Here’s an idea for a brand, here’s what you have to do,” because I thought he was a good designer and that the product he was making was really nice, it was just – very Japanese. Very Tokyo mod. And you know, I’m a half-Irish, half-Jewish kid from LA, so sarcasm’s my first language, and Japan’s a very earnest country that doesn’t really understand sarcasm, so he was just like “Great! Let’s do it!” and I said “Great!” and the next day I had pretty much forgotten about it, and he was like “Oh, I’ve opened an account and we have production meetings next week.”

[Laughs]

IS: Yeah, so I just said ‘Fuck it.’

JL: Nice.

IS: Yeah, and that’s it. That was 2015. And this guy, he was doing his own brand called ‘Cruce,’ and it was very – well, it was connected to the visual kei world, right? So I met this guy originally through Josh, but it was actually through Die, from Dir en Grey, that I actually ended up following him, so Die was a sort of a casual acquaintance of mine, and Die wore a lot of this guy’s brand. I saw him posting about it on some – I don’t know – but I was like ‘Oh, I’ll go take a look.’

JL: That’s kinda wild. Were you, like, a clothing guy beforehand? I feel like landing in Tokyo, and then your first interaction with the clothing business is some guy’s visual kei brand, that might be kind of overwhelming.

IS: Yeah. So, my cousin, when I was younger, owned a clothing company. And so when I was in middle school, without really knowing it, there was a lot of osmotic exposure to clothing, because we’d just go and hang out, and I just ended up spending hours walking the racks. I mean, I didn’t pay heed at the time – I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t anything that lasted – but what did last was that my cousin became very good friends with Josh Warner of Good Art, and so it was through my cousin that I ended up becoming very close with Josh, and it was through Josh that I met Kotaro. So that’s the whole daisy chain.


JL: So, Good Art seems much more in line with what Nine Lives is, currently.

IS: Yeah, I mean, that’s certainly got to be a part of it; it’s gotta be partially the air we breathe, and partially because I’ve known Josh since I was, what, fourteen or something. He’s family now. One thing I’ll say is that Nine Lives as a name was actually partially inspired by Good Art – I love Good Art as a name because of its vacuity.

JL: Right.

IS: And I mean I tell this to Josh, I love it because it’s so empty. It’s almost a meaningless shell that you have to backfill – this is the product and this is what it is – and that informed picking ‘Nine Lives,’ because Nine Lives is kind of a generic name. I’m sure that there are a thousand brands and, y’know, projects in the universe – not to mention, apparently, a terrible movie a couple of years ago –

JL: Yeah, that comes up a lot on Google.

IS: Nine Lives, it’s a cliché. And it was picked slightly for that reason – I liked the idea of picking something that, y’know, it’s not that it sounds bad, it’s fine; it has on a literal level a sense of the varied life and various energies that are being brought to the project, but in a sort of literal sense is trite, and is not that memorable, and people have to focus on product and have to actually see what it is for that name to take on life and take on meaning.

That’s actually a terrible business decision. I don’t know that any marketing MBA would tell you that was the right move. But that’s probably where I share DNA with Josh; a little bit of the punk rock, fuck you, I’m not gonna do it by your rules.

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JL: ‘Zen as fuck,’ I think your website says, which also seems like an oxymoron. There’s also something a little bit of Baudelaire, of the flaneur, especially when you link it to clothing – but then it’s, like, a cat thing, and you guys are into coyotes. So where do the coyotes come from?

IS: So that’s one of the funny things. Yeah, I like animals – I mean, cats are fine. But Kotaro and I are very much dog people, and we basically started the whole project and were eventually, like, “Ehhh, I don’t know, we’re not the ‘cat guys,’ we gotta push against that.” So I thought, okay, what’s a really weird, cracked thing? And I said, “Coyotes have nine lives.” And that’s – we had a dog living with us that wandered in off the street when I was eleven, and was with us until he died twelve years later, and the legend was that he was half coyote. He certainly looked it. He was a feral, noble, prince of a mutt.

It sort of dovetails, because I have one line of poetry that’s sort of deliberately a purple prose line, and it says ‘Glinting mongrel in a dying land,’ and we ran with that line, and have adopted the coyote. You’ll see it a little more – this winter, we’re doing a little more Americana, whereas last spring was this pop horror, Lovecraftian Jurassic Park response to the Trump. This collection is a little bit more going into shadow country, and doing some more mod Americana.

I don’t love putting our brand name on stuff, and that sort of speaks to the ‘Zen as fuck’ line; y’know, even when stuff is more pugilistic and strong, I still hope that there’s a certain degree of minimalism, and it’s obviously not that branded – and we’re not really making money by selling a brand. So there’s an essentialism to it, and because of that I always feel funny making a t-shirt that actually says ‘Nine Lives.’ We did it that first time, because we just kind of didn’t know what we were doing, and now we’ve finally managed to be making a full collection where we’re excited about everything – from the crazy outerwear down to the t-shirts – we feel like we’ve hit our stride. In that context, well, okay, we still want to do some printed t-shirts, we want to do a remake of a 70’s nylon Kawasaki long-sleeve jersey. And it can’t say “Kawasaki,” so we won’t put that on there, but I don’t want it to say Nine Lives, so we’re gonna use ‘mongrel.’ So that’s what we’re using in place of the brand name when we want to do text.

Continues on Page 2

A Conversation with Daniel Dugoff

Okay, I’ll admit it: while I was wandering around Man Paris last January, the real reason I stopped at DDUGOFF to look at the clothing is that Daniel Dugoff looks really friendly. That, and also because Eric (@noiseranch, our photographer) and I had walked past him three or four times, and the labyrinthine hallways that wind through the building that houses Man are so narrow that it was starting to get awkward. I ended up being really glad I did, because not only is Daniel a friendly guy, he makes pretty cool clothing. 

I think that most people would refer to it as “minimal,” but if I were going to give it an over-simplified marketing descriptor (and we must, mustn’t we?) I’d call it “quirky intellectual,” sort of like Daniel himself. He studied architecture, then interned at Patrik Ervell, worked a stint at Marc by Marc Jacobs, and finally decided to start his own brand. There are certainly echoes of Ervell and Marc in the cuts and the colors, but it’s a much funner brand than either – the kind of brand that would maybe even use “funner” to describe itself, with a nod and a wink thrown in. 

Expect bold prints, shirts with zip closures, and a mix of natural and technical fabrics – including, back in F/W 2015, the world’s comfiest winter onesie. But despite the colors – for which I was thankful, after surviving several seasons of almost drowning in black – Daniel wants his clothing to be everyday wear. I figured we should talk about how he makes that happen.

You can see the full range of DDUGOFF’s offerings at www.ddugoff.com


Jasper:

You trained as an architect before interning at Patrik Ervell and working at Marc by Marc Jacobs. I seem to recall that your initial interest was in furniture design – something about menswear must have resonated with your sensibilities. Were there similarities between the fields?

Daniel:

One of the things that architecture school is really good at teaching is how develop and sustain a project. In school I began to realize that I was much more interested in how design relates to bodies. I was, and am, interested in how design relates to the world around us, but I like to work with it at a scale that I can hold in my hand. When I graduated from college I wanted to work in a design studio where things were being made; not in an architecture studio where the work was digital and for months (or years) just drawings in a computer. I wanted to see what it was like to work somewhere where there were prototypes that were evaluated for their usefulness and their beauty. I wrote letters to a bunch of furniture designers, artists, and fashion designers that I admired, and was lucky enough to land an internship with Patrik Ervell. It was the absolute perfect place to start – a small studio, all hands on deck, working to make incredible menswear happen. I learned about the whole cycle that happens in a studio to make a new season, to produce a collection, to get it out into the world. 

J:

One thing I’ve noticed about the way your clothes are cut is that you’ve got a very keen eye for space, and for negative space in particular. Does that come from your background in architecture? 

D:

It’s very easy to think of fashion as a two-dimensional thing – as a front and a back. But it’s really a bunch of shapes that don’t want to be flat, sewn together, so that they can hold a body, because bodies aren’t flat – they have lots of weird ridges and valleys. I can’t stand when the only interesting thing happening on a jacket is on the front. It should be on the back (a surprise for the person walking down the street behind you) and on the inside (something only you know about). In menswear, where the goal (or my goal) is to make something that at the end of the day is wearable above all else, I can’t get away with what womenswear designers can do to add interest – ruffles, volume, shine – the details that make you love the piece have to be quiet. It has to be a jacket first. It has to be something you can wear all the time. I really do want to design your favorite clothes. My favorite things to wear are usually the simplest pieces. But it can’t be so simple it’s nothing. (Almost) everything should have pockets so you don’t have to carry anything in your hands if you don’t want to. (Almost) everything should have a locker loop so that you can hang it up at the end of the day to wear again tomorrow or the next day. (Almost) everything should be soft and comfortable, unless it’s express purpose is to be rigid and tough. 

J:

That sounds a lot like an idea of ‘utility,’ to me – I think the problem that men (or men’s companies) run into is that so much of the clothing has to be “go anywhere” clothing, and that the end result is excruciatingly lame. I know that a handful of designers have said that working within menswear’s constraints is almost liberating.  Where do you stand on that? Are you looking at peplum tops with envy?

D:

No, not at all – I’m not envious of peplums one bit. What I mean is that I see my job as having to be inventive within such a narrow confine. I like to work up against challenges, both ones I know about from the onset and ones that pop up along the way. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I find the limitations of what “works” as menswear as being liberating, but I like working on a set of products that are meant to be used. Sure, utility can be a little stale, but it’s clothing. It should be useful. It should provide for you. The part of design that I find most exciting is when I’m playing with an idea for days or weeks and all of a sudden a beautifully simple answer emerges. I think it’s often too easy to make bold moves – to make a loud statement often doesn’t require that much thought. There is so much elegance in simple, thought-out solutions. There’s a leather jacket in the Fall/Winter 2016 collection with a shearling panel right where you hand goes into the pocket. It’s one of my favorite details from the collection because it puts the most luxurious texture right where you hand is going to enjoy it the most. It’s subtle. It isn’t a big collar or even a lining. It’s such a small amount of material, but it accomplishes so much.

J:

You’ve said in other interviews that you want to make people’s “Favorite clothes.” When you design a shirt, a coat, or a pair of pants, how do you approach the creation of an object so that it becomes more than that – more than just a shirt, coat, or pair of pants?

D:

When spend so much time developing the prints for each collection. How can a print be subtle enough that it is extremely wearable and be part of your wardrobe instead of standing out from it? How can it fit in while also being unlike things you already have? I play a lot with textures we’re used to seeing and changing the scale or abstracting it from the object it came from. For Spring/Summer 2016, there’s a print that’s from a photograph of a blue plastic bag. But it’s manipulated into an infinite repeat, so you never see the edge of the bag or the handles – you just see crinkly blue plastic. When you know it’s a bag it’s obvious, but before you figure it out, it looks like an oceanic topography and from far away it looks like your shirt is super wrinkled. I love when the answer to a question is so simple you’d never think of it. I’m working on a print for next Spring right now that’s scans of torn paper. Those edges are beautiful.

J:

As objects go, plastic bags and torn paper are pretty un-sexy. Why no florals? Crosses? Rottweilers? 

D:

Haha – why isn’t DDUGOFF more like Givenchy? Because Givenchy does a really good job being Givenchy. Designers all have their own obsessions. I keep coming back to material textures, how birds flock and fish school, stripes, collage… season after season. I did photo prints the first season, taken from iPhone pictures I took from a plane on a really clear day flying from New York to San Francisco. To me, those images were perfect for clothes because they were instantly recognizable as earth while also not being overly specific about location. The clothes should be beautiful and wearable – I’m not trying to sell an ideology above that.

J:

On your website, one of the words you used to describe your brand is “realistic.” How so?

D:

These clothes have to be realistic. They have to be the kind of clothes that fit into people’s lives. I don’t want the people wearing DDUGOFF to feel like they’re wearing a costume – they should feel like themselves. But what sets it apart from everything else all of these people already own? The fabrics, for one, which I source from amazing mills, primarily in Italy and Japan. The make of the clothes is also extremely important. Right now the clothes are all manufactured in the United States. I like being able to go to the factories on a regular basis. I like problem solving with the people making the clothes. Having production happen in New York, New Jersey, and California means that I can stay involved in a way that would be significantly more difficult if it were overseas. This may change as the brand grows, but I am definitely proud of the quality of the products coming out of these US factories. These are clothes that are well made, from materials that are beautiful and meant to last. 

J:

Yeah, let’s talk about costume, because that’s fascinating to me, industry-wide. Like for DDUGOFF, you also designed some kind of quilted onesie a couple of years back – which is totally awesome, but maybe not totally “realistic” for most people. How do pieces like that fit in? 

I get that menswear consumers are, largely, boring as fuck, but you’re in this zone where you’re not making clothing that’s going to fulfill anyone’s James Bond or boardroom fantasies, and you’re also not as wild as Comme. People who wear DDUGOFF are definitely making a conscious decision to do so – who does it appeal to?

D:

Costume is fascinating. And Fashion (capital F) is often more costume than real-life. The distinction I’m making here is: when I put on a piece of clothing, do I feel like myself or do I feel like a character? If I feel like I’m playing dress-up, that’s a costume. The beige snowsuit – the quilted onesie you’re talking about from Fall/Winter 2015 – was teetering on the edge between realistic clothing and something a bit costume-y. A small portion of the collection each season veers towards a more editorial eye. These pieces stand out in the lookbook and usually don’t sell a huge number of units, but they take ideas elsewhere in the collection and amplify them. The snowsuit was made out of a waterproof nylon, with a hefty layer of insolation, and a cotton flannel lining – it was a serious winter piece. The same idea came as an overcoat, and it is an excellent winter coat – super easy to wear, warm, not too bulky, plenty of pockets. When you put on the coat, you feel like yourself in it. That’s the goal. DDUGOFF doesn’t need to be a heady brand where you need to know the back story in order to enjoy the clothes. I don’t want to have to tell you some convoluted story in order for you to appreciate why something is the way it is. The clothes are solid, stand alone products.

J:

It’s refreshing to meet a young designer who’s not afraid to use color. Even your winter collections have largely shied away from black – is that a conscious decision?

D:

In the first five seasons of DDUGOFF, there have been one or two pieces in black. There is such a beautiful range of navy blues in the collection, I don’t feel a need to have black. A head-to-toe navy look is so much stronger than a totally black look – there’s so much life in navy, but black is often so flat and dead. The collection doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’m trying to prove that every day clothes don’t have to boring. Wearing some color, some texture, can break up a monotonous wardrobe. 

J:

I’m a fan of navy – are there colors you wish we saw more of in menswear?

For Fall/Winter 2016, the collection explored all of these rich greens. I liked the idea of using this color that looks good on pretty much everyone, and using it in the winter, when people tend to dress in dark monochromatic outfits (at least that’s the case in New York). The city in the winter is weeks and weeks of grey skies and concrete and asphalts and big black parkas. I wanted to break that up with lush greens that really felt alive. But I didn’t want it to feel neon. It still has to be wearable. Bottle greens, grass greens, and a little bit of ochre all break up the collection which otherwise is grey and navy. I used gold buttons and zippers for the first time for this season as well. I wanted to play with giving winter clothes some life. But, trust me, I understand why we all wear dark colors. I wear almost all navy almost every day. It’s easy and it looks really good. A dark green shirt with navy pants and navy jacket is a good look, too, though.

J:

Do you feel that New York is a sustainable environment for a young designer?

D:

Is New York a sustainable environment for a young designer? I talk about this with my friends all the time. New York is extremely expensive and that’s really tough. But I cannot imagine doing DDUGOFF outside of New York. The city is so crucial to the brand right now. I can’t even quantify how much of what happens with the brand comes from situations like running into someone on the street and having a quick conversation about a gallery show that in turn inspires a print. Having proximity to all of these other people who are doing amazing things with their lives is so important. 

J:

There are definitely some interesting brands coming out of New York these days. Are there other scenes – art, photography, museum-going – that you’re involved in, that end up having a dramatic effect on the clothing you design?

Along with that – when you’re a young brand so surrounded by brands both young and old, how do you stay focused on what you’re trying to achieve, instead of focusing on what someone else is doing and trying to make it work for you? Is it possible to keep your process and your ideas insulated? Is that even desirable?

D:

There are so many people making amazing things in this city. I like making things and I love talking to people about the things they make. Friendships with artists and designers and musicians are crucial because we’re all struggling with the same things – figuring out how to make something good, and how to know if it’s good, and how to know when to show it to other people. That’s a higher-level answer, and then there’s also a low-level, super practical level. An artist friend may be using a material in a really cool way. Or another designer may have found a factory that does a specialized kind of sewing. Or a furniture design friend may introduce me to a film director who works with fashion brands. Being in tight quarters with creative people helps encourage collaboration and sharing resources and knowledge. And I love that.


DDUGOFF Stockists:

California
American Rag
Le Point

New York
Opening Ceremony
Steven Alan
Swords-Smith

Canada
Neighbour
Working Title Shop

Japan
Stock
WISM

Online
DDUGOFF
East Dane
Spring
No Man Walks Alone


Portrait of Daniel courtesy Tictail. Lookbook photos courtesy Daniel Dugoff. Showroom photos by Eric Hanson.

Attainable style with the Knottery.

One of the benefits of the recent boom in interest men’s clothing has been the sprouting of grassroots companies that fulfill the niche-y desires of hobbyists—Styleforum favorite Howard Yount, for example, or startup the Knottery, which launched last summer. Based in Brooklyn, the Knottery is run by friends Jay Arem and Jack Fischman, who make limited runs of men’s accessories: ties, pocket squares, and belts among them. Overwhelmingly, their items are well-made and often infused with a humor that cuts the potential mustiness of the men’s furnishings business.

Cable knit wool tie from the Knottery (“The Watercarrier”).

Tempted by the low prices the Knottery offers (ties start at $25; less than the sale price of most fine neckwear), I picked up a couple of wool models last fall, a square-ended cable knit tie in navy and a tweedy, point-ended model with a chambray keeper. The ties knot well and are nicely proportioned—most are 3 inches at the widest, some knits a little narrower. The company does not intend to compete with the neckwear you’ll find in the salons of Napoli that Derek has been covering; rather they offer “affordable style for the initiated; attainable style to the beginner.” To me that’s a worthwhile niche to fill.

I spoke with Jay about getting the Knottery off the ground, and what he and Jack have in store.

Pete Anderson: How did you first get into the business of men’s accessories?

Jay Arem: I had been an avid internet style blog reader for the last few years. I had been working as a manager of a branch of an energy company, and always wanted to do something more creative, but couldn’t find my platform. I had originally wanted to blog, but after many nights staring at the blinking cursor on a blank word document, I realized that it wasn’t gonna work. The accessory business idea started as a joke between me and my now-partner, then-friend Jack after a movie one night. He had been involved in a bunch of different e-commerce ventures in the past but never retail or “fashion.” I made a crude mockup of a site on PowerPoint and emailed him the next day. We agreed to each invest $500 and in the worst case have a bunch of ties to give out as gifts for the rest of our lives.

PA: When exactly did you launch? The Knottery is well past worst case now—you stock ties, pocket squares, lapel flair, and small leather goods. What’s been the most interesting stuff to source?

JA: We went live in June 2011. We have fun every day. Each item presents its own challenge to source. Jack and I both share an interest in production, fabrication, and the sort. While the internet does offer many opportunities to find sourcing for a plethora of items, it remains difficult to find manufacturers of specific items.

PA: Was it truly a from-scratch operation, starting up? Did you have relationships that you could take advantage of at the start, as far as manufacturing, design, etc.?

JA: The whole thing began as a hobby. The website was hard-coded on a per hour basis by freelancers from that original mock-up. The designing was all from scratch. We had a few leads for overseas manufacturing from some of Jack’s other dealings to start out.

PA: The ties you guys carry are interesting–they rely a lot on knits, non-silk fabrics, and texture. Where do you think you get your design sense/aesthetic taste?

JA: It kind of came about from two separate directions: One, we began with fabrics that we could source at lower quantities, not going the standard route of buying direct from silk mills.  Two, we wanted to make ties that we would own and wear. As two guys who have “dressed up” every day for the better part of the last decade, our aesthetic leans toward the dressed up casual look.

PA: That look  seems to be pretty on-trend with a lot of men’s clothing right now: suits and ties for men who choose to wear them, rather than men trying only to meet the minimum requirements of a dress code.  Regarding your fabric choices and sources, is working outside what may be the standard business model for makers–e.g., not buying from silk mills directly–a method you plan on continuing, or was it more a matter of necessity?

JA: A bit of both. It also allowed/forced us into pushing the boundaries of conventional fabric sourcing. One of our first ties were made from an Etsy purchase I had sitting in my closet for about a year. On the other hand we also want to produce some “regular” ties and therefore buy some materials from mills, such as a grenadine we are in the middle of perfecting.

PA: I assume that Etsy fabric made for a small run. How many ties do you usually do per design? Can you tell us a little about construction of the Knottery ties?

JA: We do 50-100 per style usually. Construction, because of the unconventional nature of some of our fabrics we have played and experimented with different linings each time. We continually strive to achieve and are constantly learning more about what makes a tie great. We have sewn many a tie sample ourselves to test out different linings and silhouette dimensions pre-production. Currently most of our ties are lined and self tipped (when possible).

PA: Regarding construction–are your ties all made in one place, or is it sort of make-em-where-it-makes-sense? There’s a great “brewery” based in Maryland called Stillwater that is really just a guy who makes beer at various breweries, depending on what he wants to make and what capabilities he needs.

Also, the Knottery’s non-knottable goods–how did the belts, lapel flowers, and eyeglass “chains” come about?

JA: We use three different factories, depending on the item. The other categories were just a natural extension of what we were doing. Our mission statement has become: “if we want it, let’s try to make it.” That is why we have a cap coming in in the next week or so [eds note: a collaboration with Fairends].

PA: How has reception to the Knottery’s stuff been? To what do you attribute success so far?

JA: We have gotten great feedback. We love what we do and some of the best parts of all this have been meeting people who have similar passions, getting emails from different people just wanting to say hello or make a suggestion.

PA: I should follow up on the production question—one of my ties is marked “Made in USA”—are the factories all in the states?  The ties I’ve seen from you are, in my opinion, very good value, as I bought them for $25. Your current tie prices sell for $25 to $35, and made-in-USA belts all under $70. Do you expect to be able to keep retail prices low as you grow?

JA: We use a factory in China for some of our ties. We use this factory because frankly it wasn’t possible to achieve certain ties at the price points where we needed to be. We are all for Made in the USA , but we put quality and affordability before country of origin.

We hope to continue keeping our prices the same or close to what they are.

PA: I think shoppers appreciate honesty as far as country of origin goes, although made-in-Italy and made-in-USA, among others, will always carry value. One last question—there’s a winking humor in much of what the Knottery does: from your web copy to your designs, including the dub-monk club tie. Where does that come from?

JA: We wholeheartedly agree about the origin carrying value, and continually search for more avenues of U.S. production.

The humor is a natural representation of our brand because its a natural representation of Jack and me as friends. Our daily goal is to outwit one another. For the sake of this interview, I usually am the winner.

Thanks Jay!

Visit the Knottery, or contact them at info@theknottery.com.

My tweed tie from the Knottery.

Cable knit detail on The Watercarrier tie.

 

Tweed tie with chambray keeper.