A few weeks back when I had the privilege of being in front of the cloth design team at Vitale Barberis Canonico, a company which makes over 10 million metres of cloth each year, I was interested to know what exactly the designer's designers wear?
The designer's designer? That was the expression used by G Bruce Boyer to describe the role of VBC in the fashion industry. The designer offers you a new cut of suit each year, but mostly they don't get to design their own cloth, it's up to the team at Vitale Barberis Canonico who put together seasonal cloths which get picked up by designers who then knock them into suits, jackets, skirts, overcoats and more.
So when I met Michele Papuzzo below, a conservative man in his forties, salt and peppered hair, a melange wool suit - I was interested to see that his choice of shirt was a conservative windsor collar Oxford weave in white with a double four in hand knotted tie in the most conservative silk.
The designer's designer was not like the designer - he was far more measured in his approach to fashion. And it kind of made sense. When you are in charge of designing 10 million metres of cloth, you are not likely to be staying too long in business if you go long in canary yellow and electric blue like some designers might (guess who don't sue).
As for the tie - I had mixed feelings. It so suited Michele but as I travelled Italy and the silk mills I have this funny feeling towards Italian silk designers who never ever ever deviate from these conservative designs and colours. On the one hand, I appreciate that it looks refined, neat and tidy. On the other, I wish someone would shake up those Italians and tell them to stop trying to look so conservative all the time.
A few days later I was at a wedding expo in Milan looking at all sorts of makers and designers who were pitching at grooms and groomsmen across Europe with regards to the menswear on display. Now the pendulum was totally on the other end of the spectrum, brazen, gaudy, over the top. Vibrant polymer based designed fabrics on jackets, bright patent leathers, silky trousers.
This was Italy, two diametrically opposed cultures operating in one theatre. And what was in the middle was usually boring and lacking in enthusiasm.
This is how I feel about neck ties and what I still grapple with. For me, it is still an area of menswear that I have not really found my groove. I have found wearing a tie like the one below makes me feel like I have grown old before my time. But when I go for something too vibrant I feel like I am lacking in sophistication.
I am a bow tie guy, first and foremost. But I like neck ties. And the one thing that is still exciting for me is that long neck ties are still very much unchartered waters for myself.