Whilst on the Italy adventure we had the opportunity to spend some time with an Italian fabric supplier who not only sell the most incredible fabrics in Florence but also produce their own range of men’s accessories (mainly bow-ties and pocket squares) all lovingly handmade. As we use our trusty manufacturers in the UK and don’t make our products by hand it was nice to watch the process from beginning to end and even try it out for ourselves!
Upstairs in the shop is the miniature manufacture area where there is a huge selection of bow-tie patterns hanging from the wall to choose from, with a tray of samples underneath so you could see how each one would look when it’s finished. Of course there were also fabric swatches, an inspiration board and boxes full of every coloured thread you can imagine. These products are not made to order or sold online, they are just made in a variety of styles and fabrics that are sold in the shop, and customers can then choose which one they like or put in a special request if they desire. It makes for a very free and fluid process as there are no pressures or demands. This Italian husband and wife team have been successfully running their business for 40 years and the wife has become so proficient at turning out bow-ties she can now make one from scratch in only half an hour!
It’s complicated to explain the process of making a bow-tie; you trace out the pattern and cut your fabric pieces, placing the fabric back-to-back, inside out so that when you stitch around the edges and turn it inside out it will be the right way around. There are two separate pieces for a bow-tie, one piece shorter than the other, which are eventually attached by the bow-tie fastening. The longer end is the piece that gets made into the bow – this was tricky – as you tie it around your leg (yes leg!) to get the shape right. There is a knack to tying it (like with a normal tie) but once we’d got the hang of it, it was easy. It was fascinating to see the whole process from fabric choice, to patterns, to sewing, to tying with all the additional bits that came in between like ironing, and facing, and fastenings, and labels; and at the end there was something beautifully made and totally individual ready to be sold to a dapper Italian or a stylish tourist.
These people were so kind and so helpful, they even gave us some excess patterns they had so we could try out new and different bow-tie styles ourselves at the studio. It definitely opened our eyes to the variety of bow-ties you can create and the ways we could move forward in the future. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with another small business who use their own creativity and do things well, here’s hoping we can last as long as them!