The Khadi Bow Tie

खादीis Khadi in Hindu. It is a term for hand-spun and hand-woven cloth from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.  But much more importantly it's a movement, or a way of life.

The Khadi movement promoted an ideology that Indians could be self reliant and free from the high priced goods and clothes which the British were selling to them. The British would buy cotton from India at cheap prices and export them to Britain where they were woven to make clothes.

These clothes were then brought back to India to be sold at a hefty price. The Khadi movement aimed at boycotting foreign goods and promoting Indian ones.

The Khadi movement was started by one Mr. Mahatma Gandhi, which encouraged rural self-employment and self-reliance and eventually helped to grow the Indian economy.

To this day Khadi remains an important part of Indian life.  Many politicians wear only Khadi dhoti, a rectangular piece of un-stitched cloth, usually around 15 ft long, wrapped around the waist and the legs and knotted at the waist, resembling a long skirt.  The domestic manufacturing of the Flag of India must be made of Khadi.  Mace Windu wears a Khadi textile in Star Wars(!).

We recently purchased several pieces of Khadi to produce a small run of bow ties for the up-coming Spring/Summer season.

The particular pieces of Khadi that we are using to make these bow ties comes from the Western Indian state of Gujarat, in a Region called The Great Rann of Kutch.

These pieces are (bare with me), hand-spun, hand-woven, naturally dyed organic cotton.  Each piece of cotton, and therefore each bow tie is truly original. In the fantastic video below, you can see rural Indians hand weaving Khadi, although not our pieces. HERE is a longer, more in-depth video of the full carding and spinning process.

One by-product of handmade textiles are the slight imperfections that are found throughout.  Most obviously are the yarn slubs, the odd bumps that look almost like a knot in the yarn:

Another variant is the subtle color shifts.  We are so used to seeing perfect colors in the products we buy, that it can seem a bit odd when the dying is not totally uniform.  I think the color shifts actually give this fabric a wonderful warmth.

We are so honored to be working with such a beautiful and labor rich textile.  Due to the scarce nature of the source, we will be selling very, very limited runs of these bow ties.  For the time being, they will be available at our store HERE, but we do not see them lasting very long.

Depending on general feedback, we may attempt to source more Khadi in the future, so if you wanted a Khadi bow tie and they are sold out, let us know so we can make future plans.  Please enjoy these wonderful fabrics as much as we do.

2014 Bow Tie Sample Sale

 

We are kicking off our 2014 sample sale today with these 28 little beauties.  Most of these samples (all but 3) are one of a kind.  That means you will own a piece of Smith Brand (and human) history.

We know what you are thinking?  What the hell is a "sample"?

Dang!  Good question.  A Smith Brand sample can be one following things:

  • A custom sample we made for a wedding, but then they chose another textile
  • An unused return from a customer that wanted another size or style
  • A tie we were thinking of putting into our sales lineup, then did not do that
  • We totally just found it in the back of a drawer from last year, and now we are selling it to you for a crazy cheap price
  • We like to buy buy buy when we see a great textile, then tragically it does not fit in anywhere so we ignore it and it gets sad and lonely so we make one bow tie and sell it to you

We are selling all sample bow ties for 25 bucks, you can find them HERE.  The usual applies; free shipping, upgraded shipping available.  Get in touch if you have any questions about this hot deal!

How to Tie a Bow Tie: Vol 8

We get a lot of questions that revolve around tying a bow tie.  Some people ask if it's hard, some ask if we can teach them, one recent gentlemen even admitted that he wants to wear a bow tie, but is worried about figuring out how to tie it.  However, the number one question of all time is: How do I tie a bow tie?

We ship our bow ties with a fairly straight forward eight step process, but know that not all people learn that way.  So we shot this quick little video to offer one more way to help you get into a bow tie.

Do you know a better way?  Maybe a trick or tip that will make this a little easier?  Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or by email!

New Ties for a New Year

handmade bow tie

Image via Bret Cole Photography

I truly believe that a bow tie is a loud statement, so keeping it subtle has real value.  I like grey, and blue.  They are both nuanced colors that play off of the rest of a look or even the atmosphere.  Depending on light, and accent colors, a grey fabric can come through in a wide range of shades and hues.

When choosing new textiles, we really thought about working with timeless nuanced fabric.  Fabrics that play off the rest of the look, ones that don't scream at the world, but compliment it's wearer.

With that in mind, we chose to launch 4 new ties this week, 3 of them grey.  In the image above, our new granite tie appears as a cool blue as much as it does grey.  All 4 new ties have a similar effect.

 The 2 solid wool bow ties, ash and granite, are an easy entry for anyone who has never worn a bow tie.  They are simple to wear with a solid or patterned suit, would look great on any color of grey, blue or even black.

The Windowpane bow ties are both a very subtle herringbone with a nice windowpane plaid overlay.  They are a lightweight wool and cashmere blend that almost has to be felt to believe how soft they are.

All 4 new bow ties can be made adjustable (still tie-yourself), or custom made from collar size 14-22 inch.

If you have any questions about these new ties, please get in touch!

How I Got Dressed For My Wedding

yuko

I got married to Yuko a few months ago.  She is cool.  She is beautiful.  She has a natural and wonderful sense of style.  She understands her body and her character.  She is confident and knows how to carry herself.

She decided early on that she would wear a vintage kimono for our wedding.  Traditional wedding kimonos are white.  They are delicate and extravagant, generally reserved for a traditional ceremony at a Japanese shrine.  Since we were getting married A) in California, and B) in a the woods, she decided to not wear a wedding kimono, and instead wear a less formal style.  This was where I began to get dressed for my wedding.

Her wearing a non-wedding kimono meant that I would take it down a notch too, from tuxedo to suit.  I had a few other basic things to consider, things that most grooms should:  season, setting, atmosphere, and color to name a few.

We were having a small wedding, in the woods in a park, in the spring, in San Francisco, no wedding party, no colors.  That really left an open playing field for me.

I don't really wear black.  I'm pretty pale, and black washes me out and makes me look car sick.   Blues and greys do me much better, especially since I have bright blue eyes.

After going back and forth on charcoal or navy, I settled on the latter.  I couldn't decide on lapels; notched or peaked, so I was really hoping that the perfect spring suit would find me.  It did.

I ended up buying a navy, linen, harringbone, peaked lapel, double breasted suit.  I had spent my entire adult life hating double breasted jackets, and it turns out, I had just never worn the right one.

wedding tie

So I had settled on the canvas, but what about the rest of the painting?  I will get right to it:  the plain white button down shirt was boring, so I went with a white shirt with a tigh blue floral pattern, spread collar.  It made me smile.  I wore a navy knit tie with a baby blue tip.  I hate wearing a belt.  I don't wear pocket squares.  I bought some new socks and boots.

ian

I went to the park early in the morning with my father and my homeboy Bernardo to set up.  I'm clueless, I thought I would have time to run to my house and change.  I didn't.  I got out of my daily wear and into the wedding suit in the woods, just in time for the first wedding guests to arrive.

wedding tie style

wedding look

wedding style

And that's how I got dressed for my wedding.  I didn't wear a bow tie. (photos by Celeste Noche)

A Dude and His Dog

We shot this little promo in Bernal Heights last month on a wonderful Indian Summer afternoon.  Wasn't much of a stretch, most days involve me, my dog, a bag of groceries and bow ties.  Enjoy...

 

On Dreams and Sushi

handmade

Ilived and worked in Japan for many years. I often talk about my life during that time, usually because people ask about it. They ask "How was life in Japan?" as though they are saying "How was life in outer space?". It's that foreign to some people.

I am terrible at explaining my life and experience there. I am even worse at explaining why I fell in love with Japan and the Japanese way of life.

There is a deep seeded pride and dignity to Japanese life, something that dates back to the dawn of human life on that small string of islands. This way of approaching the world is especially present when it comes to ones work, even more so with artisanal work.

I was once in a quiet tofu restaurant in Kyoto between the lunch and dinner crowd. I watched the chef delicately carve a cross into the tops of every mushroom that would be served for dinner. I asked him why he was doing that. I was expecting a culinary answer; they cook more evenly, release flavor into the broth, something along those lines. Instead he told me "they look more pleasing to the eye this way."

During that time I lived in a small town in Southern Japan. Throughout those years I found a handful of shops, bars and restaurants that I loved and visited as much as possible. One of the bars that I came to appreciate was called Bar Trump.

It was a "Jazz" bar. I put jazz in quotes because the only relation this bar had to jazz was that the owner/bartender loved jazz music and played old records all night long. There was never a jazz band playing in this bar, mainly because it was 8 feet wide and 20 feet deep. A standing bass would not have fit, let alone an entire band.

I loved this bar. I loved the burgundy silk wall paper, I loved the whiskey, I loved hearing music I knew little about, but most importantly, I loved the bartender. He had dedicated his life to his obscure little bar. To you and I it was just one of a thousand bars in downtown Kumamoto, but to him, this bar meant everything.

On a cold winter night in 2006, I stopped in for a late night chat and to have a local sweet potato whiskey, we got to talking about his family and his life in the city. He told me that he opened his bar in the mid 90's and has never taken a day off, in 15 years.

To the world, to that city, to the neighborhood, that bar being closed for a night would mean very very little. But to him, closing his bar for the night was not acceptable. He told me he would hate for a good customer, someone that respects and trusts him to be let down.

That is something that stuck with me, in great clarity for many years.

Last winter I came across a story in the Wall Street Journal titled "Made Better in Japan". Up until very recently, this was the best proxy I had seen to help translate my passion for Japan. The piece starts with this:

 "My boss won't let me make espressos," says the barista. "I need a year more, maybe two, before he's ready to let customers drink my shots undiluted by milk. And I'll need another whole year of practice after that if I want to be able to froth milk for cappuccinos."

I could go on and on about these kind of stories. About the best cameras, zippers, knives, beef, cotton and denim in the world, but I feel that I too easily miss the nuance and subtlety found in this way of thinking.

I am constantly on some sort of personal subconscious quest to explain Japan to the world, or maybe to explain Japan to myself. When I come across a coherent story like the Wall Street Journals, I want to shout out the window, or email everyone I know.

With that in mind, I feel that my quest made a very significant discovery last week. Much to my surprise, it was not drudged up from an old ship wreck, or found in some ancient text, instead it came slithering right up to me in the form of a film, a film about a man.

handmade

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a 2011 documentary about Jiro Ono, an 85 year old master sushi chef who has been making sushi for the past 75 years (yes, he started working in a sushia at age 10).

This film is incredibly articulate in all of the ways I am not.

Preparing and serving sushi has very finite options, there are only so many ways to put these dishes together. Western culture tells us to improve, evolve, grow. Jiro took the opposite approach, take away, simplify, strive for a level of purity.

His restaurant only serves 7 people at a time, no menus, no drinks, no appetizers, just the set he has decided on for the day.

Jiro truly believes that after preparing and serving sushi for 75 years and being the only sushi chef in the world to receive 3 Michelin stars, he can still improve as a chef.

 "Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the key to success."

Several scenes in the film are spent with a Japanese food critic who knows Jiro's sushi very well, and has been a customer for many years. In an early scene he says that he still gets nervous eating at Jiro's restaurant.

Jiro Ono, his two talented sons and the small staff behind the scenes of his restaurant embody an ever-present and powerful force that is pumping through the veins of the Japanese culture.

I saw the tip of this iceberg while living in Japan, but it became much more clear from a greater distance. When I relocated to California after a half a decade in Japan, that sense of pride and personal responsibility started to come into focus in a new and distinct way.

Living in Japan and spending time around passionate and talented people had a deep and meaningful impact on me. It is very easy for me to say that my time there is why I do what I do today.

The pride Jiro has taken in his work for 3/4 of a century, the chef preparing mushrooms in Kyoto and the owner of Bar Trump inspire me everyday.

They don't inspire me to be the best or to follow some wild dreams of success, rather they inspire something greater, something earnest within me.

Since seeing Jiro's film nearly a week ago I had been unable to process this inspiration, unable to put my finger on the emotion that bubbled up during those 81 minutes.

However, last night it hit me, as clear as could be: Today I want to be better at what I do than I was yesterday.