We sit down with owner and designer of Tie Your Tie Florence, Kenji Kaga.
1. Can you describe your own personal style? Do you have a standard "uniform"?
Regardless of the season, my usual go-to style is a brown sport coat in various shades paired with grey trousers. As for the material, I like silk/cashmere, linen or linen-blend sport coats in summer and cashmere or tweed sport coats in winter. As for the trousers, I tend to wear a lot of wool fresco in summer and saxony in winter.
2. What are your suggestions for a basic neck tie wardrobe?
Solid navy (with interlining) and 100% silk repp stripes.
3. What is the history of Tie Your Tie? How did you become involved?
Tie Your Tie was founded by Franco Minucci in Florence in 1984. I was originally a customer and used to visit the shop when I traveled to Florence. Then I got involved in the opening of the first Tie Your Tie franchise shop in Japan in 1996 when we opened “Tie Your Tie Aoyama” in Tokyo. I've been involved with the Tie Your Tie business for the past 23 years.
4. What spurred your interest in tailoring in general and specifically ties and furnishings?
My father used to order a lot of tailored suits and I started to get interested in tailoring as I accompanied my father to the tailor to pick up his new garments. My interest in accessories grew as I started to understand ties as useful tools for enjoying suits or sport coats in new and various ways.
5. You have a very clear sense of personal style. What inspires it?
I'm interested in beautiful things. I pay close attention to my mindset and to the mood I am in everyday.
6. Do you have any favorite cultural icons, menswear icons?
My cinema icons are Steve McQueen and Yves Montand. I also love music, especially blues.
7. Do you have an item in your closet that you couldn’t live without?
My grey mohair suit.
8. What are your other interests outside of menswear?
I am actually also interested in the current trends of womenswear. To relax, I like to watch old movies or go to museums and enjoy paintings.
9. Your collections always include incredibly unique patterns and prints. How do you develop those?
I believe in the value of coexistence. I think it's important to have an open-minded attitude that accepts and accommodates different points of views. I respect and appreciate the old traditions, but at the same time I am also very interested in what is happening in the new generation. Interacting with different kinds of people always inspires me to wonder, “if I were in his/her position, what would I be excited to have?”. I always search for new things with this question in my mind.
As for patterns and colors, I select them based on what my inspirations are at the moment.
10. Can you tell us more about the construction of your ties? Why sevenfold? Why unlined?
Let me start by explaining how we started producing ties in the “Sette Pieghe” (seven-fold) style. When I first discovered “Classico Italia”, we were starting to see the trend of makers creating softer and lighter jackets than what was standard before - fully lined jackets with shoulder pads. Because jackets started to get lighter and softer, shirt collars also started to have softer interlining, and shirting fabrics higher than 2-ply 120s became popular. With this trend in mind, we realized that neckties should also be lighter and softer.
At the time, luxury ties were usually thick and structured, and Sette Pieghe was a forgotten treasure. We found a tie in an old collection from the 1920’s. The fabric was folded to give it volume and it had no interlining. Tie Your Tie revived the concept and Sette Pieghe was born.
At the beginning (around 1998), the asymmetric ties with no interlinings were too advanced for a lot of people to even try; however, there was still a lot of interest in light-weight ties. We introduced unlined versions of regular ties as an entry into Sette Pieghe, and a lot of people gradually started to get comfortable with wearing light and soft ties.
As I mentioned, the distinctive feature of Sette Pieghe is that it's made solely with fabric and no interlining, so you get a small knot that I think makes the neck line look very elegant. I recommend wearing the wide and narrow blades purposely shifted apart so that the tie hangs softly from the knot to the blades, which I think adds elegance to your overall outfit.
Sette Pieghe uses almost 50% more fabric than a regular tie. We cut the pattern and apply hand-rolled stitching to all edges. We have specific training for our hand-roll stitching technique because it is different from the technique often used on regular scarves or pocket squares. To assemble, experienced artisans fold the fabrics and finally sew them into ties. The sewing technique we use for Sette Pieghe is also different from what is often used in tie crafting, and a lot of training is required for this special skill.
We also produce a lined model that is suitable for wide-spread collar shirts, shirts with collar stays or shirts that have more structure. It also works well with the symmetrical Windsor knot, which creates a very sharp impression and yet still holds a soft and warm feeling. For this model in particular we carefully choose the interlining material so that the ties hold their natural shape without ironing. Of course, as with all of our ties, every part is hand-made and the same special hand-roll stitching is applied to all edges.