The doors of No. 3 Clifford Street, the first ever Drake's shop, opened May 20th 2011.
Our building itself is something of a landmark in the heart of Mayfair really. Formerly the home of a prestigious art and antiques Gallery, known for its Art Nouveau and Art Deco drawings, paintings, and posters, it is agreeably situated between Savile Row and Bond Street. We think that's completely appropriate to our mission of becoming the Savile Row haberdasher for those discriminating gentlemen accustomed to handmade quality
THE PHILOSOPHY OF MICHAEL DRAKE
Style, comfort, and quality – rather than just fashion – have always been the hallmarks of a gentleman's wardrobe. A beautifully tailored suit, a perfect shirt, and handmade shoes send a message of natural assurance. But it doesn’t matter who your tailor is or how beautifully your suit has been cut (or what it cost), you will not be well dressed without paying attention to some rather simple details.
The small consideration, the subtle element, the fine points really do matter.
It's not a question of having the world's largest wardrobe, and certainly not an elaborate one. It's a matter of the right clothes, clothes that illustrate the inspiration and taste of the man wearing them. The aim is a relaxed elegance, a nonchalant nod towards a simple refinement.
First there's what I call the V area, that's the jacket collar and lapel, the shirt collar and the tie. This V, which both supports and causes us to visually focus on the face, is arguably the most important aspect of the whole wardrobe, and getting it wrong will be even more obvious than you might fear.
Start with the shirt. Keep it simple; blue is always a good colour, as is white, in solids, small stripes or checks. Avoid extremes; theatrical collar shapes are really dumb, as is edge stitching or fancy-coloured buttonholes. Go for softness and simplicity; allow the make to show through.
Avoid jacquard weaves, anything that looks shiny, and select twill weaves only if it’s a cotton flannel. Opt for two-ply, crisp cottons. If the fabric is too fine chest hair will show through and this is, let's be delicate, not a good look. Best stick to 2x100s or 2x120s cotton broadcloth. Good buttons are mother-of-pearl, of course.
Next the tie. The tie is important not only because it's so much the focus of attention, but because it's more symbolic than utilitarian. The best ties are hand made, never stitched by machine. You have a suit made in the round, and so the tie should be three-dimensional as well.
Avoid extremes: no wider than nine centimetres and no narrower than seven. Eight will look right on any occasion.
The pattern should not be overly designed, with too many colours, or too shiny; although solid satin in navy, grey or purple is fine for the evening, for a more formal look. The time-honoured tradition of lighter coloured ties in the morning, a little darker in the afternoon and darker still in the evening is hard to beat.
Seventy percent of the ties we produce at Drake’s of London are shades of blue. It’s always a good starting point.
There are only two knots worth considering, the four in hand and the half Windsor, the second also being a good standby if the tie is too long or a slightly fuller knot is required.
Best not to use the loop or ‘keeper’ at the back of the tie, to remain nonchalant. It’s ok to see part of the tail. Avoid a look that’s too stiff and rigid – think the Duke of Windsor or Snr. Gianni Agnelli rather than your local bank manager, whose ties will often look ironed flat.
Wearing a tie that is either too long or too short is another give away. In an ideal world the tie should reach the top of the trouser waistband with both the front and tail finishing at the same length. If this can't be achieved, better to have the tail slightly longer than the front. Often the rise of the trousers can cause the tie to be the wrong length.
The chicest suit, the softest handmade shirt is a sartorial dream; but with an inappropriate tie the dream becomes a nightmare.
Similarly simple things are making sure your cufflinks do not resemble Byzantine coffin lids and the metals match up. If you are wearing a stainless steel watchstrap, your cufflinks shouldn't be gold. For me the simple choice is a knot link made from both white and yellow gold.
A few other small, but telling details. Never puff up a white linen hank, always wear it folded. Choose the leather trim on your braces to match your shoe colour. It’s difficult but possible to find braces with silk braided ends, which are preferable to fasteners. A slight and personal disregard for coordination can be charming, but carried too far one drifts from harmony into jarring chaos.
Socks are another give away. Never wear short socks with a suit. Navy socks always work with brown shoes but black socks do not with brown. Personally I am inclined to wear purple socks with almost anything, and like to think of it merely as a signature eccentricity.
Avoid extremes in shoes: those that are too flamboyant, too pointy (or too square for that matter) or over designed. It's too easy for shoes to call attention to themselves and spoil the overall effect.
The idea is to not look as if you have just arrived on the boat from Naples. The best-dressed Neapolitans aim for an understated English style.
As Coco Chanel once said, women should dress to either look chic or sexy. Men should look stylish.
Michael Drake founded Drake's in 1977. Today it is the largest independent maker of handmade ties in England. The picture of Michael was taken in 1973 by Lord Litchfield
How to make a silk tie
In a disused post office depot, Jon Henley finds the skills to make the finest gentlemen's accessories are still making the cut
The Guardian, Saturday 6 February 2010
There aren't many people still making things in the centre of London but, in a small former post office maintenance depot in Clerkenwell, Michael Drake and his staff make what those in the know reckon are England's finest hand-cut, hand-sewn silk ties. "It's almost a lost art," says Drake, "working materials of this quality by hand. So few people do it that we pretty much had to teach ourselves."
Drake began his tie, scarf and gentlemen's accessories business (drakes-london.com) in 1977. His designs mix the classic and quirky to produce "the English look, the way the Italians imagine it". Apart from a growing internet business, the vast majority find discerning homes abroad; here, he says, though attitudes are slowly changing, "ties tend to be either very old-fashioned, or big-name brands. City-boy stuff."
A tie has three main parts: the blade, or front; the neck; and the tail, or back. To start, the material – Drake uses mainly British-made heavy silks, woven or screen-printed – is unrolled and checked for flaws. In 80cm by 70cm blocks, generally in piles of 20 or so, it then goes to the cutter, who lays out the cardboard patterns as economically as possible and, using an extremely sharp knife, cuts the silk cleanly on the bias (at a 45-degree angle to the threads).
Each block will make two ties; it could, at another manufacturer's, make four, but not without cutting off the bias, and a tie cut off the bias, says Drake, will not hang as well or recover its shape as quickly. The cutter also cuts out a small piece of waste cloth for the loop – the "keeper" attached to the back of the blade through which you can, if you know nothing about how a tie should be worn, tuck the tail.
Both blade and tail are then "tipped". The only part of the whole process done by machine, this involves sewing a partial lining to the back of the tie, either in the same material (in which case the tie is "self-tipped") or a contrasting colour and weight of silk. Blade, neck and tail are then joined together, and the material and seams lightly pressed (it's vital, says Drake, to retain the three-dimensional shape of the tie; that gives it character).
Next the tie is "slipped". First, the interlining – the core strip of thicker material, wool or cotton or a blend of the two, around which the silk is folded – is tucked into the blade tip. Then the silk is folded and pinned along the length; the folds must be neither too loose, nor too tight, and the seam must run up the centre.
Now, starting with a bar tack (or anchor point) and using a slightly curved needle and strong, 40-gauge silk thread, the sewer puts in the slip stitch that will hold it all together. The slip, a relatively loose stitch that allows the material a degree of movement, must gather in both sides of the silk, the tip and the interlining, while leaving the front of the tie untouched and being completely invisible from the back. It's an exceptionally skilful business. Along the way, the keeper is sewn in.
Finally, the slipping is secured with another bar tack at the tail, leaving a small loop of excess thread inside the tie. This loop means that however much the tie is stretched, twisted or scrunched, it will return to its original shape if hung and left well alone. The last step is to sew in the label with four corner tacks, and to give the two ends a finishing (and again, very light) press.
The result is an object whose design, weight, cut and construction mean it feels every bit as pleasing to the hand as it looks around the neck. To keep it that way, says Drake, it should be untied carefully after use, rolled and then hung. There are only two knots worth considering: the four-in-hand and the half-Windsor. Aim for a dimple at the base of the knot. And don't use the loop: it looks naff.