May 13, 2013 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
NA: In 2008 I held a share in an upmarket boutique nightclub where you were sent a 4 digit code to your mobile phone and then you entered that code at the door to let yourself into the nightclub. No bouncers, no attitude. When you got inside it was all ruby velvet, low level lighting and a gilded golden painting frame behind which you saw the djay. The genesis of my business started there. I was thirty and I had just mastered the art of tying a bow tie and then my doorman followed suit. After I sold my share of the nightclub I decided to try my hand at making bow ties. Now 35, I founded and own a unique bow tie company called Le Noeud Papillon in Sydney, Australia and we have an international audience of blog readers and customers who seek us out because of our unique shapes and our exclusively designed silks.
VR: Your educational background?
NA: I finished high school in Sydney and went on to complete an Agricultural Economics degree at the University of Sydney. Part of my experience there was to spend 4 months in the field. Of those four months, 2 were spent working with sheep producing very fine micron wool in the Riverina of New South Wales. This is the only dot I can connect between education and my enthusiasm with menswear.
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your bowtie enthusiasm)?
NA: No children. No spouse at this point.
My father wore a bow similar to our Mayfair bow tie in his wedding photo from 1976. It was one of the first bow ties we produced in high quality modal velvet with our friends at Holland & Sherry. When I saw his wedding photo I was very amused to see it was the same shape. It still remains one of our international and domestic best sellers. Why? Because it has that real 70’s feel. It is just a beautiful bow tie despite the fact that it is pre-tied.
VR: …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions back in the days?
NA: They told me I was a twit. Nobody believed in me, not my girlfriend at the time, not my friends, not family, not anyone. They just thought “oh, there goes the eccentric kid who thinks Australians will learn how to tie a bow tie…. He’s pushing shit up hill, the poor bugger”.
VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did your turn your eyes to classic style? Why classics instead of fashion?
NA: Personal style has always been something I was involved in. I can recall that when other Australian men weren’t mocking you in public for wearing pink, they would come up to you in a quieter moment and compliment your unique style or phone you randomly three months later for some style advice. I don’t know how it developed for me into something commercial.
When I was fifteen on a family trip to India, I met palm reader who told me I would have two more accidents in my lifetime, that I would live to be very old and that I would make my fortune in textiles and fashion. This upset me because I wanted to make my money in words, I love to write. I have written one novel and a series of short stories, some of which you can read on my alternate blog http://strong-men-also-cry.
Fortunately, fashion and textiles, just like my palm reader suggested, are a natural fit. I happen to be one of the few people I know who loves his job. It still gets me down, I still battle myself every day and question everything that is happening around me, but I have a sense of purpose and I guess that’s what keeps me going.
I lean towards classics because anyone I seem to admire in history has dressed in this manner. All the great characters of history have had some sort of relationship with a tie, a bow tie, a suit, a waistcoat, something, that set themselves apart but yet existed within the confines of ‘classic dressing’. Whether you are researching a US President, Royalty, political leaders, a philosopher, writer, film maker or the actor who portrayed these people in films; chances are they will pop up on google in their most prized and recognised attire which will most often be a classic suit or tuxedo.
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of apparel — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
NA: Yes. I read Permanent Style, I log on to Cutter And Tailor, I read A Suitable Wardrobe and I have a computer hard drive brimming with content I trawl on the internet. From how to make a tie manuals to the dynamics of jacquard looming silks, I have definitely skimmed through it at some stage. I particularly like blogs such as Made By Hand where the author really takes you through the subtleties of tailoring and manufacturing. My own blog, which attempts to provide some of this content too (www.lenoeudpapillon.blogspot.
VR: How would you describe your own dress? Which RTW makers or tailors do you favour?
NA: Yesterday someone asked me where I got my clothes from. I was wearing yellow cotton trousers, a window pane check jacket, a blue and white striped shirt with white collar and blue cuff with white band, a bow tie in pink and blue stripe. Everything on me I had made apart from my socks and shoes. So really, these days, I mostly wear stuff I make with my own workrooms but when I don’t I like following brands:
- Turnbull & Asser – London – bow ties and shirts
- Charvet – Paris – bow ties, shirts, pocket squares
- Patrick Johnson – Sydney – Suits And Ties
- A Suitable Wardrobe – They don’t make anything but they have a great selection on their website for men and they commission items such as a cream flannel wool I bought two years ago.
- Loro Piana
- Brunello Cucinelli
VR: Please tell us how your new business was born and what goals you set in the beginning. How have you been received so far?
NA: I set one goal for myself. To match the quality of a Charvet bow tie to be made in Australia. And, from that point on, to surpass them in quality. At the time when I started my business, Charvet was not available on the web anywhere. Because I could not afford to fly to Paris when I needed a bow, I was stuck relying on family and friends to pick them up for me if they were passing through. At the same time, I really wished to question why only the French were able to make something so beautiful. I could not understand why Australians made such mediocrity. We really had such a poor excuse for a tie and bow tie industry in this country. Over the past five years I have changed the silks we use, the way we line a tie, I have moulded specific clips for bow ties, I have changed the way we sew and the manner in which we cut the bows. And, I have changed the way in which we present them for sale. Each one is a small step which needs constant refining.
VR: Should my readers expect new ventures from your store anytime soon?
NA: Yes, we are moving into Made To Measure suiting. In the meantime we do shirts, ties, bow ties, scarves, braces and smoking jackets. Our core, however, remains bow ties, which we seem to sell in a much greater volume than our other items.
VR: Who or what inspires you?
NA: My good friends. I am fortunate enough to have some great friends who I meet every Friday for lunch in the city (Sydney). We debate all sorts of political issues, throw verbal rocks at our political leaders, whine about the cost of living and the trials of home life, and challenge each other with new ideas. Then we get the bill, split it, and agree to meet the following week. I am so blessed to have good friends, they ground me and keep me relevant.
VR: What is your definition of style?
NA: Knowing yourself.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides bowties?
NA: I used to spearfish but I seem to have no time for that now. I used to write a journal. No time for that now. I used to read a lot. Same excuse. Everything for the last 5 years has been about bringing back the bow tie and keeping the business going.
VR: Over the years you must have learned quite a bit about clothing and style. Is there something you wish more men would know? This is great opportunity to make a lasting influence on my younger readers. Most of us aren’t blessed with rakish relatives, which makes learning about style a challenge later in life. All tips and thoughts are valuable.
NA: Know you colours and what works for you. Be honest with who you are and what you feel comfortable in. Learn about cloth and what fibres are used to make each one. Learn specifically about cotton, wool and silk. These are the most glorious naturally occurring fibres in the world. Understand the basics of suiting and dress codes. After that, have fun exploring! Oh, and one more thing:
Learn how to tie a bow tie: http://www.lenoeudpapillon.
Pictures: © Nicholas Atgemis