March 19, 2015 by Ville Raivio
Drake’s of London is a unique accessories maker founded in, incidentally, London in 1977 by Michael Drake with Jeremy Hull and Isabel Dickson. The company’s very first accessories were scarves, but handkerchiefs and ties were quick to follow. As years have gone by, the company range has extended to cover everything the classically-minded chap likely likes, from accessories to jackets to knitwear to shoes, with shirts as the latest pieces. Most goods are made by hand for that special human touch, the ties fully so.
Michael Drake retired in 2010 but his main man, Michael Hill, continues as Creative Director and follows the old ways and consults the company spirits or archives for new designs. Kirby’s hangers has more to say about him. All Drake’s accessories are designed in-house and made in the company’s own factory on London’s quaint Haberdasher Street, or with the help of a few choicest Italian or British makers. Most materials are sourced from the UK. Die, Workwear! has a set of inside photos of the premises and key people.
Several of the designs have become, to use that overused C-word, classics. Examples include The Mughal print, The Birds of Paradise, and The Unicorn print, all arduously crafted with dye-and-discharge printing, where the base cloth is first coloured, then each colour is added separately, one at a time. Most makers use inkjet printing, a much faster method with a different look. Drake’s likely has one of the largest collections of tie materials available at any time. Coupled with the maker’s savvy for colours and weaves, their tie range is vast indeed. What’s not available readymade can be made to order. Drake’s is currently the largest independent maker of hand-sewn ties in England, crafting some 100 000 ties each year. The ties bring in around half of the company revenue, and most of them are 8 or 9 cm wide, around 150 cm long. Their large selection, quality as well as eye for colours and materials has made Drake’s the darling bud of the iGentry. Naturally, I wanted a piece of the action to see what the chatter is about.
The example accessory is The Unicorn print in scarf form, dyed-and-discharged on a 60% wool/40% silk fabric, with hand-rolled edges. The piece has plenty of length at 175 cm and width at 70 cm, and it reminds me of a ladies’ shawl more than a gents’ scarf. The material is so thin, light, and fine that the scarf must be folded to keep the cold at bay and away. The fabric does feel wonderful on the skin. The large dimensions become useful as without the folds this would be a thin and poor scarf indeed. The hand-rolled edges are nice and rolling, but far from the superlative precision that Vanda Fine Clothing offers. The Unicorn print is a modified copy of the renowned The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries woven around 1500 in Flanders. Despite the copying, I feel this is one of the most beautiful accessory images on the market.
It is even more powerful as the Drake’s colours are something else. My chosen adjectives are vivid, burnt, and living. Most fabrics just don’t have similar colours, and it’s best to see them in real life. As a scarf, that piece of clothing meant to protect the neck, this accessory if flimsy. As an accessory, adornment, or clothes-as-art, it is extraordinary. My only wish is that Drake’s would manufacture it in heavier weight wool. Finally, the accessory costs 235 pounds. This is too much for a readymade scarf, even with a lovely picture, especially given the high exchange rate of the pound. Their prices are what separates me from Drake’s, but there’s always eBay for the cheapos among us. All these considered, it is a very beautiful scarf, and we need beautiful things in our lives.