Welcome to our artisan series—a celebration of craftsmanship and artistry in the world of bespoke.
In the first of this series, we speak to Mickael from La Bowtique Bowties.
Mickael is a Savile Row maker, who is known worldwide for crafting exceptional bow ties for special occasions. La Bowtique Bowties, established in 2011, is renowned for crafting superior quality, modern bow ties with Savile Row attention to detail. Mickael is also the author of "Modern Black Tie," a comprehensive guide where the bespoke department of Oliver Brown also features, and he's a seasoned expert in modern black-tie dressing.
We join Mcikael in his Hackney studio where we chat whilst listening to vinyl as he takes us through how to make a bow tie, discuss the do’s and don’ts of black tie dressing and get his top tips for tying a bow tie ahead of the festive season.
In your book "Modern Black Tie," you define contemporary evening wear. What characterises modernity in black-tie attire and what motivated you to create this comprehensive guide?
I always felt that it was a shame that there wasn't a dedicated book solely focused on black tie attire, which happens to be the most commonly worn formal dress code. Besides a page or two in men's fashion books, there was hardly any guidance.
Throughout my time working in Savile Row, I'd encountered a myriad of black-tie variations—some successful, others not so much. Surprisingly, there was also a lack of guidance online, with no central source to explore all the available options.
Take red carpet events, for instance; I soon realised that often what people wear isn't always styled correctly. This realisation highlighted to me the need for a comprehensive guide on black tie. That's when I decided to write this book—modern and inclusive, covering various applicable options suitable for different occasions..
I firmly believe that the foundation of black tie revolves around three pillars - audience, location, occasion. It's the only book exclusively dedicated to black tie, aiming to fill the void of proper guidance. Consider it a guidebook— take what you want from it and pick what suits you best!
Image by La Bowtique Bowties
What advice would you give to someone new to black tie dressing?
I would say that it's best to stick with the classics to ensure you're appropriately dressed for any event you attend.
Opt for a classic black or midnight blue suit, choosing between a peak or shawl lapel based on your body shape. Keep it classic with black Oxford shoes and black socks. Pair it with a traditional white shirt featuring a Marcella or pleated front.
Once you have your basic black tie outfit sorted, feel free to experiment! If you're feeling adventurous, try out velvet or more colourful options. Having your classic look as a foundation allows you to branch out and explore different styles as you please
What elements define a modern yet sophisticated bow tie, particularly for special occasions?
The foremost aspect of a modern bow tie is its design. Even if a bow tie is well-made but lacks a good design, it may not have the desired impact. Much like suiting, the right design matters. Bow ties aren't one-size-fits-all; their suitability depends on various factors such as the suit, body type, neck size, and the type of dinner suit being worn
What are your favourite iconic black tie looks?
One of my favourite looks is the most traditional black-tie attire. If someone is interested in black tie, opting for the most classic style is the best place to start. Personally, I adore the elegance of a one-button shawl lapel in classic black, accentuated with black satin lapels. I find it incredibly flattering to the silhouette. Another favourite of mine is the smoking jacket, perfect for those moments when you want to feel at home and welcome guests with style. This aligns well with Oliver Brown's offerings, especially with their vast selection of velvet smoking jackets.
How is the craft of a bow tie often overlooked?
The bow tie, surprisingly, is often overlooked and can be considered an afterthought in a black-tie ensemble. When paired with a black suit and shirt, the bow tie stands out more than anything else, while it is also the closest item to your face. For these two reasons, this makes it, in my opinion, the element of focus of your black tie ensemble. However, for many, the bow tie remains somewhat sidelined, despite its potential to make a significant statement within a black-tie outfit.What cloth do you use to fashion your bow ties?
I've experimented with bow ties crafted from natural silk, which some people also use for facings, as well as clean satin. Velvet bow ties have been popular for parties, but the majority of my work involves black satin and grosgrain. I tend to focus more on innovative designs rather than novel fabrics. Generally, it's ideal for a bow tie to complement the facings of your jacket. For example, if you were to commission a bespoke Oliver Brown dinner jacket we could then use the same facing fabric to fashion your bow tie for a truly cohesive look. Design plays the most pivotal role in a bow tie; even a small difference of a millimetre can significantly impact the overall look. It's like adjusting glasses by a millimetre to sit properly on the face - precision is key.
Lastly, where are your favourite locations or events to wear black tie?
I literally wear black tie everywhere. It’s a formal dress code, but it shouldn’t be taken so seriously. I’ve always had a playful approach to dressing up. It’s for celebrations, and shouldnt be just limited to private clubs or Christmas dinners. You can wear black tie to your retirement party, 30th birthday, or even to propose to your loved one. Many might feel uncomfortable, but it should be fun and playful, not just reserved for super formal events. I don't have a particular favourite place; as long as it’s a party, it’s reason enough for me to wear black tie! I’ve worn it to a country pub, clubs, events, cocktail bars, anywhere!
How to tie a bow tie
For more information on La Bowtique, click here.
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