General Knot & Co. is an American brand and manufacturer who specialises in the sourcing of vintage fabrics to use to create its very rare and very special collections of ties. Their products are not only beautiful but carry a genuine sense of history and integrity- a rare thing in itself.
We have been following the brand closely since coming across it a few months back at Jacket Required (find our previous post here), and have recently been lucky enough to ask Andrew Payne (co-founder of General Knot & Co.) a few questions.
The Milltown: In a nutshell, what’s your background and how did you come to start General Knot & Co.?
Andrew Payne: I began designing menswear while at Parsons School of Design in NY and continued then directing design teams for brands such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, creating everything from accessories to sweaters to jeans, but fabric had always been my focus. So after years of collecting fabrics and building relationships with fellow collectors, I decided to put all my design, manufacturing, and sourcing experience together in General Knot & Co.
MT: Given the available options in menswear fashion, what drew you to ties?
AP: Honestly, I’ve always loved ties. Even when I was a kid, my mom never had to coerce me into wearing a tie to Sunday school. Getting me to actually go into Sunday school was a whole other issue! But not the tie.
Also, what great fun it is to design the focal point of a guy’s wardrobe. Most men wear mostly neutral pieces for their shirts, pants, and jackets. The tie is the best opportunity for them to break out and add some personality to their look.
MT: We know you source your vintage fabrics from collectors, dealers, estate sales and auctions in the USA. To give us an idea of rarity of some of the batches you produce, what is the smallest run you have done of a fabric thus far?
AP: Some of our designs end of up being one-of-a-kinds. While the price we pay for some of these amazing textiles may very greatly, I try not to be too swayed by the price tag. I always let the criteria of “Do I love it?” guide me. And sometimes that means bringing home a half yard of a vintage print from the 1920s. It won’t yield much, but it sure will make a fantastic necktie!
MT: You always have a beautiful range of prints available, some quite traditional but some very unusual. Do you have a personal favourite? Or one that sticks out in your memory?
AP: That’s the biggest problem with our business- I become attached to most of them! It’s often difficult sending out the last of a design, knowing that that’s it, no more ever. But anyway, I won’t cry on your shoulder…
If I had to pick just one, I’d probably choose our first design. It was a patchwork made from vintage Japanese indigo prints from the 1940s. The shades of the true indigo were just incredible. It went up for sale our first day and within six hours all four pieces were gone.
MT: What inspires the design of your prints? Or is that solely led by sourcing the fabrics?
AP: While I do think it’s important to keep one’s eye on the world and evaluate the trends and cycles of fashion, I feel the best and most consistent barometer should be your own gut feelings. Especially in menswear. Men want great things that will be with them for years to come.
I try very hard to find fabrics and patterns that can stand on their own quality and beauty, not merely because they are rare or vintage. Finding those special pieces that really jump out at me and make an immediate connection is what inspires me.
MT: Are you ever seen without wearing some of your own neck-wear?
AP: Not in public! Just kidding. I do almost always wear my own designs, but will occasionally wear my wife’s designs. She’s a creative director at another company and she makes some darn good stuff!
MT: Do you believe neck-wear can be casually worn or should it be kept for dressed-up occasions?
AP: I have to say, that is actually one of the main concepts behind General Knot & Co. I strongly believe in neck-wear as a valid accessory for practically any situation, except maybe while swimming, operating heavy machinery or showering.
The whole idea to me is to not take it too seriously. Wearing a tie with a suit is appropriate and expected. Wearing a tie with a washed chambray or oxford shirt with jeans looks great too. Our neck-wear is designed with this versatility in mind. While many of our fabrics are truly special and rare, they are meant to be worn and enjoyed comfortably, not just saved for special times.
MT: What’s next for General Knot & Co.?
AP: We are already looking to expand into other accessories and shirts. Coming from a background of designing full collections, it’s tough to not want to leap ahead- but everything in due time.
We would like to say a big Thank You to Andrew Payne (General Knot & Co.) for taking the time to answer our questions.