Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Evelyne from Hermes, one of the houses tie makers, to document the process of how an Hermes tie evolves from raw silk to finished product.
It’s a process similar to how most high quality ties are made, but with a few key differences, which we’ve come to expect from a company famous for its care for detail and innovative practices.
The major difference with Hermes, in this instance, is that they step into the process earlier than anyone else. Most high end tie manufacturers will commission silks from mills in Italy or the UK. The designs are usually created in house and given to the mills. Soon after receiving rolls of finished silk from a mill, the company will then cut those rolls into one yard lengths and, finally, have the individual ties hand cut out of those single lengths.
The Hermes involvement begins almost as soon as the silk worm is finished with its cocoon. The farms in South America where they source their raw silk, unwind the cocoons into wig-like wreaths, which are then sent to the Hermes facilities in Lyon. From here Hermes takes over, weaving the silk in house into long sheets of white billowy silk. The silk is then rolled out on to a long table, held in place, then dyed using several screens and colours in the same way their legendary scarves are made (see images below).
Once the dying process is complete (and subsequent treatments are applied to remove gum from the silk, softening it) the silks are cut to shape and the front and rear tips are sewn in. From here they are handed to one of Hermes tie makers to complete the process. Enter Evelyne.
A blend of wool and cotton is used to line the ties, as they are a relatively simple 2 fold construction. The lining is inserted into the front (wide) blade first and, using a small template, pinned in to place, holding it securely. Next, the silk is folded twice, aligning cleanly in the centre. Another pin is inserted to keep the folded section secure and Evelyne then works up the length of the tie towards the halfway point, folding and pinning, before moving to the back (narrow) blade and working the in the opposite direction until the tie is folded perfectly.
The next part is the hallmark of a quality tie and a requirement in ensuring longevity and flexibility – the slip stitch. A slip stitch is largely self explanatory; it’s a simple stitch which allows the thread to move freely or “slip” within its confines. For a tie, this makes all the difference as it’s exposed to some fairly tough conditions, namely being knotted and tugged several times on every occasion it’s worn. If a lock stitch was used, it would mean the silk of the tie would risk tearing against its stitches, particularly around the neck where most of the abuse is focused.
The thread used for a slip stitch is approximately 15cm longer than the tie itself, allowing it to slide a little as the tie is knotted and moved around. The silk thread is twisted, then inserted just above the start of the fold on the front blade, where a small bar-tack is made to secure the thread in place. It’s then invisibly stitched at 1.5cm spacings, narrowing to around 1cm at the neck (where the majority of the strain is), all the way to the end, before the remaining thread is buried invisibly into the end of the back blade. What you are left with is a tie which has no visible stitching, but the flexibility to handle the stresses which are placed on it each time it’s worn for many, many years.
With the slip stitch complete, the tie is finished, save for a final press. As with many beautiful things, a seemingly simple finished product disguises a complex and artistic process. The hallmark of Hermes.