I’ve recently returned from Milan, where I was finalising my collection of Spring/Summer 2014 knitted ties. I love going to Milan and making the short journey to the mill, in a village just north of the city. Not least because it involves working with Walter, a former monk, and his family. I am passionate about working with independent craftsmen to produce the finest ties in the world, and Walter is one of my favourites. He and I share a lot of things in common: we both have beards, a portly figure and a love of red wine. But perhaps most brilliantly, we were both theology students who ended up in the world of ties.
Walter (far right) and his family.
Whilst I studied theology in Edinburgh, Walter studied in a Catholic seminary in Milan. He graduated as a monk and lived that life for 10 years, before leaving to marry, and help with his father’s tie knitting business. Over the last year his sons have joined him in the business. As I sat with Walter and his son Francesco, sipping sweet espressos and discussing spots and stripes and types of knit, the enthusiasm they all had for this perfect little enterprise was overflowing.
One of the fine ties Walter has knitted for Augustus Hare.
One of the best things about working with Walter is his insistence on a long lunch. We went, along with some other workers from the mill, to restaurant aptly named ‘The Holy Drunkard’. Here plates of gnocchi jostled with carafes of vino rosso, and Walter gave me a lesson on the finer points of grappa. It was the perfect start to my Spring Summer collection…
The instruments used to knit silk into ties always look bizarre to me. Here are a few photographs of the circular machines. You can see more pictures of these, and other mills I work with, on my Pinterest page.