The Best Advice Tie-Maker Andrew Payne of “General Knot” Got Was from Marc Jacobs


We first heard of The General Knot & Co after stopping a gentleman on the street and demanding to know where he'd bought his printed pink neck tie, knowing we simply had to get one for every fella on our holiday shopping list. Turns out it was the handiwork of Andrew Payne, a designer based out of Bedford, N.Y., who uses exclusively deadstock fabrics and American manufacturers to create utterly unique pieces of neck wear, no two of which are ever alike due to the limited nature of the materials. We caught up with Andrew to discuss his penchant for vintage, love for local craftsmanship, and what he thinks of all those bow-tied ladies on the runway this season.

Why neckties in particular?

Personally, I love ties, and always have. The fabrics, colors and textures are seemingly never-ending.
As far as choosing between other products to create, I’ve designed a lot of different products during my career—sweaters, outerwear, graphics, knitwear, and shirts, but fabrics and color have always been my love and the tie just lends to them so well. With ties, I get to design the often one focal point of a guy’s wardrobe. Guys love to have an interesting tie as an accent atop their denim, shirts, jackets, etc — I know I do. And for men who wear suits, it’s absolutely the personality of the whole look.

Where and how are General Knot ties produced?

We are very luckily situated closely to our factories in both New York and Vermont. All of our current product is made in these two factories and will always be U.S.A. made. I bring all of our designs and fabrics to our factories myself. This personal connection is essential to building an understanding of our design’s concept and the trust that makes for a healthy long term relationship. It’s hard to adequately express how fortunate we feel to be working with such fantastic craftsmen.

Tell us about your design process. Who comes up with what? Where do you look for inspiration?

Coming from years of designing within a corporate structure at places like Ralph Lauren and various denim companies, the GK & Co. design process is incredibly refreshing. Working in mostly vintage fabric, there’s only so much planning one can do. The fabrics are upwards of 60-70 years old and are what they are. The exact planning of palettes and merchandising plans of pattern assortments happily goes out the window. I find the best way to approach each season is continually search out the most beautiful and interesting fabrics with the hope of each pattern finding its ideal home down the road. My design professor in school always said, “Look at your fabrics and listen carefully. They’ll tell you what they want to be.”

Did you come from a design background originally?
I had always drawn, painted, and collected fabrics as a child, but when time came for college, I dutifully ended up following my father’s direction of business school in North Carolina. As a lucky twist of fate, North Carolina was the U.S. textile hub and my school was right in the thick of it. One thing led to another and my passions for textiles and fashion lead me to Parsons School of Design in NYC, where I found my true direction.

Would you consider General Knot part of the "American Heritage" conversation in menswear?
A central focus of General Knot & Co. has always been to design and create our product here in the United States. After years of working for American companies that systematically moved all their production overseas, it’s a great pleasure to be utilizing such amazing shops and factories that are right here under our very noses. With that said, our concept is naturally born from American roots and proudly celebrates our heritage. A great benefit of designing each collection is the history lesson that comes from our fabrics. Fabrics from the eras of the Great Depression, World War II, the 1960’s and so on speak to the heritage in which they were created.  Each piece of fabric has its own story to tell.

What do you think of the recent bow-tie trend for women?
We love it! Frankly, when we first started receiving orders for bow ties from women, we assumed they may be ordering gifts for husbands and boyfriends. Very happily, we found quite the opposite to be true. Women are putting it all together in a very stylish and feminine way—not a throwback to the Annie Hall look of the 1970’s. These woman’s confidence and femininity make it all very beautiful and modern.
What's the hardest thing about starting your own business.
Without a doubt, making that very first step to independence is the hardest part. There are a lot of clever people out there with good ideas, but stepping out and getting the ball rolling is emotionally tough. My advice is take that step and keep driving forward.

The most valuable piece of style advice you ever got.
Again, going back to design school, Marc Jacobs was my critic for my senior year project. Being a graduate from my school and fully appreciating a student’s mindset, Marc always had such clear perspective and valuable advice. A piece of advice that has always stood out was “design with your own voice. As a musician has to find his own sound, a designer has to find the confidence to stand on his own.” A solid piece of advice that could applied to most situations.
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