The bowtie is a tricky menswear accessory. A gentleman can either look awfully-goofy in one or sport it with supreme confidence and look great. We suggest aiming to achieve the latter. One helpful way to start: find a company that designs beautiful, well-crafted bowties (this way, half of the work is done). Now all you have to worry about is confidence. Alex Nguyen of Harding & Wilson talked with us about hardworking men and women of the 20th century (which provided inspiration for the company), why the company takes pride in having their products crafted in the U.S.A., and where a beginner to the accessory can get comfortable sporting one for the first time.
Where does the name Harding & Wilson come from?
During the concept stages of Harding & Wilson we spent countless days researching the styles and attitudes of early 20th century America. A major focal point for us during this time period was the idea of formalwear and how it played a role in everyday life. It was important that our name embody this attitude and everyday approach in which we were so inspired by. In the end we chose to use the names of two U.S. Presidents, Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding. For us these names represent a generation of hardworking men and women that took pride in every activity they were involved in, including their daily attire.
Tell us about the history of Harding & Wilson?
Like most small businesses Harding & Wilson started as a weekend project. We were planning on attending a friend’s wedding but couldn’t find a bowtie to fit either of our outfits. After searching all over town and only turning up with tuxedo-like bowties, we decided to take a crack at making our own. The following weekends were filled with pattern developing, fabric hunting, and self-taught sewing. We actually have many of the first bowties we ever made still hanging on the wall of our workshop as a reminder of where it all began.
We source the majority of our materials from the Pacific Northwest simply because it’s where we are located. We want to give back to our local businesses and support them as they provide us with important resources. If we can’t find a material or service in the Northwest, we seek out someone else in the U.S. that can help us. We take a lot of pride in saying all of our products are made in the U.S.A.
What are some fabrics Harding & Wilson uses?
Our first line of ties were made using Pendleton wools, with almost all the fabric being remnants of past Pendleton menswear collections. Depending on the season our fabrics can range from heavier felted wool to lightweight cottons and linens. In order for us to create interesting pieces we often seek out vintage and dead stock fabrics to use.
What are some of the company’s Northwest influences?
Being surrounded by lush evergreen forests that make up the Northwest, we find that our materials and color palettes reflect the very region we live in. Lucky for us we have a full 4 seasons to draw inspiration from. Our fall/winter styles tend to feature heavier wools and earthy colors, while spring/summer is bright with florals and linens.
How important is excellent quality?
With so many brands echoing one another’s products, we find that quality and craftsmanship often get overlooked in favor of trendy styles and cheap production. Each one of our pieces tells a story, whether it be the hand-stamped packaging or contrast stitching, every bowtie shines with its own individual character. Building each one by hand, we continue to pursue the intimate craft that this company was founded on.
Does Harding & Wilson plan to expand and create other accessories anytime soon?
We have been scouring the country for the best materials with the plan of releasing a line of men’s casual neckwear for fall 2012. We also have some things in the works for ladies as well, so keep checking our website www.hardingandwilson.com for updates on new products.
For a gentleman confused on the proper place to where a bowtie, what events do you suggest he start?
The bowtie seems to have a stigma that we hope to change. We believe it is all in the attitude; be conscious of the colors you put on, wear it confidently, and you’ll look good. For the guy that may not feel as comfortable wearing a bowtie at a less formal occasion, a great place to start is at a wedding. Just pair any one of our ties with some chinos and a solid shirt to get a sharp and effortless-looking outfit.