About a year and a half when we first started taking the crafting of neckties seriously, one of our first endeavours was to seek out reputable fabric mills. If we were going to dedicate hours to making a necktie, we wanted to be sure we were working with materials that were well worth all that effort. It is with great pleasure that we now publish a series of interviews/write-ups to introduce you to our suppliers who are responsible for making some of the absolute finest necktie and pocket square fabrics today.
VANNERS SILK WEAVERS
The very first mill we worked with (even before Vanda Fine Clothing was established!) was Vanners, a reputed firm that has been weaving in England since the 1700s. When we were planning our buying trip, it obviously made sense for us to make Vanners our very first mill visit.
During our visit to their facility in Sudbury, Suffolk, sales director Stephen Nixon was kind enough to take us on an educational tour, as well as take some time to answer a few of our questions:
1. Please tell us a bit about the founders of Vanners and how the company came to be.
The Vanners were a Huguenot family who were fleeing religious persecution in Europe. Initially they would have settled in London in the Spitalfields area and then later moved to East Anglia. The earliest known Vanners as a silk weaver was William Vanner who was apprenticed in 1717 to a silk weaver. The present company was founded in 1730.The last Vanner was James Engelbert Vanner who was chairman of the company until 1900.he died in 1906 and the company was then merged with Fennel Brothers an established Sudbury based silk weaver.
2. It has been almost three centuries since Vanners started weaving silk – what is the philosophy of the company, and how has it changed, if at all, after such a long time?
Originally Vanners was known for weaving jacquard silks for clothing. By the nineteenth century it had also specialized in weaving silks for umbrellas, and won prizes for its fabric. In the twentieth century Vanners specialized in weaving silks for regimental and fancy ties. Today we have diversified into furnishing fabrics whilst continuing to produce silk for ties and upmarket clothing. Our philosophy has always had silk – the queen of fibres – at its heart, but at the same time embracing other fibres such as cashmere, linen and wool which combine well with silk.
3. From our tour of the mill, it is evident that Vanners takes great pride in making some of the finest silk in the world from start to finish. Could you describe the production process and tell us what sets Vanners apart from other weavers?
We have complete control over all the elements in producing fabric at Vanners from the dying of our warp and weft yarns and creating all our designs internally. This makes us very flexible. We have an outstanding and biggest silk weft colour card in the industry and vibrant 350 end warps. All designs are produced here at Vanners by the design team from customers’ instructions and our extensive archive. I think these are what set us apart from other Weavers.
4. Shantungs and textured ties seem to be the flavour of the month – having been in the business for over 20 years, what are some trends that you have noticed in the popularity of necktie fabrics?
Neckties have gone through just about every trend possible from printed fabric being strong woven, from classic in design to modern. I have seen woven’s imitating print and the reverse. The current trend is for skinnier ties but at the same time some will be selling wide “Kipper” ties to make a statement. There are really no rules anymore and anything goes. We can service all these needs at Vanners which makes it a very interesting place to work. One trend that thankfully didn’t catch on though was the wooden tie! http://www.noveltie.com/
5. There has been some sense in the popular media about the loss of importance in neckwear. As far as Vanners is concerned, is any truth to this?
Whilst there is definite down turn across the world in neckwear wearing the tie is still an important garment. People look under dressed with out a necktie to complete an outfit. For many it is a way they can express themselves above the confines of a traditional suit and shirt within the work place. The lack of importance seems to have been created as much by the media and clothing industry than being style or fashion led by consumers. Ties take up relatively little retail space and can carry great profit margins compared to other goods. You still see ties from top end department stores to supermarket chains and I think this will continue. As we all know fashions are cyclical and for any trend there will be a reaction against it. I think this is can be seen in people dressing up more for pleasure after dressing down in the work place became the norm. At Vanners we have maintained a healthy order book throught fashion trends by concentrating on quality and design of our fabrics and the top end of the market.
Special thanks to Stephen and his team at Vanners for giving us an educational tour around the mill and answering our many questions, as well as our buddy Sean Wong for helping us with photography!