Unusual accessories define General Knot & Co.
The Bedford-based company creates eclectic neckties — among other products — that make statements about individuality and vintage wear. Each piece is carefully crafted using internationally sourced fabrics, some of which date from nearly a century ago.
After working for Ralph Lauren, Original Penguin, Tommy Hilfiger and Levi’s, Andrew and Ann Payne, husband and wife, founded their niche company in 2010 with a specific vision in mind. These menswear veterans wanted to offer high-quality accessories that were both eco-friendly and inimitable, while incorporating their appreciation for rare fabrics.
“In menswear, fabric — vintage fabric, especially — has always been a thing,” Andrew says. “So we decided to collect fabrics.”
“And we wanted to do something that used fabric that already existed, was sustainable and make the products here,” Ann says of their Vermont factory.
The couple gave WAG a tour of their at-home workspace, which features a collection of pristinely organized and folded fabrics in every color, pattern and print, gathered from all over the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Ukraine and Japan. Stored alongside inspiration boards and textile books, their workstation doubles as a journey through fashion history.
“All of our customers get very excited about having something that’s different from everybody else,” Ann says.
“And they want to know the provenance of it,” Andrew adds. “The story that comes along with it is really just as important.”
With the help of international collectors, the couple sources most of the fabric from estate sales and closed textile mills. But sometimes, the materials are found in less likely places, like the Parisian flea market that provided the Paynes with a 1930s Provençal fabric.
“One of the cool things about vintage fabric is that it’s been held from projects, like something that someone’s great grandmother never started,” says Andrew. “And only the good stuff gets saved. People don’t save the ordinary.”
So you won’t ever catch them using refurbished dishtowels or recycled T-shirts, Andrew jokes. The company only uses fabric intended for other projects but was either leftover or unused entirely.
“A lot of people ask that question, ‘So, this tie, was it a dress or something before?’ Because they know that it’s made from really, really, really old fabric,” Andrew says. “We would never cut anything out of a used garment. We want to make sure this is pristine and (the fabric) was wrapped up for years. We want to know where it came from.”
But since the fabrics they prefer aren’t being manufactured today, there’s a restricted inventory of material. Therefore, each product is a limited edition and the collections that are currently available will likely be unavailable in coming weeks, or even days. However, a similar fabric from a similar time period may surface at any time.
“We call our customers ‘collectors,’ because they save all the tags and they remember every piece,” Andrew says with a smile.
For each product, the company includes information about how many others exist of its kind, as well as historical tidbits about the fabric.
“If we can get 12 ties out of a fabric, (the tag) will say one of 12, or two of 12, so that people actually know what they’re getting,” Ann says.
But if there’s one thing that General Knot & Co. is more committed to than fabrics, it’s their clients. The company will work directly with their customers for custom projects, whether it’s for a wedding, engagement, or simply work attire. And they’re certainly no strangers to “crisis orders,” Andrew says, chuckling, which he describes as frantic, last-minute requests that they’ll always try to fulfill.
“We are trying to make things,” Ann says, “that people will pass down.”
In addition to ties, General Knot & Co. offers totes, travel bags, clutches, men’s scarves and laptop sleeves, with plans underway for women’s totes and scarves. For more, visit generalknot.com.