How did it all begin for Reef Knots?
I worked in the stock market for 13 years and was made redundant in November 2012. It was two days before my wife had twins and I found myself with three children, a mortgage, and a bit of a problem. I had talked about starting a business for years and didn’t really have an excuse not to try. I’m not sure how thrilled my wife was about the prospect of starting a business based around the world’s most unpopular item of clothing, but I saw an opportunity.
What was the opportunity?
Ties are pretty unpopular. The branding of formalwear in general struck me as very corporate and dull. Most ties said nothing more than ‘I bought this with my shirt’. The opportunity was to make a tie that represented the wearer’s personality. A great tie is a reminder that there’s a personality behind the suit. I also wanted to create something that reminded you of life far away from the office. Our designs are based around the ocean and the summer. I thought of them a bit like swim shorts you would wear to work.
In our first collection the designs were of fish, flip-flops, sailing boats and sharks. They seem so simple now, but the reaction to them was incredible. They were handmade from screen-printed silk and we continue to make ties that way to this day.
Who do you consider as your competitors?
We’re a much wider lifestyle brand now, selling everything from polos to socks to knitwear, so we compete with any menswear brand operating in the aspirational but affordable space. For ties, I think we’re an easy and accessible upgrade for customers used to shopping at TM Lewin or Charles Tyrwhitt; and we offer better value to those who shop at Hermès or Salvatore Ferragamo.
Where are your ties made?
Our ties are screen-printed and handmade in Como, Italy. It’s not a bad place for a business trip and the process is incredible. The quality is also world class.
In your opinion, what colourways always work?
We always produce ties across the spectrum but I would say pastels are very Reef Knots and they’re a safe bet when it comes to choosing a colour. Our customer likes a pink tie, but we are also known for producing aqua ties – given the ocean influence. At Christmas, the buying trends shift to darker colours, with dark blue being the most popular. People don’t want to take a risk when buying a present, so it’s navy all the way.
And which ones don’t work?
I once tried a grey tie, which I thought was really striking. But let’s just say we had plenty of stock for the sale. My wife won’t let me produce a purple tie because she hates the colour, so I have no idea if that would work. I’ve got her as far as lilac so far.