Behind the knot: A quick tour of Brooks Bros. NYC tie factory
When Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week kicked off this morning in Bryant Park, I was a 16-minute subway ride away in Long Island City, Queens, doing a little fashion field trip.
I was touring Brooks Bros.' tie factory, where all of the brand's neckwear (save those knit ties, which I can't stand anyway) has been manufactured since the end of 1999. My tour guide, Laura Rowen, director of manufacturing, who oversees this factory and the label's North Carolina shirt facility, says that the operation has moved several times since originally being housed in Brooks' original Madison Avenue space but to her knowledge has been making ties on a continual basis for the last three-quarters of a century.
The outfit employs about 122 people and cranks out about a million and a half traditional neckties a year as well as an assortment of accessories that includes ascots, bow ties and cummerbunds. Bowen told me that from the minute the fabrics are delivered, most runs of 3,000 to 6,000 units per style are ready to ship within three and 11 days.
In today's automated, machine-driven manufacturing process that may actually sound like a long lag time, but walking the floor this morning, I was impressed with the inordinate number of times in the 16-step process that goods were checked for fabric and manufacturing flaws -- including the first stop in which each roll of fabric is unrolled and gone over slowly by hand by an employee whose sole job is to make sure the goods coming in the door are up to snuff before they start the process to end up as stylish neckwear.
The process is fascinating, and I hope to take you through it at a later date. But now it's time to truck to the tents to get the Spring/Summer 2010 shows underway.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photo (top): An employee at Brooks Bros.' Long Island City tie factory inspects a roll of silk fabric, the first of a 16-step journey that will result in a neck tie. Credit: Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times
Photo (bottom): A handful of completed ties await final inspection. Credit: Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times