If a new generation of guys is discovering the appeal of stylish neckwear, credit belongs to a new generation of neckwear brands, including Pierrepont Hicks, which Kat and Mac MacMillan launched in Minneapolis last year. Their collection sports a contemporary, slim (but not skinny) profile, which is paired with a hyper-traditional (and equally contemporary) assortment of fabrics such as tweed, flannel, and camelhair. Throw in the fact that the ties are made in Long Island City, Queens, and it’s not difficult to understand how PH became a hit in the men’s style blogosphere. With the debut of their exclusive collection for Gilt, we talked to Mac about the importance of having a story to tell, of dressing for the occasion, and the world’s most stylish train station.
You served moonshine at your fall presentation at the Ace Hotel back in July. How much of your subsequent success do you attribute to the white lightning effect?
[laughs] That was a very enlightening experience. I’ve had homemade grappa in Europe, but hadn’t had moonshine till I tried [Cause and Effect designer] Billy Moore’s stuff in New York. Let’s just say he and I have talked ever since that night… You know, some of that stuff tasted really good.
I do believe it gets a little easier-drinking as you go along. But we should probably talk neckwear. Who do you and your wife Kat have in mind when you’re dreaming up your neo-trad designs?
Honestly, we don’t have any target market. We just make ties. They could be for young or old, gay or straight. And that’s who buys our ties—people of all demographics. People on Wall Street and corporate lawyers all the way down to students and everybody in between.
Among older gents who traditionally wear ties, neckwear isn’t really a growth industry. Yet you guys have had amazing success.
I do see guys wearing ties more often—especially bowties. We had no idea the response we were going to get for those. We probably sell just as many bowties as neckties. That’s pretty neat to see. I like to think that our items are classy and flexible—they’re versatile. The urban-yet-woodsy look. As a side note, less than a half of a percent of our business is to people here in Minnesota. People here are not wearing as many ties as people out there [in New York]. Or London, for example. Have you ever been to Waterloo Station at rush hour? Everyone’s got a tie on. It’s cool to see all these well dressed dudes coming through one place.
Yet you’re definitely a Midwestern guy (and I say that as a Midwestern guy myself).
I definitely think it’s a little more grounded here. And being away from that scene is a good thing. I think we get a little bit more creative and see things and notice things that we might not necessarily see if we were in that world.
Speaking of an outsider persepctive, while Kat has a fashion background, you previously worked in construction and real estate. Did you wear a tie to work?
Definitely not in the construction industry! If I showed up at a job site in the South Bronx with a tie on I wouldn’t get too much respect. I remember one time I was doing a Home Depot in Staten Island and I put on a pair of jeans that I thought were somewhat conservative and my guys were whistling and giving me a hard time. After that I made sure to wear standard Levi’s and a non-logo shirt from here on out.
And that’s pretty good style advice in general.
You’ve got to dress for the occasion—that goes in both directions.
Seasonal fabrics have become a Pierrepont Hicks signature—madras in spring, flannel, camel hair, and tweed for fall. How do you source them?
We’ve got a really good friend who lives over in Italy in the industry and has been a big help, working directly with mills over there. Mills in the UK, small mom and pop type places. We’re constantly on the lookout for new fabrics. My parent sare in India right now. I told my mom, “Hey, keep an eye out for us.”
I’m looking forward to the Gilt-exclusive saffron and pink collection sourced directly from India.
That’s currently in the R&D department.
I love that your ties are made here in New York. How important is that to you?
The whole American made thing is very important to Kat and me. We don’t ever want to sway from that. We’re pretty proud that we’re American made, and I think consumers are looking for that these days. People want to know where things come from hear the story. And we’ve got a story.
There’s a story to this collaboration. We first connected via Twitter, when Kat sent me a DM. You then worked our head buyer Chris Wong to choose the fabrics for the Gilt-exclusive collection.
We started our brand with a tie called The Mackers, which was a herringbone silk/wool blend one would normally see in a suit or sportcoat. We wanted to include a lot of those fabrics, because they just make a great tie. We also included some basic wools in grey, chocolate brown and navy blue—essential colors for a man’s wardrobe. And The tipping on each tie is a navy blue micro-cord cotton by Thomas Mason. The fabric has sheen to it since it’s a micro-cord, and the durability of cotton. Pierrepont Hicks ties are about being rugged and luxurious at once. A man can wear one with jeans, a plaid shirt and cordurouy sportcoat, or a classic Savile Row suit for a formal meeting.
Check out Pierrepont Hicks’s exclusive collection for Gilt, on sale Monday at noon ET.