Drake’s is perhaps the most respected English tie maker today amongst the connoisseurs of fine ties and people in the industry themselves. Drake’s main driving force since the company’s inception in the late 70s was Michael Drake the founder and owner of Drake’s. His charisma, taste and genuine passion for quality ties made in London simply put was the Drake’s brand.
Over a year ago Drake’s was sold to Malaysian businessman Mark Cho and Michael Drake left the company. People have been left wondering what direction Drake’s will now take. Will we see production moved to China? Will we see consistency in terms of design? Where will the brand be in several years? With the opening of the first Drake’s stand-alone shop in Clifford Street how will this affect such a cherished brand? Will we see Drake’s stores opening up all over the place?
My good friend (going back to our days at Richard James) Michael Hill was recently minted as the new creative director of Drake’s. Michael spent several years as Michael Drake’s assistant after leaving RJ and knowing him the way I do I can say that his genuine flair and love of clothing make him the perfect choice for his new role.
I got together with Michael to ask him some serious and direct questions about Drake’s and its future. I got some serious and direct answers that I am sure many will be interested to read.
Before you took on your new role you spent several years at Drake’s working directly with Michael Drake but what attracted you to working at Drake’s in the first place?
I think Michael Drake the man was a real draw and the opportunity to work with and learn from Michael was irresistible. I had also grown up with a tie background; my Father and Grandfather were both involved in the tie business so I always had a real reverence for what they did and a passion for ties and clothing in general.
There has been a lot of speculation and concern that Michael Drake’s “Drake’s” will be a thing of the past and that perhaps as you expand you will inevitably look to manufacture your ties abroad rather than in London. Is this going to happen?
Firstly, I totally understand the concern people have for the brand and Michael’s Legacy. Very often when an investor comes into a brand people do get nervous but our new owner Mark Cho and I are very much in agreement that we should stay true to our heritage. What we are looking to do is essentially keep the company the way it is but just make the brand and the product more accessible which is why we recently opened up our first retail store in Clifford Street and we have been working on expanding the range of products we sell and offering them on our website. We still have the same great workers and design team with us and I worked for a number of years as Michael’s assistant before taking over my current role so I personally want to stick with the company’s heritage and our new owner feels that way as well. As far as manufacturing abroad I can tell you that there are no plans for this and we are in fact refurbishing a new larger factory a stones throw away from our original workroom. We are going to continue making ties by hand in East London.
In terms of making Drake’s more accessible and as we see your product range and presence grow especially with the retail store will we see a true Drake’s "look" emerge? What will this be? And who are your customers?
As we start to introduce new products we have to make sure they are the right ones and that they compliment the ties which were, are and always will be our core business and our starting point with everything. I am quite lucky in the sense that now I am putting together products and looks that Michael Drake always talked about. At one point we were selling ties, scarves and handkerchiefs but now we can put the tie together with the shirt, the handkerchief the suspenders and the cuff links to suggest a look. Although we sell jackets we have no plans to move into selling suits because that is not who we are. Rather we see our clients as the type of men that would buy a beautiful suit from Savile Row or from someone like yourself and by extension they should buy their tie and accessories from someone who knows about those things and who has a history of working with those items. We have lots of younger customers now and have lots of people in their 20s buying narrower ties and even bowties. Our internet presence probably helps this. We remain committed to our traditional clientele and ways of doing things but in many ways I think that the store and the internet presence just allows the younger customer to find us more easily and when they discover what we do and who we are hopefully that resonates with them in a positive way.