Accessories, Interviews, Neck Ties

Exclusive Q & A: Graham Withers Clothing Company

It’s always great to peruse a company website, click on the ABOUT page, and learn about their values and mission statement… but don’t you always want to know more?  What are they really about when they don’t get to use spell check and a thesaurus?  We had time to get some answers to our questions from Paul Hanan (PH) and Dave Roma (DR) over at Graham Withers Clothing Company and hope that you enjoy as much as we did.

OA: Where does the name Graham Withers come from?

PH: It’s actually the street corners of an apartment I lived at for a few years, Graham Ave and Withers St in Brooklyn.  It’s a really great apartment and was the place where all of our friends and the founders of the company hung out most of the time.  I’ve since moved out but Dave lives there now.
DR: Yeah, we [the original founders] were having a meeting at the apartment one day and we were trying to think of a name; sort of forcing out ideas.  Then one of us goes “how about Graham Withers, like Graham Avenue and Withers Street” – It just sounded great and made so much sense that everyone instantly agreed that should be the name.

OA: How many of you were in that original founding group?

PH: 4 people founded the company but only myself and Dave remain.
DR: This is true.  We are were [and still are] all friends who were really interested in creating things and decided it would be a good idea if we did that together.

OA: So there’s two left, who are you and where from?

PH: I’m Paul Hanan from Rockville Centre (Long Island), New York, but I’ve lived in Brooklyn for about 6 years.
DR: I am Dave Roma and I am originally fromLong Beach (Long Island), New York.  I live inWilliamsburg, Brooklyn on Graham Avenue and Withers Street 🙂

OA: It says on your website that it all started with you guys wanting to put an image on a shirt…What was the original image?

PH: It was this image of an elephant. When we were all just hanging out we kept talking about this image (I don’t even know where it came from) and how cool it would be on a shirt.  We would talk about it and not do anything, months would pass, then talk about it some more, until one day Frank, one of the founders, said “You know, we could have been doing this by now and not just talking about it.” That really got things rolling.

DR: Yeah we were really psyched on the elephant and we had another design of this kind-of old school detective guy smoking a pipe and wearing a top hat.  After printing those designs by hand and realizing that this whole “printing t-shirts” thing was actually possible, we went out and invested in a screen printing machine.  From there we began experimenting with different designs, colors and t-shirt fabrics – our friends would design stuff for us too, it was really fun.

OA:  How did this “elephant shirt” experiment evolve into ties?

PH: It evolved into ties when we realized that we weren’t even wearing the shirts we were making and wanted to start making clothes we actually wore.  I kinda was obsessed with ties at the time. I would just sit and stare at them, trying to figure out how they’re made.  So we took a sewing class and I just made it my mission to learn how to make neck ties.
DR: : We’ve always been inspired to create things that we ourselves would want to wear.  As time went on and our personal style matured, we became less interested in making graphic t-shirts and began to gravitate towards a more mature look and feel for the company.

OA: Glad to hear you’ve matured, but I’ve got to know how bad was the first tie you made?

PH: Pretty awful.  I think we have it somewhere.  The fabric was this gross, really stiff, red gingham. I bought a yard for $3.  I’m sure the point is awful on it. That’s the part that we had the most trouble with at first, getting the points and tipping right.  We also used the wrong interfacing on it, so it’s just awful all around.
DR: Yeah, not good at all.  I mean it looked like a tie but knowing what we know now about making neckties, we look back at some of our first “creations” (we have saved them all) and laugh hysterically to each other.

OA: I’ve got to get some picture of these initial “first creations”.  Maybe that can be the next story?  Why is a tie such an important part of a man’s wardrobe?

PH: Well, practically, it’s definitely a necessity, something you’re going to need at one point.  In regards to a suit, it’s just that finishing piece that can really tie things together and balance things out – calm down a busy shirt, add some color to a toned down look and so forth.  Also, I like to think that it shows that you care about your appearance, and that doesn’t mean you have to be wearing a suit.

OA: Okay, if it’s all about balance then where do you get inspiration for ties?

PH: For each season, we start with a color pallet, fabric types, and patterns and go from there.  For general influence though, mid-nineties skate culture has a big impact on what we create.  I think the reason you see so many plaids and flannel from us has a lot to do with that.
DR: We spend a lot of time searching for the “right” fabrics and for me it’s hard to pinpoint just one avenue of inspiration.  I personally can get inspired by just about anything; something I see in a magazine, something someone is wearing or just a raw piece of fabric sitting in a warehouse.  When we do find that fabric or style that is right for Graham Withers we can pinpoint it right away and are almost always in full agreement on the designs that work for us.

OA: So you’re always agreeing… that makes things easy.  What are the plans for the future?  More accessories?  Clothing?

PH: We have a great series of ties coming out in the fall that includes a lot of our friends, so I’m really looking forward to that.  We’re probably going to finally get a knit tie, which we’ve wanted to do for a while now, but kept hitting road blocks.  And we’re most likely going to have some knit caps, and possibly scarves as well.  Right now we’re just focusing on accessories, but who knows.

OA: So it’s all about ties for now, so what’s your favorite tie?

PH: The cashmere tie we did for Winter 2010, theFranklin.  I don’t even own one myself, but I think it’s the nicest we’ve done.

DR: Yeah that cashmere tie has such an awesome presence.  I can tell you that the tie I wear most is this solid navy cotton piece we made last year.  I have a lot of busy shirts so and this solid navy tie always severs as a good moderator.

OA: Moderator?  Is that just a fancy way of saying it balances things out?  Thanks for your time guys, it’s been fun… I hope the OA readers enjoy this as much as I did.

Here’s some more pictures of Graham Withers pieces: