Several weeks ago, we presented a video interview of Michael Drake, the founder of Drakes London, which specializes in high quality silk ties and scarves, as well as other kinds of accessories. Today, we want to take a closer look at the hand-made Shantung raw silk tie from Drakes and explain the history of the material.
Shantung silk is a very unique kind of raw silk that is similar to Dupioni silk. It derives its name from the Shantung Province of East China, which is sometimes also referred to as Shandong.
The History of the Shantung / Shandong Province
According to excavated writings found in the Shantung Province, it was settled as early as 3000 BC!
In more recent history, from 1897 to the beginning of WWI, Shantung was dominated by Germany. When they agreed to support the allies, they demanded they regain independence, however, through the treaty of Versailles, it was occupied by the Japanese in 1914. The province was returned to China in 1922.
Economically, the province has always been known for its centuries-old wine and textile production. The epicenter of silk production and supply in Shantung used to be the city of Zibo. As such, it was one of the origins of the so-called Silk Road, which was an economic network of trade routes for silk all over Asia, Europe and North Africa.
Today, Zibo is still a key player in China’s Shantung silk production, and is a reputable provider of authentic Shantung silk both in China and abroad.
The Shantung / Shandong Silk
Traditionally, Shantung silk was woven manually from uneven yarns, which resulted in a soft and variably textured silk. Drakes’ Shantung silk has a very sumptuous surface that is soft but slightly crisp, featuring many little knots or slubs.
Generally, silk is derived from the cocoons of silkworms and it consists mainly of sericin and fibroin proteins. While Fibroin is the fibrous part of the silk, sericin is the sticky, gummy substance that surrounds the fibroin. Nowadays, the sericin is usually removed during the silk production process. However, Shantung / Shandong silk is made exclusively from raw silk, which means that hardly any (or no) sericin is removed from the silk.
Consequently, Shantung silk is thicker and appears to be heavier than regular processed silk. Compared to Dupioni silk, it has a more three dimensional texture and is less shiny.
Drakes Shantung Silk Tie
Drakes uses Shantung silk that has a warp of rather even silk and a weft of uneven silk, which creates a unique raw silk look. Additionally, Michael Drake is not fond of shiny ties, and so the Drakes Shantung silk ties are extremely matte. This season, they used this Shantung silk and had it woven in fairly classic regimental stripe designs. This way, they ended up with a traditionally hand sewn tie in a classic pattern in a rather unusual, fashion forward fabric. Simply said, it is the best of both worlds.
The Craftsmanship of a Drakes Tie
The back seam of the tie is sewn with a slip stitch, using one continuous length of silk to close the tie. At the end, it has a slip loop which allows the tie to move freely along its entire length, for example, when you roll the tie after wearing it. Every tie features a bar tack which connects the interlining with the outer silk. All edges have flat, generous folds of silk and the untipped ones are hand rolled, just like the from Panta Tie. Only Fort Belvedere offers ties that are much more finely handrolled – just compare the picture above with the ones here, and you’ll see what I mean.
This Shantung silk tie is made for summer, and is hence untipped with hand rolled edges.
In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of the tie is its ability to knot neatly and attractively, and to subsequently hold its shape. The quality of the knot and the dimple depends hugely on the interlining. Drakes has always worked with a perfect combination of wool and cotton interlinings in certain degrees of stiffness depending on the silk. Hence, the tie knot always looks great.
Despite the textured silk, as well as the great interlining, the tie knot still slips a tiny bit over the course of the day.
Altogether, I am really happy with the Shantung tie I was provided with by Drakes, and I enjoy wearing them during the warmer months of the year.