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Charles Olive and his Technicolor Bow Ties

When it comes to bringing the bow tie back, Charles Olive is representing. His grid-like prints incorporate progressive color ways and for the most part, are designed in excel which is really pretty awesome. An avid bow tie wearer himself, the London-based designer has utilized his own experience and preference to create his super smart inaugural collection.

The Manual caught up with Charles during an excel break, to find out more about the welcome resurrection of this sartorial accessory.

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Congratulations on the collection Charles! Tell me more- why bow ties? Why now?

Thanks. Well I’ve been wearing bow ties for a few years now; I pretty much wear one everyday. After a while I realized that there wasn’t anyone doing anything overly exciting with bow ties. I started messing around making bow ties just so I had something different to wear and it kind of went from there.

I think it’s an interesting time for menswear. On the one hand you have a lot of guys smartening themselves up and taking an interest in classic tailoring and then on the slightly more fashion side of things people are experimenting a lot more with print and color. Men’s Collections seem to be representing this really well.

The prints are predominantly realized in excel. Can you explain this process?

Well when I first started out I didn’t know how to use Photoshop or illustrator but I really wanted to make some fabrics for my bow ties. I was – and still am – obsessed by Anni and Josef Albers so I just started playing around making patterns by coloring in the cells of a spreadsheet.

It was around the time that the whole ‘New Aesthetic’ thing was blowing up, and I was kind of interested in the influence of technology on art and design and at some point I realized that this was more than just messing about. After that I properly started to look at repeat patterns that would work on a small canvas like a bow tie.

Part of the goal of this collection was to recreate the same feel as a traditional spot or check but via Excel.

Where do you find inspiration for the color palettes you use?

I’m pretty colorblind so when I started out in Excel I had to make sure that the colors were different enough so I could see where the patterns were. I guess that’s partly why a lot of the colors pop off each other. But then I love African fabrics, which is possibly where the yellow comes from.

The thing about bow ties is that because it’s such a small item you can be so much bolder than with a jacket or trousers or a whole suit.

In your opinion, what is the contemporary relevance of the bow tie?

I think they’re becoming more and more relevant the less people wear neckties. It used to be that neckties were the norm and bow ties were the quirky outsider. But as fewer people in general wear ties the bow tie becomes a viable option because the act of wearing any kind of tie is a statement so it doesn’t matter so much whether it’s a bow or a necktie. And this is where the color comes in – loads of my prints just wouldn’t look right splashed all down your front – but a little pop around the collar works wonders.

Who wears a bow tie better than anybody else?

Patrick Grant rocks a pretty mean bow tie. Angelo Flaccavento always looks good in a bow tie. Nick Wooster often rocks a seersucker jacket with a contrasting seersucker bow tie in the summer – that’s a strong look. But I reckon I’ve got the best bow tie collection.

What’s next for Charles Olive the brand, and Charles Olive the person?

Well for the brand I’m working on new collections. I want to show seasonal collections interspersed with capsule collections. And I’m really keen on developing a line in classic materials like lambs wool and cashmere. And then also with the seasonal stuff I want to update the core designs in new colorways. So it’s pretty busy.

And for Charles Olive the person – I need a beard trim. I constantly have to trim it so it doesn’t hide my bow tie!

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