Published on 7 Nov 2017

How my expensive obsession for ties began

It was the colourful re-design of our Channel 4 studio some years ago that provoked me. I loved the purples, blues and other colours that prevailed. But then I looked at me in the gorgeous new set-up. And I realised I was the dullest thing in it.

What to do? New colourful suits? Too expensive and probably too irreverent too. Coloured shirts – argh, they don’t work on telly either. And then I thought of ties.

So then I went to Paul Smith’s shop in Covent Garden. Some good ties, but extremely expensive. I found the names of some of his designers. At the same time I got an invite from a potter I knew, asking me to come to her studio Christmas show. And that was the beginning of it all. I didn’t buy a pot, but the ties at the neighbouring stall were exactly what I knew I needed.

And so began an expensive obsession – a fetishism even.

The wonderful Victoria worked in silk – dressing gowns, scarves, waistcoats even, and TIES! Fabulous ties. I bought three, and the habit was born. Today I probably have a some 70 or 80 of hers.

I have other designers too, and most especially some fabulous Nigerian fabric ties made in South Africa – beautiful Yoruba prints.

Little did I know that sitting in his armchair in his Berkshire home watching Channel 4 News was the octogenarian godfather of design – Terence Conran. Little did I know that he was monitoring my ties nightly and even, as he was later to reveal, marvelling in them and their place in the transmission of news.

One of Conran’s legacies is the Design Museum, which he brought into existence beside the Thames, and which has now moved to a spectacular building hewn out of the old Commonwealth Institute in Kensington.

And so it is that this week a show opens there of my ties. I gasped when I saw it. It is small, dense and spectacular – enough colour to light the night sky!

And in the middle of it a short film about the silk factory which weaves the fabric for Victoria’s ties. There are just three silk-weaving factories in the UK, all three of them in Sudbury, Suffolk.

Vanners is one of them, like the others founded back in the mid 18th century by Huguenots fleeing persecution in France.

The film of my visit there with Victoria to see the weaving looms, the colours, the process, and 150 workers who toil to bring my ties to the screen, is magical.

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One reader comment

  1. Helen Wyatt says:

    I had the impression that Jon at least sometimes wore interestingly coloured and designed ties well before the Channel 4 set was redesigned. He’s doing himself down. I hope and believe he has some innate flair for colour rather than slavishly following those purple-dominated shades of the studio set which do nothing for the colour of his eyes.

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