As we roll full speed into the holiday season, I’ll be pointing out a few great brands that offer something a little different in the gift giving department. Case in point – Hugh Simms’ handmade ties.
In fact, they are handmade right in the middle of Los Angeles – a fitting tribute to the brand’s Made In America philosophy. Hugh Simms launched his 2009 signature “Caulfield” collection of neckties to a very receptive audience.
The distinctive and narrow ties attracted the attention of many fashion insiders as they incorporated Simms’ “Ivy League Grit” style – classic prep school patterns with a disheveled American edge – with their own.
The Caulfield Collection is available at www.HUGHSIMMS.com and plans are in the works for several limited engagements in LA, New York City and Miami. His ties are also being carried in Kitson and Fred Segal – not bad by any stretch. Like any good designer these days, he also plans on rolling out a home accessories line in the near future.
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Hugh is a very interesting guy who really does not fit the mold of an LA fashion designer. In fact, on paper, it’s more likely he would be teaching history at Deerfield Academy. I spoke with Hugh about his ties and the idea behind his “Ivy League Grit” style.
A distant grandson of Lord Baltimore, the founder of Maryland, Simms prides himself on his East Coast roots. In 1997, after attending one the country’s leading prep schools, Simms followed in his father’s footsteps and attended the Cornell School of Hospitality Administration, where he focused on business law and minored in wines.
The designer looking very LA
After a stint in the hotel business, he became an independent designer working on various projects. Eventually winding up in Los Angeles, Hugh attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and there developed his signature “Ivy League Grit” style.
When I spoke with Hugh about his design business and its inspiration, I noted that his “Ivy League Grit” look was similar to the world of Rugby, the Ralph Lauren brand. Hugh agreed that the feel is similar, but his goal is not to target teens looking for a theatrical retro fad, “Rugby is a more of a pretty boy younger, high school/collegiate market,” said Simms. “I aim to create a lifestyle brand and clothing for those a bit older, rougher, and with a mindset of intelligence is sexy. I target an older clientele, 25-40; more Clive Owen and Daniel Craig then Zac Efron.”
I pointed out that Drakes London, another excellent tie maker, also makes its local domestic production a point of pride. “Like Drakes I pride myself on my area. I have a strong group of craftsmen and women in Los Angeles and will never stray from the city. With the economy I believe people really do care about the made in USA provenance,” he said.
The unique thing about Simms’ ties is that they are distinctly casual; unusual for a handmade, very high quality necktie. While I have worn my “Rusty Gate” tie under a sweater and loosely tied with an oxford and jeans, this is not a business suit tie; unless of course you work in the fashion industry.
Simm’s explained, “I created the tie ten inches longer to allow the end of the tie to be exposed. And a larger knot can be tied with an extra wrap around the knot which will easily adjust the look.” It’s a rough, even edgy, homage to the prep school look but perhaps too stylish for some. Personally, I like it – not for every day, but for when I want to have fun getting dressed without actually going casual.
What’s next, I asked? “In the near future I’d like to do a bow tie, a very cool antique style pocket square and also cuff links. After that, I’ll be focusing on menswear.”