For tie designer Alexander Olch, playing dress up is a way of life. By Sara Costello
When Alexander Olch suggests that he fell into designing ties as "a happy accident," it's tough to believe him. He's reminiscing about his days at the all-boys school, Collegiate, he attended while growing up in New York City: There was the 3rd-grade tie tying contest; his collection of over 300 ties by the age of 10. He relished the dress-code and took great pleasure in being better dressed than his teachers. "Some days I would be dandy foppish. Others I would be mod. As long as it was fun," he says. And on some occasions, he even wore a 3-piece suit. "It was my way of rebelling," he says. His connection to wearing ties has led the 28-year-old Harvard grad to creating those that evoke timelessness and at the same time are still inventive in their materials. "One part tradition, one part inventive," he says.
His East Coast preppy roots are obvious, with tennis balls, crests, and racquet patterns featured in past seasons, yet he is always trying to come up with designs that are his alone—and always with a slightly luxurious aesthetic. "What is exciting is searching out new materials on the textiles front." He has most recently begun to experiment with laser-burning and ink-jet printing as well as using techniques traditionally applied to upholstery fabric. "It's a fairly well-edited collection," he says. For fall/winter, he's used cashmere from Belgium and marino wools from Italy as well as traditional silk twill à la Hermès and Ferragamo.
"I don't think that wearing a tie implies being formal the way it once did," he says, referencing a series of Tiffany ads that sparked his point. "They nail it down as this epitome of a single girl's dream. There are no dudes in T-shirts—it's more a vision of what it means to be romantic. Girls like to dress up and men need to keep up a bit, I suppose. But I don't think that has to do with just being formal." When the conversation arrives at his own style, he admits that for him it's still all about embracing the fun of dressing...and considering what the opposite sex might think, too. "I listen and look a lot to see what women find attractive," he says. "Girls like guys who dress up."
Portrait by David Peres Shadi
For tie designer Alexander Olch, playing dress up is a way of life.