What follows is an interview with the amazing and talented Ruth Graves, designer and craftsperson of upscale luxury accesories. She makes scarves, ascots, neckerchiefs, pocket squares and ties - to say the least. You can find her designs on this website under the heading, "Luxury Ties."
She's well known in the high-end community (especially in her hometown New York), but we thought it a good idea for you to get to know her as well :)
Hope you enjoy:
RUTH GRAVES - Owner and President, S.T.E.P. USA, Inc.
Thanks for joining us Ms. Graves. For starters, what's your specialty? How would you describe the work you do?
Hi, Chris. So what I do, my niche, is top-quality neckwear from unique materials. Fabrics, patterns, textures... It's all an art. To quote Oscar Wilde: ”One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”
Can you explain that a little bit?
Well, for one, finding the right fabric blend can really add a special dimension to your tie. You can wear a silk tie that looks good from afar, or you can wear a fine Italian blend that incorporates some wool - touch and feel and really appreciate the fine textures that can be attained.
I also like to incorporate seasonal themes. Kentucky Derby, tennis, the New York skyline... Each season brings a NEW theme!
Very nice. Thank you for sharing. You seem to have a real love for what you do. How did you end up in this field? Did you always want to get into fashion?
No, I was pursuing music as a career initially. I was working part-time for a fabric supplier to put myself through school. That's where I fell in love with it - the many intricacies of fabrics. Changed course and enrolled at FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) - and that's all she wrote!
Well I think I can speak for most of us here and say - we're glad you took the course you did. So where has the fashion world taken you?
So I started out in Italy - I worked for Dante Prini in the city of Como. My role was in design and development - I designed neckties, scarves and home textiles for the likes of Ralph Lauren, Robert Talbott, Calvin Klein and many others. I did that for 20 years.
And that's when you struck out on your own?
Yes. Now I'm fortunate enough to travel the globe in search of unique and beautiful materials. From remote mills that no one even knows exist, to the best and top-rated fabric mills in the world!
Can you share some highlights?
I met Kenta – the best indigo farmer in Japan. He taught me indigo dyeing. I kept blue hands for months!
Got to meet MIA (mothers in action) in Peru - an Indigenous independent group of women working to support their family. All ECO /no dyes; all woven baby alpaca yarns. I'm really excited about the full-size Alpaca scarves coming out for 2020. Now you say "Why Alpaca?" Well - alpaca fiber is not only very comfortable (it's been compared to cashmere), but its thermal properties actually exceed cashmere. And like I said no dyes or synthetics are used - not to mention that alpaca is hypoallergenic by nature. And the stuff is truly beautiful. Like I said, I'm excited about it.
(For more on Ms. Graves' work with Alpaca, see her feature on Mr-Magazine here).
You've certainly had an extraordinary journey in the world of fashion. And thank you for taking us along.
Thanks for having me.
So what is it that keeps you going these days?
I've been privileged to learn from the best of the best out there. Giancarlo Galvani, Michelle Palladino, Enrico Prini and the like. I want to take what I've learned and translate it to the men who are wearing my designs. Think about it - you're wearing ties and pocket squares with a woman's touch. We know what looks fashionable, elegant, sexy. I try to encourage men to think outside the box and really get "dressed."
But mostly, I've been shown a world of great wonders by many influential and creative individuals. The passion and love of creating and bringing these great wonders to life!
That's what really gets me going every day.