Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tiemakers Hope for Sales Jump for Father's Day Style Shift Keeps Nation's 150 Suppliers Busy in Billion-Dollar Industry. NATTY NECKWEAR

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tiemakers Hope for Sales Jump for Father's Day Style Shift Keeps Nation's 150 Suppliers Busy in Billion-Dollar Industry. NATTY NECKWEAR

Article excerpt

WILD, silky styles are winning over young buyers in an industry that thrives during recessions by keeping men fashionably attired.

"Neckwear always does well in hard times," says Gerald Andersen of the Neckwear Association. "A man can change his look with a few shirts and ties, and save the cost of buying a new suit."

Mr. Andersen represents the nation's 150 tiemakers, a third of them based in New York City, clustered in showrooms at the Empire State Building.

This year, Andersen expects that 15 million to 20 million ties will be wrapped up for Father's Day. He estimates that 100 million ties pass American cash registers each year, with sales over $1 billion.

Fred Spiegel, a third-generation tiemaker, says new fashions have forced department stores to restock their racks, keeping 75 people working at the Bronx factory founded 80 years ago by his grandfather and great-uncle.

"A few years ago the Italians started changing the designs and materials," says Mr. Spiegel, explaining how silk emerges from cocoons in China and is spun into bolts of dyed fabric in fashion factories around Milan.

Gone are the "power ties" of the 1980s, and the polyester fabrics that once accounted for half of all ties made, he says. Now silk is in, decorated with designs befitting an abstract art museum.

"The tie I'm wearing right now looks like somebody closed their eyes and waved a paintbrush at it," Spiegel says.

The flamboyant styles are drawing unexpected numbers of 17- to 25-year-olds to the tie racks, he says. "They want to look gorgeous for the girls."

Spiegel offers a shopping tip to buyers unfamiliar with New York's first market commandment: Thou shalt not buy retail.

"Silk ties run from $18 to $30 in the young-men's section," he says. "Sometimes the same tie, the same quality and material, goes for twice that in the men's sections."

Jeff Kantor runs another family-owned tie company from an office in the Empire State Building, where buyers from department stores shop for the best wholesale price, design, and delivery schedule. "Stores like to sell ties," Mr. Kantor says. "It's a lot of profit in a small area," with margins often 50 to 65 percent. …

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