Tag Archives: Ted Baker

Paisley: full of possibilities

10 Jul

red paisley

Take a moment to look at this picture. Do you notice the incredible detail? The harmonized colours? The pleasant but erratic pattern? You’re looking at paisley, one of the most gorgeous decorative patterns humans have ever devised.

Paisley is an incredible pattern to work with because it is so full of possibilities: paisley can be done in any scale, it may be multi-coloured or monochrome, simple or intricate, and the pattern may be regular and repeating or varied, irregular, and seemingly random. This wonderful, natural design has deep, rich roots that date back to ancient Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers (modern-day Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria), where it found its way into building decoration, carpets, fabrics, and the decorative arts of the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Sumerians.

This nature-inspired pattern, originally known as botteh or boteh in its native Persian, means “bush, shrub, a thicket, bramble, [or] herb. Some would even take it to mean a palm leaf, cluster of leaves…and flower bud,” according to the Heritage Institute discussing Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion and philosophy.

The boteh pattern is a much-loved, time-tested pattern that eventually made its way into India where it really dug in its heels. For hundreds of years, beautiful cashmere wool shawls decorated with the boteh pattern were popular, and during the 1700s, boteh shawls cast a spell on European women who fell in love with the soft, warm, patterned fabric. During the colonial period, British men returning home from India brought the shawls as gifts for their women, and the demand for these exotic shawls grew in Europe. Seeing an opportunity, the British East India Company began to export the enormously popular and expensive shawls to Europe during the later 18th century.

As the shawls became more fashionable, the demand for them grew, but the high cost kept many away until European hand weavers began to copy the boteh patterned shawls and produced items at a fraction of the cost of the real thing. In 1805, the weaving mill in Paisley, Scotland became the boteh weaving centre of Europe, and the name Paisley became synonymous with the pattern. As weaving technology evolved in the UK, the original 2-colour paisley shawls turned into 5-colour patterns, though this still paled in comparison to the Indian versions that boasted up to 15 colours.

What is paisley?

The paisley pattern can range from very simple to extremely ornate, sometimes positioned loosely among leaves, or flowers, other times simple in regular and repeating patterns. The common denominator is the tell-tale curved teardrop shapes. It is the shape of the paisleys that I find particularly interesting because no one really knows what it’s supposed to represent, though there are many options and theories.

Paisleys could signify halved fresh figs, mangoes, gourds, licks of flame, or Cypress trees (sacred to the Zoroastrians); kidneys, tadpoles, tear drops, pears, or sperm if you’re Freudian.  (During research, I came across a Jehovah Witness message board that discussed paisley as a representation of sperm and therefore considered “taboo”). In any case, paisley seems to have originated as a fertility symbol and becomes more fantastic as it evolves.

Modernized examples of this racy design seen below by Paul Frederick show the incredible variance in paisley patterns, from bold and multi-coloured paisley to quiet tone-on-tone, and from elaborate designs to simple shapes (photos used with permission):

Blue paisley Paul Frederick tie

Tone-on-tone paisley Paul Frederick tie












Paul Frederick paisley tie

Paul Fredrick blue paisley tie












Paisley in menswear

While the paisley motif was woven into fabrics most often worn by women, western men were left out of experiencing this gorgeous pattern until the 1920s-1930s, when paisley was printed on silk and used in men’s ties.

“In response to changing fashion,” says Francois Chaille in  The Book of Ties, “Paisley is constantly being up-dated: hundreds of new paisley motifs make their appearance on ties every year. The motif provides rich opportunities for coloristic nuance and formal invention.”

Of course we in the west remember paisley worn extensively in the 1960s and revived in the 80s, but paisley has never really gone away. In fact, you may find a paisley tie in your collection, or maybe a paisley bandana or neckerchief (Cary Grant liked to wear these under his collars). If you’re lucky, you may have a Ralph Lauren paisley pocket silk for your breast pocket.  Stylish introverts could opt for a pair of low-key paisley socks, and daring darlings may rock paisley Ted Baker shirts or a cool sports jacket with a chic paisley lining.

Paisley isn’t just for clothing. The high-end Italian design house, Etro, likes to incorporate paisley into its collections, and offers paisley luggage, day books, wallets, and manbags in their iconic paisley “comprised of red, turquoise, yellow, olive green and ivory adapted and evolved to become the signature pattern for the brand: an instantly recognisable style which became inevitably synonymous with the luxury world of Etro,” their website says.

If wearing paisley is luxurious, it is also refined. New York image consultant, John Molloy, said paisley ties signify good breeding and education. Alan Flusser, author of Dressing the Man says, “Of all the loud neckties, [Molloy] deemed paisley as the only permissible one because it was the “fun tie” of the upper middle classes.”

I implore you to pull out your whimsical paisley and wear it with confidence; it is so beautiful and varied in pattern, colour, and scale, that everyone will be able to find the right paisley print for them. It is a pattern that speaks of human history, elegance, and refinement; it is a delightful and permanently stylish pattern, and an excellent investment for any gentleman’s image.


Re-lining jackets and coats

20 Nov
Ratty linings will not boost your confidence.

Ratty linings will not boost your confidence.

This is my jacket. It’s an old and well-worn thick wool Club Monaco piece that is still in good condition (on the outside), but the lining is worn and torn and looks terrible. Lining is a simplified version of the outside of the coat; it is the fabric that helps the jacket slide over us and keep us comfortable when we wear it. Lining often wears most at the cuffs, at the hem, and under the arms, which is what happened to mine. 

Sometimes I wear it lined with a zip-front sweater (for added warmth and to hide the ratty lining), but I had a good look at it the other day and decided that I am doing myself – and the coat – a disservice. So I went out and bought some new lining fabric to re-line the jacket. 

Lining can add so much to jackets and coats, but we don’t often pay attention to it, unless they are works of art like beautiful Etro or Ted Baker linings that demand attention. In my case, my Club Monaco lining is a plain black and generally unnoticeable. Sometimes, this is okay, but since I now have the opportunity to change it, I’m going for it with plum and navy lining to make it brighter and more fun.

I started taking the Club Monaco jacket apart to make a pattern from the existing lining. While inside, I started to notice the wonderful construction details in the garment. When I was in fashion school, one of my instructors worked for Alfred Sung, founder of Club Monaco. One of the things I remember her saying was that “Alfred is an artist”. Though Polo Ralph Lauren took over Club Monaco in 1999, the tradition of Alfred’s artistic pattern-making remains true.

Having taken apart a Club Monaco dress a few years ago to fit it to me properly (I’m petite and most garments don’t fit me well), I recognized the complex pattern and surprised myself having got the thing back together again. Though my jacket lining is much simpler, there are excellent construction points that make the well-designed jacket sturdy, stable, and well-fit:

  • The sleeve lining is tacked (sewn to a specific point as an anchor) to the side seam of the jacket so it doesn’t slide around;
  • A short length of twill tape (strong woven “string”) is sewn to the shoulder seam and stitched to the lining shoulder seam, giving space for movement and lining stability – I have a jacket without any lining reinforcement, and the silky lining slides around inside of the jacket, making it a bit difficult to wear;
  • Stitching is reinforced at the elbow in the jacket lining, giving extra strength to the well-used sleeve joint;
  • Shoulder and armhole seams are supported with interfacing (inside stiffening material), making for sturdy seams and jacket in general.

We see the macro when we look at clothing, but the micro can be amazing. My jacket was an excellent investment because it is made of good material and it is very well-designed, taking body movement and the movement of the lining into consideration. This makes for an excellent wearing experience.

TIP – Look at the inside of your coats and jackets to see what state they’re in. If the lining is looking ratty/shredded/holey, look into having your garment re-lined and breathe some new life into the garment you invested in.

The Joy of Lining

23 Sep

A recent client decided that because the changes he envisioned and planned for himself were coming to pass, it was time for his wardrobe to catch up to this new life. He talked and listened, I measured and analyzed, and together we chose the components of his first custom made suit.

“For an extra $50, you can have a fancy lining,” the tailor at the menswear store said.

Offering me, an image consultant and a costume designer, the choice of linings and buttons,  let alone thousands of fabric swatches,  is like letting a child run loose in a candy store – the shiny, fancy lining choices, from solids to birds-eye patterns, delighted my vision, and I imagined how each would look under the gorgeous navy blue window pane wool check I picked out for the suit.

Though the shape certainly compliments a man’s build, business suits tend to be very limited in colour and are so often dark. The beauty of the lining – especially a fancy one, is that it is  something of a stylish accessory to the suit; lining can be seen as a feature that adds interest and punctuates the common garment, and can act as a palette with which to illustrate the bearer’s character (much like a tie can, but on a different scale).

In a suit or sports jacket, a specialty lining adds a touch of class and to me, indicates self-respect. A guy’s choice in lining can give him an undisputed distinction and undoubtedly a tasteful reputation. And it is possible that – gasp! – he might look like he’s worth more?

Ted Baker, a favourite UK suit designer of mine, does exquisite linings as seen here. His inside work appears as a constructed piece of art, brilliantly coloured, textured, and  shaped. Of course, not just anyone could wear a Ted Baker – wearing a suit with a lining such as this would be worn by a guy of considerable confidence and fearlessness, I’d expect, not to mention a guy with good sense of fun.

Other and more reserved types have many lining choices, lower in key than the Ted Baker sorts, that look just as attractive: elegant, subdued tone-on-tone fabrics, stripes, and muted solids cut in the traditional manner to compliment the suit fabric.


Lining is much more than the smooth slide of a suit jacket – it covers the raw edges of the fabric below and seals the garment; lining backs ties to slip an easy knot, it sometimes zips in and out of overcoats, warms your winter boots and gloves, and can make up the entire back of a vest or waistcoat to keep the heat down when wearing a jacket. Lining is also a practical way hold to a guy in place while he takes a dip in the pool, if you know what I’m saying.


We considered the fawn-coloured fabric with the thin blue stripe, and the faint pattern on the light blue lining, but in the end, my client, a subtle fellow, chose a quietly bold yet gentlemanly navy and red paisley to line his suit. I couldn’t contain myself.

“They’re going to have to start paying you more!” I exclaimed.