Harding & Wilson
I haven’t always been the most fashionable of person. I spent the first portion of my life being dressed by my mother like most children under their teenage years. Even when I had the opportunity to begin picking my own clothes as an adolescent I still made some questionable choices at best. Even after meeting Jade some years ago i still was hesitant to change the mainstays of ripped jeans and t-shirts that I was so used to wearing. All the while, however, I idolized those with classic style, rich in charm and charisma. I never thought I could pull off wearing a bow tie or pressed button down shirt let alone even a v-neck shirt. Luckily Jade wouldn’t give up on my style and eventually introduced more fashionable and adult pieces into my wardrobe. The first bow tie I ever actually owned was the bow tie I purchased for our wedding. In fact, that was the first time in my life I paid full price for a suit jacket, slacks and a leather belt. I have found that to have good style you must invest in your pieces of clothing, much like people did in the past.
There was once a time about a century ago where it was not uncommon to see men from all walks of life sporting a bow tie or a necktie on any given day of the week. It was a time where men, women and children would wear their finest attire when making any sort of trip out, whether it was to church, a social gathering, or even simply to stroll about town. It was an era in which people strove for excellence in character, in integrity and aptitude, as well as in craftsmanship and artistry. It is with this sentiment and age in mind that Peter Lee and Alex Nguyen of Harding & Wilson have been fashioning their neck wear.
The two gentlemen work side by side, sewing machine by sewing machine in their studio in Southeast Portland near the Union Pacific Rail Yards. It is a fitting place for such a business to blossom. The rail industry in Oregon has been around since the time period these two craftsmen are endeavoring to encapsulate in their creations. They are making a product almost as timeless as the trade which surrounds them. “Our strong Portland and Pacific Northwest influences help separate Harding & Wilson from other brands and products in the market place. Our ties offer a refreshing variety to the traditional consumer and also appeal to a younger market that may not have been previously interested in neck-wear,” they had to say. ” The reason we source the majority of materials from the Pacific Northwest is because we want to give back to our local businesses and support them as they provide us with important resources. We’re inspired by our Pacific Northwest surroundings and the lush backdrop that makes up our region so naturally and our materials reflect this style through color and weight.”
We came to visit them one morning when there was a slight chill in the air and the clouds bunched overhead. Their studio was spartan but resonated a confident quality that let us know that we were in the workshop of two very talented young professionals. The aged hardwood floors and flood of natural light pouring through their textured window panes created the perfect ambiance for a conversation on what kind of work they are doing, clarifying their aesthetic vision, and simply doing what they do best; making artfully crafted ties. We found that the name of their company pays homage to the two presidents that were in office during the late ‘teens and ‘twenties of the Twentieth century. In labeling their business with such strong references to the past, they really pay homage to the positive and honorable ideals practiced during that time. The interesting part about their story is neither of these gentleman have had past experience in this kind of craftsmanship. “We have learned immensely through our own mistakes or trial and error. We believe that doing so allows us to have a more comprehensive experience and create better products. We have original methods that were born directly out of our production necessities. I guess you can say we’re creating our own heritage as we continue to perfect our craft.”
They bring that constructive mindset to their work by striving to make a tie that is unique, well crafted, and that one could wear on any occasion. “Neck ties and bow ties should be treated like any other accessory; be modest about it and you’ll look good. The male wardrobe is limited compared to a woman’s so expressing yourself can be a challenge. Ties are an easy way to add extra depth to your outfit. Our goal is to blur the line between formal and casual attire allowing ties to exist in both realms. Peter and I saw the void for casual men’s neck-wear and decided to develop Harding & Wilson,” Alex had to say.
The majority of their work is made with Pendleton Wool, which only connects their dedication to keeping their products locally made and locally produced back in to the rich history of the Pacific Northwest. There are exceptions however, when a fabric or textile they find is just too good or interesting to let pass. “ We’ve found second hand vintage fabrics, like dresses, that we just knew we had to use,” said Alex when reminiscing on the subject. This is something that makes Harding & Wilson a unique company, because they have limited edition bow ties and neck ties that have been made from yet another piece of history. “I’ve always been a fan of neutral colors, navy’s and grey’s will always be my picks when choosing materials to use for new products. This style carries over into the graphics and photography that get produced as well. For me though, the time I get to be most creative is when developing processes for us to achieve a certain end goal, whether that be the way we finish our seams or how we streamline production,” Alex explained genuinely. Peter had a slightly different ideal remarking, “my creative approach starts with my insistence on finding my own way of doing things. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always gone out of my way bring my perspective to whatever it is I am doing. This unconventional approach has allowed me to bring a strong voice to my work and allows me to learn every step of the way.”
It is apparent that these gentlemen aren’t creating new fashion trends or making wild new styles that are game changing products. But what they are doing is putting a unique and handcrafted twist on modern men’s fashion which is definitely testing the boundaries of acceptable casual fashion. We believe that they are doing something that now small or even big business is doing with neckwear: putting heart back into the craft.