“I’m not a big fan of showing my face, 90 percent of the time it’s my product that does the selling.”
It takes only several furtive glances at his Instagram to confirm the obvious – that Conrad Wu shys from self promotion. A lauded affiliate on the Styleforum circuit, Wu is representative of numerous young Asian American gentlemen eager to share honest products with a discerning clientele. His eponymous label (with its own e-store and blog) has been quietly gathering momentum for a few years, satisfying even the most curmudgeonly of neckwear nerds. But what is it that gives Wu’s operation such a unique flavour?
Conrad Wu is entirely self-taught. His decision to manage a small business focusing on ties and accessories has yielded significant dividends. Affiliated only with the best fabric stockists in Como, and a small manufacturer in the United States, Wu’s operation is one over which he maintains tight control. Although he insists that a tie “isn’t something like a bespoke garment that takes 20 to 30 years to master” the construction of his products suggests that he is attaining something of a mastery in the area of tie making. Directly inspired by the artisanal craftsmanship of brands like Drake’s & The Armoury, it is no coincidence that every piece in the Wu Tie Clan is made standard with three folds. A Wu tie drapes impressively without feeling over-precious and is manufactured with a light interlining that is strong yet flexible. The result is a product that arches at a pleasant angle when wound, effortlessly yielding the coveted tie dimple.
Uniquely, Conrad Wu does not outsource any of his design choices to lackeys. Traveling on an annual basis to Italy he alone is responsible for curating fabrics of character and paucity. In practical terms then what customers are often blessed with are ties slightly out of left field. For this season, Wu has focused on hand blocked silks from Macclesfield, England. There is a tendency toward deadstock fabrics no longer available in the commercial domain. Another Wu tie staple – incidentally the author’s favourite – is the ubiquitous grenadine, given an irreverent Wu tie twist when made with raw spun shantung. This quiet subversion of the material standard in neckwear is backed further by an appealing price point. When asked why all his ties cost between $99 and $115 – a pittance of what you’d pay for The Usual Suspects that are now internet famous – Conrad remained modest on the matter. “I don’t skimp out on quality fabric to favor margins”, an ethos that hopefully resonates with many who have been stung by the empty promises of big name fashion houses.
For the Australian man, a well-crafted tie remains an important but somewhat contextual part of the everyday wardrobe. As the necktie loses the indispensability it once held in vocational and social settings, men can turn their mind to buying fewer but more beautiful accessories. Ties remain by and far the most effective means of adding visual interest to an outfit. In addition, they cleanly set the wearer’s face and chest, explaining why they were the de rigeur accessory of gentlemen for over a century. Conrad, whose focus has always been on ensuring his customers make the best and not most expensive choice, perhaps says it best. “My ties are there to contribute to the culture of a well mannered individual”.
A contributory factor then, that both comforts and flatters its very lucky (hopefully discerning) owner.