Nicholas Atgemis doesn’t believe that luxurious goods — truly exceptional, well crafted menswear — need arrive from Milan or Paris or London or New York to be considered premium. With his Le Noeud Papillon label, Atgemis is looking to put Sydney on the luxury map by offering limited edition bow ties and pocket squares featuring exquisite silk with woven designs — as opposed to the cheaper printed silks more commonly found elsewhere. Eschewing cheaper and more ubiquitous Chinese silks for those processed in Italy, Atgemis assures a level of craftsmanship and quality in his bow ties that only the world’s top brands offer. From the thick threadcount to the impeccable boxes and presentation of his product, Le Noeud Papillon is a label worthy of recognition.
Le Noeud Papillon stands apart because you guys weave your own designs — what exactly does that entail?
It is rare for small brands to take on weaving their own designs. Generally speaking, which means there are exceptions to the rule, most fashion companies, even large ones, will simply choose from a catalogue of existing or developed designs from their silk merchant and then put these into production. This is usually in the form of a swatch book. Here at Le Noeud Papillon we wanted to create designs which are totally unique and run in limited numbers. For example, our ‘Australian’ design features emus and a southern cross, something an Italian label would probably not ever get around to doing.
You state that you use woven Jacquard silks from Italy instead of cheaper and more common Chinese silks — what is the difference in this silk? Where they from are in Italy and what makes Jacquard silks special?
A Jacquard woven silk differs from a printed silk in the sense that as the warp passes over the machine, the weft weaves a pattern into the silk. This means designs are limited in the number of colours and images you can make when creating Jacquard silks. You can print anything onto normal silks using digital, screen or corrosive printing – but the only texture to the silk you will achieve is whatever were the characteristics of the base silk cloth (crepe satin, chiffon, satin, twill). Whereas with woven Jacquards you can achieve depth of field through changes in both thread and contours based on how the thread is weaved as it passes through the loom.
The silks come from Como in Italy, which is about a 45 minute drive from Milan. This picturesque town, with verdant mountains flanking either side of the lake, has been making silks for over 300 years. In those days women would carry the faggots of straw under their dresses to warm the eggs which would later form into silk worms. This tradition, however, is now long gone. Most of the raw silk thread that is used in Italian silks is bought from China or Brazil. However, the processing of this thread is what sets the Italians apart from their Asian counterparts. The Italians weave the silk to make more western designs and the quality of the end cloth is superior in construction.
“Starting something luxurious in Sydney was like pushing shit up hill...”
You also publish your designs before the weaving process starts. Why is this? Do you listen to customer input? Have you ever cancelled a design you were going to do because of negative feedback?
We publish the designs to our blog first to keep customers and readers of the blog as part of the creative process. I was always curious as to how a nice pair of shoes is made or how my laptop was assembled – so when I started the blog I decided to make as much of this information available to the blog readers as possible. That way there is no ‘Voila’– you see the work as it progresses. For example, there are videos on the blog of silk machines working in Como.
We have never cancelled a design to date – mostly because whatever we produce is very different and it would be a crying shame to lose a silk design just because a customer complained. There are plenty of other designs for the customer to choose from. And since we run our silks in limited editions, making a mistake will unlikely put us out of business.
The line varies aesthetically from the very traditional to a bit of a punk rock influence (skulls, flamingos, “Vote For Pedro” colorway). Is this conscious?
They are not flamingos – they are emus! But I agree, they look a little like flamingos…. Yes, it is conscious. Winston Churchill is a great style influence for me. And I love his classic black and white polka dot bows, yet I feel it is time to for people to explore other avenues and break down some cultural stereotypes. Yes, classic men’s dressing is always fantastic, but so too is wearing something as loud as the ‘Marriage’ bow or wearing a ‘Memento Mori’ bow tie which is derived from a mode of art originating from Ancient Rome.
The infamous Memento Mori bow tie…
What’s it been like starting something so uniquely luxury in a city like Sydney? Usually people think of Milan, Paris, New York or London. Sydney’s not exactly on the map of Men’s Well Appointed Goods.
Starting something luxurious in Sydney was like pushing shit up hill. At first you are met with resistance. ‘I would not wear a bow tie, the climate is all wrong’ was one of the first remarks I heard. But as Kevin Costner was once told in Field Of Dreams: ‘If you build it, they will come’. So I set about doing that which I felt was needed. Sydney is sophisticated in parts, it is just that Sydneysiders have been told they were the cultural rear-end for too long. So it is hard to shake off the old moniker – like a child who was teased a little too much in the school yard. But here we are in the 21st Century and we are a well travelled bunch who know now what fine things are. I don’t think there is an issue with adding Sydney to the end of that string of cities.
How has Sydney itself influenced you and your line? Either philosophically, culturally or aesthetically.
The city does not have a philosophy but it is fairly narcissistic. We have a harbor here and everyone likes to build their houses to look out over the harbor and gaze at each other and themselves. It is not uncommon to take a trip out on a yacht and look back at the city and to point at who lives where or eat an over-priced meal on a strip of restaurants which have a great view.
Culturally it is changing every day. 30 years ago it was filled with men who wore flannels and short ‘stubby’ shorts and work boots. But now it is a city filled with real-estate agents, fashion designers, barristers, celebrity chefs, financiers, and mortgage brokers… And with that you get a new style. A segmented style – but certainly it is drawing away from what was formerly labeled ‘the cultural cringe’.
That’s an interesting interpretation of Sydney — I’d never thought of it that way, as narcissistic with all the bay looking in at itself. I suppose that’s a pretty astute observation! Why bow ties, may I ask? What draws you to their particular style?
A bow tie is symmetrical, just like the human face. However, when it is tied correctly it will have a certain nonchalant asymmetry which makes it so dapper and eccentric. And then there is the cultural elitism of knowing you tied your own bow tie. Because a pre-tied bow tie (except for velvet ones) is like a clammy handshake.
The bow tie seems like something mom’s love putting on their kids. Is your mom stoked with what you’re doing? Did you grow up wearing them?
My mother was forbidden to help me with my clothing ever since she told me to wear a polyester paisley shirt to a christening when I was twelve. The shame! Since then I only take her advice on cooking and women.
Lastly, if you were lost in a supermarket, in what aisle would we find you in?
You find me on aisle 10 with the cleaning products, particularly laundry products. I love soaking fabrics to get them clean. A good tip for shirts: if you have a stain, soak it in Nappy-San [I think that's Oxy-Clean to us Yankees - Ed.] over night in a warm tub and then put it on a spin cycle only the following morning. Always try and wash a shirt in a cotton bag too – it will preserve the life of the shirt.
The Gatsby and Marriage bow ties…