Founded in 1977 by the eponymous Michael Drake, Drake’s began as a purveyor of fine silk scarves, before moving into the manufacturing of handmade ties, for which the company became best known.
Drake’s has always enjoyed a closeness to the art world, in part because Creative Director Michael Hill is an avid collector of contemporary artists. But also, Drake’s puts an emphasis on traditional craft and the handmade, so there is a certain shared ethos between the company and the artists it has worked with. On several occasions, Drake’s has collaborated directly with artists to produce illustrated pocket squares and scarves; most recently with Tate Britain to produce limited edition pocket squares and scarves to accompany their 2019 retrospective of work by British painter, Frank Bowling.
Beginning in 2017, Drake’s has been inviting an array of visual artists to feature in their ongoing ‘Studio Shirts’ campaign, wherein the artists are photographed at work in their respective studios, dressed in Drake’s shirts. This was then expanded into an interview series with a selection of the featured artists, entitled ‘Artists in Shirts in Studios.’ This series included conversations with Sherman Mern Tat Sam, Phil Hale, Benjamin Deakin, Charlie Schaffer and Clive Hodgson > > interview and more recently Hodgson ruminates on studio wear with Drake’s on the occasion of the launch of their Five Pocket Chore Jacket > > interview.
Clive Hodgson (1953. UK) first rose to prominence in the UK in the 1980s with a body of figurative painting but has since sought to deconstruct compositions to their pictorial component parts. Recent works feature primary colour, minimal lines, both gestural and printed marks, pure abstraction and decorative devices. Each boldly incorporates both his name and the year in which they were produced, being thus less abstractions but rather exercises (perhaps reminiscent of 19th century, cross-stitched samplers).
“I was talking to my friend recently (Susan Morris) about very early memories. I said I could remember admiring the texture, patterns and colours on the cushions on the sofa when I was a toddler. Later I was fascinated by the patterns and colours of my father’s ties, hanging in the dark and woody wardrobe. I might have been four, but not much more, probably less. Susan directed me to a bit of text in ‘The Optical Unconscious’, by Rosalind Krauss, where she quotes Ruskin describing how, in his horribly austere childhood, more or less the only source of pleasure he had was to stare ‘abstractedly’ at patterns, or the sea.
My father didn’t encourage this sort of aesthetic view of the world, and as I got to be a teenager, still aspiring to be an artist, he concluded that I was certainly neurotic and most likely gay, on drugs, and a communist – a nightmare scenario for him. The night I left home for art school he woke me up and tried to persuade me to be a lawyer, like him, with him.
My mother missed her vocation, for sure. She was a nurse, midwife, and health visitor but she loved textiles and was in raptures in the drapery section of department stores. She made clothes, curtains, cushion covers, bedspreads, etc. She should have worked in fashion or design, but felt it was too indulgent in times when bombs were dropping on Leeds. When I was 10 she took me to the Tate gallery, and I remember saying to her that ‘I could do that’.
I’d still like to have those ties that disappeared. My father’s replacement pink and violet, slightly spongy ties, of the 80’s, didn’t do it for me, so I have to keep an eye out in vintage stores and charity shops for the real thing.
Certainly, the fascination with the abstraction of those patterns, colours and textures that resonated for the baby me, way back then, is still an important part of my ‘looking’. Not much progress, one might say. I heard a speaker once describing how artists were stuck in a juvenile condition where they could not accept ‘the law of the father’. That resonated too.”
Clive Hodgson (March 2021)
As a child, Michael Hill used to watch his father – also a tie-maker – choose his shirt, tie and pocket square for the day. Today that same understanding and appreciation of colour, pattern and texture is what he uses to guide the creative direction of Drake’s. Growing up, Saturdays spent at his father’s tie factory surrounded by bolts of cloth impressed upon him the beauty and elegance of textiles, and it wasn’t long before Hill decided that following in his father’s footsteps was something he could see himself doing.
After graduating from London College of Fashion and working on Savile Row, Hill joined Drake’s in 2004, working directly with founder Michael Drake on everything from product development, to manufacturing, to wholesale. Following Drake’s retirement in 2010, Hill, along with The Armoury’s Mark Cho, assumed control of the company, with Hill as Creative Director.