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New Zealand tie-makers Parisian celebrate 100 years of luxury

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

It’s no small feat to have not only survived, but thrived, over 100 years in the fickle world of fashion, particularly when making in New Zealand.

For John Crompton, it’s certainly a reason to celebrate. Parisian - the fourth-generation family business he leads - is commemorating its century with the launch of a collection of beautiful ties and belts that speaks to the impeccable quality and craftsmanship honed over ten decades in business.

"We’ve called it 1919," begins John, "after the year my Great Aunt Ruby put the finishing touches on the very first Parisian tie."

And just as Ruby did, all those years ago, each tie and belt is lovingly constructed and hand-finished in the Parisian workroom, its home on a site overlooking Auckland’s Myers Park. "Preserving our craft and making here in the heart of Auckland is part of our DNA," explains John, who took the reins from his father Digby Crompton in 2004. But he admits that committing to the New Zealand-made ideal, when so many companies were making savings by manufacturing offshore, was not without its challenges. "The consensus from advice we sought was that we were mad not to join the exodus!"

John says taking a long-term view of the family business, rather than chasing short-term profit, was the way forward. "Swimming against the tide seemed the right choice for us. If we were to have abandoned our machinery and skills for immediate gain, I knew we would never get them back. I felt sure that the time would come when buying something made locally and made well would satisfy a desire for connection that has been steadily lost over time."

The 1919 collection is "something of an indulgence," John says, and a real treat for Parisian clientele who covet the premium fabrics and luxury design elements Parisian’s makers incorporate into each piece. "We started with a clean slate, putting our blinkers on to the trend influences that would usually guide us and instead, we simply set out to make the most beautiful ties and belts we could. Many of the designs we have released for our centenary are from a personal collection built over many years. And because they are made in a very limited quantity, each tie - crafted from fabrics woven especially for us in Europe - has been hand numbered as a collector’s piece. The belt collection showcases leathers from both New Zealand and Italy. They’re true investment pieces that stand the test of time."

Ties are, says John, the ultimate accent piece - they transform a look and finish an outfit. "Because it’s worn in such a prominent position, it’s often the first thing people notice and the one item with the most scope for individual expression. Today, the tie is no longer an obligatory item in the business world. That makes our work so much more exciting, because when someone buys a tie, they are expressing an aspect of their personality rather than conforming to a corporate norm."

Among the highlights of preparing Parisian for the next 100 years has been Parisian’s collaboration with the NZ Fashion Museum who have curated a touring exhibition of ties, gracing menswear store windows across New Zealand. There’s been a short film too - documenting the making of a tie from the 1919 collection with a magical soundscape composed by sound artist Flo Wilson, and created entirely from the raw sounds of the tie factory. John has even been "expert witness" to a Guinness World Record, ably achieved by Kiwi Irene Sparks, who chalked up 21,321 ties. "One of the joys of this experience was seeing so many Parisian-made ties throughout the counting process. Last Christmas Irene sent me literally thousands of Parisian ties from throughout our history, gifting us an invaluable archive that spans our 100 years."

But it’s the people and their incredible talent for impeccable workmanship, their own stories, and their commitment to creating only the best, most beautiful ties and belts in the country that make the Parisian story so special. "At the beginning it was just Aunt Ruby, but the business grew rapidly, swelling to over 50 people in just a few years. Since then, we’ve enjoyed boom times, we’ve weathered recessions, and today, we employ around 30 people - many of whom have been with us over 25 years.

"They say that Parisian is like family, and that’s why they’re devoted to their work. They say there is a strong sense of being part of something - that we work together, we rally, we help each other out. That we are one of a kind."

And that, concludes John, really is something to celebrate.

Parisian’s 1919 Centenary Collection is available at selected stockists nationwide.

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