The Genteel
December 9, 2019
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One of a kind neck-ties from Handsome & Lace

In an exclusive interview for The Genteel, photo essayist Joel Yum discusses one of a kind neckties, upcycling and inspiration from unlikely places with Keira Morgan, the Toronto designer behind men's and women's accessories label, Handsome & Lace.

Joel Yum: I love the name Handsome & Lace. How did you come up with it?

Keira Morgan: I usually wear dresses with running shoes, or jeans with really fancy shirts, so it sort of describes my style. Then all of a sudden I was making men's [accessories], so it became "handsome" for the men's stuff and "lace" for the women's. Then it just evolved into the necktie reformatory from there. So it's a cluster of things!

JY: What do you create?

KM: I make hand-made accessories for men and women out of neckties and other upcycled materials. 

JY: Can you explain upcycling and the upcycling process?

KM: Upcycling is like recycling; you're making [the original item] into something completely different, except you're giving it more value.

Basically I start off by scouting, that's my favourite part. I look for materials everywhere. Once I find the materials, I take them home and clean, press and steam them and make sure they're clean. From there, I just work with [the materials] to see, for example, how wide the tie should be based on the pattern, or how thick it should be based on the thickness of the material. There's a lot of fiddling around. And from there I just go crazy, put music on, and create.

JY: How do you go about finding your fabrics?

KM: I'm actually a huge fan of thrift-shopping. I love thrift shopping because you can usually find things that no one else has or somebody has gotten rid of, end-fabrics and things like that. I usually find rolls of fabric that fabric stores probably just got rid of. I find really unique, one-of-a-kind fabrics that way. Or, if I see a cool shirt, I'll just cut it up and make it into a bowtie or a necktie or something.

JY: What inspires your designs?

KM: [Inspiration] can come from anywhere, really. Colour, people, The Three Stooges, the 30's, 40's and 50's - stuff like that. The way [people] dressed back then, it was a little bit more tailored, one-of-a-kind and artisan as opposed to everything now which looks mass-produced. [Clothes] just doesn't look one-of-a-kind or interesting anymore. So that's my inspiration, to be different.

JY: You grew up in the foster care system and had what sounds like a rough childhood. What effect has that had on your creative work today?
KM: Back then, I felt like nobody cared about me because we were always someplace new. So now when I'm designing, I think about doing this for me as a kid. I didn't have anyone who was looking out for me or who cared about my future and nobody really thought I had one. So I thought, "screw that!" I'm going to show everybody that I can overcome that, and not only that, but maybe inspire other people. 

JY: What advice do you have for aspiring designers?

KM: I'd say my top advice would be to go with the flow. You have your goals and that's good, but don't stick to something thinking that that's exactly how it's going to turn out - because it won't. If you just accept that when things go wrong it could be for the better, then you'll see that it's much easier to get through, and you'll get through it quicker.

JY: Where are Handsome & Lace products sold?

KM: Mostly online, or you could check my website handsomeandlace.ca or thenecktiereformatory.com. There are a couple of places in The Junction, including Wise Daughters, and Toronto Custom Suits in Yorkville, which is an awesome store. They do a lot of custom shirts and stuff like that. Off the Cuff at Yonge and Eglinton is another one. They carry most of my stuff, actually.

JY: Anything exciting coming up for Handsome & Lace?

KM: I'm going to be doing some production with a men's suit shop soon, that starts next week. I also have an interview, a meeting with Harry Rosen in February, so hopefully that pans out for me.


Photographs by Joel Yum. Photo essay by Joel Yum and Keira Morgan. 

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