As Managing Director, I’m proud to say that 2021 is a special year for Fox & Chave, marking two eventful and wonderful decades since I acquired the business and set about building the brand we know and love today.
The story so far
Twenty years ago, Fox & Chave was a small tie company supplying silk ties to the high street gift market. The ties were classic and conventional: animal repeat patterns, stripes and checks – a teensy bit boring, but of their time.
My background was in the Heritage market, where I had previously developed decorative stationery and felt, rightly as it turns out, that there was an opportunity to create an art-inspired range not only of ties, but scarves and other silk accessories.
We took all design in-house and started working under license with amazing art collections like the National Maritime Museum, the Courtauld and the V&A. In many cases, Fox & Chave was their first licensing partner, so we learnt together. Some of these older designs are still my favourites and remain in the collection today.
One of the first scarves we developed was inspired by an Islamic tile triptych from the Jameel Gallery at the V&A. The Jameel Gallery is one of my best-loved places in London; its tranquillity and beauty are balm to the soul. The pattern of the scarf represents the tree of life, a theme familiar throughout the history of art, from Iznik tiles to Klimt’s iconic, gold, art nouveau branches, a potent symbol of strength and development. The lovely thing about art is that it is timeless and not subject to the whims of fashion.
Finding our wings and expanding the business
As our beloved high streets suffered from the March of the Chains, we broadened our focus to include museum gift shops, which was fortuitous. Museum gift shops became destinations in their own right and developed sophisticated and beautiful product ranges, reflecting their collections and buildings. We have been delighted to work with so many independent gift and accessories shops over the years that have stood the test of time (and Philip Green!) they are true cornucopias of personal flair and dedication.
Fox & Chave’s lifespan has also coincided with the foundation and development of ACE, the Association of Cultural Enterprises, an organisation which has done an enormous amount to support museum and heritage trading, offering advocacy, networking, training and matching suitable suppliers to buyers.
In 2018 we launched our online shop, to raise our brand awareness and create more funds for our licensees. We have been so delighted with the feedback and friendliness of our web customers and it has been especially fun in lockdown to chat to people all over the world. We have also thrown ourselves into the world of social media, a hitherto mysterious land, with its own vocabulary and algorithms. I am still a naïve tourist!
Design inspiration for our pure silk collections has come from all over, not only fine-art through the centuries, but decorative art detail, history, literature and music. The ‘duty’ to visit museums and galleries wherever I go is both a joy and a privilege, sometimes being shown archived treasure not always on view to the public.
Unlikely sources of design inspiration over the years include: the mosaic under my feet on a trip to Rhodes; porcelain fragments embedded in a park bench in Barcelona; an art deco radiator at the Waldorf Astoria; the ceiling of the Royal Opera House auditorium; the Chrysler building; the decorated city walls of Jaipur; the furnishings of Poirot’s flat; the sky on a clear night and a striking phrase from Jane Austen – all translated into elegant wearable art.
We have also chimed with important anniversaries, creating historical pieces to celebrate 700 years since the signing of the Magna Carta and 100 years of women’s suffrage. Ralph Steadman’s cartoon of Admiral Nelson made a jolly celebration for the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar and Richard E Grant wore our Union Jack tie, while commentating on the flotilla for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Collaborative collections have included some of the most venerable art institutions here and in the US, the National Gallery, the British Library, the Ashmolean, the Fitzwilliam, The Bodleian, the Lowry, the Museum of Fine art In Boston and the Getty, to name but a few. We have also worked with living artists including Cressida Bell, Bryn Parry and Jane Bristowe. Bryn’s Teamwork tie was our top seller for years, closely followed by his enchanting Sheep in Wellies, still my husband’s go-to tie. Royalties from the sales of licensed designs support institutions, artists and charities.
Our bespoke design programme has had the distinction of contributing products to major international exhibitions and special events like Royal Ascot and the Arc de Triomphe Race in Paris. Custom designs have also celebrated iconic buildings, our favourite being the black and white scallop pattern of the Tate Britain floor, the inspiration for a stunning tie and scarf.
We’re proud to say our designs have been worn by royalty, celebrities, newscasters and the incomparable Stephen Fry who called us ‘one of the country’s most brilliant purveyors of silk ties, scarves and accessories’. Does it get any better than that?
I have to say, my absolute favourite item from our range is the Poshmina – our unique silk stole with silky satin on one side and a cashmere-soft brushed silk lining. In summer it makes an elegant wrap on a chilly evening and in winter, it is the cosiest scarf ever. I never leave home without my Posh!
Here’s to the next 20 years!
Over time, the Fox & Chave team has grown from two to eight. Kate has been at my side for the full twenty years and Min, our inspired designer, researcher and archivist has been with us for over 10 years. Nick keeps an immaculate warehouse, Alex developed our splendid website, Linda keeps our numbers on track and Emma keeps me on track! Leta, has recently joined us to brush up our digital marketing and my husband, Paul, retired from the law to oversee compliance and make cufflinks! Fox & Chave has celebrated the birth of 6 children and 2 grandchildren. A business is about its people and we have been immensely fortunate in that respect.
In early 2020, the world turned upside down and our lives changed dramatically, virtually overnight. With repeated lockdowns and no tourism, the heritage market was seriously compromised. It’s been tough, but creativity, flexibility and amazing team spirit (not to mention some welcome help from the Chancellor) have kept us afloat and ready for the happy day when museums and gift shops throw open their doors and vaccinated visitors and tourists flock back, in search of perfect silk accessories!
So whilst there will be no 20th anniversary party this year, we look forward to celebrating our 21st with you, our loyal customers and thank you for being with us on our exciting journey from ‘small tie company’ to ‘most brilliant purveyors of silk’.
Celebrating 20 Years Collection
To mark this anniversary, we've pulled together the below collection, celebrating our bestsellers and celebrity favourites over the years!
Our Monet Water Lilies Chiffon Scarf is so popular it's currently sold out, but you can still shop the design as a Skinny Silk.
The 'Perennial Favourite'
The '2020 Bestseller'
Monet Water Lilies Chiffon Scarf
The 'Celebrity Favourite'
One of 'The Originals'