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Friday, October 19, 2012

Natural Born Elegance

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Fri, Oct 19, 2012 at 8:49 AM

Next time you feel like making the old argument about Portland's European aesthetic, and/or further taking down the moldy stereotype that everyone here dresses like a hippie, I present to you more fuel in the form of Natural Born Elegance, another company catering to an apparent demand for more formal men's clothing, neckwear in particular. (We're racking up a tidy local selection, with upstart specialists like this and PINO joining stalwarts like Duchess and Adam Arnold). NBE's base of operations is here in Portland, but their roots extend to Italy—specifically a wool and cashmere mill started in 1881 in Biella.


Michael Hare, the former CFO of formerly Portland-based Holden Outerwear, left the company to begin Natural Born Elegance with Julian Cerruti. Cerruti's day job? Director of Lanificio Cerruti, the aforementioned mill run his father Nino Cerruti.

While Hare holds down the business side of the operation, Cerruti designs, using the fabrics of Lanificio Cerruti exclusively, with each tie produced 100% in Italy. "NBE's mission is to make fine goods in small quantities," says Hare. "We use historical manufacturers that are willing to make artisanal quantities (most of our neck ties are one of eleven, all of our bow ties are one of a kind). We choose these manufacturers based on their historical connection to sewing ties rather than price or location. There are some excellent historical manufacturers of ties in New York, but the best small operators we know are still in Italy. Surprisingly, there is little cost difference between making our ties in Italy and making them in the United States: labor costs, duties on raw and finished goods, and shipping are close to a wash. We are currently sampling a new product (not ties) for which we will import the fabric to the U.S. for finish sewing, but only because the best small manufacturer of this product is in the U.S."

"Portland nurtures designers, artisans, wine and food culture (a lot like Milan!)," continues Hare. "Proximity to this type of inspiration is more important to our business than proximity to manufacturing partners. In this respect, Portland is the perfect location. Harlo Interactive, a local firm, designs and maintains our web site. OMFGCO designs our packaging and product collateral. Our collateral is made locally, from product boxes to the thank you cards that go inside. There is a robust community of photographers, filmers, and artisan manufacturers with whom we can collaborate. It is a dynamic business environment and great place to live." While he says they are "executing collaborative efforts with some retailers but we do not intend to sell products wholesale," you can browse and purchase on their web site. And who knows, at this rate, there might even be a dress code in your future.

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