My Design Process of the Black Silk Origami Bow Tie March 12 2015

by Tanya Huang

We just sold the very last silk origami bow tie. No more will be made! I had a lot of fun designing this bow tie, so I thought I'd talk a bit about my design process.

Going for a Structured Design

I've always been most moved by structured designs, more so than flowy designs.

I can appreciate soft designs that flow: Elie Saab and Roberto Cavalli are some of my favourite designers. But structured designs impact me like a giant wave crashing down from the sky. I cried when I first saw Hussein Chalayan's "Velocity" collection. It's so incredible:

Structured designs are confident, intentional, and precise. What you create in your mind, becomes a reality outside of you. No gaps, no blurred lines. 

I mean, these dresses are not functional (Haha...They must be art then!) Can you imagine the difficulty getting into a cab wearing one of these? First of all, only an insane cab driver will take you, wearing an outfit that will stab through the back seat and into the trunk.

Fashion is a dangerous game.

I chose to become a neckwear designer knowing that the rules of function wouldn't constrict. Bow ties and neckties don't have to be ergonomic. It takes a lot of effort to turn a bow tie into a seat-stabbing weapon. 


Origami originated in Japan. I was made in Taiwan, not Japan. However I realized later on that Taiwan was influenced by the Japanese culture in many ways, stemming from geographic proximity and that Taiwan was briefly a Japanese colony from 1895 to 1945. So yes, I grew up with origami, and very cute stationery.

For the origami bow tie, I started the prototype with paper. I had a rough idea of the 3 dimensional shape I want, and I started folding the paper randomly and iteratively to get closer and closer to that shape. 

I kept it relatively simple because I wanted the feel of the origami, not the full paper crane. 

I think the more evolved designs are about concepts. When you go too literal, you end up with a piano necktie. Being literal is very identifiable and relatable, especially when it involves pop culture, so I don't discount it completely. But no piano necktie today, no no.

First Sample

After I created the paper prototype, I was now ready to make a fabric prototype. In this case, I already had my paper pattern, so that worked out well!

I actually prototyped with silk instead of muslins, because I needed to know if silk would work for this concept. I fused the silk with 3 or 4 different types of crisp interfacings, and heat-set a few folds in them to see if they took on the paper-like quality I wanted. From there, I chose the best interfacing.

The first sample I made looked like this:

Not perfect, but not bad.

I edited this bow tie pattern, removing the bulk. It's hard to tell in this photo, but there was a lot of unnecessary fabric behind the wings. 

After streamlining the pattern, I made another prototype, while noting the steps I took to make it. "Step count" is what helps us time the sewing of a piece of garment. It also helps us teach a seamstress how to make it, and to price it. For example, to make a belt, you might count: Step 1, sew the side of the rectangular fabric. Step 2, flip it inside out. Step 3, press it flat. Step 4, sew on the hardware. Step 5, mark the holes. Done.

For the origami bow tie, I counted 24 steps. 24 HARD steps. Hmmm.

If I scale up the production to thousands, yes, this bow tie can be systemized. But for now, I had to make it myself. There's no way I can teach it to a tailor or seamstress.

Final Product

As you can see, compared to the orange one, this one has been streamlined so it's more crisp and paper-like.

I'm very inconsistent with my hands. You know how some people can write the exact same signature every time? Mine always surprises me. 

For that reason I can never be a good seamstress/tailor. I always say that if I sew my own designs, no one will buy them, haha. 

The origami bow tie is the only one made by me. It's mostly pressing, not sewing, so I can hide my inconsistency better in this one ;)

Once I also made 20 custom, embroidered version of these bow ties for a cool lady Cynthia. They were for her employees. She must be the best boss in the world.

blue custom origami bow ties

There's also a red version and a white version:


We did an impromptu photoshoot with Machuca Photography and Zak, one of my favourite models. No one balances in a way that defies physics like Zak does! Me and the Machuca photographers were always wondering, "How does he stay standing at a 45 degree angle?"

As you can see this shoot was done with the prototype bow tie, so it's a bit heavy and asymmetric. I love the orange though. I made another one later on, even though orange is quite out there and few guys think they can pull it off...except for my intern Maxime! I eventually gifted one to Max, before he went back to London.


Zak in orange origami bow tie by Knot TheoryZak in orange origami bow tie by Knot TheoryZak in orange origami bow tie by Knot Theory