From left to right: Chris and Kyrie Cotonou wearing J Canella neckties in a rebellious but refreshing way.
Just incase you missed it, our motto here at Mason & Sons is that we are 'Dedicated to British Design'. While many of the brands we preach about have been operating for centuries, we're always excited when we discover the next generation of artisans and makers.
Enter Kyrie and Chris Cotonou, the London-born brothers behind tie artisan J Canella, who in collaboration with Mason & Son have recreated the ties and single pocket square worn by Michael Caine in The Italian Job.
The brothers at J Canella expertly recreated the necktie worn by Charlie Croker in The Italian Job as part of our capsule collection. Woven, printed and constructed by hand here in England.
When setting up shop, the brothers had a few mandatories. The first was that every tie had to be made entirely by hand with British silk, linen, or other materials. The second was that it would be produced to last the wearer a lifetime. The third was that the designs would be based on the styles and personalities of the boys’ favourite British artists from Paul Weller to Jean-Paul Belmondo.
Paul Weller, one of J Canella's sources of inspiration, looking effortlessly cool with his necktie and white military fatigue shirt.
The final mandatory, which has a place close to their hearts, was that they wanted to continue a legacy that began in 1950, when their grandparents immigrated from Cyprus to the East End, becoming highly-respected tailors and dress-makers.
While a young brand, J Canella’s ties are rooted in their family ties, which is one of the reasons why the brand resonates with us at Mason & Sons. The initial inspiration for the boys were old photographs of the Cotonou grandparents – all immaculately dressed.
The boy's grandfather (centre) surrounded by his friends, all of whom were from the Cypriot community and worked in the East End as dressmakers, cutters and tailors, in London, circa 1950.
Their grandfather Chris, in particular, was renowned in the community for his love of quality tailoring and fit, and his wife, Julia, influenced their children to continue wearing suiting and ties even after it became less fashionable in the eighties and nineties.
While the family no longer own dress factories or tailoring businesses, dressing up has always been a part of the boys’ lives – with the pair garnering a reputation amongst friends for wearing ties even when deemed unnecessary.
Left; the boy's grandfather, Chris (knelt in the centre) dressed normally for those times, circa 1950; Right; the boy's grandparents outside the registary office in Islington, London, after getting married.
In 2018, Chris and Kyrie were at a bar when they noticed friends who typically wore streetwear sporting ties in an effort to look different. Modern fashion had become so dull and myopic, that even the most unconventional styles were plain repetitive and yet wearing a suit and tie is now deemed 'rebellious'.
It didn't take long for friends – and even strangers – to start commissioning handmade linen ties crafted with material Kyrie and Chris would shop around London for. Ever the craftsman and perfectionist, Kyrie started to make everything by hand at home with the help of his grandmother, who still consults and reveals sewing techniques to the boys today.
The silk looms within Vanners' factory in Suffolk, circa 1960.
A brand which would kick back against the cheap ties sold on the High Street, and instead supply people in England and the world over with the kind of long-lasting accessory their grandparents once wore – ties that could be passed down, and reflected the character of the wearer and moment in time.
Which is why, now, all silk is sourced at English mills in Suffolk (Vanner’s) and Macclesfield (Adamley), and the inter-lining is made in England, too. Even the components you can’t see (where most people cut corners) are painstakingly chosen by suppliers who have been in business for hundreds of years, operating somewhere in the country.
At Adamley, craftspeople screen print everything by hand for an artisanal touch.
Once all the pieces are together, each is given hours of work by the brothers’ or their small circle of seamstresses – by hand, without compromise. Their pride in the family remains, and the name J Canella is a homage to Julia (one grandmother) and ‘Canella’ (the nickname for their other grandmother) – women who were skilled artisans in their own right.
The designs reflect the boy's love of British cinema and music, which is why they consider it an honour to be a part of Mason & Son’s Italian Job collection, a project inspired by a classic of British cinema. They play their role by producing a tie replicating the one worn by Michael Caine in the famous Aston Martin scene toward the beginning. ‘It looks as dashing as ever’, they suggest, ‘the perfect fit for a man with an Aston (or about to nick one)’.