SkinTie – sustainable and high-tech ties

Earlier this month I got an invitation to attend a media event for the latest version of SkinTie, a San Francisco startup founded by Christophe Schuhmann. I hadn’t heard of the company, which he says is a bridge between fashion and tech, which I’ll explain later. What caught my eye is that the ties are “made out of sustainable collagen from fish scales.”  Yes, it’s sustainable and biodegradable.

I wasn’t able to attend the event but I did get the opportunity to meet Christophe in person at his apartment in the Presidio and take some photos of his various unisex ties. They are about half the length of regular neckties and meant to be worn against the skin (akin to a scarf) – thus SkinTie.

Here’s a photo of a model wearing a collagen SkinTie. The tie isn’t much longer than what you see in the photo.

Collagen SkinTie

SkinTie Origins

Christophe says he got the idea for wearing the tie like this by accident. Four years ago, he was invited to attend a party with a “junior prom” theme. He’s not a fan of wearing a necktie with a buttoned-up shirt so he decided to wear the tie inside his shirt. Everyone at the party loved the look and some of the guys took off their ties and wore them inside, too. (See his YouTube video interview on French American TV.

As the evening wore on, Christophe realized that he didn’t like the feeling of the tie touching his belly. So the next day, he cut all of his ties and began wearing them inside his shirts. He wore his ties like this every day for two weeks and got such great feedback, he decided to start a company in December 2014, registering a trademark and creating a website and accounts with Shopify, Instagram and other social media.

His initial version was a clippable tie that used hooks and eyes to attach in the back. The idea was to tie it once and then hook it together in the back. Here’s what it looked like.

Skin tie with hook and eye closure

Sustainable fabric

Christophe later began exploring a sustainable tie and discovered a fabric made from collagen. Taiwanese company Weavism makes the fabric from collagen fiber derived from the Taiwan milk fish scale. The collagen SkinTie fabric is made from what Weavism calls the next generation of “bionic fiber,” a blend of “collagen peptide amino acid from recycled fish scale and viscose fiber, which is 100% biodegradable.”

This is a photo I took of three of his collagen ties. The fabric is soft and feels nice against the skin. The ties have magnets in the back instead of hooks which makes it easier to wear.

Collagen SkinTies

Christophe found out about the fabric when saw this collagen scarf, the precursor to the viscose blend, and he was immediately taken with the softness of the fabric and its sustainability. He gets the fabric from Taiwan and a family-owned business in San Francisco manufactures them. He is selling them as a pre-ordered custom product. You send your neck and torso measurement and the tie is made for your body.

Collagen scarf

Christophe sent me this photo showing himself and model Jamie Panizales wearing his product at the annual SkinTie fashion party last weekend. You can see the length of the tie on Jamie.

Christophe Schuhmann of SkinTie and Jamie Panizales

I’ve been thinking a lot about the environmental impact of the fashion industry, which is the second biggest polluting industry in the world, according to the documentary The True Cost (the oil industry is the top polluter). A company making ties from a sustainable fabric seems like a good thing – especially when so many clothes end up in a landfill (see my post Clothes Closet Confessions).

Here’s an image of a model wearing the collagen SkinTie, which the SkinTie website touts as 100 percent sustainable and biodegradable.

Collagen SkinTie

Fashion and Tech

Where does tech come in ? Well, SkinTie has also introduced SmartTie – a tie with a transmitting chip. Here’s what the chip looks like.

Transmitting chip in tie

The tie wearer uploads the information he or she wants to share in the cloud. Then using an app, you scan the tie with your phone and download the information in the cloud. Christophe says each owner can define what they want to share, which could include images and PDFs.

Here’s what he showed me on his phone. When you scan a SmartTie, you can access the tie wearer’s info. Christophe thinks it could be new and unique way for companies to release information about a new product launch.

App for SkinTie

Christophe is attempting to do quite a lot with his company – create a trend for his style of tie, create a sustainable product and incorporate tech. It’s an ambitious proposition. By day, he works for a tech company in San Francisco and if SkinTie takes off, he hopes to pass it along to his grandchildren.

Meanwhile, SkinTie is based in his apartment where he stores the various SkinTie collections….

SkinTies in Christophe Schuhmann's apartment

… and enjoys the view of the bay from his window.

View of the bay from window in Presidio