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M. P. Ferrer

Times Staff Writer

Now Showing is an occasional feature that spotlights designers who appear with their collections in local stores. Maria Providencia Ferrer has always been extremely particular about men’s neckties.

Whenever a good-looking man is around and friends say: “Did you see that guy?” Maria usually replies: “No, but that was an ugly tie.”

Her definition of an ugly tie?

“One that’s worn in the wrong situation. And I’ve come to dislike boring ties,” she adds.

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It’s no wonder, then, that the 28-year-old daughter of Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer--a young woman who also takes credit for teaching her three brothers how to tie a tie--became a tie designer.

Specifically, her metier is hand-painting with dye on Italian silk crepe de Chine canvases, which, in turn, are transformed into hand-sewn cravats as well as women’s scarfs and then signed M. P. Ferrer.

As might be expected, Ferrer tried her hand at the family profession. She says she studied acting at Catholic University in Washington and performed in stage productions, one forgotten movie (“Fighting Back”) and several TV commercials.

“I seriously considered acting,” she says. “I just didn’t like it.”

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Ferrer says her first exposure to art and design came from her father, who had studied architecture at Princeton.

“Every time we walked past a building, he’d say: ‘Look at the facade, the columns, the way the architect used space,’ ” she says.

Ferrer’s designs, which sell at Neiman-Marcus in Beverly Hills, include neckties ($100), pocket squares ($40) and bow tie and cummerbund sets ($175) that are colorful and abstract. But Ferrer says they can be worn by even the most conservative dressers.

“The more conservative the suit,” Ferrer explains, “the more handsome these ties become. It sort of bucks the system.”

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Ike Behar

Ike Behar is also interested in neckties, but only inasmuch as they are knotted around his favorite article of men’s clothing: the shirt.

Behar is definitely a shirt man.

Born in Cuba, trained as a tailor by his father and associated for several years with Ralph Lauren’s shirt division, Behar is a stickler for oft-forgotten details like split yokes cut on the bias (“they conform to the shoulders”), diamond-quilted neck bands that retain the shape of the collar and mother-of-pearl buttons.

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Even though he designs shirts of every stripe and color with both contrasting collars and non-contrasting collars, for Behar the ideal is plain white cotton.

“White looks clean. It looks sharp on a man.”

Preferably, he says, the cotton should be Sea Island (from Sea Island, Ga.) because “it breathes beautifully on the body,” although any fine-quality cotton will do. And the shirt should have a Windsor spread collar (“complementary to both single- and double-breasted suits”) and French cuffs (“they look elegant”).

“That’s what I call a work shirt,” he says.

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Ike Behar shirts are available at Nordstrom starting at $35.


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