Winston Churchill favored them as did Orville Redenbacher, James Bond and Louis Farrakhan. Mickey Mouse has never been seen without one.
The bow tie, considered dapper by some and fusty by others, is making a strong comeback, especially among boarding school males and college fraternity types and celebrities, including rapper Kanye West. Charlottean Caroline Driggs is right there taking advantage of the resurgence. For the past two years, the Piper Glen resident has run a popular Estsy.com shop called CCADesign featuring bowties of school colors, whimsical prints and all types of Lily Pulitzer prints -- all at a fraction of the cost of ties at traditional men’s haberdasheries.
“Bow ties are on the upswing with young men. it’s not just stuffy pediatrician’s and Sir Winston Churchill,” said Driggs, 53. People either love them or hate them. Every single one I make by hand, with very high standards and lots of TLC. And I try to offer something that’s different and not offered elsewhere.”
Driggs, who originally hails from Nigeria and was schooled in London, started her business when her college-age son sent her an e-mail with a link for a bowtie that he coveted costing $68. “I said I could make that for a lot less, so I did,” she said in her crisp British lilt. “I put 35 bow ties on Estsy.com and they took off!” Her price range for ties is $27 to $34, with a few dollars less for little boy ties (pre-tied) and hooked in the back. All of her un-tied bow ties feature clever fabrics, interfacing to keep the ties crisp and sharp-looking and a hook in the back along with and with hardware to adjust the length of the tie.
“I price them very competitively because the market is often college men or boarding school students. I do a lot of proms, fraternity formals and weddings. And I sell to all states except Alaska, but I sell all over the world,” she said. “I just sent three ties to Moscow -- one with a fabric that depicts the London Underground to Moscow and was so excited. That print was extremely popular during the Olympics. The other two featured a Lilly print and a fleur de lis pattern. I thought it was all very capitalistic!”
The mother of two has sewed for years but finds her bow tie refreshing, working her business full-time. She takes the orders, makes the ties featured on her Etsy shop--and also makes custom orders, photographs and writes the text about her ties for Etsy, packages the ties in exquisite paper and ribbon and personally mails each order.
Her best-selling ties are two Lilly Pulitzer prints, a pelican and flamingo turquoise and green print called “Snowbirds,” and a pink and green print called “Millionaire’s Row.” Many times men will order the Lilly tie to match their date’s dress or just to be chic. “I did an entire wedding of 13 ties in “Millionaire’s Row”, she said from her fastidious home studio. “And I just made 25 Princeton-color ties (black with orange polka dots) for the school’s student government. It takes me 25 minutes to make one tie--soup to nuts.”
But then, she adds, she never makes just one tie and stops. “I get on a roll and start fiddling with different fabrics. And I’m famous for lurking in fabric stores,” she said, noting that she just sent eight ties to a lawyer in San Francisco and a rush order gingham tie to Australia. “For some reason, they are really big on gingham in Australia.”
And she’s very proud that one of her bow ties was featured in Southern Living in March of this year -- a Palm Beach chic tie that used a Lilly Pulitzer print called “Monkey Trouble.” Business increased significantly after her tie appeared, Driggs said.
She does suggest to wearers not to tie the bow every time, leaving the tied pre-tied and just slip on using the back hook. This will eliminate undue stress on the ties corners and ends.
Driggs is married to Ed Driggs, who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary in May against incumbent Bill James for the District 6 spot on the Board of Mecklenburg County Commissioners. The couple has two children, a son who now lives in Seattle and works for Microsoft and a daughter studying at Princeton.
For information on Driggs’ bow tie designs, visit http://www.etsy.com/shop/CCADesign?ref=shop_sugg. To learn the “proper” way to tie a man’s bowtie, Driggs suggests http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afx1l0MITO4.
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