Fit to be Tied
Track athletes' bow tie business gaining speed
Jamal Peden (pictured right) and Cass Brown Stewart are Stephen F. Austin State University seniors and track and field athletes who certainly have hit their strides. Peden, a sports marketing major from Wylie, Texas, and Stewart, a double major in economics and business management from Fort Worth, each played an important role in helping the Lumberjacks win the 2013 Southland Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championship in Lake Charles, La.
Peden is a 2012 Olympic trials qualifier in two events - the long and triple jumps - and Brown Stewart holds five SFA records - two in the 400-meter dash, one in the 4x100-meter relay and two in the 4x400-meter relay. The men are not only SFA track and field champions but also are on their marks when it comes to another talent - sewing.
"We started our business last fall," Brown Stewart said. "A friend of ours is involved in the Fashion N' Motion organization, so we decided to start making bow ties."
Eventually, Peden and Brown Stewart began making the bow ties on their own in their apartment near campus. They named their business Demeanor, which they say reflects their desire to make each bow tie customized to the wearer's unique personality and style. They debuted their creations during the Fashion N' Motion 2012 spring fashion show at SFA, and since then they have been steadily designing and sewing bow ties, which sell for between $15 and $30.
"As an economics major, I did some research and calculated that students, who are our main patrons, can generally afford to make a purchase in this price range without having to save and plan," Brown Stewart said. "We can make most designs in about an hour. The more embellishments and the more time that is involved, the costs goes up accordingly."
Recently, the athletes/fashion designers were blessed with the addition of a sewing machine. On a visit home, Brown Stewart told his aunt about his and Peden's new business venture and how difficult it was sewing the bow ties by hand. That discussion resulted in Brown Stewart's aunt purchasing the sewing machine and gifting it to the two entrepreneurs.
"It speeds up the process dramatically," Peden said. "Cass got a quick lesson on how to use the machine from the saleslady at the fabric store. He came back and taught me."
The pair buys most of their materials at craft stores, but say they also frequent thrift shops where they find vintage fabrics, faded jeans and other unique supplies to make their one-of-a-kind creations.
"Every bow tie is 100-percent designed to reflect the wearer's demeanor," Peden said. "We'll talk to the person and get an idea of their personality type-whether he or she has a strong or more subdued personality. This helps us determine fabric choice and also whether or not we will recommend embellishments."
For example, Brown Stewart says someone on the demur side might choose a wool, corduroy or canvas fabric, while a more outgoing person might select satin or a patterned silk and also may add rhinestones or sequins.
Brown Stewart also points out that many more bow ties are sold to women than to men-approximately 60 percent of total sales. "We make a style especially for females," Brown Stewart said. "It's more like a necklace. We can attach the bow tie to a ribbon or chain."
The duo also said that making bow ties for females is much easier than for males. "Females generally purchase a bow tie and make it work with an outfit they already have. Men want a tie to go with a specific shirt or suit to wear to a formal occasion, so they are much more selective about style and color," Peden said.
Recently, the pair was contacted by coaches of the SFA Lumberjack basketball team about making bow ties for the male players to wear to away games. "We're still working out the details on that," Peden said.
Soon, the entrepreneurs say they hope to launch a website to help market their bow ties and also have plans to establish a store on Etsy. In the meantime, they say most potential customers contact them through word-of-mouth. "We're known as those two guys on the track and field team who make the bow ties," Brown Stewart said.
- Donna Parish