Design entrepreneurs who produce wearables, like t-shirts or earrings, will don them overwhelmingly more than products they don’t make themselves. The reason is more than just an ample supply of inventory; you wear something you make, you get that immediate, unsolicited feedback.
Zeke Bryant graduated from I.U. Bloomington with a telecommunications degree, with a focus on design and production, which is graphic design, photography, video production, etc. “When I was younger, people told me to pick a field and stick to it,” Bryant said. “But I was never that type of person.” As long as he doesn’t have to be in front of the camera, anything can be his canvas. “Bow ties are my new canvas,” he said.
Bryant’s company, The Nguvu, designs and produces wooden bow ties, both ornate and not-so ornate. And when he wears them, Bryant is often stopped by the curious. “I don’t have a hard time talking to people about it,” he said. “They ask questions. They say, ‘I really like it, you can pull it off, but I can’t.’” He’s found out, through trial and error, through wearing them, that his creations are not for everyone. Wooden ties aren’t wildly popular in this country yet, let alone Fort Wayne. “They’re kind of popular in South America,” he said.
Bryant’s a fashion guy, always looking for something to wear to be deliberately different. He arrived at the wooden ties because he wanted (still wants) to design men’s clothes; he saw Nguvo as a name-making way into the industry.
But the wood ties are catching on…sales are picking up outside of the state, on the West Coast particularly, without a website, only through word of mouth. After finding a wood tie for himself, his wife bought him a more elaborate one, from overseas somewhere, with the design of an Incredible Hulk fist on it…that gets mistaken for a black power fist. “I really liked it,” Bryant said. “I thought, ‘I can make this’.”
He hasn’t gotten into using exotic woods yet…that’s going to come, but they’re pricey. What’s affordable are the bamboo woods, the oaks, and the cherrys. The woods are delivered, ordered from a website, in that big, block style you might find at a Menards-type store. Bryant doesn’t like saying his ties are handmade…we can’t be giving away his secrets. “It’s [more] mind made,” he said. “My mind, my concepts.”
But Bryant has found water (i.e. buying clients) in the desert. Since starting in February of this year, he’s sold close to 100 ties; a price for one is $30. He’s seeing a lot of headway with his custom ties, for $5 to $10 more. His first custom job was a Lego tie; his first client was himself…and he sold only a handful of those. But it’s those special orders…one client was a mom who wanted a custom tie for her son to match the metallic-gold dress of his date for a semi-formal.
He wore a custom Pan-African-colored tie with material wrapped around the wood to attract attention; thanks to a nice connection, he’s now getting his material directly from Kenya, Africa…that means testing the materials out…wearing them…to see how people react, what they’re compelled to say.
I run Scrambled Egg(s) Design and Productions, based out of Northeast Indiana. In addition to producing in-house company projects, I also create advertising materials for companies and organizations, with an emphasis on interactivity.