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Toronto Star: Designer Dossier: Gregory Allen brings funk to the classic bow tie


“I didn’t even know how to tie a bow tie,” says Gregory Allen, recalling his start in designing the classic men’s neckwear. “I had to teach myself.”

The 33-year-old started his design career a few years ago making dress shirts. But when he was asked in 2009 to submit 25 shirts for a celebrity swag lounge at TIFF — without any direction about sizes or which celebrity the shirts might be for — he decided to make something instead that can easily fit anyone: bow ties.

PHOTO GALLERY: Gregory Allen’s funky bow ties

“I just ran with it,” says the married father of two kids. “I went to the library and learned all about the history of the bow tie.”

But he gave the traditional neckwear a twist — some funky, street-savvy personality. The bow tie was also in fashion right at that moment. Droves of young men, while taking up the trend, were also looking for something that did not remind them of their grandfather or a stuffy lawyer.

Allen’s designs incorporate a variety of materials, from luxurious Italian silk to silver snakeskin to perforated leather. He also uses an array of prints from classics like gingham to urban camouflage to the more outré leopard print.

In his hands, any fabric, whether luxury or lowbrow, can provide the raw material to be folded into a bow tie. For instance, a swatch of fabric he found printed with comic book illustrations of Superman, which he used to make a small bow tie for his son to wear to his graduation.

His business also does custom orders for wedding parties. And women are asking for his bow ties.

As for that modern-day gentleman’s dilemma — is it OK to wear a pre-tie or should you knot the bow tie yourself? — Allen is diplomatic: he makes both kinds.

“I like both. But I’m hoping to break that stigma about pre-tie bow ties,” he says. “I think it’s the confidence you show wearing a bow tie is what matters.”

While his shirt business has taken a back seat to the burgeoning success of his bow ties, which also now includes pocket squares, the label has caught the eye of such influential hip hop publications as Complex magazine, which has featured his bow ties.

But Allen wants to translate his brand into an array of lifestyle products from sofas to soap dishes.

It’s not so far-fetched to think of someone going from neckwear to household products. After all, one of the world’s most successful designer, Ralph Lauren, started out as a tie salesman.

And it’s a story with which Allen is all too familiar, having spent considerable time reading up on some of the world’s most famous brands.

“When I think of great Canadian brands, I think of Tim Hortons, The Bay and BlackBerry. Yes, even with all their problems, I would like Gregory Allen to be a great Canadian brand like these.”

TIE ONE ON: Check out Gregory Allen’s bow ties

via Source