Reminiscent of luminaries like Sir Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra, bow ties have an old worldly charm that speaks of refinement and decorum. Although modern-day fashion tends to be less distinguished than in years gone by, Melbourne-based start-up, That Dapper Chap, is proving that the humble bow tie is an accessory for the ages. With the power to transform even the most uncultured of men into dapper gents, this little company’s unique bow ties have taken the business and fashion worlds by storm.
As tactile as they are visually endearing, these bow ties developed out of a collaboration between a group of friends. Co-Founder of That Dapper Chap, George Bauer, speaks with The CEO Magazine about the company’s origins, and the future of the ever-dapper bow tie.
The CEO Magazine: Tell us about the origins of That Dapper Chap.
George: My friend Ben Dye originally came up with the idea of hand stitching uniquely designed bow ties as a way of expressing his distinctive sense of fashion. And I was keen to embark on a project to test the theories and skills I was learning in my bachelor of business. After doing a bit of research, I realised there was a definite customer base in Melbourne for handmade self-tie bow ties, so we started the business and launched our first collection in the summer of 2013.
How has the business, and your team, since evolved?
We have been a flexible team from the outset. At one point — due to particularly high demand — we had six team members, and now we just have a team of three; including myself running the business. On a more practical level, we have transitioned from making bow ties in Ben’s kitchen — while eating takeaway Chinese — to making them in a proper studio and workshop in Brunswick East.
Talk us through the design process your products go through.
Each of our collections, and the subsequent products we construct, take on a theme. For instance, one collection was based on the personal inspiration of each team member. Once we have the theme, we design the collection’s patterns, and decide upon the different fabrics and colours we want to use. We then get spend some time with our favourite fabric suppliers to find the perfect match.
Your fabrics are so tactile. How do you source them?
We have dealt with a few different fabric suppliers over the past three years. Our mission from the start has been to break the taboo of the bow tie, and experimenting with different fabrics has played a big role in achieving that. We like to support the local industry and work with fabrics sourced from local suppliers. For one collection, all of our products were made with fabrics sourced from Phillips Shirts, one of the longest running menswear labels in Melbourne.
Can you describe the experience of your first sale?
Our first wholesale drop-off was to Mitchel McCabe Menswear, which is on Clarendon Street in South Melbourne. We walked in with all the stock we had; it had taken all week for us to make and package it. We were extremely nervous and thought Andrew, the store owner, might take half of it at most. But he took the whole lot and paid us right there and then. We were ecstatic, and ran over to the bank to watch our bank balance go up by the hundreds for the first time. It was such a memorable day that gave us a huge boost in confidence.
What role does ‘dapper’ play in today’s fashion context?
Dapper for us, is all about self-confidence and self-care. We believe that, if you feel comfortable and confident in how you dress, you can act with conviction in your day-to-day life. From the start I was adamant that we’d be creating a brand platform rather than a product line. I wanted people of all generations, demographics, and genders to connect with our brand; and we get to see this firsthand through our custom orders, conversations at markets, and interactions online.
What achievement are you most proud of to date?
I’m most proud of bringing together separate individuals, with their own sense of creativity and unique flair, to the brand. For instance, the photo shoot we did for the 2016 Transitions Collection brought eleven different designers together, all working to create beautiful content; from the stylist to the videographers.