Entrepreneur

These M'sians Want To Make The Bowtie As Common As The Sneaker

  • Knotted is a Malaysian business started by Destine Lim Zack and two others in 2015 that designs and manufactures bow ties for everyday wear.
  • Their bowties are all made in-house using fabrics sourced from countries such as UK, USA, and Italy, with each bow tie priced at RM88.
  • They also sell other fashion accessories such as lapel pins and pocket squares.

In the context of today’s fashion sensibilities, most restrict the wearing of a bow tie only to weddings, dinner galas, and other formal dos. Destine Lim Zack disagrees. He hopes that like himself, more Malaysians will eventually see the bow tie as less formalwear and more casual chic.

“I always liked wearing bow ties. It started off with the regular boring clip-on ones,” Destine said.

“When I got more adventurous with my dressing, I started looking for self-tie bow ties with funkier designs.”

Seeing how hard it was to find a good selection of bow ties locally, Destine mulled over the possibility of solving this problem on his own.

“I toyed with the idea of starting my own bow tie line for a couple of years but never got around to doing it as I had a demanding day job,” he said. “But when I met my then girlfriend Fiona— who’s now my wife and an entrepreneur in her own right—she kicked me into gear to finally start my own business.”

So, armed with his love for the bow tie and at the behest of his then girlfriend, Destine started up Knotted in 2015 alongside his brother Desmond with the aim of bringing cool designs and styles to an often misperceived fashion item.

From Around The Globe

Destine—who is a Business graduate and works a day job at Maybank—currently runs Knotted alongside Desmond, Fiona, and their lovely seamstress. Their business operates mostly online save for the occasional pop-up store at bazaars and markets around KL. Desmond—who works in fashion and travels often—sometimes sells the bow ties in New York.

Talking about their products (they also sell lapel pins and pocket squares), Destine explains that most of their bowties are targeted towards trend-conscious males, grooms-to-be, and wives and girlfriends who want their men to dress trendier, with each bowtie going for around RM88 on their online store.

Image Credit: Knotted

He also said that their bow ties are created from fabrics that he and the Knotted team obtain from their travels around the world.

“We buy the fabric in limited quantities and only make about 10 pieces per design. Our in-house seamstress does all the sewing by herself.”

“The only time we buy fabric locally is when there’s a custom order for events such as weddings.”

As Knotted runs more as a passion project rather than a full-fledged business, Destine commented on their preference to not follow seasons or timelines, but instead just manufacture bow ties as and when they have enough fabric.

“Since it’s all ad-hoc, sometimes we sell none, and sometimes we sell loads!” he said. “Over Christmas, we sold out everything we had, so right now we’re making more bow ties as we have currently nothing to sell.”

Making The Niche Fit

Having already been in operation for three years, Destine also elaborated on the experience of trying to sell a product with such a niche market, and is surprisingly optimistic about the prospects.

“I think Malaysians are opening up more to bow ties,” he said. “Big fashion brands such as Zara and TopShop sell bow ties now—although only the clip-on types—so we see bow ties appearing at more events.”

“People are much more adventurous with their dressing these days,” he added. “The hipster trend works well in our favour for funky bow ties.”

He also explained the effort put in by the Knotted team in trying to get more people to adopt bow ties as an everyday fashion item.

Image Credit: Knotted

“We use ourselves as marketing tools to show people how they can dress bow ties differently, instead of only confining them to being formalwear,” he said.

“For example, I wear shorts, cool sneakers, a shirt with rolled-up sleeves, and a bow tie,” added. “Fiona wears an untied bowtie hanging over her neck instead of a necklace.”

“She did this at a pop-up store last month and many women ended up buying bow ties for themselves!”

On Ties That Bind

Speaking on the journey so far, Destine also had some things to say about the lessons learned through being an entrepreneur, with one of the key highlights being the importance of having good team players—in this case, their seamstress.

“Looking for a seamstress was the hardest part at first,” he said. “When we first started, we tried many different tailors but they all just didn’t do a good job.”

“Many told us they would rather make a dress or shirt than a bow tie,” he continued. “It’s a very small item, so the process of having to sew it slowly is very tedious.”

Image Credit: Knotted

Their hunt then led them to having their bow ties made in Singapore, but even then the cost was high, and the quality was inconsistent.

“We had tonnes of pieces which didn’t pass our QC and ended up in the bin,” Destine said. “When you’ve gone around the world to buy fabric that you’ll never find again, it hurts!”

In the end though, the team found the right person for the job.

“Our current seamstress has mastered the art of bow tie making, and we plan to keep her under lock and key,” Destine joked. “We found the right seamstress and now we plan to hang on to her for dear life!”

Take A Bow

Even until now, Destine and his team are still learning about the finer details of running a business as they go. This goes especially for when it comes to planning for their product line.

“Our first collection had very daring patterns. The ones to sell out first were the simpler and more ‘serious’ designs,” Destine explained. “So for the next collection, we tried to look for more muted tones with simple patterns. But lo and behold, all the really bright and floral patterns were the first to go!”

“So we’re still trying to balance it out for the upcoming collection, but we’ll see what happens.”

When asked about future plans, Destine stated a desire to collaborate with other providers of homegrown mens’ products to create packages and bundles to be sold as gift box sets.

But apart from that, the team just hope to be able to juggle between their business and their own personal lives.

“I would say time is our biggest challenge,” Destine said. “Since this is a passion project, we’re not looking to expand drastically or anything.”

“We’re just doing this as and when we have the time.”

  • If you’re looking to know more about Knotted and their bowties, head on over to their website or Facebook page.

Feature Image Credit: Knotted

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