Dressing up is something we might enjoy doing from time to time, after all, who doesn’t like looking and feeling good? Sure, we dress up for a trip to the mall or for a night out, but we usually would go the extra mile for formal events.
Women might wear a glittery dress and heels while the men might don a tuxedo and dress shoes. In general, it’s common to see the women put on their best jewellery too, but the men don’t often have many options.
That’s where Tan Ee Fei and her mother, Fun saw the opportunity for and the potential of starting a men’s accessories business back in 2016, called The Gentlemen’s Bar.
Something Different From Your Regular Tie
Now, the men’s accessories they had in mind weren’t bracelets, rings or necklaces for men—they were bowties, ties and pocket squares.
“I noticed the lack of choices and aesthetic value of men’s accessories in the market when the trends are everything about sartorial from street to bespoke that communicates one’s individualistic qualities,” Ee Fei explained, “So, we came out with quirky and bold prints such as floral, Japanese and chinoiserie print in different designs and colours.”
Ee Fei had first treated the business as a hobby while she was still working as a visual merchandiser where her job scope was to set up window displays, events and fashion shows, do styling, and other related tasks.
Fun is a tailor, and together they began bringing The Gentlemen’s Bar to life with pocket squares before developing bowties followed by ties, all made by hand stitching.
Drawing From Her Experience In The Fashion Industry
In the early days, Ee Fei was selling their products through Instagram and word of mouth. In December 2018, she started selling offline in a Christmas popup bazaar in Publika and was surprised by the number of sales, even receiving positive feedback and encouragement on their products.
That was when she made the decision to quit her job in a luxury fashion house. She recalled, “I [decided I] shall focus on and grow this business, the timing was right too so I decided to quit my job. No longer a side business but a full-time commitment.”
The Gentlemen’s Bar has 6 collections per year, with about 20 to 30 designs for each collection. As a Malaysian, Ee Fei loves batik and finds it to be an admirable cultural art and craft. With the modernisation of batik and her fascination with its prints, she decided to launch their Batik series as a limited edition in April 2019.
“To our surprise, the response was overwhelming and we decided to keep the Batik series as part of our collections moving forward,” she said. In fact, they launched their second Batik collection in mid-August so it would be available for Merdeka and Malaysia Day celebrations.
According to her, The Gentlemen’s Bar is also a pioneer in launching a batik series of pocket squares, ties and bowties in the market, putting aside men’s accessories with the common paisley print or teardrop-shaped pattern of batik, which she says was already available in the market.
Carefully Hand Stitched In Limited Quantities
Upon first glance, the prices of The Gentlemen’s Bar might make you baulk, especially if you’re not used to buying more high-end accessories. Their pocket squares cost RM69, their bowties RM139, and their ties RM189, and each design comes in limited quantities.
Perhaps justifying the prices is the fact that no single article of their products looks exactly the same due to the hand stitching process. They also only have four dedicated tailors: Ee Fei who makes the bowties (though she now focuses more on fabric sourcing, social media and operations), Fun who makes the ties, and two other local craftswomen who help them out.
The overall crafting process is meticulous with the ties taking 2 to 3 hours each to craft and the bowties taking 45 minutes to 1 or more hours each.
Generally, The Gentlemen’s Bar’s customers are made up of people who love to dress up and stand out with accessories that aren’t just your typical black bowtie or tie.
They can range from college students to elderly men, and Ee Fei even said that they’ve had female customers who have bought their pocket squares or bowties to accessorise their blazers.
In short, the business has been steadily growing its product offering and customer base. Ee Fei hopes that in the next 2 years, besides being able to eventually design their own fabric, they would also acquire more stockists and move The Gentlemen’s Bar into departmental stores in both Malaysia and overseas, starting with SEA.
- You can find out more about The Gentlemen’s Bar here.
Featured Image Credit: The Gentlemen’s Bar