Back in 2015, a response from a customer inspired me to design and make men’s accessories. I was a first-time vendor at Craft My Wedding, an artsy bridal show in Somerville, MA. The focus of this show was on handmade, unique, wedding items. At least 75% of the attendees were brides-to-be along with their friends, sisters, and/or mothers. There were a few grooms-to-be and one of them came up to my display. He picked up a pendant with a nephrite jade. Unlike the pastel, green of the well-known jadeite jade, nephrite jade has an earthy, olive hue. I then asked, "Are you looking for a gift?" He answered: "No, but what's this gemstone? I'm going to wear my army uniform at my wedding, and this stone would match perfectly. I need some nice cufflinks." I was not expecting that response from him at all.
Before Craft My Wedding, I had thought of designing cufflinks and tie bars, but I didn’t think they would sell. These days, outfits are so casual, it seems that most people only dress up for special events. This is somewhat true for men’s accessories, but they’re coming back. Cufflinks are a bit dressy and are made for a French-cuffed shirt. Tie bars, on the other hand, are more flexible in fashion. Besides a dress suit, tie bars can be worn with jeans, a collared shirt, and blazer. The only thing you need for a tie bar is a tie.
The next morning, I sat with my coffee, laptop, and notebook and looked for new design inspirations. I browsed through Pinterest for art deco, men's accessories. I googled celebrities from the early 20th century and looked through photos of Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, and Fred MacMurray. On the GQ website, I searched for fashion tips and found photos of Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Gosling wearing tie bars. I started jotting down ideas for different shapes that would be modern, but have a hint of the past.
I wanted to design and create men’s accessories the right way, but I had a few hiccups. I started with cufflinks and, unlike tie bars, they were easier for me to wrap my head around. I had the option of purchasing cufflink components, or links for the back of each design. For tie bars, I watched some YouTube tutorials on ways to fold a strip of silver into the shape of a tie bar, those were ok but I wanted a cleaner look. With a couple of nails and two blocks of wood, I made a tie bar clamp.
Since then, I have designed and made different tie bars and cufflinks. In fact, my first big sale was a pair of cufflinks with lapis gemstones. I’ve sold as many men’s accessories as jewelry. I might try lapel pins sooner or later, we’ll see.