It all began when Destine Lim decided he wanted to wear a bow tie. Not a monumental decision but it turned out to be difficult to carry out as finding the right bow tie was near impossible. He finally went to popular Malaysian menswear accessories chain My Tie, where he settled for a simple blue one. “I wore it for an event, got some attention and decided that from then onwards, I would only wear bow ties,” he says. Destine would hunt for one before every event and it wasn’t until he came across a fabric shop in Hong Kong that he decided he would make his own.
Destine began with a few fabrics he got from his trip to Hong Kong and roped in his brother Desmond, who works in the fashion industry in New York. “I said to him that we needed both our brains to form this company. With our ideas and designs combined, we could come up with quite a good collection,” says Destine. Knotted, the name of their venture, faced its first hurdle early on because it was difficult to find a tailor who was willing to sew bow ties.
“It’s very hard work, so most tailors would not want to do it because bow ties are so small and tedious to make,” adds Fiona Gomez, Destine’s wife and an entrepreneur who now handles most of Knotted’s operations. They even tried a manufacturer in Singapore but the quality was inconsistent and the logistics proved to be irksome. “We finally found a seamstress in Malaysia … we’re not telling anybody who or how,” Destine says fiercely.
What Destine found lacking in the Malaysian market was funky and unusual bow tie designs that could work with more casual getups. He found copious silk and satin materials in plain colours that only worked for black-tie events, and they were often pre-tied. “I think right now, what we’re trying to do is show KL that you can wear it very casual. So, whenever we wear a bow tie, we dress it down,” says Fiona. Even she is sporting an open bow tie, worn loose on a white shirt — an alternative to a necklace. She has often been approached by young women who love this style idea.
Destine wears his bow tie with an untucked shirt and a pair of jeans, and he says he often wears it with shorts as well. “I know a bow tie is supposed to be more formal but a coloured and funky bow tie will kind of soften the formality of things. I think if I wear it more and people see it, they will say, ‘Hey, if that guy can do it, I’m sure I can as well’. So, it can inspire people that way,” he explains. A self-tie bow tie is more versatile as you can leave it loose after an event is over, the same way you would loosen a tie.
The materials for their bow ties are sourced from their travels, with visited locations including Ecuador, Brazil and many cities in Southeast Asia. “We’re not really following fashion trends or seasons — if we see something we like, we would buy it. We also buy in very small quantities, so every bow tie design will have less than 10 pieces. If you miss one, it’s gone,” explains Fiona. Once the bow ties are sewn, one piece of each design is sent to Desmond in New York to style and photograph for their website.
Knotted’s bow ties have made an appearance at many weddings so far. “People would approach us and say that they want their groomsmen to wear bow ties. We source materials based on their theme and provide them with a variety of fabrics,” says Destine. Fiona and Destine have been pleasantly surprised by how much people love their louder and flowery designs. Customers can look forward to their new collection soon, featuring a lot of denim and Japanese fabrics.
As it is a hobby venture, Knotted’s founders are not looking to increase production. Rather, they prefer to carry on at their own pace. Destine’s full-time job at Maybank takes up a lot of his time, but with the help of Fiona’s flexible working hours, they are able to keep things going. Making the versatile bow tie an edgy and fashionable accessory continues to be their main aim. “The point of Knotted is to create something young and funky. It’s different and you will never find it in a regular shop,” adds Fiona.
This article first appeared on Sept 3 in The Edge Malaysia.