28 April 2010

Interview: Ellie LaVeer Stager of The Cordial Churchman

Oh, come on, you knew I couldn't stay away for whole week...

Ellie LaVeer Stager runs an old fashioned cottage business known as 'The Cordial Churchman' out of a room in her home, where she lives with her husband and children, and that business is bow ties. Not long ago, she sent An Affordable Wardrobe four bow ties for review, two for Winter and two for Summer. I was hooked immediately. For a fraction of the cost of many well regarded brands, Ellie offers quality hand made bow ties of a level of quality consistent with her more expensive counterparts. Bravo!

Recently, I had a chance to ask her a few questions about her products and her business:

What first got you interested in making bow ties?

In June of 2009 I was making my son a jumper out of seersucker. I was a beginner at sewing, but I really wanted to learn how to make new things. When I had some leftover fabric my husband said "Make me a seersucker suit!" Obviously, that wasn't going to happen, so he asked me to make him a bow tie instead. About 2 hours later he had his very own wonky looking hand made seersucker bow tie. He posted it on Twitter and on AskAndy.com's trad fashion forum and within a week, about 30 people were asking if I'd make them one. So that's how it all started.

Whom do you find is your customer base?

I make bow ties for the 15 year old young man across the street and 70 year old gentleman in the UK and everything in between. I've even had quite a few wedding parties that have had me make bow ties for them.

You offer bow ties for sale as well as the option of converting old neck ties into bow ties. Which do you do more?

I mostly sell the ties out of the fabrics that I have listed on my website. But what happens is the people who send me ties to convert get hooked on converted bow ties-so I have a lot of repeat business. There are some gentlemen who have asked me to convert over 20 of their neckties into bow ties.

At $26 for most of your ties, you manage to offer a tie, in my opinion, of a quality on par with any brand name producer, for half the money. What are your thoughts on that?

Since I am not selling my bow ties to men's stores and I'm selling directly to customers, I can make it so much more affordable for them. I think that people like that they can design their own bow tie to fit their style and even size.

What's new in the future for The Cordial Churchman?

One of the things I'm working on is tuxedo bow ties. These would be custom fitted for the customer who orders them. So if you have a size 16 neck, that's the size I make. No sliders or hooks. This way there is no visible hardware at the back of your neck.It is a very specialized item, bit I have enough people ask me about it that I figure there must be a need.Since I'm able to work directly with customers, they tell me what they like and I make it. Usually there are more people out there who like the same thing. That's really what keeps the Cordial Churchman working so well. Also, in the Fall I will reintroduce my patch wool scarf with some other wool scarf options.

Any closing thoughts?

I love my job! The type of men who wear bow ties are almost always cordial gentlemen who pay attention to detail.I try to go the extra mile and remind them that a real person is making their ties with care. I've received thank-you cards in the mail and nearly every day someone emails me to let me know how much they love the bow tie that I made them. It thrills me to know that I'm able to make something they appreciate so much. After making a thousand bow ties, I still enjoy it. Ellie and I have collaborated on a bow tie to be called the "Giuseppe"...fashioned from recycled pants in Nantucket Red...very Massachusetts, very Giuseppe. Ellie's bow ties are available direct at The Cordial Churchman, or you can find them at the Affordable Wardrobe booth at the Top Shelf Flea Market this Sunday.


Anonymous said...

I love the bow tie and wear one every day, personally i think there should be a annual bow tie day for everyone to look smart, keep up the good work!
John @ Sliding Wardrobe Doors

Pigtown*Design said...

I found a cache of wonderful Liberty of London vintage bow ties, but have no idea how to tie them. Are there any tutorials out there, or can the CC or you give us one?

KFad said...

Well done, Ellie. I think it's time I picked up one of your seersucker ties.

Basseq said...

Bravo Ellie! My CC bow tie is my favorite in my collection... there will be repeat business.

Also excited for the fixed-length (custom fit) ties. That was going to be a request for "next time."

Anonymous said...

This used to be a fun blog but has become as pretentious (well,, maybe not quite), as ACL and Ivy Style. Shame - but there we are. Nothing lasts forever.

Giuseppe said...

Is it really so pretentious to support somebody who makes nice new things in her home and sells them for a reasonable price?

It's not like I'm shilling for J.Crew or Bass, you know.

And not for nothing, this blog has been 100% advertisement free since day one.

Usually when someone flings an insult at me in the comments, which does happen from time to time, I try to stay out of it. I do, howver publish all comments, positive,negative or otherwise. I only use ,moderation to filter out the spam. Don't quite see the pretention in that either.

"Pretentious" is a barb I don't take lightly, so I had to speak up.

Some Assembly Required said...

I'd love to support her business, but I'm just not a bow-tie guy. Any chance of getting Ellie to consider making regular ties?

Young Fogey said...

The anonymouse who considers you "pretentious" for taking the time to promote a one-woman home business, someone who makes quality products by hand, is, in my opinion, a self-righteous, arrogant p®i©k.

You are nothing like ACL or Ivy Style's proprietors, and, beyond the inevitable superficial resemblances concomitant to your shared topic, your blog is nothing like their commercial sites.

Let me express my appreciation again for the wonderful service you provide, without remuneration. You introduce people to the benefits and pleasures of thrift store shopping, and you willingly put your personal style on the firing line. You've inspired hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people to try clothing combinations like yours, and to expand their wardrobes with quality used goods available for a fraction of their cost new.

So let the anonymice masturbate with their keyboards and call you "pretentious": their drivel is as productive as, and as pleasing to as large an audience, as their onanism.

Young Fogey said...


Making regular ties is significantly more difficult than making bow ties, so don't hold your breath.

I, too, hope that someday, Ellie will consider expanding into long ties, but until then, I will be happy with the option of getting both premade and bespoke ties for the bargain basement price of 26 bucks.

Unknown said...

For truly pretentious wannabes, try living in Toronto. An anti-American hell hole where lots of grown-up men keep their dress shirts untucked only to pair them with the most pathetic square-toed shoes. Just a dreadful place.

Young Fogey said...

Aha! That's where that anonymouse is writing from!

Anti-Americanism in a Westerner is a sure sign that you're dealing with someone in the thrall of a hateful ideology. I don't mean people who don't like the current administration (Obama, Bush, or otherwise), or who have reasoned criticism of the US; I mean the mindless "America: All Wrong, All the Time" attitude.

Thanks for the tip, Sam. I'll make sure to stay away.

Gentleman's Gazette said...

First of all, I want to congratulate on your blog! I just found it coming from offthecuff and I think you prove that style is not a matter of money. Is it easier to build a stylish wardrobe with money? Certainly, but there are other ways too :).
With regard to the bow ties, I was wondering whether zou have anz single end bow ties?

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