Bow tie business turns teenager's passion into profession

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FLOYDS KNOBS, Ind. (WHAS11) - After school activities come in all shapes and sizes. For Ethan Thomas, a junior at Floyd Central High School, they happen in his bedroom turned workshop.

“I’d always grew up having that passion for fashion if you will. I had always really cared about what I looked like and liked dressing up a lot,” Ethan said.

It’s a passion that a present promoted to a profession.

"When I was 14, I got my very first bow tie. I really loved the way it looked,” Ethan said. “I got into them for a more practical reason. I wore neckties a lot in middle school, and they would always get dirty because they would get into my food at lunch.”

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Ever the innovator, the teenager thought why buy a bow tie when you can make one.

"My grandma taught me the basics of sewing. From there, I took apart some of the ties I already had and just kind of put them back together and figured out how to make my own,” Ethan said.

Thus, All Tied Up was born, Ethan's very own bow-tie business.

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"Love doing it, and I get to work for myself. I don't have to report to anybody. I get to make my own hours. I can still balance a social life, school, and then this,” Ethan said. “I started because bow ties are so expensive. We’re trying to create the most quality product you can and keeping it really reasonable for guys who want to look really sharp but not break the bank.  I’m also doing pocket squares, neckties, cufflinks, and lapel pins. So, I’ve kind of expanded.”

With the average bow-tie running around $50, Ethan's product is a steal of a deal.

"$15 for two for $25, so we're trying to keep it as cheap as possible,” Ethan said. "I've kind of got it down to a science now. I can do it with my eyes closed. It's something that just comes natural to me because I've been doing it for so long.”

Two years and more than a few thousand cotton creations later, Ethan starts each one the same way. He traces each tie using the first one he ever wore. From the stencil to the sewing machine, this old soul of a 16-year-old has an appreciation for all things vintage.

"[I use] a Singer 301. I think it's roughly 50 to 60 years old,” Ethan said. “This is the workhorse that does most of my ties. It’s about 60 years old, and it works brand new. This is a tank. I’ve developed this love for what makes these things tick. So, I know how to oil and maintenance the majority of Singer machines. Sewing is kind of a lost art not many people know how to do anymore, and I just really love it.”

With every spin and snip of the scissors and every push of the pedal, his designs come to life.

"I've got it down to probably 10 to 12 minutes for one tie,” Ethan said.

Of course, he’s collected a few bumps and bruises along the way.

"I burn my finger or sew my finger sometimes in the sewing machine, which is always fun. I'll cut my finger with scissors, but I've kind of gotten used to it,” Ethan said.

No surprise, he’s also become a huge hit at the local fabric stores.

“They do know me. In Franklin’s and Joann’s, I’ve kind of developed a relationship with some of the ladies there and sometimes, they’ll slip me a few coupons,” Ethan said.

Ethan is his own best business model, rocking his bow-ties with almost every outfit.

"Every day except for Friday, I kind of do a casual Friday thing,” Ethan said.

Ethan’s example can inspire everyone.

"Do it. Go out there, and try even if you have a few doubts,” Ethan said. “I came expecting nothing at my very first show, and it exploded into something I never would’ve believed so just try.”

With every single masterpiece, he crafts confidence, and style.

"It's making a comeback. 2018 could be the year of the bow tie. It could happen,” Ethan said.

Ethan sells his bow ties in several local stores and has his own Etsy shop. He said Derby time is especially busy, but he enjoys meeting customers all year-long at different markets, festivals, and shows.

“My main thing I enjoy doing is going out and standing out there with a booth with 100 ties around me and just talking to people. That’s what I like doing, sales,” Ethan said.