It’s hard to put into words my feelings right now, three days after Windsor Neckwear’s official launch event for the Alfred Edmond Jr. (AEJ) Bow Tie Collection in Nashville on the evening of December 6, 2012. More than 200 people, including more than a dozen sponsors, turned out to join Windsor Neckwear Partners Michael McPherson Jr. and Mace Neal III to celebrate the launch of our new line of limited edition, hand tied silk bow ties. It was an amazing evening of food, fun and fashion, with live music and prize giveaways, held at the Lexus of Nashville Cool Springs in Brentwood, Tennessee. More importantly, even though the AEJ Collection has been available for purchase for several weeks and a special media preview was held in New York’s Fashion District in November, this launch event officially marks the beginning of one of the most exciting adventures of my life. What started out as just an idea this past spring is now a reality.
Again, this is overwhelming to the point that I find it hard to find the words to do justice to this experience. But if I had to choose one word, it would be gratitude. There are so many to thank for making this stage of my life’s journey happen, especially my business and life partner, Zara Green, who has been the earliest, most insistent and most faithful believer in the unrealized potential of my personal brand. My prayer is to take every opportunity to thank each and every person for their support, advice and encouragement. But now that the bow tie line is launched, I’d to acknowledge three people who, without realizing it, helped me to see what was possible and inspired me to take steps to bring it to fruition.
First, custom clothier, author and clergyman Alex O. Ellis,
founder of the Tied to Greatness Foundation, an outreach program that seeks to
improve the self-image and esteem of at-risk, inner city high school males.
Alex graciously offered me the opportunity to write the forward to his book, Restoring
The Male Image. In so doing, he provided the platform for me to articulate my
personal approach to style for the first time ever. The thoughts expressed in
the forward to Alex’s book laid the foundation for much of what you’ll read in
this blog, I Choose Style, regarding what I’ve come to believe as relates to fashion and style. In a gesture of appreciation to my friend Alex, I wore one of his custom-made suits to Thursday's launch event.
Then, there is Roland S. Martin. Yes, the Roland S. Martin, the multimedia journalist, Tom Joyner Morning Show senior analyst, CNN political analyst and host of Washington Watch on TV One. At the 2009 convention of the National Association of Black MBAs in New Orleans, Roland met with me over drinks and shared great insights into how he approached maximizing the value of his personal brand across multiple platforms. Everyone knows that Roland’s signature accessory is the ascot, and when I saw Roland at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in San Diego the following year, he shared that he was about to launch a signature collection of ascots and other accessories with Verse 9 Neckwear. For the better part of a year, my darling Zara had been urging me to recognize that the bow tie was as much a part of my personal brand as the ascot was of Roland’s. Learning about his collection for Verse 9 helped to inspire me to realize the potential that Zara saw all along, making me more proactive about seeking similar opportunities.
Finally, a seed of inspiration from an unexpected source: Scott Leon, the executive producer of MSNBC Your Business, the weekly cable TV show for which I’ve been privileged to be a guest expert for the past several years. I first met Scott when the show, originally produced in New Jersey, moved to NBC’s studios in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center. After wearing a bow tie for my first few productions of the show at 30 Rock, I showed up for a taping in a straight tie.
“Where’s the bow tie?” said Scott when he came to greet me and the other guests before the taping.
“Oh,” I responded. “Yes, I do wear bow ties on most days of the week, but sometimes I wear straight ties, too.”
“Well, not that you don’t look great in what you’re wearing, but the bow tie is your signature look,” Scott asserted. “From now on, whenever you come on the show, you should always wear a bow tie.”
Okay! I guess the earlier clues and hints weren’t getting
through, so God decided to take the direct approach. Well, I finally got it.
From that point on, I embraced the bow tie as my signature style accessory,
making a habit of wearing one for all of my media and public appearances, and
even changing the avatars on the social media platforms on which I am most active.
Which was a good thing since almost everyone I know assumed that I already had.
Sometimes, to see what is possible for yourself, you must see yourself through
the eyes of others. It's fitting that the first national television mention of the Windsor Neckwear AEJ Collection was on MSNBC Your Business.
A generous, persistent and gracious state of gratitude is fundamental to my authentic style. So I am officially expressing my sincere thanks to Alex O. Ellis, Roland S. Martin and Scott Leon, for inspiring me to clearly define and express my own sense of personal style, ultimately motivating me to make that phone call to Mace Neal and Michael McPherson to propose the creation of the AEJ Bow Tie Collection. Without any of them being aware of it, they all helped to put me on the path to the great adventure that Windsor Neckwear saw fit to celebrate in Nashville this past Thursday.
Best of all, we're just getting started. The best is yet to come.