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On the Rise: The tie guy

N.Y. teen boasts bold line of neckwear

Shemtov made his first tie at 15, even though he could not sew, and started his business just months later.


Baruch Shemtov
New York

(CNN) -- Baruch Shemtov isn't the first teen fed up with his school's dress code. He might be the first, however, to channel that sentiment into a booming business, all by the time he'd turned 16.

And all by making neckties.

Today, he said, his ties routinely sell out online and in tony department stores, such as the Japanese-based chain Takashimaya's franchise on New York's Fifth Avenue.

The concept came about two years ago, when Shemtov returned one night to the Upper East Side apartment he shares with his father. Having shed his tie -- mandatory attire for boys at Ramaz, his Jewish day school -- he spotted a bandana across the room.

"I looked at it, and thought that would make a great tie," he recalled, and then spent five hours crafting a thin tie he wore to class the next day. "People loved it and wanted me to make it for them."

While eager to please his peers and follow his long-standing love of design, Shemtov said he wasn't ready to devote five more hours, apiece, to make more ties -- at least not until he learned how to sew. So with his parents support, he fashioned a few prototype ties, pitching them to retailers and working with a New York manufacturer to produce them in bulk.

Now 17, Shemtov boasts a bold line of luxury neckwear -- selling for around $100 each -- blending exotic colors, textures and fabrics. The ties have found an eager audience, while Shemtov's work has made it to "Fashion Week" runways and his personal story made it into numerous publications.

And the company will expand, he said, even after he enters Harvard College this September.

"I haven't expected them to do as well as they have," he said. "That's really just shown me ... people are interested in my designs."

Why ties?

While more attention is paid to shirts, coats and other menswear, ties are oftentimes seen as a staid afterthought, and, for some, a burden, Shemtov said.

"[Many people] didn't see the tie as something fresh, something fun, something fashionable," he said. "So I decided that I would [try to] reinvent the necktie."

What makes Shemtov's designs different? He points to his combination of materials -- in both their look and feel -- as seen in his kimono ties, vintage couture fabrics and double-ties, each of which is essentially two ties sewn into one.

And while a pink paisley suit might not be appropriate at the office, Shemtov said that his customers can more subtly spice up their wardrobe with neckwear featuring metallic blue pinstripes, a pink and Kelly green blend or other such vibrant options.

start quoteMany ... feel [ties are] a little too boring, a little too typical. But let them see my ties.end quote
-- Baruch Shemtov

"I try to really allow men and women to enjoy ties and express themselves," he said. "I think the necktie is really one of the only ways in which men can do that in a traditional workplace."

The products further stand out by using rare fabrics and patterns -- so rare, sometimes, that they can't be reordered. The result is that a given tie can be both a fashion statement and a collector's item.

"It ends up being limited edition," he said, "which makes it sure that no one else is going to have what you're wearing."

Student, actor, entrepreneur

Starting and running a business as a teen is one thing, but not the only thing for Shemtov. His schoolwork, social life and extracurricular activities, including recently serving as captain of his school's Model U.N. and Model Congress teams, also fill his time.

The recent high school graduate also caught the acting bug, adding that he would like to continue performing and "combine television and design in some way."

That said, he vows that his business won't be neglected. Even with everything else in his life, Shemtov said he feels compelled to pursue his passion for design.

"I really began to design and produce without the objective of money in mind," he said. "I do this for my own expression ... I wanted to get my designs out there."

Ties colors
Shemtov's ties incorporate bold colors, exotic fabrics and unique patterns to set them apart.

Shemtov said he plans to commute between Massachusetts and New York in the coming years, visiting his factory, exhibiting his wares and designing new products, all while juggling his studies.

"I'm confident I will be able to continue my designs and continue to grow my business," he said.

Painstaking process, luxury item

Each tie is hand-made at a factory in New York, and, as long as Shemtov heads up the brand, only in New York.

"It's because of New York that I was able to cultivate my interest and pursue the business," he said, explaining his loyalty.

The fabrics are cut, lined, hand-stitched and finally labeled, "a very painstaking process," Shemtov said, "but it really makes for a much more luxurious necktie."

With Father's Day approaching, many sons and daughters may run for the tie rack for a quintessential, if stereotypically sedate holiday tradition. But Shemtov said such a gift does not have to be humdrum, not if you buy neckwear from his product line.

"Many are beginning to feel that gift is a little too boring, a little too typical," he said. "But let them see my ties. I don't think anyone could see them as boring."

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