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The Art of EMJ

Last year, Eric M. Jenkins taught himself how to sew by watching YouTube clips. This year, he's a full-time bow tie designer.


What it is The Art of EMJ, a new line of locally made blingy bow ties designed by Hyde Park resident Eric M. Jenkins

What it is The Art of EMJ, a new line of locally made blingy bow ties designed by Hyde Park resident Eric M. Jenkins

Who he is Even though Jenkins, 24, studied sociology at Fisk University in Nashville, he says fashion has always been a big part of his life. While in school, he helped produce fashion shows and also worked at high-end stores such as Barneys New York and Cole Haan. He arrived at the decision to become a bow-tie designer haphazardly in 2009. “It was a vision, a dream I had one night, and I just acted on it,” Jenkins says. He looked at a couple of bow ties he had in his closet and said to himself, I can make this. He drew a pattern and then made his first hand-sewn bow tie. “It was nowhere near ready to sell,” he says. But he felt potential, so he bought a sewing machine and watched a few YouTube clips on how to sew. “And I just sort of took it from there,” he says. In May (almost a year after teaching himself the craft), Jenkins showed his first collection at the Nicole Gallery in River North. “I had the pieces on the wall,” he says. “My motto is ‘fashion is art.’”

What he makes Unless your dad is P. Diddy, most of the looks in the Art of EMJ collection aren’t your father’s bow ties. Made of unexpected material such as leather and embellished with rhinestones, these bow ties ($40–$85) eschew the traditional preppy look usually associated with this kind of neckwear. Instead, the accessories have a flashier, urban vibe to them. But they’re still versatile. Jenkins, who’s often wearing his own pieces when out and about, says they’ll look good whether you wear them to a wedding or paired with jeans and a pair of Vans. “These make bow ties current for my generation,” he says. Another plus for bow-tie newbies: Most of the selections in the line fasten together via hooks (so wearing them doesn’t necessarily require you to know how to tie a bow tie). Since the line—and the designer, for that matter—is still new, Jenkins says he’s focusing on just bow ties at the moment (he’s designing looks for spring 2011, which he then sends to a local manufacturer to be produced) but sees himself designing other accessories in the future.

Where to find them In addition to selling the full line (including looks for summer and fall 2010) on his website, Jenkins has his selections available at open-any-day-now Sir & Madame (938 N Damen Ave, 773-489-6660), the new clothing store from the owners of Solemates.

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