Chris Powell wants to tie you up. But before you even go there, let's be clear: This gay Atlanta educator-turned-wedding stylist and now entrepreneur is hawking bow ties. What you do with them is up to you.
Gay Atlanta loves its bow ties. But if you’re thinking all bow ties are the same, one pow-wow with Powell will push that from your fashion narrative. Powel preaches individuality and the company he launched, Atlanta Beaus, delivers stylish bow ties that blend the personal style and size of their owner.
We (be)spoke with Powell (top and second photo) about his first beau, his fashion advice for Atlanta and how his beaus are for the belles, too.
Why did you start Atlanta Beaus?
Well, why knot?! I started Atlanta Beaus to have a chance to create something; I really wanted to create something that people could wear to showcase their individuality. The old-school poly-silk bow ties you find in stores have been getting tired, and I wanted to see more cotton and linen bow ties on the market. Handmade-in-America bespoke garments and accessories are becoming more rare, and I thought it would be fun to give those few-of-a-kind heirloom items a boost here in Atlanta.
It seems you made a transition from music and music education to fashion several years ago. What inspired that transition?
Creativity has always been important to me, and since childhood, my most expressive outlet was music. I went through school to finish a Master’s degree in music education and became a band director in the public school system for several years. I was a wedding coordinator and party planner on the side since I was in high school, and a few years ago, I decided to use my experience to jumpstart a career in the wedding industry. Bridal styling was my way in, and it propelled me into menswear and accessories.
As a bow-tie aficionado, I wonder what is the best bow tie you have ever seen?
Mine, of course! But seriously, I have encountered a handful of vintage bow ties over the years that have really inspired me. I offer Atlanta Beaus bow ties in several different cuts and styles that are meant to fit wearers of different sizes; I gained a great deal of insight into the design of my bow ties from the hard-to-find vintage accessories of yesteryear.
Do you remember your first? Bow tie that is.
Does a recovered memory count? I've seen photos of Easter outfits from my childhood wearing bow ties but I can't say that I actually remember them. I remember learning how to tie a bow tie, though, my grandfather taught me how to tie it on my thigh. Once I learned the knot, it was so easy to tie around my neck. I've been fit to be tied ever since.
I see photos with women on your site. So the ‘beau’ is for belles, too?
Absolutely! Bow ties are a truly versatile accessory for people of all ages, genders and political affiliations. They're not just for conservative men and university professors anymore. The Atlanta Beaus’ beaus and belles that photographed in the spring shoot for me were really into the idea of making a statement with their bow ties, and the girls really enjoyed adding a new accessory to their collection. They're not just neckwear; several girlfriends of mine have experimented with tying a bow tie in their hair as a headband and they look awesome.
With the summer party season upon us, what do you recommend in terms of bow ties?
Summer style is all about dressing down these days, but for the occasions that require more than tees and tanks, a collared shirt with a bright and festive bow tie is perfect. Seersucker or lightweight cottons are great options for your summer events. Neckties can flop around and get in the way. Bow ties stay put and get lots of compliments.
You work styling both men and women in the wedding industry and we've all seen 'Bridezillas.' Reality or not?
Reality. Being a stylist is not low-stress. In this industry, you run into all kinds of personality types. With some clients, you're a really great match and the work is fun; with others, maybe not so much. The key with the tough cases is to focus on the goal and make the client happy no matter what. I would have to say that styling brides in wedding gowns is the most fun. Even with the most difficult bride, there's so much happiness attached to a wedding gown. Styling men tends to be a little more difficult. Men are a bit less adventurous with their appearance, and are less willing to think outside the box.
What overall piece of fashion advice would you give Atlanta gays? Any trends we should avoid?
You know, there are several ways to answer this question, but instead of isolating something specific to avoid, I would rather suggest that the Atlanta gays take a look into their closets and pick out something that really speaks to their individuality. We see things we like in store windows and catalogs, we follow trends, and we all fall victim to conformity at some point or another. But I would challenge the Atlanta gays to make a statement: break the mold and try something different.
It's tough at first. Our self-confidence will often try to talk us out of doing something new. So start with something small like a unique accessory – say, a fabulous Atlanta Beaus bow tie! – and listen out for the comments and compliments you'll receive when you're with friends out on the town. Your self-esteem will soar, and you'll be inspired to make a few more changes in your wardrobe to individualize your style. You'll wish you'd done it sooner.