Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
The Tie Bar, a brand best known for neckties and accessories like pocket squares, socks, and, ahem, tie bars, has a new CEO. The brand’s new leader has experience in the consulting world, worked at Nordstrom in corporate strategy, and last served at The Tie Bar as head of design and merchandising. And oh, yeah, the new CEO is a woman.
Allyson Lewis being named The Tie Bar’s new CEO is an announcement the company is framing as noteworthy, since she’s a woman leading a brand expressly aimed at men. That’s a nice, interesting thought — until you consider that men run women’s brands every day and no one gives it a second thought.
Gucci has Marco Bizzarri, Dior has Sidney Toledano, Louis Vuitton has Michael Burke, Fendi has Pietro Beccari, and LVMH, the conglomerate that owns several of these brands, has Bernard Arnault. J.Crew has Mickey Drexler, Uniqlo has Tadashi Yanai, Forever 21 has Do Won Chang, Zara has Óscar Pérez Marcote — we could do this all day. Does anyone ever make a big deal out of a man helming a company that serves mostly women?
“I get asked the question almost every time, ‘What do you think about being a female leading a menswear company?’” Lewis tells me. “But my answer is always, ‘Do men who are running womenswear companies get the same question?’ My guess is no. So that shows that the conversation needs to be happening.”
The question is rightfully frustrating. While there are certainly women in leadership positions at big apparel companies, very few lead male-focused companies like The Tie Bar — but it’s not like Lewis is doing the job any differently than she would if she were a man.
“It's not something I think about day-to-day,” she says. She still cares about ties, mostly their ability to change the appearance of an outfit as quickly as one can knot a tie.
“That’s something that's been huge in womenswear forever,” she explains. “You change your jewelry or makeup or play with scarves and all sorts of different accessories.” Ties, tie bars, pocket squares, and socks offer men these same abilities, according to Lewis.
She’s already listening diligently to what her customer base is asking from her — and right now, that’s more. The brand introduced dress shirts in October, and customers want additional categories, like suiting, pants, and jackets offered at the same reasonable prices as The Tie Bar’s other products — most of the brand’s ties hover around the $20 mark. Lewis notes that she doesn’t want The Tie Bar to be the cheapest product on the market, but still wants to deliver an appealing deal.
More more more also includes ramping up The Tie Bar’s partnerships, which have included collaborations with Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade and Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Customers are clamoring for more collabs, according to Lewis, who says there are tons of people she’d like to work with, including the New Esquire Man James Corden.
The one thing Lewis says has been and will always be part of her philosophy is mixing data with creativity, as she’s bounced between the research and design sides of the business. “What I love the most is the balance of the art and the science,” she says. Like any good executive, she’ll leverage creativity and analytics again in her new CEO position — a job that doesn’t necessitate something limply hanging off your body to do. I’m talking about ties here, of course.