If something doesn’t tie into a bow, can it be called a bow tie?
Such philosophical conundrums aren’t usually the province of fashion writers, but neither are trips to suburban wood shops. Needless to say, BÖ by Mansouri’s wooden bow ties are an unusual fashion accessory.
Individually handcrafted in a mini industrial park in Burnaby by father-and-son partners Mehran and Sam Mansouri, BÖ by Mansouri's one-of-a-kind neckwear is made of reclaimed maple and North American walnut.
An architect by trade, the elder Mansouri is also an inveterate designer and puzzle solver who stumbled on bow ties as a creative outlet while designing a bench for a client. “She wanted the bench to be very simple, with a very long span,” he remembers. “I thought about the Japanese butterfly joint to connect the parts together and thought it would make the piece unique and super cute. As I was looking at the joint—it was walnut and the bench was fir—it really stood out, and I thought ‘That would make a beautiful bow tie.’”
“And now he wears one every single day,” says son Sam, who handles the day-to-day operations of the fledgling company.
Each bow tie begins as a remnant sourced from a commercial mill in Oregon. Individual designs are then cut out with an automated drill before being hand-sanded. All the material used in the making of a bow tie, from the wood offcuts to the Israeli leather neck strap, is repurposed. Even the colourful Austrian paper twine that creates each piece’s “knot” is twisted together from castoffs in the paper-making process. The only virgin element is the Swedish teak oil used to hand-seal the wood and bring out the grain in each piece. Thanks to variations in grain and texture, and the occasional knot or burr, no two ties are identical.
And just how many pieces are there in the collection? According to the younger Mansouri, there are 10 styles on the company website, of which nine have both a light and dark version. Then there are 10 centre-colour options, bringing the total to 190 variations from which to choose ($55 to $70). “The design process is like that,” says Mehran, whose creative tinkering has also given rise to ingenious wooden cases for iPhone earbuds. “Once you start, it just flows and flows.”
As if to illustrate, he points to some three dozen new models he and his son plan to release in the fall, including a leather-covered version, a tie flashed in acid-etched copper, a black line burned using the Japanese sugi ban technique, and ties embossed with Iranian sia ghallam, an ancient Persian foil technique incorporating floral and paisley motifs, that can be viewed and ordered at Gastown’s Rowan Sky boutique (334 West Cordova Street) for about $100.
The ingenuity doesn’t end at wood. On the table is a blindingly white tie made of Corian, a manufactured faux-marble used in bathroom and kitchen countertops, as well as a selection of small leather goods like wallets and iPhone cases.
“Now I cannot stop,” says the elder Mansouri. “I don’t think he can cope with all the ideas that I come up with,” he jokes, pointing to his son across their shared desk. “But I’m pretty sure that with all the infinite materials out there, I could do this for 50 years.”