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When Diego Echeverri was preparing for his wedding, he noticed a void in the menswear market. "We were planning what the groomsmen were going to wear and realized that neckwear is very expensive if you want good quality," the Alexandria resident explained. Echeverri talked to his childhood friend, Francisco Diaz, about his observation, and it wasn't long before the two business partners were ready to launch Bull + Moose, their response to the demand for affordable, quality neckwear. "We were going for a target market that was young professionals that wanted quality but didn't want to pay for a Hermès tie or go to Barneys and pay $90 for a tie," Echeverri said.
Echeverri and Diaz visited several manufacturers overseas before selecting one that produces neckwear for American companies like Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. They launched their collection last summer, and during its first year of business, Bull + Moose is off to a strong start. Just before Christmas, the company was featured in GQ, which helped beef up holiday sales. "It's kind of awesome to see, except that you're going to bed at 4 in the morning because you're packing and shipping," said Echeverri, who currently performs those tasks in-house. After the jump, we asked Echeverri more about how his business works, helping veterans, and the practicality of camo bow ties. —Katy Nicholson
DC Metro pocket square, $25
The company frequently receives online orders from around the globe, and the products are also popular at two local brick-and-mortar stores: The Lucky Knot in Alexandria and Highcliffe Clothiers in Middleburg. Within the local market, a silk pocket square adorned with the D.C. Metro map has proven popular with men and women alike.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the business for Echeverri is the network of local designers and retailers he has discovered. "In D.C., there's a tight group of menswear companies that are startups, and the camaraderie is cool to see."
What sets Bull+Moose apart from other men's accessory brands?
Echeverri is particularly proud of the savings Bull + Moose is able to pass on to the customer through online sales and resourceful business practices. He designed the company logo and some of the tie patterns on his computer and recruits friends for photography and modeling. By minimizing the overhead costs, Bull + Moose is able to offer most of its ties for $30 or $35. "You get a lot for your money," Echeverri said. You'd have to pay double elsewhere to get the quality that we sell. The product is also unique. If you do a Google search for narwhal neckties or bowties, you're not going to find them anywhere."
What inspires your style and business practices?
Bull+Moose merchandise is a reflection of Echeverri's and Diaz's personal styles. Echeverri met the company's brand ambassador, polo player Brandon Phillips, while living in Florida. The "elegant but masculine" sport exemplifies the Bull + Moose style. "For us, it's a mix of purpose and also aesthetic. We wanted to do some fun neckwear that's also appropriate for a business environment."
Echeverri noted his grandfather wore a tie every day, and he and Diaz both grew to admire that quality in the "dapper gentlemen" of their families. "You kind of behave a certain way when you dress nicely, and I think as guys we need every excuse to behave better."
With a military and political background, Echeverri is accustomed to dressing in uniforms and suits – "everything pressed, everything lint-free, everything fitting properly." Having served in the Army in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004, he was eager for Bull + Moose to help sponsor the Got Your 6 campaign, which helps veterans transition into civilian leadership roles. "It felt right. It's a privilege and honor to support what they do."
Camo bow tie, $35
What is your favorite Bull+Moose product and why?
Echeverri is proudest of the Camo pattern, both in the bowtie and necktie styles. The style appeals to a variety of people, from veterans to hipsters to "Duck Dynasty" enthusiasts. "Camo is kind of the leopard or zebra for guys. It's the edgier, chic, ironic pattern that appeals to a lot of people."
Bull + Moose's camouflage pattern is dark and subtle enough that it is only noticeable from close up, Echeverri noted. "What I love about the bowtie is I can wear it to a black tie event. I don't know if anyone's going to wear a camouflage necktie to a job interview, but I'd love to know if they did because that would be pretty bold."
What are your plans for the future?
While Echeverri would like to expand the company's selection of neckwear and develop a mobile app, he does not have any immediate plans to shift the focus of the company.
"We're singularly focused on bowties and neckties and pocket squares is the third tier."
How often do you wear a bowtie?
"If I'm walking the dog or running errands, I'm not wearing one to do chores. But if I go to a meeting, there's a 50 percent chance I'm wearing a bow tie."
· Bull + Moose [Official Site]