Student sends African youths to school with men’s fashion

Skye Duncan | Lariat Photo Editor
Skye Duncan | Lariat Photo Editor
Skye Duncan | Lariat Photo Editor

By Allie Matherne

In a consumer culture it is easy to get bogged down by fashion ads and overwhelmed by flair. Fashion trends fade in and out, but Bowtaye is looking to stick around.

Trinidad, Colo., junior Maddie Danielson saw an opportunity to combine her love of fashion with a worthy cause through creating high quality bow ties.

“As a fashion design student I get frustrated with the fashion industry, because there’s such a thin line between creativity and vanity,” Danielson said. “In my opinion, it swings to the latter far too much.”

Danielson created her company to raise funds for children’s education in Kenya. Bowtaye – meaning bow tie in Dholuo, a tribal Kenyan language – is looking to innovate in order to make a difference.
“I think the fashion industry has a reputation of doing a lot of harm,” said Little Rock, Ark., senior Ashley Mullen. “It’s cool to combine high quality fashion with a deeper cause.”

Mullen, the company’s marketing and events coordinator, said each bow tie is named after eight orphans at the Bethlehem Home Academy in the Nyacatch Plateau, Kenya.

Once a bow tie named after a child sells out, this indicates the child’s bow tie has raised enough money to send him or her to school for a year, Mullen said. These funds cover nutritious breakfast and lunch everyday, school uniforms, clean water and pay for teachers and cooks.

Attached to each bow tie that is sent to a customer is a tally of how many of that child’s bow ties have been sold, alongside how many need to be sold in order to fully support the child. Each child needs 12-16 sales before being fully funded.

“If all eight styles sell out in the next four months, that means eight kids are getting fed and educated for an entire year,” Danielson said. “With promotions we have coming up, as well as live-selling events, I don’t think this is an unreasonable goal.”

The most difficult part of tying a bow tie is making sure it is tight enough around the neck, Mullen said. With a single snap and adjustment options, Bowtaye offers easy-to-use products.
“Maddie is really concerned about the quality,” Mullen said. “She wants to ensure that people aren’t sacrificing quality for the sake of a good cause.”

The Bowtaye team understands the market and the trends. The three women are all involved in fashion merchandising and are not passively selling the bow ties, said Chicago, Ill., junior and social media manager Joy Seaboch said.

“The bow tie isn’t for the preppy college kid anymore,” Mullen said. “The market is definitely expanding toward young professionals.”

The bow ties are not mass-produced. Danielson crafts each one by hand with a specific child in mind. There are no more available once a style runs out, ensuring that each bow tie remains unique.

“You aren’t going to see 100 people walking around with your bow tie,” Seaboch said.

Danielson said she is looking to expand far outside of the Baylor Bubble.

“My long-term goal would be to have a reach on every continent,” Danielson said.