Bow tie love

Read our interview with Nicholas Tee Ruiz about his amazing upcycled bow ties...

Name: Nicholas Tee Ruiz
Company: (launching Fall 2012)

Loves: Adobe Illustrator, peanut butter M&M's, and the hashtag #youdabest

Hates: negativity, inequality, wastefulness, and pieces of ginger

Recommends: experiencing the Redwood National Park in California

What inspired you to include recycled materials into your designs? How did it all start?

I met singer Janelle Mone in November 2010 and we chatted about her music video "Tightrope, in which she wears this fantastic oversized bow tie. This sparked my idea to search NYC for a unique bow tie that represented me. Hitting dead ends, I decided to just sit down at my kitchen table and create one of my own. That table has put up a good fight in the past year, my tools and I havent exactly been its best friend. The occasion for my first bow tie was The Museum of Modern Arts exhibition opening of Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914. Inspired by Mr. Picasso and wanting to look sharp for the event, I hand crafted my first bow tie out of multicolored guitar picks, which I found buried in the closet of my uncles apartment, a wooden hanger, and super glue.

How did you move on from there?

My project, Made in Forest Hills started off as a sustainable way to look dapper for events at MoMA, where I work in Special Programming & Events. The response from friends and colleagues was great, and they encouraged me to continue re-purposing everyday materials into works of wearable art. I challenged myself to construct 11 bow ties designed around the major exhibition openings and benefit events orchestrated at the Museum that year. These became: The Bow Tie Collection. My bow ties were inspired by talks with curatorial colleagues, artist research, gut feelings, and my technical studies. Benefit events allowed more freedom as I was not constrained but challenged to interpret the events in a creative way. The pieces in the Collection range from looping film negatives with images of scenes from Pedro Almodvar movies for MoMAs fourth annual Film Benefit, to a LEGOS bow tie for The Armory Show 2011 after-party, and a wine corks bow tie from the restaurants of my favourite chef, Jose Garces for the German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse exhibition opening. The bow ties have style and design influences from the art in the correlating exhibitions and also a sustainable aspect because all of the materials were found and recycled from my day-to-day life. Leftover chandelier crystals from a neighbourhood lighting store became the bow tie for Party in the Garden 2011 and I even crafted computer wires, circuit boards, and a working QR code into a bow tie for Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects.

What plans do you have for the future? What materials are you looking to re-use?

For my next Collection, I will be making 100 different bow ties constructed from fun and found resources. I want this Collection to be participatory for the fans of my first Collection, so I'm asking people to supply me with materials that they would like to see made into a bow tie. You hand me a box of old cocktail stirrers, you're gonna see cocktail stirrers like never before! I'm not giving myself rules or guidelines, I really want to push the artistic craft and hopefully educate about sustainability along the way. I don't want to restrict myself to a specific size, or a certain form the sky's the limit. I just hope none of the submitted materials require dry ice... if so, we may need to chat.

So how can people get hold of one of your amazing creations?

This summer, I will be displaying The Bow Tie Collection at my first gallery show in Connecticut. The event will coincide with the launch of my online shop, Nicholas Tee in Fall 2012. Fans can receive a special invitation to the gallery launch by becoming a backer of my Kickstarter campaign. I will be creating a suede bow tie that will only be available to supporters of the campaign and Im excited to share my designs and creations with everyone that joins.

For more information email me (, follow me on Twitter (@BowTieBoy) or visit - the future home of purchasable bow ties, Collections and more!


UPDATE: We are pleased to announce that Virgin Balloon Flightsare sending over a piece of one of their old balloon envelopes to Nicholas - we'll keep you updated about what happens to it! This isn'tthe first time that Virgin Balloon Flightshasrecycled theirballoon envelopes in a cool andcreativeway. They have previouslyteamed up with Worn Again to create a range of upcycledproducts, including the "cheeky sling bag" which is still available to purchase on the Virgin Balloonswebsite.

Follow Virgin Balloon Flights at:



Twitter: @VirginBalloons


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