His plan then was not to start a business but rather find something cool to wear that will make him stand out.

His timber bow ties have now turned into a big brand named Major John.

“It started in 2012 when I made bow ties for myself and two of my friends. I was looking for something for a function that was different, something that you couldn’t find anywhere in South Africa,” he explains.

“I then thought of something cooler and made timber bow ties. People actually went mad over them and two years later, in December 2014, I decided to start a business,” says Whitehead.

R8.1 timber bow tie by Major John.

His bow ties are unique because unlike your usual cotton ties, they are made of different materials which includes denim, leather and timber, which are locally sourced. Each bow tie is numbered and can be traced back to the series and issue.

“For all our bow ties, the materials are sourced in South Africa, mostly in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Bloemfontein;

“I only make a limited amount of each bow tie, about 50 to 100, which are numbered according to the series and issue. However, in the beginning, I made 10 of each. We have worked with more than 50 types of timber and 10 different fabrics over the past two years”, says Whitehead.

With his production demand growing every day, Whitehead has managed to get more helping hands to assist with the manufacturing of the bow ties.

“I work with a small team of eight people that work with me in the production of bow ties and all of our products, which are locally made in Johannesburg”, adds Whitehead.

“My main challenge is that sometimes the quality is not up to the standard that I want it to be and then I have to send it back to production to be redone properly. We are constantly working and enhancing the technique,” says Whitehead.

Pen roll-up by Major John.

After being featured on one of South Africa’s leading lifestyle TV shows, Pasella, Whitehead wants Major John to grow internationally.

“I am growing my team at the moment, getting more people to work with me. We’re also expanding our market negotiating to go internationally. We actually now have an agency in Europe to get a bigger market for us”, he says.

Whitehead recently worked with South Africa Fashion Week (SAFW) where he showcased at their pop up shop which he hopes will grow his market even further.

Suspenders by Major John.

“We started with bow ties but we are now growing into luggage accessories and into smaller furniture pieces. I’m expanding not only to do bow ties but for Major John to be a lifestyle of quality and artistic crafts within the local economy,” says Whitehead.

Combining the ideals of the arts-and-craft movement with modern trends to create unique hand-crafted products, Whitehead encourages all fathers to be more present and always be there for their children.

“As a father, you must work hard and stay humble. But most importantly, be involved in your child’s life. At the end of the day, being there for your child is more essential than buying them a bow tie,” adds Whitehead.

R8.1 timber bow tie by Major John.

Categories: Fashion