JOCELYNN BROWN

Handmade: Seamstress turns neckties into garments

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

As a fashion designer, June L. Sutton of Detroit is successfully tied to the idea of creating wearable art using a particular menswear accessory – neckties.

Sutton – who learned to sew in middle school, says daughter April – saw a skirt somewhere that had been embellished with ties, so she put her skills and creativity to work and made one she designed using neckties.

Over the years, one thing led to another, including Sutton taking a break from working as a hairdresser in 2005 to start a garment-making business, the Fit 2B Tied Collection by June L. Sutton, which offers unique, eye-catching items made of new, vintage and discarded men’s neckties. “I think I’ve found my calling,” enthuses the talented entrepreneur. “I’m thinking about opening a boutique.”

Sutton, 60, collects ties in a number of ways. “I get donations from people, I buy them at boutiques and I go to tie stores and I get some from them,” she says. And in terms of price, color and style, she adds, “ I try not to go over $20 for one tie. Black ties are hard (to find) because men keep them, (but) I will buy them new, if I need them. I like the old school ties because they’re wider and I don’t have to use so many.”

The vintage and discarded ties she uses are always dry-cleaned. And, depending on the garment she plans to make, some of the ties she works with are taken apart to add more drape to the fabric. “Most,” she says, “are not taken apart, but if I’m making a summer dress, I take them apart, take out the stiffener, and steam them so they can flow.” Sutton also notes print ties are much easier to find than those that are solid color. But she’s always on a mission to find the later because she likes to “break up the prints with solids” when piecing them together.

Sutton designs and makes various garments as part of her growing urban chic collection, including skirts, dresses, pants, coats, vests and necklets, but she seems especially proud of the wedding gown she made for a bride-to-be who wanted to wear cream and green. “She gave me about five months to get it together,” recalls Sutton, who also makes vests made of ties for men (how cool is that?), and has also created garments for children.

“I cater to true fashion risk takers and there’s no age or size requirement,” she says. Persons interested in placing a custom order usually visit her website, (http://coverthechaos.wix.com/fit2btied), for ideas.

Sutton, whose work is priced from $15 for a necklet to $300 for a coat, works out of her home-based studio about two hours a day. And, time-wise, it takes about a week for her to make a skirt, but closer to a month for a coat because she usually finds it necessary to do two or three fittings, and some customers, she says, want the outerwear piece to have a lining for warmth.

In need of a “show-stopper piece” to wear last week to the Los Angeles opening of the movie “I Am My Sister’s Keeper,” actress Velda Hunter of Detroit chose to rock her Fit 2B Tied skirt for the red carpet event. “There were so many people who wanted information on how to get one,” enthuses Hunter, who’s in the movie.

A repeat customer, Hunter adds, “My skirt started off as a bustier, but I lost weight, so it was turned into a skirt. I also have a necklet that accents the skirt. Anything she makes with ties, you can dress it up to be after 5, or just throw it on to go to the mall.”

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/detroitnewshandmade.

Contact the Fit 2B Tied Collection by June L. Sutton at (248) 342-4583 or http://coverthechaos.wix.com/fit2btied. Email: coverthechaos@yahoo.com.