‘A Lovely Business to Be in’
Johan Ekelund of stylish online outlet Sharp & Dapper chats about his elegant new range of spring/summer ties, and how he became involved in selling gentlemen’s accessories
Article by Adrian Peel
Specialising in the sale of high-quality items, Sharp & Dapper was set up by Johan Ekelund and his friend, Durham Atkinson, in 2011. After a year of working together, Atkinson found he was too busy running his recently acquired pub and Johan bought him out. The pair remain good friends.
Sharp & Dapper’s latest collection of ties – the ideal addition to a light cotton or linen suit and perfect for attending a formal event over the coming months – have been handmade in England and produced from 100 per cent woven Italian Silk Grenadine from the famous Bianchi Silk Mill in Como.
“My tie manufacturer down in Chatham came to see me and he mentioned that one of his customers unfortunately couldn’t take a batch of ties that they [the manufacturer] had made,” explains Johan, who moved to the UK from his native Sweden in 2005 to work as a bartender.
“I said that I would try and see if I could sell them if he wanted me to – I love Grenadine ties – and he said, ‘Spring and summer are coming up and these lovely pastel colours would be perfect for weddings’. I said, ‘Well, give me a couple of months and I’ll see what I can do’. So I got all the ties to my photographer, who took pictures of them, and then launched them on the website.”
Johan says the ties have proved very popular with customers (there are 30 different designs, though only four of each, and sales so far have been brisk). “They’re beautiful ties,” he enthuses. “The Grenadine is made by Seteria Bianchi in Como.”
“They’re handsome silk, wool lining, soft-tipped, eight centimetres – not too wide, not too thin – they’re perfect. I was surprised when my manufacturer said that the company didn’t want them. I am quite impulsive when it comes to my website and adding stuff, and this was an opportunity too good to say no to.”
Despite the quality, Johan has managed to keep the price of the ties down, noting: “He’s given them to me at a reduced cost price so I can sell them for a cheaper price. What I’m selling them for now they wouldn’t cost that in the shops. I sold Grenadines a few years back and they were quite slow – these ties are very different from what I’ve sold before.”
Johan worked in the bar trade for about 12 years in total – in Sweden and the UK – and it was around 2009 that he took his love of being smartly dressed to the next level when he started work at a London establishment that required its bartenders to dress in a New York, 1920s Prohibition style with braces, shirt stays and ties.
“I’ve always loved clothing and dressing up – my grandparents were very well-dressed – and I always wanted to look good behind the bar, try to make an effort,” says Johan, adding that he also felt he could offer better quality shirt stays than the ones he found on eBay. “One bar where I used to work, the owners always complimented me on how I stood out because I did make an effort. It’s come from that, really.”
As well as a wide selection of ties and shirt stays, Sharp & Dapper also stocks braces, pocket squares and sleeve garters. “Accessories is a lovely business to be in,” enthuses Johan, who adds that although he doesn’t quite have the room to grow just yet, as he works from a shed in his garden (‘The Shedquarter’), he has thought about launching a range of trousers at some point in the future.