Just weeks after PVH’s David Sirkin showed me the new V Collection of neckwear, which donates a portion of sales to cancer research, I learned about another neckwear line with a charity angle. It’s called DiBi and its DiBi Foundation gives school supplies to needy kids in the U.S. and the Philippines.
Chicago native Daniel Bruce graduated from Arizona with a retailing degree. He wasn’t happy with his first job, in a Macy’s management development program in New York, so he went back to modeling and creating drink menus for bars. Both jobs required wearing a lot of ties. Eventually, he moved back to Chicago and started an event company. Through that, he met Akira’s Jon Cotay, who connected him with an apparel line that needed some sales help. That was when he realized that he could make a career in the apparel business.
He wasn’t seeing ties he really liked on the low end, like at H&M, and the ties that were more fashion forward cost upwards of $85. But just starting a tie company wasn’t enough. Toms Shoes, which donates a pair to children for every pair sold, inspired him. “I’ve always wanted to be able to give back, to do something I love and be proud of it,” he says. “I wanted to make my mom happy—she’s a teacher, and I come from a family of teachers.” And that was where he got the idea to donate school supplies.
“With the small amount of money I was going to make starting my own company, I asked myself, ‘how can I provide a lot of something with a little cost?’ School supplies seemed like the best fit,” he explains. A friend living in a rural part of the Philippines alerted him to some of the need there.
After a couple of years of paperwork to make his charity, the DiBi Foundation, legitimate, he’s finally ready to take an official trip to the Philippines to deliver school supplies. The other half of the school supplies will go to inner city schools in Chicago.
In his third year in business, he’s carried in nearly 100 stores. The collection started with 14 skinny ties—about an inch and three-quarters—but he’s expanded it to include wider, two-and-a-half-inch ties to get more market share. The ties, more than 100 styles in fabrics like chambray, linen, velvet, seersucker and corduroy, retail for between $28 and $49. Bow ties are now about a third of his business.
Next is a higher end line he’s going to call Daniel Bruce, which will be made in Italy.
Daniel Bruce will be showing the DiBi collection at Project in Las Vegas next week.