- The company's "Kyiv" design
Late last year, Greg Shugar ordered blue fabric with yellow stripes for the spring collection of his Middlebury-based company, Beau Ties of Vermont. When Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, he saw the fabric in a new light.
"I was like, 'Oh, my God, there's the Ukraine colors right in front of us,'" he said, referring to the nation's flag. "And then, you know, we came up with this idea."
This idea was to use it to create all sorts of Beau Ties apparel — bow ties, suspenders, headbands, pocket squares — and sell it to support humanitarian aid in the besieged Eastern European country. Shugar initially bought 15 yards of the fabric, which generally would be a three-month supply. But on March 8, the company emailed customers about the "Kyiv" design and sold out in about an hour, Shugar said. That raised $5,000 for the Global Empowerment Mission and HIAS, a nonprofit organization that assists refugees.
"I was sitting in the office, and we were screaming, like, 'Cut it off. Market is sold out. Take it down from the website,'" he said. "Because we've never experienced anything like that."
Shugar has ordered 45 more yards of the fabric. While waiting for it to come in, last Friday the company released a new design, "Lviv," which is a similar fabric but with blue and yellow stripes of equal size. That, too, sold out in an hour, though the company is now giving 25 percent of its profits — rather than 100 percent — to the cause.
A South Florida entrepreneur, Shugar bought Beau Ties in April 2019, and roughly two dozen people work at the Middlebury factory. The company has taken stands before: In 2020, it designed a black face mask with "I can't breathe" across the front, a reference to the murder of George Floyd.
"I just love when our customers feel the same way we do about important issues that are not political," he said. "They are just what's right and wrong."