There are things that draw us towards it even when we don’t know where it will lead. Often time we know we may not know exactly what we’re doing but yet we believe because unless we believe in ourselves and our abilities how can we expect others to believe in what we have to offer. As we continue our Gents Among Us interview series we speak with Mr. Justin Mckenzie, founder of playTIEm.
M.C. - If you had 5 words to describe you what would they be?
J.M. - Bold, Ambitious, Colorful, Creative, Radical
M.C. - Do you consider yourself a gentleman and if so what does being a gentleman mean to you?
J.M. - Yes, I consider myself a gentleman who is learning everything I can about this lifestyle daily. I see a gentleman as being a modern day superhero. What do both have in common? People look up to them…people see what they can become. So for me, it’s about living and carrying myself in a way that will set a precedence of class and sophistication. A gentleman inspires others to see value in themselves. It’s rewarding and encouraging to see, especially on social media, little boys and young men emerging as gentlemen and raising a standard for themselves.
M.C. - What inspires you?
J.M. - More than anything, I am inspired by the concept of change and upgrade; coupled with a good success story. It’s motivating for me to see someone move from one state to the best version of themselves (some examples of this are spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, and to a great extent financial maturity). That’s why I look forward to #TBT to witness some sort of progress or positive transformation. When I look at my own growth I am also inspired, which fuels me to invoke change for myself and others.
M.C. - You have to be a busy gent, do you even have free time? How do you spend it?
J.M. - I am busy, and increasingly so but I do get to squeeze in some activities which may include going to the theater to watch plays, musicals, concerts, you name it. I also enjoy watching a good superhero movie. #BlackPantherFanatic. I’m the first to admit that food is my middle name. You’ll almost always find me at a good food truck, coffee house or restaurant. I do read at least 20 mins every night before bed, sometimes with a glass of wine.
M.C. - How did you get into the world of menswear accessories?
J.M. - Unique accessories were not accessible, and I was tired of wearing boring ties at work. Therefore, I decided that I would sort my own and out of that playTIEm came into existence.
M.C. - Was selling menswear accessories your first career choice?
J.M. - No actually. Five years ago I wanted to become a pilot because of my passion for travel but then I realized it must be more fun to be flown in first class. Additionally, some of my dreams and goals won’t happen in the confines of a job. I was scared to start a business (having no real clue about what I was doing) but I knew I had to do more with my life.
M.C. - What birthed playTIEm?
J.M. - This business underwent a long list of names…a lot of boring names. I wanted something fun, creative, a play on words, a conversation starter. Then when I was not trying to think of a name the word playTIEm flashed through my mind. I was like “Thanks God! Good looking out.” And I never looked back.
M.C. - How would you describe the menswear scene in Trinidad and Tobago?
J.M. - We are in a time now where more men are conscious of image and presentation. They enjoy the idea of dressing up. Men are now becoming empowered to make bolder statements in terms of colours, accessories, and footwear. Men are also getting into the idea of having “must have” pieces like blazers, funky socks, dress shoes, neck ties, and watches.
From an entrepreneurial standpoint, we have emerging local designers and fashion merchants. I hope to see the industry become more profitable; with more buyers and sellers, not just seers and touchers.
M.C. - What mark do you want to make on the industry?
J.M. - I hope to be a global authority. Being Caribbean allows me to bring a different experience not commonly witnessed on an international level. In whatever capacity I am privilege to serve this industry, there is a desire to make a valuable and lasting contribution. I say that because the world of plus size men is plentiful. When I first started my business, I was very discouraged by the amount of menswear stores that would not carry my size or larger and I do know that stops a lot of men from believing that they can dress better. Therefore, I want to be a sort of influencer for bigger men of all demographics to dress, speak and think more positively.
M.C. - You model a lot of your own accessories, what started that?
J.M. - I didn’t see myself as a model at first, but I believe you are your best customer so I wear playTIEm all the time. I wanted to show different options for people who are wondering “How do you wear a wooden bow tie? Or how do you wear a floral tie?” It demonstrates the products on an actual person.
M.C. - What’s next for you and playTIEm?
J.M. - I have a few projects in the pipeline, can’t say too much as yet. What I can say though is that the aim is to become a household name and to develop my brand as an unforgettable experience.
As for me, I’m looking at different opportunities. I’m also associating myself and building relationships with people who are where I aspire to be in the industry.
Be sure to follow playTIEM on Instagram