Navy veteran and custom bow tie and necktie designer Immanuel Ontiveros is on a mission.
His passion is to convert the men of San Diego from casually dressed to upscale gentlemen with swagger — and, of course, that includes everyday neckwear.
The Sonora, Calif.-born Ontiveros ended up in San Diego after five years in the Navy, training to be a military police officer, and possibly someday a California Highway patrolman. Ontiveros says he realized he only wanted to be the “good cop” in the good-cop-versus-bad-cop scenario, and that 90 percent of the job wasn’t going to be as action-packed as he’d hoped.
So, he went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in leadership from National University.
Until about a week ago, Ontiveros was working at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, helping vets with their benefits. But he recently gave his two-week notice to pursue his tailoring and designing passions — as encouraged by his wife, Anda, an attorney by trade who now works for a local tech company.
“I’ve always been a creative person. I expressed it through a love of fashion,” Ontiveros, 28, says. “Constantly reviewing men’s magazines, I noticed the U.S. was behind Europe, and the East Coast was ahead of the West — and many of the guys were wearing bow ties. Thinking I was going to be original, I went out and bought myself one. Within a day, I ran into a friend with the exact same tie on.”
So, what does an enterprising Navy vet do? He goes out and buys a sewing machine to start making his own ties. One minor problem: He doesn’t know how to use it.
“I went next door to my neighbor, thinking she was a girl, she must know how to use a sewing machine. Right? She did. But she didn’t know how to make ties. I started with some fabric from an old pair of pants.”
Today, Ontiveros has designing and sewing ties down to a science. He’s often stopped on the street and asked about his ties.
His line is called Lord Wallington, named after his dog, Wally, a local rescue mutt. Locally, Ontiveros sells in boutiques like Crow Thief in South Park, Simply Local in the Headquarters space in downtown and Lone Flag in Del Mar.
He creates small quantities of custom and virtually one-of-a-kind ties, ranging in price from $45 to $125. He buys fabric anywhere he finds it, and it’s usually not more than maybe half a yard. So, once he uses it, it’s never to be repeated. He says that exclusivity is the goal.
In addition to developing Lord Wallington, Ontiveros is being trained by Joseph Cortese, the owner of Joseph’s Menswear and Custom Tailoring shop, as an “apprentice tailor in training.”
Ontiveros admits that wearing a bow tie is a hard stylish push for most men, not to mention men in Southern California. Ontiveros says he’s helping men discover what he calls being “appropriately overdressed.”
The designer says bow ties are not a necessity but an accessory that adds to a man’s overall look.
Cecelia Church, owner of the Little Italy boutique Vocabulary, says of Ontiveros’ ties: “They’re not too fashion-forward, but if a guy wears one, he’s definitely going to look like he has style. They’re reasonably priced. We love them.”