MILWAUKEE- Always impeccably styled in a button down, creased slacks and dress shoes, our talented feature this week after school pins patterns and sews stitches. As noted in a promotional descriptor, we can find his youthful fingers on a sewing machine for hours or at least until his mother tells him it’s time for bed.
He is young, gifted and Black.
Moziah Bridges, then a fourth grader at Rozelle Elementary School located in Downtown Memphis, started his career as a fashion designer at the age of 9 in June of 2011 with his exclusive line of Mo’s Bows.
His creations, writes Hannah Sayle in her October 27, 2011 Memphis Flyer posting, are aimed “at playground pals and adults alike.”
Sayle further reveals that Moziah – “Mo” for short – delivered one of his ties to Fox 13’s bow-tie wearing weatherman Joey Sulipeck who wore the gift on the air. Next, comments Sayle, he plans on sending a few of his bow ties to his pop idols Justin Bieber and Chris Brown.
He has been a guest on the Steve Harvey show and has been featured in British GQ, in Oprah’s O’Magazine, and in Forbes.
“Oprah is big,” said Mo as quoted in Rae Lyn Hartley’s LocalMemphis.com’s August 19, 2013 article. “Nobody is bigger than ‘O’. I thought, ‘this is really cool.’ What kind of kid gets to be in an Oprah magazine?”
Writes Karsten Strauss in the August 8, 2013 Forbes, “When you look at the short but potential packed career of Moziah Bridges, one gets the impression that this young man is in a hurry.”
Strauss adds that young Mo is carving for himself his own notch in the fashion world, “one bow tie at a time.”
In present day, Mo describes himself as a 12 year-old entrepreneur. Recalling his beginnings just three years ago, he says: “I couldn’t find fun and cool bow ties one day. So I decided to use my granny’s scrap fabric to make and sell my own.”
He adds that he likes to wear bow ties, “because they make me look good and feel good. Designing a colorful bow tie is part of my vision to make the world a fun and happier place.”
Tramica Morris, Mo’s mom, positions that “Old School” trends as mirrored by his well-dressed dad and grandpa inspired his love for fashion and instilled in her son the importance of dressing for success.
A huge selection of Mo’s bow ties are from his grandmother’s vintage fabric, respective selections of which date back more than 50 years.
And it was, in fact, his grandmother who taught him to sew. Mo’s Bows is indeed strongly guided by his mother and grandmother according to Sayle. After stopping by his grandmother’s house to pick out fabric and patterns, he settles down with his mother and grandmother and starts stitching.
“He can sew a bow tie from start to finish,” says Morris in Sayle. “But there are some things he really doesn’t like to do, like the ironing. We’ll do some of that for him.”
Says Mo, “I just pick whatever I see. It has to speak to me. It has to be fun. It has to be preppy,” as quoted in Rae Lyn Hartley’s LocalMemphis.com’s August 19, 2013 posting.
Strauss adds that Mo’s designs vary widely from traditional polka-dot and stripes to multi-colored paisley and sports team themed ties.
He tots his bows in an old suitcase.
Each bow design has its own name: “Night Magic,” “Beale Street,” “Paper Boy,” “Buster Brown,” and “Think Pink.”
I name all of my bow ties,” he reveals in Carlee McCullough’s July 12, 2012 Tri-State Defender interview. “I make and sell so many. But ‘Teachers Pet’ might be the bestseller or ‘Buster Brown.’”
Strauss cites that our youthful Memphis native has earned over $30,000 thus far as of 2013.
He sells on his own website accessible Etsy page. Founded in 2005, Etsy is an online marketplace where people around the world connect to buy and sell unique goods.
The Forbes account further notes that Mo’s Bows are also available in upscale boutiques in Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and in Arkansas.
Locally, as shared in the McCullough interview, Memphis has been a great market for his sales: “The churches have been so supportive and it seems like a lot of teachers buy my bow ties. I think this is so because they are proud of me making my own business. I have even sent many bow ties to New York, Las Vegas, Miami and even some to Australia.”
Looking towards the future in McCullough, he views prospects to sell his bow ties in Macy’s or Dillard’s and to see them included in New York’s fashion magazines.
He adds: “I also want a super big billboard. I just want to see Mo’s Bows really big in the sky and in a really nice store downtown. There’s another store in South Carolina that wants some of my bow ties too. Now, that’s what’s up!”
He has also created a product line that raises funds for charity.
“I made this bow tie called ‘Go Mo! Scholarship Bow Tie’ and 100 percent of the proceeds are to help kids go to summer camp because I feel like it’s good to help the community. And that’s what I’m doing.”
His next step as a manufacturer per the Defender writing are pocket squares, cologne, and later on down the line, suspenders.
He is even looking to make neck ties since they are a part of his sixth grade school uniform.
“Actually,” he adds, “I really plan to have my own clothing line by the time I’m 15 years-old. I think that can happen.”
“I’m very proud of him. It’s still sinking in,” said Morris who in published accounts left her career in retirement services to spend more time building her son’s business.
She also works part time for her mom’s trucking company, in between sewing, organizing trunk shows and press trips. Balancing academics with fashion seems to be a “breeze” for Mo as cited in noted articles. But, he admits that he owes it all to mom.
Hartley writes that Morris “makes sure her pint-size businessman stays grounded” and that homework and chores are priority as, she says for example, the lawn still needs to be mowed.
Quoting Morris, “One of my close friends says to this point, ‘Mo mows?’ Absolutely, I replied. Mo mows.”
With a birthday in November, now that our dapper 12 year-old has a successful run in fashions; is a profitable business owner, and is looking to be bigger than Ralph Lauren, he has his sights on Parsons School of Design for college.
“You don’t have to wait until you’re older,” his mother said. “If you have a dream and you have a passion, we say go for it.”
But as Mo passionately pursues his goals in the world of fashion commerce, Rheana Murray in the New York Daily News reminds us that in this journey towards the realization of his dreams, he must first finish sixth grade.
By Taki S. Raton
Special to the NNPA from The Milwaukee Courier