When The Lumineers walked the red carpet at the 55th Grammy Awards in February, most folks saw the guys behind that catchy "Ho Hey" song. But Barton Strawn and his team at Lumina Clothing in Raleigh saw that and much more, including the Northampton—a steel blue tie draped around the neck of bassist Ben Wahamaki. It was one of many Lumina pieces worn by The Lumineers at the awards ceremony held in Los Angeles.
Headquartered on East Martin Street, Lumina bookends Raleigh's most fashionable 0.4-mile stretch. On the other end is Raleigh Denim, which sells its designer jeans at the likes of Barneys New York. "Raleigh Denim has set the stage for fashion in Raleigh and hopefully we can grow that," Strawn says of Lumina.
The business has certainly come a long way since Strawn started it as something of a hobby a few years ago while enrolled as an undergraduate at N.C. State University, where he studied architecture. At that time, Strawn hand-stitched neckwear for himself, his friends and a small following on Etsy, the online craft and clothing store. As for the inspiration, Strawn says, "I was part of an organization that had a lot of events that I had to dress in suits and ties."
Unable to "find the perfect tie or pants," Strawn created his own, putting his drafting skills to other use. "I enjoyed designing buildings but got tired of that," he says. It was also a practical shift for Strawn, who admits, "I have always and will probably continue to buy a lot of clothes."
Strawn cites the official start of Lumina as 2010. He's now been joined by three partners: Paul Connor, director of marketing and sales; Peter Landis, director of operations; and Justin Carey, director of finance (and co-founder of Lumina). The four work together in the storefront and studio on East Martin, where roles overlap. "In a business like ours, we [all] tackle anything we do," Strawn explains.
For these Southerners (everyone hails from North Carolina except Landis, who claims Georgia roots), the goal is to create clothes with a strong tie to the region. Many product names reference Tar Heel counties, including the Chatham pocket square, the Albemarle tie and the Iredell bow tie.
As described on Lumina's website, designs reflect the area's once-abundant industries, particularly textiles, meaning "durable work wear inspired clothes, with a strong modern focus." Lumina itself is a play on the state's formerly abundant cotton "looms."
At first, Lumina was able to take advantage of those local machines. When the business outgrew its own workshop, it sourced production to a factory in Wilmington. But that manufacturer eventually shuttered, as many mills have across the state.
Still, all of Lumina's products are crafted in the country. Neckwear is manufactured in New York, shirts are made in South Carolina and pants in Illinois. "We always wanted to keep things in the United States and that is our broader goal," says Strawn.
He sounds a bit reminiscent of the opening line to that Lumineers song, which croons, "I've been trying to do it right." It's a mission that's working out.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Ho hey!"