For Kyle Reagan, an invitation to an ugly Christmas sweater party was a date with destiny.
The 26-year-old Victoria entrepreneur had a hard time finding the perfect tacky sweater for the party and thought others could be running into the same problem. “You can’t get as tacky or as cheesy with a vintage sweater as you can with an original,” says Reagan. “I wasn’t happy with the options out there, so I decided to make one myself.”
He got to work collecting ornaments and nick-nacks from clearance sales and dollar stores and stapling them on to sweaters he purchased at vintage stores and thrift shops. Then he started a website. Before long, the apartment he shared with his girlfriend was filled with sweaters and his email inbox was full of requests for purchase.
“There are only a few providers out there that actually make their own,” says Reagan. “Most of the other guys manufacture overseas. I have more than 450 styles (other than vintage) and they’re all one-offs. You’ll never walk into a party wearing the same ugly sweater as someone else.”
He quickly changed his weapon of choice from a stapler to a glue gun, and in the last four years, he’s sold hundreds of sweaters, ranging in price from $29 to $149 plus shipping.
Last year (his third season), Reagan was sold out of sweaters by Dec. 1. This year he is prepared for the increasing demand. He got started crafting the 2011 line in February — ordering end-run sweatshirts from Vancouver and LED lighting kits from China.
The latest trend in Christmas sweaters: the light-up sweater.
Reagan’s latest works include the Excalibur collection — one-off sweaters that “include everything but the kitchen sink. And at least 20 lights,” says Reagan.
His mostly-mail-order business sees about half its website traffic come from people searching for ugly, tacky or cheesy Christmas sweaters online. The other half is looking for their light-up cousin.
“The light-up sector has seen the most aggressive growth,” says Reagan. He says about half his website traffic comes from south of the border.
But most of his business comes on those late November and early December evenings when last-minute shoppers come calling for crafty Christmas cardigans. As long as customers have a design in mind (the sweaters are all boxed for shipping), they can come do some shopping at his Saanich workshop.
Reagan’s website, christmassweaters.ca, is hosting Victoria’s inaugural Tacky Christmas Sweater Party at Sugar Nightclub, Saturday, Dec. 3. Tickets are $10 in advance and are available on the website. M