Ugly and tacky aren’t usually nouns a budding entrepreneur hopes to hear about his latest work.
But for local business owner Kyle Reagan, the words couldn’t sound sweeter.
“Naughty’s also been a huge thing this year,” says Reagan, standing in a basement full of self-made ugly Christmas sweaters.
Armed with a glue gun, felt cutouts, ornaments and, more recently, a canvas printer, he dreams up fashion faux pas designed to stand out amongst a room filled with Value Village attire.
Ugly Christmas sweater parties have become the norm in recent years and they historically involve animal vignettes on knitted vintage threads.
“With more competition coming in, you have to be more innovative with the products,” Reagan said, swiping through the remnants of the Christmas rush in his workshop.
One of his most eyebrow-raising innovations is a sweater with protruding screws in place of snowmen’s noses.
“You can attach real carrots to the front,” he said. “It definitely turns heads.”
There’s also demand for niche pop culture designs, he said, including canvas printer images of Justin Bieber and Psy of “Gangnam Style” fame framed with LED lights.
“I don’t have the capacity to make dozens of one model, so often I’ll make one elaborate sweater and sell complimentary products that are very similar on a mass production-type scale,” he said.
The Saanich resident and Royal Roads graduate used the business as a learning ground for future Internet marketing ventures. Now in his fifth season of production, he ships his creations as far away as the United Kingdom through online orders at christmassweaters.ca.
An early estimate puts his sales at 2,100 units for 2012.
He openly shares his knowledge with other DIY-ers through online tutorials on his website.
“I was really standoffish about it the first couple of years, but there’s no secret to it – it’s glue and ornaments.”
Next year, Reagan plans to sell even more tacky sweaters by creating dedicated websites for each market in the U.K., U.S. and Canada.
He may want to consider a website for Alberta, the province that eclipsed all others in ugly Christmas sweater sales this season.
Reagan can only speculate why that’s the case.
“They’re fun-loving people out there, that’s for sure.”