TechWears combines fashion and technology in jewelry and accessories made from recycled items — including old computer parts — by founder Drew Johnson. "I am finding my way as I go," he explains. "I used to call myself chief executive upcycler, and the more I get into it, I realize that I am in the fashion world. I am making a fashion product like rings and cufflinks. I can make twenty sets of cufflinks, and none will ever be the same."
Johnson obtains his materials from manufacturers. "I'm using recycled circuit boards. When they make a computer, they don't have me in mind. They are just designing the circuit board for efficiency and power. I start with a motherboard and then pick out the parts that are pretty," he says. "I like to hand-pick circuit boards for aesthetic value. I can't just pile up stuff like old TVs and computers in my garage."
Johnson, who was born and raised in Colorado Springs, created his first necktie in March 2013, after Googling "circuit-board tie" and finding nothing. "I decided to make one myself, and it was a hit," he recalls. "Everyone loved it. I created the prototype, which was a green one and three-dimensional. I sold it in an art show, even though it wasn't for sale. I made a new one. I quit my job and started making more and more." By February 2014, he'd started TechWears.
"I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if it wasn't for the response that I got from people," he says. "I go with the flow, and with the demand. Now here we are."
And where is TechWears? At the intersection of fashion and technology. "I own few accessories," Johnson says. "I have a wooden tie, a tie made of a leather belt. I've always worn a pinkie ring, and I feel naked without it..., I know what I like, and that is it. I know what I love. This is pulling me into what I love. Social media has helped get the word out and helped me relax. The demand for my product is real. Someone knows someone else who would love it."
Although Johnson doesn't know how to sew, he knows what he likes. His favorite color, for example, is "sunset," he says. "I love purple and a good red and green. It's really a matter of my mood. I like sunset because it is so dynamic, and because of my mood, and so dynamic to the environment. I like blue and green.
"My mantra with TechWears is, 'If I don't want to keep this for myself, then I don't want to make it,'" he continues. "I don't wear earrings, but I still ask if that is something I want to keep. That is generally my rule of thumb. Before I go out at night, I ask what am I going to be comfortable in."
A self-proclaimed "thrift-shop junkie," Johnson says that "being comfortable is my number-one priority. I can't stand not having pockets, needing to put something away and not having a place to put it. I like fashion that provides utility and usefulness to the person wearing it."
As a result, he predicts, "Wearable tech is going to be huge in a few years. TechWears are things that I want to wear and I want to use. I would like to keep developing technology that people can use. Wearable tech is sleek and serves a purpose; the fashion that appeals to me is utilitarian. I think fashion is going toward a place that needs tech and fashion together."
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Johnson's pieces — upcycled bowties, bolo ties, earrings, necklaces, cufflinks, rings, belt buckles, bracelets and more — are available at some consignment shops, and he also sells his creations at markets. "I want TechWears to be a shop and a producer," he says. "Right now it's a one-man show. Between the book-keeping and designing and social media, soon I hope to have a TechWears team. That would be awesome.
"This is my passion, and I have found what I am here to do and am meant to do. Wherever this leads is where I am supposed to be," Johnson concludes. "TechWears allows me to profit society, people and the planet."