Vineyard Vines founders living the good life

WHAT BEGAN AS A NECKTIE BUSINESS — sold out of backpacks to people in bars, on boats and on the beach — has turned into Vineyard Vines, a “good life” apparel brand that reached $60 million in sales in less than 10 years.

Brothers Shep and Ian Murray, who launched Vineyard Vines in 1998 with little or no business acumen, told their story at the NEMOA conference.

Before starting the company, “we used to talk a lot about how much we hated our jobs,” Shep Murray said. “Then we said, ‘Why don’t we make ties?’ The whole idea was to bring the good life to work with you.”

To the Murray brothers, who grew up in Greenwich, CT, and summered on Martha’s Vineyard, the good life is the ocean, boats, whales and fishing. These images became the focal points of their ties.

So they each quit their jobs and started looking for manufacturers. “We didn’t know anything, but we had a passion,” Ian Murray said. “We wanted to breathe new life into the tie business.”

Vineyard Vines, best known for nautical, preppy apparel, today includes stores, a Website and a catalog. The catalogs incorporate photos of real-life sailors and friends wearing Vineyard Vines products, as well as their stories about sailing adventures.

It also helps Vineyard Vines’ credibility that “we wear the products we make, and it shows the authenticity of the brand,” Ian Murray said. “It’s all about this lifestyle.”