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Formal attire shops spur youth interest

Photo by Johnny Jackson 
Black Tie Formal Wear, Inc., customer Brandon Weatherly (left) stands with the tuxedo shop's manager, Katie Hill. Weatherly won an iPad from one of the shop's tuxedo wholesalers.

Photo by Johnny Jackson Black Tie Formal Wear, Inc., customer Brandon Weatherly (left) stands with the tuxedo shop's manager, Katie Hill. Weatherly won an iPad from one of the shop's tuxedo wholesalers.

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

McDonough resident Brandon Weatherly fondly recalls his senior prom -- an evening in mid-May escorting his date, Kinsley McDonald, in a Royal Blue 2009 Ford Mustang.

"Prom was extremely fun," said Weatherly, 17. "I've never had so much fun."

The 2011 Ola High School graduate dressed himself in a white La Strada Tuxedo, complete with a matching hat, approved by both his date and his mother. He rented the modish threads from Black Tie Formal Wear, Inc.

Weatherly recently learned that he was a winner in an iPad touch-screen computer giveaway promotion conducted by Tuxedo Central, the wholesale division of the Atlanta-based Savvi Formalwear.

The iPad promotion was designed as a random drawing contest among some 10,000 prom-goers who indirectly receive Savvi Formalwear products, according to Savvi Formalwear President Arlene Walrath.

Walrath explained that customers at each of Savvi Formalwear's 100 affiliate stores and shops, from northwest Florida to South Carolina, was included in a random drawing each week between mid-March and mid-May to receive a free iPad. She said 14 computers, worth about $500 each, were distributed.

Weatherly was one of the last to receive his prize. He received the computer on Friday, at Black Tie Formal Wear, a tuxedo shop in Stockbridge that purchases from Savvi Formalwear.

"I feel pretty happy about it," Weatherly said. "I wasn't really expecting it."

Weatherly said he plans to make quick-use of his new iPad, as he prepares to start college this fall at the Art Institute of Atlanta, where he will major in game design and programming.

The giveaway served as a unique opportunity to spark interest among young people in dressing for formal occasions like proms, according to Chris Willard, owner of Black Tie Formal Wear.

"It gives people an incentive to come by," said Willard.

Willard noted his tuxedo rental business has maintained steady business over the years, serving nearly 2,500 young men this prom season. He said business for the tuxedo shop declined in 2008, apace with the formal wear industry and other businesses affected by the economic recession.

The shop owner said he may consider organizing a local giveaway next prom season as a way to drum up more business. He acknowledged the shop has been able to build a reputation among local schools in donating tuxedos to school principals who act as chaperons at formal events as well as needy students who get good marks in school.

Savvi Formalwear President Arlene Walrath added that her company's efforts, too, will continue in spurring on young people's interest in formal attire.

"We have done other things over the years, but this [iPad giveaway promotion] was such a hot item for young people, and it was successful," Walrath said. "We plan to do this again."