Billie King sees the future of cigar marketing, through his own lens. Both his imagery and video art are definitely being noticed within the industry. Give him his due
ST . LOUIS
Billie King isn’t just building another cigar brand, he is “contributing to cigar culture… his way!”, as he often says and posts. He has coined his style “Editorial Cigar Photography & Editorial Cigar Videography”.
Billie “Bowtie” King is on the way. King, raised in North Chicago, IL., this modern-day renaissance man also known as Mr. Bow Tie – the degreed engineer and physicist from both Howard and Xavier University of Louisiana respectively, works a regular 9 to 5 during the day and spends the rest of his time building his brand and being a family man.
The visual aesthetic strategy taken by Bowtie, related to his advertisements, injects uniqueness into traditional cigar marketing. King says, “Cigar culture is rich in history and tradition. As
a student of the culture, especially from the marketing standpoint, I intend to contribute greatly and respectfully to it, whilst remaining true to my roots and who I am as an individual.” He paints this magnificently with a broad stroke that is exquisite all his own.
This beautiful image was created by media mogul Samantha Ramirez, based a Bowtie’s vision. The concept of strength mixed beauty is obviously captured in this image. July 2014 (Photo Credit: Samofftharecord)
Since 2009, Bowtie has worked to develop the visual look for his brand’s marketing. Photoshoots have always been a large part of his approach. He decided early that his brand’s look and feel had to be different than other cigar brands. This is something he learned from early hip-hop artists. King says, “different than today, hip-hop artists of the early days prided themselves on not sounding like any other artist. Of course, influence existed. However, history clearly documents this and having an individual sound was respected and highly regarded. My thinking is the exact same, as it relates to my brand’s look. Cigar brands like Fuente (extremely traditional), Tatuaje (a hybrid of traditional & extreme), and CAO (their use of vibrant colors) are great examples I’ve studied.” However, my brand’s look has evolved over a decade of photoshoots and video projects.” This is evident by the photoshoots and videos that King posts on his website and other social media platforms.
Inspired by a Prada photoshoot from 2013, model St. Louis entrepreneur and Model KylaRican embodied the very essence of the BOW TIE CIGAR brand, while allowing her own unique personality to shine through. (Photo Credit: Andre Everett)
BOW TIE CIGAR originally started out as an un-banded five cigar package, infused with Lebanese coffee, packaged in a plain no logo Ziploc bag. King says, “at the onset of this journey, I was buying cigar bundles and after trying out dozens of different coffees, selected a Lebanese blend that once infused, the cigar was utterly delicious and smelled wonderful
when smoked. The taste and bouquet turned many heads when I fired one up in a public space, back when it was still legal to smoke inside restaurants and hotel bars.” From those humble beginnings, the line has evolved into arguably one of the greatest-designed cigar 5-pack presentations in the entire industry. The 5-pack cigar package is truly his lane and it’s very clear that he gives as much attention to this aesthetic as he does to the blends themselves.
If this were fashion, the 5-pack would be Bowtie’s capsule collection; a curated minimalist selection of classic pieces that work together seamlessly and accentuate all occasions, as it will not go out of style. King says, “the quotidian of premium cigars is the luxury of artisan craftsmanship. This luxury is intentionally designed into my packaging.” This philosophy will always be the common thread in everything he does.
From left to right: STL Model Coca doing a rooftop photoshoot in ( Aug 2017 ); STL Model Kelsie was hired to create cigar art using an old school photobooth (M ay 2017 ); STL Model LaStarr did her thing in Bowtie’s project entitled “The Beauty Within” ( Oct 2017 ) . STL Model/Hair & MUA Brittanie took King’s “ Trench Coat” project to another level ( Dec 2016 ). (Photo Credit: Bowtie)
“74 times a charm”; what do you mean by this?
“In the movie ‘My Cousin Vinny’, Joe Pesci played an attorney. Regarding attempts at passing the bar exam he said, ‘for me, six times was a charm’. I have always appreciated these words because his character never gave up. In 2006, I needed to find a company to work with. Not having any relationships within the cigar industry, I started cold calling every cigar company phone number I found on Google. Between June 2006 and December 2007, I made hundreds of phone calls, typically reaching out to the same company multiple times. Seventy-three said no. The seventy-fourth company gave me a shot. A private label deal.”
King, seen here directing model’s onset in October 2017, for a shoot paying homage to famous “Supermodel” photographer Peter Lindbergh. They accomplished a cigar photoshoot like none has ever seen, respectfully filled with beauty & sex appeal. It created quite the buzz within the St. Louis cigar community
How did you go about coming up with your four cigar blends?
“I realized that spending 6-12 months in a cigar factory every day learning to blend was not feasible for my situation. So…I spent six months developing my palate by sampling various types of tastes, everything from dirt and mud to freshly cut and dry grasses to fruits and vegetables to spices and herbs to multiple types of cigar leaves and much more! My thinking was to become extremely good at clearly describing to the master blender what I want my blend idea to taste like using the simplest terms, as we create it together at the cigar factory.”
From left to right: JAX Model Maria posing for “ Bellissimo Marrone ” photoshoot in ( Jun 2017); JAX Model Jaiden brought allure to Bowtie’s “Contrast” Photoshoot ( Jan 2017); JAX Model Amanda completely understood Bowtie’s project entitled “ A Man’s Suit ” ( Aug 2018 ). JAX Model Kristina was wonderful in the “Ginger” inspired shoot ( Mar 2021 ). (Photo Credit: Martin Torres)
Bowtie, dressed in a denim jacket, hip-hop t-shirt, jeans, and Chuck Taylors, (his daily garments of choice) has a humble disposition about him, yet is obviously confident and driven.
Like many others with dreams of having their “own something”, King decided to pursue his. Some of the best advice he ever received early on was from a kind stranger sitting next to him at the bar of Morton’s in Clayton, MO. “The gentleman and his daughter were celebrating a large contract his small business obtained the day before, after taking out a loan for equipment. I mentioned not wanting to take a loan for anything. He said, ‘that is called growing your business organically. Understand, it will probably take you much longer that way. You must be okay with that.’ Those simple words truly put this journey into perspective for me.”
In 2018, a series of photoshoots covering five cities was conducted, affectionately entitled, “The Abandoned Series” These images were taken in E. St. Louis, IL. (Photo Credit: Fred Finch)
Each cigar blend wearing the BOW TIE CIGAR name is outfitted with a different color bow tie. The current offerings include:
- 314 – RED LABEL BOW TIE
- COPPER LABEL BOW TIE
- COUTURE – WHITE LABEL BOW TIE
- PLATINUM LABEL BOW TIE
The first photo shoot of 2022 (February); King himself created this project, continuing the Editorial Cigar Photography look he has made his signature style. (Photo Credit: Wesley Law)
Plans are currently being made to visit the cigar factory this year, as Bowtie has two new cigars blend ideas in mind and wants to get to the business of creating them with the master blender in Santiago, DR. King says, “who would have thought a guy from North Chicago, where absolutely no cigar factories or tobacco farms exist, would be blessed to sit/blend with and learn from a true master blender creating a cigar that I taste in my mind. It is truly one of the greatest experiences of my life!”
In the latest photoshoot of 2022; King partnered with St. Louis’s newest Model Devonne Kay to create a shoot inspired by a vintage aesthetic, mixed with today’s styling.
(Photo Credit: Andre Everett)
“Special recognition goes out to all the wonderful team members that support me in the effort to create the beautiful images within this article, Including Brittanie, JSuper, Andre Everitt, Fred Finch, Tyrone Leslie and Martin Torres. Also, to the entire team at Las Lavas Cigar Factory in the Dominican Republic.”
If you want to learn more about BOW TIE CIGAR and Bowtie’s brand, visit:
Youtube: bowtie cigars
Facebook: bowtie cigar
Umar Nisar was born and raised in the busy city of Abbottabad. As a journalist, Umar Nisar has contributed to many online publications including PAK Today and the Huffing Post. In regards to academics, Umar Nisar earned a degree in business from the Abbottabad UST, Havelian. Umar Nisar follows the money and covers all aspects of emerging tech here at The Hear Up.