The face behind one of nation’s most iconic sashes
by Andrew Alonzo | firstname.lastname@example.org
When the 2021 Miss America competition aired Thursday evening on the Peacock television network, the newly-crowned champion shared one striking similarity among a few East Coast college graduates, and the 2021 Claremont High School homecoming court. If you inferred the headline correctly, you likely guessed all wore sashes depicting their achievement and newly earned titles. But the common denominator goes a bit further than that.
What the sashes also shared was that each was supplied by Angelique Barnum, a Claremont resident who runs a world-recognized sash company in Upland, appropriately named The Sash Company Inc., which opened in October of 2002. Barnum’s products also include stoles and ribbons for essentially every occasion. During last Friday’s interview with Barnum, the 52-year-old CEO revealed that stoles were actually how the sash company planted its roots.
In 2000, before any mention of sashes, Barnum’s husband, Robert Barnum, needed help finding stoles for his university club members. “My husband came up to me and said, ‘I need a graduation stole.’ And I said what’s that,’” she recalled.
Barnum, who learned to sew from her mother at the age of four, acquired all the threading and stitching necessary to create the stoles at home. She quickly taught her two daughters how to sew — much the way her mother and grandmother taught her — and the trio got to work making graduation stoles for Mr. Barnum’s club. The order was successful and got her thinking about tackling a bigger market beyond her family and friends.
“The internet was still a little brand new 20 years ago and so I was Googling it and it turned out there was not another company on the entire internet that sold graduation stoles. And I went, ‘Wow I can do this from home, and I have a niche market,’” she said, basking in every entrepreneur’s dream.
During a late evening in 2000, the Barnum family was dining out when Barnum said the idea sprang into her head about creating pageant sashes for little girls across the United States. That one loaded thought came with a dream sponsorship that Barnum was determined to net, the official sash sponsor of Miss America.
Two years later, The Sash Company Inc. was founded. Becoming Miss America’s sash provider was a longshot, and little did Barnum know that the pageant ditched sashes in 1972, long before the opening of her business. Yet that realization did not stop her from going after what she wanted most — so for the next three years, she kept on creating sashes, stoles and ribbons.
In 2005, hopeful wish began to come true when she received a call from an NBC television producer asking for fabric samples.
“They hadn’t done sashes since 1972 and [Miss America] were rebranding themselves. They did a reality series and the producer from the agency that was doing the filming called and asked for [fabric] samples from every [tailor] in the country,” Barnum said. “We did not know what their request was for, we did not know it was for Miss America, so we just said, sure, okay we’ll send you a [fabric] sample.”
Among the many tailors across the nation who submitted samples, Barnum’s fabric caught the interest of NBC network officials, and the company employed Barnum in 2005 to supply sashes for the Miss America reality series, which took place on the Queen Mary in Long Beach.
As with all orders, Barnum remembered packing and checking the shipment box twice; yet somehow, the Miss New Jersey sash was not in the box. Later, she found the sash she had forgotten to pack as producers informed her it was missing. However, the ‘J’ on the Jersey was off-center, which meant that on deadline day, the entire sash had to be redone.
Embarrassed about the delay, Barnum made a new sash and drove to the Queen Mary to deliver it to the producers on time. While on the Long Beach set, she created an opportunity for herself. Hoping to help viewers at home differentiate the contestants on the show, she spoke convincingly with Michael Allegretto, Miss America’s Operations Director about bringing back sashes permanently to the contest.
“I gave it to them and I got a chance to meet the VIPs, all of the film crew and all these bigwigs of Miss America. And I had a brave moment,” she said. “I said, Mike … don’t you think it’s time that Miss America goes back to sashes?”
“And he looks at me and goes, ‘You know what Angelique, you’re absolutely right. I think we should,’” she recalled him saying. “From that moment on, we became the longest-running sponsor of Miss America and so here we are today.”
Barnum still gets goosebumps retelling the story of how her small-scale business — of which there is only one — netted her most desired deal. “To be part of this, as it’s 100 years old [in 2021], it’s a big deal,” Barnum said. “We make the best sashes in the world, we really do.”
And she’s not just boasting — apart from being recognized industry-wide as the best, Barnum essentially set the [gold] standard of what television and industry sashes could, would and should be.
For 16 years, The Sash Company Inc., of Upland has been the official sash provider and sponsor of Miss America, along with supplying sashes to hundreds of other state and locally held pageants around the world. The company has served not only the likes of Buckingham Palace, but also countless counties, high schools, colleges, fraternities, sororities and locals around the United States. No matter who the sash is for, The Sash Company Inc. ensures all orders are made to the highest quality standards, much like the Miss America sashes.
“It’s just an honor to be part of these pinnacle peak moments in someone’s life,” Barnum said.
Barnum’s mother taught her the one skill she needed to conquer the world, just as her grandmother had shown her mother, and her great-grandmother had shown her grandmother. She added that her relatives are still in the shop with her in the form of heirloom jars which hold their old sewing materials on the south wall of the business.
“I love the idea that they’re all looking down on me [still],” Barnum said.
The Sash Company Inc., is located at 1164 Monte Vista Avenue, Suite 8, in the College Business Park of Upland. The sash makers take walk-ins for any and all occasions and their store hours are between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.. For more information, call the store at (909) 982-7222.