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Core Team: Assemble

Getting Started: How Our Core Team Came Together

By Steve Villanueva

When I first started to dream about launching a men’s apparel company, I knew there were four categories of talent I would need. Most people start with a design idea, and work from there, but I have a strong background in Global Procurement and Supply Chain Management, and I knew that if we wanted to launch a game-changing operation, we would need business contacts and a strong high-turns supply model before we could even present our idea to potential investors.

 The Supply Guy:

I had worked with Brett Lawrence before, and I knew that he is a genius with Operations and Strategic Supply Chain Management. He’s also in the same height bracket as me, and we’d talked about the difficulties of finding professional clothes that fit well. Fortunately for me, he was enthusiastic about the idea, and we agreed to co-found the company that would eventually become Otero Menswear. We knew that to offer more sizes for each garment, we would have to come up with a unique business model, and our combined years of experience allowed us to offer many more sizes for every garment than any company had had been able to offer before.

The Tech Guy:

But since we wanted our entire operation to exist online, we obviously needed a computer guru to bring our product into the world. So, we turned to John Hess, another friend with a gift for E-Commerce and Systems integration. He also loved the idea, and all three of us pulled together to do the research and logistics that led to our innovative 3D Proportional Sizing system and the foundations for our business model.

The Design Gals (And the Fashion Photographer):

But there was one important detail that we need, the actual clothing design. We knew what we wanted, fashion-forward designs that visually leaned and lengthened the wearer. But we had to find someone with the skills to make it a reality. So, in my quest for the perfect designer, I attended my first fashion show in Denver, Colorado. After hours of wandering, I was incredibly discouraged because the overwhelming focus of the show was on women’s fashion designs. The fabrics were beautiful, and the ideas were amazing, but artist after artist focused their work on the female form. I was about to give up, when I stopped by a small gathering at a table in the back, and there I met a really articulate, charming lady named Jillian Altman. We began to talk about design, and she agreed that men’s fashions have often been seriously underrepresented. But then she said, “Oh, but you know, my sister designs men’s clothes.” She introduced me to Hillary Burke Glenn Riley (Yes, 4-names), who not only turned out to be an extraordinary men’s designer, but one with a passion for fashion-forward colors and details. An hour into our discussion, I knew she would be the heart and soul of our creative efforts. I love her work because she brings a fresh and edgy perspective to traditional designs that have become flat and dull in the mainstream commercial marketplace. And as we were closing our discussion, I happened to mention to Hillary the fact that we were in need of an excellent Branding expert and a skilled fashion photographer, and she said, “Oh, but you know, my sister does that.” She turned around, and, sure enough, there was Jillian. And, as you can tell, Jillian brings the same passion and focus to her photography that her sister brings to her clothing designs. She has an amazing eye for color and shape that bring all of our products to life.

The Modeling Guru:

And, because we were doing something that had never been done before, we also needed someone with impressive math modeling skills to make sure that each of Hillary’s designs could be individually re-scaled so that the details (placket, collar, sleeve length, arm hole diameter, etc.) would be precise for each clothing size and body-type variation. We absolutely refused to use the same “make it all proportionally bigger/smaller” design that drives the seven-sizes-for-everyone model (XS-XXL) that you find in department stores. I met with Fashion Group International, Denver, and was introduced to an an amazing technician, Genny Turechek, who helped us take our base measurements and grade them for every clothing design. She has been absolutely critical because grading is utterly essential to our design models. Thanks to her, we confidently stand behind all of the 21 measurements that we offer for every single garment design.

From this core team, we’ve gone on to include ad experts, copywriters, and social media contacts, but this is the group that brought Otero Menswear to life.


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