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PROFILE: Student Fashions Own Co-op and a Local Apparel Line

They say that no one likes to be labeled – but that’s not true for fashion senior Jay Ott. He’s created and marketed his own local apparel line this fall – complete with the “James Ott” label.

Date: 12/7/2005
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Lisa Ventre and provided by Jay Ott
UC ingot University of Cincinnati fashion design senior Jay Ott chose to stitch together his own cooperative education quarter this fall – one that resulted in a sold-out clothing line that he sketched, made and marketed via Suki of Hyde Park.

“With my previous co-op quarters, I’d already worked for uniform designer Stan Herman, for Liz Claiborne, Ralph Rucci and Coach… I now wanted to see my own projects through from start to finish. I wanted to know that I’m capable in every phase of the business for when I graduate in June,” says Jay, 23, a native of Pittsburgh.

For his fall line, which consisted of 26 pieces – dresses, skirts and tops, Jay tied up every loose end. And that includes creating and attaching his own individual “James Ott for Suki” labels into each garment. Even that small detail is a harder job than you might think, he claims.

Jay found a cloth for the label but then had to find a means to transfer text from his computer to the label. He eventually used an ink-jet printing method to transfer the type which, he admits, did smudge a bit when he then tested the label in the laundry. “When I finally got the labels right and sewn into the garments, it was a great moment just to see the labels with my name in it. I just thought, ‘Wow. This is it.’”

To complete every garment in time for the collection’s Nov. 10 debut, Jay worked 18-hour days. But all the work paid off. His garments virtually sold out in 12 days. Perhaps it's because he concentrated on a “one size fits many” approach. For instance, a tent dress could be made to be more fitted with a belt. A skirt would be worn long and flowing or twisted into a mini-skirt.

“The garments were all adaptable, and they worked as separates or as a unified ensemble. I also worked to hit a price point below $100 per garment. It was such a great experience, and the best part is that I know I connected with people. They liked the work and responded. They bought what I created,” says Jay.

He adds that he always knew he wanted to work in the fashion trade. “I didn’t choose design, it chose me. My mom claims that when I was 3, I said I wanted to be Ralph Lauren,” he laughs. Jay’s not sure if that’s true, but he does know that he always appreciated the inherent creativity of cloth, its motions and its multidimensional aspects,  specifically the possibility of working with and manipulating a 2-D material into a 3-D object.

His eagerness for hands-on experience brought him to UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning and its required cooperative-education component. The experience Jay has since gained on co-op has resulted in a handbag he designed that is currently used by Coach, Inc., in an advertising campaign. He also created costumes used in theater productions in UC’s College-Conservatory of Music and has even worked with such well-known designers as Stan Herman and John Bartlett.

Once he graduates next spring, Jay is not certain where he’d like to work. “The place is less important to me than the people I work with,” he affirms. “A designer can be creative anywhere. I want to work with great people … and yes, some day, I’d like to again be putting my own label on garments, just on a bigger scale.”

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