At age 18, Ty Stratton is the youngest participant in Pattern’s Street Expo and a rising designer in Indy’s fashion scene. As a high schooler Ty created his own brand, Appearel, encouraged by his family, friends, and teachers to pursue his passion and share his creations with the world. Launching Appearel was Ty’s way of embracing his identity and he hopes his clothing can inspire others to find theirs as well.
Christel Richard: Please describe the motive or message behind your brand.
Ty Stratton: The Midwest really doesn’t have a strong foothold in the fashion world. We usually take bits and pieces from places like LA or NYC, so what I’m trying to do is push and reinvent Midwest fashion through urban clothing. It’s not just clothing to me, it’s about not only reinventing the person but also strengthening what they already have, the characteristics that make them them. I want to keep that intact and have my brand to represent that.
CR: What prompted you to share this idea through your business?
TS: It was motivation and all the support that I have from family and friends. I’m only 18 years old so it was through my teachers in high school that set me up with opportunities. Most of my high school career I did not embrace my identity and I feel like as Appearel grew, so did I. So when teachers finally gave me the opportunity, like letting me work at my dream job, which is screenprinting, all of a sudden everything just fell in place. I realized that this is what I wanted to do; I wanted to give other people an outlet to let them make their own identity.
CR: What are some of the main challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
TS: For me, it’s mostly age. It was kind of awkward at the beginning because I had all of these designs that were just me trying to find my own identity and no one was really latching onto that concept. I think at one point I almost gave up on it, and then one day one of my teachers looked at what I had for this project and he told me that I could actually make something of this. From that day till now I’ve been working extremely hard to get to this point. I’m dealing with college right now and moving out so even with all this stuff happening in my life, I want to be able to continue this once I go off to college.
CR: What is the biggest reward you experience as an entrepreneur?
TS: The biggest payoff is actually being able to see someone wear my stuff. It’s a very long process; you have to do design work, redesign, design again, check it, make sure that the material you are using is high quality, set up, etc. then finally you print and hope that it’s ok and you give that product to your customer. I remember the first week that I started doing this. I got enormous feedback from all my peers, they were walking down the hallway with my clothes on and just to be able to see that, see all my work and this thing that I had been working towards while walking down the hallway that was a “wow! I’m doing it” moment for me.
CR: What do you think Indianapolis can do to support more local brands?
TS: I think for the most part you should just encourage them. I didn’t actually even know there was a fashion scene in Indiana until Julia Rutland, she’s been an enormous help to me so far, came to my school. She’s pushed me to this point as well and it’s like without that connection I don’t think I would actually be where I am right now. I just think we need more awareness that there are people that enjoy the fashion scene in Indiana, we are here and we want you to share our work.
CR: Describe the kind of person who would wear your product?
TS: I’ve always seen myself as having a mix of modesty but an undertone of an ego, and it sounds kind of funny but I think to embrace your identity you have to have some kind of confidence in yourself. And so for people who really don’t have that, that’s what I want them to latch onto when they see my brand. I want them to look at my brand and say, this is where I can go to make my own identity.
CR: Who is one person you’d love to see in your brand?
TS: I would like to see Kanye West in my brand. A lot of people make fun of him because of his attitude, but that kind of passion that he has, that confidence, swagger, whether you like him or not it’s that mentality that you’ll tell your friends about him. You go tell your friends about the clothes he wears, the persona he embodies, but at the end of the day, positive or negative, for better or worse they are still talking about him. That’s something I want for my own brand.
CR: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
TS: Put yourself out there. I feel like the biggest struggle that I had at the beginning was modesty. I thought that I wasn’t good enough and when I finally did start putting stuff out people challenged me to do better. That’s just growth as an artist, we’re all artists you just have to put yourself out there. You have to accept criticism and get better from there. Make that first step and then keep making those steps and soon you’ll be running.
CR: How do you hope your brand will evolve in future years?
TS: In future years I hope that I can establish a brand that people know of. Right now I live in Lebanon Indiana, so most of my market is people from rural areas. I think I created some kind of a scene there where people actually liked urban clothing so now that I’m going to Ball State, I want to see how my brand does there. I’m willing to face any challenges that come my way and I hope I get better from them. I’m the kind of person that I have to make a mistake before I actually learn from it. You can tell me anything but I’ll have to make the mistake myself. So I’m looking forward to the mistakes I make and growing and learning from them.