average idea for people browsing and shopping for new clothing is the basic
t-shirt. Something that stands out without looking tacky or overstated, yet eye
catching and pleasing to yourself and those to see. And one local design company is cornering the market on that very
--- Ultra Apparel has been making the rounds through the fashion community recently, showing off an array of original t-shirts with offbeat designs that while simple, tend to be distinct from the majority of what's on display. I got a chance to chat with designer Cale Montrone about Ultra and getting it started and his designs, as well as thoughts on local fashion.
Gavin: Hey Cale, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Cale: Well lets see... I just turned 24 this month. I have lived in Utah all my life. I grew up skateboarding, snowboarding, playing drums, and pretty much participating in anything that had to do with the counter culture here in Utah.
Gavin: How did you first take an interest in clothing and printing?
Cale: I have always wanted to start my own clothing company for as long as I can remember, but it seems like I became legitimately interested in it when I was in about 9th grade. My friends brother Tony had bought a full on screen printing set up to start a business, and once I saw what the possibilities were with screen printing (as far as what could be printed on a shirt) I wanted to start designing my own clothes.
Gavin: What was your time like at Weber State and their program, and did you go through any fashion courses while you were there?
Cale: I enjoyed my time at Weber. I was enrolled in their Technical Sales program while I was there. I met a lot of really cool people, but I ended up taking a break for a while and I haven't been back since. While I was there I never took any fashion classes because they were not teaching the stuff I wanted to learn. The classes they were offering dealt more with the retail aspect of fashion as opposed to the actual designing and construction of clothing. But I as far as the school itself goes I think Weber State has a lot to offer. It is definitely way underrated.
Gavin: What were some of your first designs like? Still got any around?
Cale: The very first shirt I ever designed was for a snowboard company I was trying to start while I was in school. I made my own font and logo, and printed about 30 shirts. The placement of the logo was pretty standard (center of the the chest), but I ended up selling all of them. I might have one laying around somewhere. Once in a while I will see someone wearing one around.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up a clothing line?
Cale: I finally decided to take the plunge because I was sick of being at the mercy of some other companies art work. I wasn't interested in any of the t-shirts I would see around. So I just started making stuff that I wanted to wear, and since I have always wanted to start up my own company I figured I would make a bunch of shirts that I wanted to wear and see if anybody else wanted to wear them. Fortunately people did, and Ultra has been slowly growing ever since.
Gavin: How did you choose the name Ultra for the line?
Cale: I just liked the word. I thought it was aesthetically pleasing, sounded cool, and it has as a great meaning. Plus it is extremely over used in our society, so I thought it was kind of funny to use it as the name. Almost every product you see is ULTRA something. It is great advertising for me in a way. Ultra is everywhere.
Gavin: Was it difficult getting everything set up or did things flow rather smoothly?
Cale: It ran pretty smoothly. Things actually worked out a lot better for me at first than I thought it was going to. The first store I went to to show my shirts was FICE, which is a street wear boutique downtown. I talked to Corey, who is one of the owners, and he said he would carry them on consignment. Once he agreed to carry my stuff in his store, my confidence went through the roof and I figured that I might have a shot at this whole clothing thing. Now I am in a few more retail stores and currently working on my online retail presence. Hopefully everything keep working out.
Gavin: What's the process like in creating a shirt, from design to final product?
Cale: The first thing I do is create a design on my computer I think would look interesting on a t-shirt. Once I have the design I want, I will look at what kind of shirt I want to print on (short sleeve, tank top, etc.). Once I figure that out, I will e-mail my artwork to the screen printing shop I work with. Once they get the art work they create a silk screen with the design and print it on the t-shirts that I chose. It is a pretty simple process on my end. I really only create the art and choose the shirts I want. I leave the rest to my buddies who own the screen printing shop.
Gavin: How has the reaction been like to the products from both shops and buyers?
Cale: It has all been very positive. Every store I have approached has agreed to carry my product, and they have all said they like what I have been producing. My stuff has been selling fairly well against major street wear brand in each store, so I take that as an indication that the buyers seemed to be stoked on my stuff as well.
Gavin: Is it easier or more difficult doing the bulk of it by yourself? And what would you recommend to people looking to start up their own?
Cale: Well I am kind of a control freak so I like doing everything myself, but it's a pretty daunting task. I am looking to actually hire some people to help me so I will be able to hopefully expand the company outside of Utah. If someone wanted to start something up themselves, I would recommend that they surround themselves with good people that will help them out. Maybe not necessarily in the business itself, but by networking with people you are going to be dealing with while you are trying to start up. I was fortunate because I have friends who own a screen printing shop so they helped get me going on production, and I also used to work at a retail store so I had a couple ins as far getting my product out in a couple stores. So I would say the best advice I could give is network with people.
Gavin: A little local, what's your take on the local fashion scene, both good and bad?
Cale: Ehh... it's okay. Its starting to get a little stagnant. There are a handful of local companies right now that are really making their mark on fashion locally and internationally though. My favorite local company right now is Zuriick. I think they are the best thing Utah currently has to offer as far as fashion is concerned.
Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?
Cale: I don’t think Utah has very many great places to shop for clothing. There are a few boutiques that are pretty cool, but we need more. I also would like to see more local designers.
Gavin: What's your take on Fashion Stroll and what its done for the local business?
Cale: I think it is a great thing. It is definitely helping bring attention to the talent we have here in Utah and gives people a reason to get out and see all the other local business’ that are involved.
Gavin: Do you have any favorite clothing shops you like to work with or shop from?
Cale: I am a fan of FICE, Bastile, Blindside, and this new little boutique that just opened up called FRESH.
Gavin: What are your thoughts about local retailers and how they deal with local products?
Cale: For the most part I have had pretty good luck with working with all the retailers I have approached. They will usually start off carrying local products on consignment, and then if it does well for a certain amount of time they will usually consider actually placing orders with you.
Gavin: What's it like for you doing business in this current economy?
Cale: It is a little rough, but fortunately for me I don’t have any employees yet, so I don’t have to worry about feeding peoples families. I also feel fortunate because I am only selling t-shirts right now, and for the most part people will still buy a t-shirt they like because it isn’t usually going to break their budget.
Gavin: Are there any plans to expand beyond what you've got going now?
Cale: Oh yeah. I am working on getting denim made, and some cut and sew pieces as well. I am also going to try and expand out side out the Utah market. Hopefully I can play my cards right and make this thing work.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and Ultra the rest of the year?
Cale: I want to start sponsoring more events around Utah and start working more with local artists. I also want to work on having a stronger brand presence throughout Utah. I want ultra to be a brand people ask for when they go shopping.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Cale: Yeah, buy local! And don’t be afraid to think outside the box!