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Meet Alisa Otto of Ottomatic Threads in North Dallas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alisa Otto.

Alisa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have been sewing since I was four and always enjoyed experimenting with clothing, so it was no surprise when I decided to pursue a degree in fashion design. I’ve worked in several different parts of the fashion industry: children’s wear, women’s ready-to-wear, menswear, costume design, alterations, and I have had several really random projects for private clients that were a lot of fun. While pursuing my MFA in Design at the University of North Texas, I played with the idea of starting an activewear line, but I put that aside as a “someday” dream and focused on completing my graduate degree so I could teach fashion design at the college level. Ten years later, I decided it was time to take a step back from higher education to spend more time with my family and focus on my design work. Ottomatic Threads officially launched in January 2020 and we’ve had a great feedback since then. In addition to the line, I work with new brands to develop patterns, make samples, and source supplies.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The only issues I’ve run into are the same issues everyone has faced with Covid-19: I had a really hard time getting supplies because textile mills were channeling their efforts to producing materials for PPE so my second release was much later than I intended. But while waiting for supplies to come in, I sewed up masks for my community and various organizations around the country that needed them. I try to not think of it as a struggle, per say, more of a way to get creative with my time and figure out how I can be of service in the meantime.

Funding has also been a bit of a challenge, but I have been seeking out the advice of mentors on how to tackle it. It’s my goal to open a manufacturing facility so I can expand my product offerings and so I can take on more private label work to help other new designers grow their brands. I also want to serve local organizations as much as possible and having a facility that’s really engrained in the community will help me do that. It’s been tricky finding funding opportunities since most small businesses have struggled recently.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Ottomatic Threads story. Tell us more about the business.
Ottomatic Threads is a women’s outdoor apparel company that draws inspiration from national and state parks. I am an avid hiker and I found it difficult to find clothes that were durable, fit well and were unique. When I really got into the idea of the company, I started out on the quest to make the perfect hiking tank top that would work after hours of wearing a pack. Our scoop neck tank took several months of trial testing, pattern tweaking, and sampling to get it just right and I absolutely love it. I’ve added a racerback tank in this last release and we are currently working on hiking shorts, leggings, and base layers for releases later this year.

I use a lot of appliqué and contrast binding in my designs and the prints I use are usually pulled from pictures I’ve taken along the trails of various parks, so the designs are really different from what’s already out there. Though OT is known for hiking clothes, I know a lot of women have purchased items just for everyday activewear. I don’t want people to think they can’t use the product if they don’t hike- it’s really to encourage women to get outside and feel comfortable doing so.

I am most proud of the goals we have as a company to give back to causes that are important to us. We have made a commitment to donate 1% of all proceeds to National Parks and we have goals of partnering with other organizations in the future.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
It was really important to my parents for my sisters and I to pursue a college education and in doing so, I was able to make some truly invaluable connections as an undergraduate. I was lucky that these connections led to internships, industry jobs, and an unbelievable amount of exposure to many different areas of the industry. I still talk to several of my college classmates to this day, so I feel like I am really lucky to have graduated with such a wonderful group of humans.

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