Student creates up-cycle business


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Andrea Tate, senior in apparel design, created her own business up-cycling clothes. Tate takes garments like jeans and turns them into fashionable and one-of-a-kind shorts. She also screenprints on old T-shirts.

Ali Hanson

Always keeping herself busy by working more than 90 hours a week and multiple jobs at once, Andrea Tate, senior in apparel design with an emphasis in creative design, decided to create her own business to ensure she’d always have something to do.

The summer after her sophomore year at Iowa State, Tate started up Ohtatie, a company that up-cycles clothing for resale. She got the idea after seeing the trend on the West Coast and saw the opportunity to bring it to the Midwest.

“I wanted to do something with myself as well as get my name out there a little more,” Tate said.

This is the first entrepreneurial activity she’s done where a profit comes back to her, but Tate has always been involved with fundraisers and volunteering her time elsewhere.

The summer after her junior year, the business had grown so much that Tate hired help, but later saw it was easier to work alone. She wanted to be sure her brand image would be portrayed exactly how she wanted. Being the sole employee of Ohtatie means Tate does all the shipping, handling and transactions on her own.

Half of her customers are online and the other half are personal requests or specialized tailoring.

“There’s a lot of different body types out there and it’s really hard for someone to go shopping and find the right designs they like, so if they’re able to find the right fit, then I can just alter or create if they have an idea of what they want, like an acid-wash or changing jeans into shorts,” Tate said.

As for her online transactions, Tate said it’s convenient for people who don’t know what they want but like the idea of having something that nobody else will be wearing. Not every request has to be a complete renovation to a piece of clothing. Sometimes she’ll make small adjustments, like adding extra fabric or lace to a piece, or altering the fit of a garment. 

Tate personally makes all the garments, meaning no two items are the same. To give customers as many options as possible, Ohtatie usually has 80-100 pieces on the website at any given time. Tate has brought the business to her house by keeping all garments in her basement.

Tate also likes to display all garments on a model to give customers a better visual of what the pieces look like on real women, especially her shorts. When Tate first started out, she used her friends as the models and they returned the love by becoming her clients. Tate has also shipped garments to a friend in Europe.

Originally mending her own clothes, Tate has continued to create with her taste in mind. The target market are women between the ages of 18 and 22 with an active and edgy style. She is also budget-conscious, with the average garment ranging from $15 to $30.

Overall, Tate said the hardest part of starting up a business has been getting people to understand her idea. Despite that struggle, her mom, a professor at Iowa State, and a friend have really been inspiring for her.

Tate’s mother, Miriam, brought her to the United States from Ecuador to expand her opportunities.

Christina Denekas, digital printing professor, helped Tate break out of her shell.

“She saw my potential and I really grew under her wing,” Tate said.

Tate also noted her friend, Megan Van De Boe, an ISU alumna in product development, and said she always helped her along the way and pushed her to be as successful as she could.

On the other end of the apparel spectrum, Tate has entered evening wear pieces in The Fashion Show 2015 at Iowa State. The Fashion Show will take place April 11 at Stephens Auditorium.

After graduation, Tate plans to move to Los Angeles, Calif. and work in apparel design, hopefully evening wear. She will continue to run Ohtatie.