Grad Debuts Menswear Collection Sartorial Theory
FIDM Alumnus August Ortega first attended FIDM in 2008, but after experiencing a brain aneurysm, he had to leave school. He returned in 2014, commuting from San Diego to Los Angeles, and earned his first degree in Fashion Design. After taking a few years off from school, he once again came back to FIDM, this time for the Advanced Study program in Menswear, and graduated in 2019. A tailor with 20 years experience in garment construction, August honed his designer and patternmaking skills at the college and has debuted his brand, Sartorial Theory, featuring wardrobe staples such as supersoft t-shirts and stretch joggers. We chatted with August to learn more about his made in LA designs.
How would you describe your point of view as a menswear designer? Menswear doesn’t have to be basic to be marketable. For me, exploring the facets of what makes menswear “menswear” is truly interesting. I play with silhouettes, textures, color schemes, and textiles to make something traditionally trendy. I've always lived by the motto “To thine own self be true,” and that all men should be able to tell their own tale through the clothes they wear, which is what I am working on with Sartorial Theory.
Tell us about your ultra-soft t-shirts and stretch joggers: The t-shirts are made of a cotton spandex blend and the differentiating thing is these shirts were enzyme washed, which softens and finishes the fabric — a treatment not many places do because of the extra cost associated with it. I went with the treatment because I wanted a softer feeling fabric, but also chose a heavier weight fabric so the shirt doesn’t cling to you. The joggers are made of a four-way stretch DWR (durable water repellent) fabric with Dryflex technology. The texture of the wrong side of the fabric is made so that it wicks away moisture much faster. All that said, this jogger is made for the gym, outdoor activities, as well as a night out on the town. The design is versatile enough for whichever occasion you need it for. Also, a neat addition is that the fabric is UV 50+ to protect you from the sun! All of that info allowed me to call it the Everywhere Jogger!
Why was it important for your product to be made locally in LA? For me personally, producing here locally is a promise I made to myself to give opportunities to the community I came from. This wasn’t asked of me, but more of a conscious decision to employ the people I walked by every day, interacted with and lived with. I made my messaging clear that when you buy from me, you are not only keeping jobs in the USA, but giving jobs to the mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles that you grew up with. What better way to build a business than by helping employ people by a company that pays a living wage. It’s not only a heart issue, but manufacturing my goods in LA, I have such a close eye on the supply chain, it makes it easier for me to manage and make sure the goods are at top-tier quality.
How did FIDM help prepare you to run your own business? I grew from developing my creativity and learning advanced sewing and pattern making techniques to honing in on my creativity by using discretion and editing skills to focus my point of view. I was taught to think not only like an artist, but as an entrepreneur. I was taught the various facets of the industry from the creative studio, to the production cycle, right down to the retail location. With knowledge comes practice and working in production; I definitely felt up for the challenge of entrepreneurship.
It’s truly amazing how much you are taught in these programs because to this day I still refer to my notes from almost all my classes to help me out in the current day. I’d say lastly, the marketing and distribution strategy classes in the Advanced Menswear program are what has helped. The tools gained are priceless and the uses are endless. A great foundation is what I got from FIDM as well as an armature to build around.
What do you like most about entrepreneurship? Being in charge of how far I will go. I don’t have someone else’s money to burn, all of this is my responsibility. So with that in mind, It will be my work ethic and my drive that dictates the distance this will go. My humility will allow me to learn the lessons I need to learn in order to progress. It is the fruits of my labor that makes being an entrepreneur so much more worth it than by being able to sleep in late or not having someone tell me what to do.
What are your ultimate goals for your brand? My ultimate goal is to be a household name synonymous with quality. I want my entire operation to be done domestically so that I am constantly giving back to my community in a way that isn’t charitable, but sustainable. I want my brand to offer options for men to be able to tell their own story and my clothes be the pages to their book. To offer an array of clothes both trendy and timeless. Clothes made to last. For now I start small, but from these seed garments, a garden will grow.
Learn more about August when he does an Instagram takeover @fidm on Saturday, September 18, 2021.
Keep up with August on Instagram @sartorialtheory.