I really hate writing about myself in the 3rd person, so here I am to tell Youer’s story!
Hi! I’m Mallory Ottariano and I’m the founder of Youer. Settle in, because I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I had a really hard time condensing a decade of this experience into a few paragraphs.
Clothes and style have been a lifelong passion and I started sewing as a kid so that I could make free or cheap versions of things I liked but couldn’t afford. I put my own spin on trends and was always the kid who could “pull any outfit off”. I loved getting dressed in things that no one else had and putting together fun color combinations.
In 2012 I was fresh out of architecture school and looking to keep a creative outlet alive so I bought a $100 serger on ebay and started sewing clothes in my parents basement (like, the closet where the Christmas decorations are stored part of the basement) to sell on Etsy. My mom found a great free table on the side of the road and loaded it on to the roof of her ’98 Subaru and that was my work station. My materials were thrift store clothes that I would spend hours shopping for and cutting up to sew into really wacky things that were colorful and weird and one of a kind like these.
Fast forward a couple of years and I quit my design job to make clothes full time. I traveled around the country going to countless events to sling clothes and find new customers. You name it was there. Yoga festival in the desert? Yep. Hemp festival in the mountains? Yep. Fine art show in Chicago with a booth I bought at Ikea that morning? All the above.
I drove my truck all around the US in 2015 and slept in the back of it while I sewed clothes in between events.
My business moved out of my spare bedroom and into a series of very odd Missoula rentals. Here was the windowless basement of a sawmill.
And this was a tiny space that shared a wall with a hot yoga studio so I worked in my undies a lot.
Eventually using thrifted fabrics was totally unsustainable. I couldn’t find enough material for the amount of demand my clothes had. And I couldn’t keep up with sewing everything either. So, I decided I would make fabric! I watched a lot of Youtube videos and learned how to make prints, then I found someone to print them. Today, I’m still the print and fabric designer at Youer. But working with factories to cut and sew my stuff would be the beginning of more headache and loss and stress than I could have ever imagined.
I won’t bore you with all the details of the last decade, but 2020 was a very pivotal moment for this business as it was for so many. Factory shutdowns and some extreme production errors and misuse of our material (lack of accountability is rampant in this industry) meant I was left without a team, without an office, without product to sell and staring down the reality of closing my doors. This was from the day I decided we weren't going back to work in that office and I moved out. My truck died going the wrong way on a one way street.
But that wasn’t going to be the end of my story. Motivated by the fact that I knew I didn’t want to work for anyone else again, I decided to just start telling the story of what it takes to manufacture clothes. I made videos about supply chains, wrote posts exposing the ridiculous waste of the fashion industry and basically just told people what being a small fashion brand was like. It stuck. And you all stuck around to be part of it.
So, I decided to leave the dumpster fire behind in 2020 with that old business name (we were called Kind Apparel) and rebranded as Youer when we finally got production rolling again after 7 months.
But production never really ‘rolled’. After working with nearly 20 factories over the last decade, what I’ve learned is this: no one is going to care about the quality of your product as much as you. After losing hundreds of thousands (if not a million at this point) of dollars to complacent production mistakes at out-of-house facilities in 2021 we (and I mean Youer and YOU) started to build our own factory together.
After a successful 2021 community funding campaign I called the CSA (Community Supported Apparel) the Youer community provided funds for us to start our own factory in Missoula Montana so we could tell a different story – one of a new approach to apparel production.
In 2023, we opened The Youniverse! A quirky and magical space that houses our whole team and all operations. And often our community! We’ve hosted ski films, yoga classes, samples sales, potlucks, plant swaps and much more in The Youniverse. We’ve been slowly growing our production capacity there while continuing to work with external factories in California, but it’s our goal to be making 100% of product in-house by 2025.
We have an incredible team of creative, caring, talented, dedicated and loving humans and our workdays really just feel like hanging out with your friends making cool shit. Every year it feels like we grow and develop into a new business as we’re faced with new challenges and opportunities. If you told me back in 2012, that 10 years from now this would be my life, that clothes would have connected me with thousands of incredible people all around the world, I would have never believed you. I'm so grateful for this wild journey and to be sharing it with all of you! I love you all so much!