Westword: Greg and Allie, tell us about yourselves. Where are you from?
Greg Casals: I grew up in Houston, but I have lived all over the country, including New York and in San Francisco. After spending a number of vacations in Colorado, I finally had the opportunity to move here and I jumped at the chance.
Allie Thielens: I went to school in upstate New York and worked in the city before moving to Denver to be closer to the mountains. I recently relocated to Boulder for the amazing opportunity to work on developing a new apparel line.
When did you first discover your love for fashion, and how did you get into the business of fashion?
Casals: I studied economics at Boston College, and minored in art history and philosophy, so I have always had a love of art and design, especially modern art. When I met Allie through a mutual friend, we both shared the same vision for applying technical fabrics to a modern aesthetic.
Thielens: I have always loved art-- whether it's wearable, performing or fine arts. I decided to pursue a degree in Apparel Design from Cornell University; it's such an exciting industry that is constantly changing and evolving. I love all the different aspects of fashion, whether it's dressing models backstage at a fashion show or running around the city to find the perfect fabric.
Casals: There are some great innovative companies here, and Denver is taking off as a metropolitan hub in the West. Ten years ago, if you wanted to launch an apparel brand, you had to be in New York. A perfect example of this change is that one of the best new menswear designers of 2013 picked by GQ magazine is based in Kansas City.
There is increasingly greater demand for men's clothing that keeps you warm and dry without having to sacrifice style. This demand provides a great opportunity for an apparel company based in Colorado to fill this need. Men's clothing in the lifestyle sector of the market using performance fabrics is surging, and we think it is just the beginning.
How can both fashion communities work together?
Thielens: Denver is making a push to develop the fashion and production scene, including a fashion incubator, design center and many high-end boutiques. In Boulder, we have such a huge talent base of young and educated entrepreneurs that are very eager to be involved in the fashion industry. As the community grows, it would be great to see more events that strengthen local relationships and showcase apparel brands in Boulder and Denver.
Casals: When I first moved to Colorado, I didn't have the right clothes for the weather, but I noticed that everyone just wore their outdoor technical gear. There are a ton of great technical fabrics, but historically as a fashion brand, it was difficult to compete on the scale of the large outdoor brands. Just over the last few years, there has been a huge shift towards buying clothes online. The efficiencies of selling direct to the consumer allow companies like Ninox to use these expensive fabrics and technologies on a smaller and exclusive-run scale. Laser cutting, seam sealing and fabrics that offer both water-proofing and breathability are showing up in fashion because people want that performance and durability in their casual clothes they wear every day.
Who is on the Ninox team?
Casals: We have three people on the Ninox design team, a marketing person and a COO, and have teamed up with manufacturing partners throughout North America. We are also fortunate to have created an advisory board that includes some high-level executives with resumes that include long histories of product development at Nike and Apple.
What words of wisdom do you have for those trying to make it in the business?
Thielens: Just like in any industry, you have to truly believe in what you're doing and to stay passionate about the products you're creating.
What famous person would you like to see wear your designs?
Thielens: I think the most exciting thing for every designer is to walk down the street and to randomly see someone wearing your design.
Why should fashion savvy shoppers put Ninox on their "must shop" list?
Thielens: Not only is it great to support a local Colorado brand, but Ninox is a unique blend of technical and lifestyle that is perfect for a Colorado night out in the city, a hike on the trail, or trip to the mountains.