Clarisse De Los Santos was a sports fan who was frustrated with having to wear clothes that weren’t exactly flattering for her petite figure. This inspired her to start her clothing line, 4th & 1 Apparel.
“I was really tired of wearing kids jerseys or really bad stiff T-shirts that you have to cut up, trying to look cute while supporting my team at the same time,” De Los Santos said.
She started from the beginning researching and designing herself. Taking a look at the classic styles of sportswear, De Los Santos changed the material, silhouette and graphics to form a whole new design that is actually fashionable for women. She decided to specialize her line to universities to make cute shirts for college teams. A San Diego native, De Los Santos decided to start her line at San Diego State. In the process of getting her license, she called the apparel advisor at SDSU and found out the bookstore was willing to carry her line.
“It was such a surprise,” De Los Santos said. “The bookstore carried a small order and was pretty much sold out within a couple of weeks.”
With great results at SDSU, she has no plan of slowing down. She hopes to branch off to other universities such as UCLA, Stanford and University of California, Berkeley.
De Los Santos does everything herself when it comes to her clothing line, using connections to help her along the way. She draws her inspiration for designs from attending fashion shows, looking through magazines and seeing girls on the street. De Los Santos pays attention to everything around her, making sure to know what girls want and what is trending.
De Los Santos worked for the same designer for more than four years, gaining experience first as a freelance sketcher and then a product development manager. With this promotion she researched design, oversaw freelance sketchers and managed correspondence with overseas companies.
De Los Santos thought this experience was enough to start her own company, but she realized she was wrong.
[quote]“Once you start your own company, it’s a huge difference,” she said. “You do everything yourself, you don’t have interns and people don’t know who you are.”[/quote]
Creating a brand presence was one of the hurdles De Los Santos had to face, but she started building up her brand by using social media as a tool to generate popularity and facilitate customer interaction. She’s working with sororities and clubs on campus to come up with designs that college students would enjoy. She’s having a design contest on Instagram and the winning organization will help design a few pieces.
De Los Santos has advice for fashion entrepreneurs.
[quote] “Make sure it is your passion and you love it, because you are going to eat and breathe it for the rest of your life,” De Los Santos said.[/quote]
She suggests pursuing an internship to work closely with the people who are doing what you want, so you can learn from them. Even if the job is small, it can lead you somewhere and to the right people. She says to always go above and beyond in anything you do and people will notice.
With her success rising, De Los Santos is doing what she loves and taking each university one design at a time.
All photos by Jordan Owen, senior staff photographer.