UI alum creates style with a message


Bright colored fabrics, gleaming studio lights, and the rapid fire of a camera shutter are all unexpected characteristics to be found in the downtown Iowa City’s Hall Mall. But creviced in the building’s petite suite 8, one University of Iowa alumnus pursues his distinct vision for modern fashion.

Motivated to enter a T-shirt making contest by a professor in the art school as a junior, Andre Wright won first prize and knew graphic design was what he was meant to do.

“At that moment, I knew that that was my calling,” the 35-year-old said. “Since then, I’ve been developing everything from tailgating T-shirts to just merchandise for any local people who needed inspiration.”

After assisting other individuals with starting up fashion lines, Wright was inspired to craft his own brand.

“I felt like in our culture there was a lack of leadership and initially I was gearing the brand toward that,” Wright said. “Then I realized that there was more than just that [quality] within the culture itself, and I was like, Let me find way to … try tp help develop leadership through fashion.”

Launching the “Blu Collar” — the “Blu” meaning “Born Leaders United” — just over a year ago, Wright says he’s been spearheading the brand and hoping to take it to the next level. While he does most of the designing himself, he said an average day consists of cutting and sewing T-shirts, photo shoots, and expanding through product development.

Blu Collar social-media coordinator Adis Fazlic said while he has just been working with Wright for the past few months, he expects to see big things come from the brand.

“If he says he’ll get something done, he’ll go get it done,” Fazlic said. “He’s very charismatic, and [because of] his hard work ethic, I think this brand will explode in the next year or two.”

Wright said he was thrilled with the company launching its spring line, “Hardworking Smiley Faces,” which can be found in two Waterloo boutiques and the Full Kit in downtown Iowa City.

Full Kit owner Mitch Dettman said although he does not personally know Wright well, his character is telling of the brand.

“It sells well, and part of the reason it sells well is how he gets the brand name out there,” Dettman said. “He introduces himself to customers —he’s very outgoing and passionate about what he does, so people want to come in and get his stuff.”

But Wright said he wants to promote his message beyond the storefront. Organizing a “Hats for the Homeless” campaign to donate 100 hats to State Farm in Waterloo and regularly talking to young people about creativity and how to live out their passion at Wood Elementary and the UI, Wright’s leadership initiative has gathered recognition.

“When I’m downtown, I see people wearing it; if I wear it, people ask me where I got it from, so it’s really kicked off,” said Andre Dawson, a model for Blu Collar. “The concept of the company and the message it brings to people is really dope.”

While his ultimate goal is to have Blu Collar stores everywhere, Wright said he must focus on the near future, meaning a new website launch, his current partnership with local musician “Mars,” and a fashion show in Atlanta in late June.

“It’s not easy; it’s a daily grind,” he said. “If you do want to get into fashion, just know there’s a lot of competition, so you have to think about how you can make yourself different or how you can have your own voice … just let it flow; be organic.”

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