UIC Business Scholar sophomores Edgar Gabriel Avalos and Brian (Seungyong) Lee are the co-founders of One. Clothing Brand. We caught up with Avalos and Lee to learn about the company, what is coming up next for the brand, and the role UIC Business has played in the company’s founding.
Both Avalos, born in the U.S. and raised in Mexico City, and Lee, raised in Seoul, South Korea before moving to Michigan in 2009, brought a passion for entrepreneurship with them to UIC. In October 2016, Avalos and Lee, then UIC freshmen, met at a soccer event sponsored by their residence hall. They later reconnected at the UIC Business Freshmen onboarding event.
“I stayed there longer than other people because I was networking with alumni, and [Avalos] was doing the exact same thing, staying there trying to get the most out of it,” Lee remembers, “We walked out together at the same time, fortunately.” It was during this conversation as they left the event that the two formed the first concept for what would become One. Clothing Brand and the beginnings of a strong friendship.
“We wanted to make something that we could be proud of, and we wanted to make something that we could be passionate about, something that stands for more than making money,” Lee says, “It means something greater than that.” Their shared interest in style led them to the fashion industry. While their choice of industry was also partly the result of practical limits, the concept for One. Clothing Brand came out of the two students’ personal philosophies and life experiences.
“We have different stories than most of our classmates,” Avalos explains, “Most of them grew up here and are accustomed to the U.S. But for us, coming from another country, we see those differences and we talk about them.” From this desire to celebrate the diversity of their potential customers, they solidified the vision for One., a clothing brand that sells high quality, limited quantity apparel for customers who value culture and provides customers a platform to collaborate creatively on future products.
To date, One. has released their first product, the Day One. Tee, that has a limited supply of 100 pieces. For the Day One. Tee and all aspects of the business, Avalos and Lee have established a solid division of labor.
“In this business team right now, I’m taking charge of the creative department, including design and photography,” Lee says, “There are probably 20, or 30 designs that I have been working on that haven’t been released yet.” Avalos leads the financial side of the team, including leveraging connections in Mexico City to identify suppliers and production facilities.
“This is exactly the reason why I came to UIC,” says Lee, “This is the best place to come when you want to start a business because you get to experience the different perspectives and skills that other students have.” They also credit UIC’s Chicago location with allowing them access to the apparel industry that would not have been possible from another campus.
Avalos and Lee are taking Introduction to Marketing this semester with Professor David Gal. Work in the class has allowed them to gain the expertise necessary to better organize their marketing strategy.
Looking ahead to the future of One. Clothing Brand, the co-founders plan to produce additional limited-release designs and expand their target markets. They also hope to build a mobile accessible platform that can facilitate collaboration between artists.
The strong chemistry between Avalos and Lee has both led to growth of One. Clothing Brand and a close friendship.
“Even outside of the business, we learn a lot from each other, we support each other,” Avalos says, “That’s something that wouldn’t have happened without UIC Business."