An Interview With Outlier's Abe Burmeister

// As I’ve previously stated here, Outlier is one of the most inspirational young brands out there.  In case you were wondering, I love the pants, but haven’t been able to completely transition from denim. More on that later. I have been repeatedly impressed by the way they attack and conquer a tired, but over-saturated market.  With that in mind, I decided to interview Outlier’s founder Abe Burmeister with the hopes of unlocking some of their secrets, or at the very least learning more about what we need to do to be successful.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when you started Outlier. How did you overcome them?

Starting a business is basically one infinite series of challenges, it's pretty hard to isolate just one. In some ways just jumping in and committing to start something is the hardest bit, but in some ways that's the easiest. Ultimately we've found the best approach is just take things one step at a time. You can't let all the millions of problems overwhelm you, you need to be able to break them down into manageable pieces and work hard to solve every issue.

If you had the opportunity to do it again, what would you have done differently?

Definitely would have approached women's clothing very differently. Making men's clothing and makings women's is radically different and we definitely learned all that the hard way making our women's pant, and then trying extend that item into a bigger collection. We're still working on that, but it's taken a hell of a lot longer than anticipated and we definitely could have rolled that out better.

How do you go about your materials searches and how do you develop your relationships with suppliers?

We travel a lot and we read a lot. We go to all sorts of fabric shows, and a bunch of other trade fairs as well that aren't directly related to what we do. A lot of the best textile innovations came from people using fabrics for things way outside their intended use. The stuff that became the synthetic fleece originally was meant to be a toilet seat cover fabric! We go to shows that sell the obvious stuff and try to find what's different or better and then we try and find less obvious types of shows and dig around looking for hidden treasures. We also read history books, trying to uncover stuff from that past that might have been forgotten…

What do you perceive as your keys to success?

Luck, more luck and a ton of hard work, followed by more luck and many more tons of hard work. You can work insanely hard and never get far, until you catch a break. But on the flip a lot of people catch breaks but aren't ready to ride them. We try to stay aware of all the opportunities around us and work really hard to keep the ones that seem right.

What suggestions do you have for someone who is starting out (trying to bring US made products to market)?

Make sure what you are doing is innovative and high quality. Making something in the US doesn't inherently make it special, and it won't sell itself either. There needs to be a real reason why your product is better than what else is out there on the market, aspects like where it's made are just one of the many details that need to go into making something special.

Moral of the story?  Work hard and hope you get lucky.  When an opportunity arises, position yourself to take advantage of it.  Make products that are better than anything else on the market.  The reality is that there is no secret that will allow a young brand to become successful.  It takes hard work and a lot of luck.  As a brand, Modern Industry must create brilliant products and get them in front of the right people to get this thing rolling.  We are doing our best to do just that.

// Patrick

November 05, 2012 by Patrick
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