by MIKE CHAIKEN
Waterbury’s Jacqueline LeGree is ready to take on the big kahunas of fashion and retail.
The home-based entrepreneur creates, designs and sells clothing for teens and young adults: often with one-of-a-kind tie-dyed patterns. OAK Apparel makes and sells socks, button down shirts, hoodies, sweaters, jackets, pants, shoes, tank tops and tee shirts.
The brand was launched by LeGree, 23, in 2013 when she was just 16, using $35 in coins that she had saved.
Since then LeGree said she has watched OAK (which stands for One of a Kind) grow — achieving a global reach. LeGree is now readying a work space in Bridgeport, which opened Aug. 1.
As she nurtures OAK, LeGree said she uses retail brands like H&M, Nike, ASOS and Urban Outfitters as her business plan templates.
“These specific brands/stores impress me because they have made a global impact,” said LeGree. “They target every and any one and there is no specific audience.”
“A majority of their clothing can be intersex, worn by multiple genders and ages,” said LeGree. They also produce garments that can be worn any time of day. This is exactly the market she desires for OAK.
Additionally, said LeGree, “You can go anywhere in the world and people will know about these brands just by name.”
That kind of brand recognition is another of LeGree’s goals for OAK.
However, the Waterbury entrepreneur said, “I don’t want people to buy my products just for the name. I want them to purchase for the quality, the hard work and creativity that goes into each unique design.”
Although LeGree looks to global fashion brands for business inspiration, she said she doesn’t look toward global fashion icons for inspiration. “The style in fashion that has trended over the years was never within my scope/vision.”
LeGree said her creative process for her apparel varies. “Each and every product or design has its own creation time, skill and material. Whether it be a customer’s vision, a needed restoration or my own idea of what my customer might want and/or like.”
One particular product LeGree developed was inspired by a personal passion.
“The Pink Line” was developed to raise money for breast cancer research.
LeGree’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2019, a battle she continues to fight. The Pink Line was created in her honor. LeGree makes and donates hats, shirts, socks and port pillows, all in pink, to breast cancer patients and survivors all over the country.
“I just wanted to create a line for warriors who are currently fighting the fight or have beat the fight,” said LeGree. “I want them to have access to comfortable custom apparel.”
As the brand grows, LeGree said she’d like OAK to lend a hand to other designers to help their brands grow.
“I would love to open multiple shops, to not only sell my products, but also to give opportunity to local and upcoming designers,” said LeGree. “My goal is to give them an opportunity to sell/display their products out of my store as well.”
“Starting as a young entrepreneur at 15-years-old, it was hard for me to get my products out there,” said LeGree. “I was just a kid and some (people) made me feel that I was not being taken seriously.”
“I would love to give back (to the fashion world) and (provide) the opportunities that I… wish I had in the beginning,” said LeGree.
OAK is available online at OAK. OAK can be found on Instagram as well, @oakapparel.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN