Alum brings streetwear looks to equestrian apparel
After more than 25 years working in digital design, branding, and user experience, PJ Sedgwick (Advertising & Graphic Design, 1993), combined her design chops, love for horses, and a passion for riding into her cult-favorite equestrian apparel brand, BOTORI. Here, we talk with Sedgwick about her time at Columbus College of Art & Design, how she launched her own clothing brand while working full-time, and what shoppers can expect from her at the upcoming 2021 CCAD Alumni Art & Design Market Friday, April 9–Sunday, April 11.
Tell us about your time at CCAD.
My graduating year was when the Canzani Center first opened and the student exhibit was hung there. My best memories are around helping with that exhibit, as well as the Ohio State Fair art shows, as an assistant to Mr. Aschenbrand. He was a huge role model for me, and I had the excellent opportunity of being a working student for him on several projects.
Where did your career take you after graduation?
Shortly after graduation I moved to Chicago and landed a job at a small agency that specialized in building websites for radio stations. Having a heavily graphical website was so new at the time (circa 1994), and it felt exciting to be part of a whole new style of design. As sites started to really jump on the Flash bandwagon in the late ’90s, I found myself not interested in motion graphics. I moved to an in-house creative role at PLATINUM Technologies, a software company, and this job switch turned into a 20+ year career in digital design.
During the ups and downs of the early 2000s, I built and lost creative teams, endured multiple company acquisitions and culture changes, and re-invented products through several rebrandings. In my last few years there (at the time CA Technologies), I transitioned to a role in user experience and it completely reignited my passion for design. I found that UX was something that I had subconsciously been doing all my career as a designer, but being able to focus on the “why” of design and giving a voice to the user was really inspiring to me. Currently, I work as Associate Director, Digital Marketing for Wolters Kluwer, a healthcare publishing company.
How did someone with an advertising background end up starting their own clothing brand?
BOTORI was born out of a need for apparel that both suited female equestrians as athletes, but also as women, mothers, and professionals for life outside the barn. I’ve used my design skills to conceive the name BOTORI, create the logo, direct the photography, and, of course, design clothing that is both functional and styled to work in or out of the saddle. I’ve built my own website, written all copy, and run my own social accounts. I use my UX background daily to get into the mind of my customer, ask questions, gather feedback, and maintain my most valued asset: excellent customer service.
What skills did you learn while at CCAD that have helped you throughout your career?
Countless first year foundational skills help me make decisions big and small every day. While I didn’t take any courses related to fashion, textiles, or production, I’ve found the most important skills I learned at CCAD are more general. The big three are time management, turning critique into a stronger product, and the value of your network.
Having a full-time career while starting a brand in a new discipline means long hours and a steep learning curve that may take years to master. I was able to tap into my network for the expertise that I lacked, and have allowed myself to be open to feedback to grow and improve BOTORI.
Tell us about BOTORI’s approach to social consciousness.
I really believe everyone should be doing their part to preserve the planet, and BOTORI is no exception. I struggle with creating new products in a world already oversaturated with fast fashion. Our tights are made with polyester, nylon, and spandex blends—none of which are natural or earth-friendly fabrics—but otherwise are perfect for handling the sweat and abrasion from riding, combined with repelling the dirt, hair, and odor of horses. So it is imperative that the design, fit, feel, and quality be long lasting and not disposable. A few of our pieces are made from recycled polyester, organic bamboo (sounds promising but rife with its own issues), and a premium vegan suede for that traditional leather patch feel.
We are working on a partnership with a company revolutionizing sustainable hemp textile production with some amazing technical qualities. I am excited about a product launch with them as soon as the fall of 2021. Other small choices I have made to be more sustainable are: minimal packaging (no tissue or individual plastic bags), using recycled and reusable poly mailers, and local production. While fabric is sourced internationally, all sewing production is done right here in Philadelphia, reducing transportation burdens.
Can you give us a preview of what you’re offering in the CCAD Alumni Art & Design Market?
BOTORI tights aren’t just for equestrians! Go for a run, relax into some yoga, or add some equestrian flair to any outfit. During the event, shoppers can save 10% with the code CCAD10.