It’s Made in NYC week here at Maker’s Row and we are celebrating the brands that prove that New York City is a great place to start a business! Every day this week, we will be sharing interviews with New York City factories and brands and giving you insight into what it’s like to be an NYC creative.
Miguel Oldenburg, the Emmy-winning founder of Motorwolf, made the jump from creative directing and visual effects supervising to designer with his motorcycle clothing brand. He talks about starting the brand with no experience in the apparel industry, his search for the perfect motorcycle jacket, and using Maker’s Row to find his factory!
What was your background before you started your brand? Did you have any experience in the industry?
I am a Creative Director and VFX supervisor. My work relates to branding, design, animation, visual effects, and direction for television. I’ve done well in this field, being the winner of 3 Emmys and other awards.
When I decided to push forward with my own ideas for a motorcycle clothing brand, I had a vision but was completely clueless and had zero experience in the retail/fashion industry.
Why did you decide to start your brand?
I am an avid long distance motorcycle rider. On my first few rides, I realized I wanted a utility vest that would provide functionality for the long mile, but also have a nice classic style.
When I tried to shop for this type of vest, I noticed the lack of such product in the motorcycle market. Most functional vests came with a pseudo-futuristic “power ranger” look. The classic looking ones were designed with a rather simplistic approach, not suitable for long distance rides. I decided to take the initiative to design my own line of vests and challenge myself with the endeavor of growing my own brand.
What steps did you take to get started? Did you find a mentor or seek out any education?
Not knowing anyone in the garment industry, I began by asking all of my friends if they knew of any person or contact that could point me in the right direction. I did my own research online and soon I was in contact with a designer that worked for Calvin Klein. I explained my idea and showed her my sketches. She was very interested in my concepts, having become a recent rider herself. She became a mentor and gave me the initial knowledge for all the steps I needed to go through.
I signed up to Maker’s Row and found a factory in Manhattan that helped me put together my prototypes and produced my first run. I was lucky to pair with such a great team, which led me through the complexities of this type of production.
When our first prototype was completed, I wanted to evaluate it myself to ensure the quality and functionality was road tested by a true rider. I took my first “LOBO” vest on a 6000 plus miles motorcycle solo ride from Queens, New York to the Arctic Circle in Northern Alaska. I wanted to stand solidly behind my product, so I put it through the real test. I came back with a few modifications and the final design of the “LOBO” vest went into production.
Why is New York City a great place to start a brand? What does it mean to be “Made in New York City?”
The beauty of New York City is that it provides immediate access to talent, resources, and everything needed to materialize an idea. “Made in New York City” means an added value of elevated quality and a perceived value of prestige.
How did you find your factory and what kind of relationship do you have with them?
The factories I work with were found through Maker’s Row and friend recommendations. I try to keep a fluid relationship with the factories. I like overseeing the process and making sure the production is on point with the design and quality expectations. I let the professionals in each area do their job and take advantage of their experience in this industry. I always welcome their suggested ideas and solutions as we go. I try to keep the creative process very permeable.
What are some of your plans for growth for your brand?
The plan for Motorwolf is to offer our products online for the first two years to accelerate the balancing of the initial investment. We’ve been aggressive with the marketing on social media and targeting different types of motorcycle enthusiasts.
We are also currently working on two new lines of riding vests as part of our growth. We hope to have these ready for the Fall season.
Once our expanded product selection gets into place, the idea is to open up to the retail markets and grow steady to new product developments.
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs looking to start a business specifically in New York City?
Go slow, go steady, be persistent.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the city?
I love to ride around the city, documenting it through photography and motorcycling. You can add metal concerts to this equation too…
What borough does your brand call home?
Motorwolf is a proud product of QUEENS. We are all about our borough, its diversity, and dynamism.
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