ST. LOUIS — For decades, St. Louis fashion design and manufacturing company Stars Design Group has worked behind the scenes on design and production for retailers, but the company is creating its own clothing lines for the first time after acquiring a New York company that develops brands around social media influencers.
Founded in 1993 by CEO Bret Schnitker, Stars Design’s October acquisition of INSPR is the company’s latest bid to stay ahead of trends in the ever-evolving world of fashion. To California native Schnitker, who learned the industry while working for now-shuttered St. Louis retailer Edison Bros., St. Louis made sense as a headquarters because of its affordable startup costs and roots as a center of garment manufacturing. The company, which now has 45 employees, operates out of a renovated church on Gravois Avenue in Soulard.
The Saint Louis Fashion Fund calculates clothing as a $3.9 billion industry locally, and hopes that doubles in the next decade. The 2019 opening of a $5 million robotic knitting factory, Evolution St. Louis, marked the return of clothing manufacturing to Washington Avenue, where factories closed in the 1950s.
But hoping for a revival doesn’t mean that Stars Design fixates on the past. As an early adopter of 3D technology and now artificial intelligence, Stars Design Group has continually pioneered new technologies to ease the clothing design and production process, speeding what was once a lengthy process by months. Even so, clients can still search through the company’s extensive fabric library to find the perfect material.
Schnitker said he is always emphasizing to employees, “Evolution, not revolution."
"We constantly have to embrace change. Revolution’s bloody. If you’re not evolving, you’re staying complacent," he said. "You need to have dramatic change or your business is going to fail. And so even though people are challenged with change, here we have a constant focus on innovation.”
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