Summertime is here and that means we have some new members joining our team: Our internship program is in full swing! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing the stories of the amazing folks working with us this summer. This is the third profile in our series.
Name: Jeremy Roberts
Education: Parsons School of Design
Degree Program: Strategic Design and Management
Hometown: Lake Jackson, TX
This summer, Uncorked offered our first design strategy internship, and Jeremy Roberts was the perfect fit.
After taking one look at Jeremy, we could tell that a systematic approach to design has heavily influenced his life. How? Fashion. While most of our studiomates wear a casual millennial-meets-Portland style, Jeremy arrived in a different hand-crafted suit jacket every day, regardless of occasion or weather.
“I have always been drawn to things that are visually pleasing—it impacts everything from my style to my home,” Jeremy says. “Even as a teenager, I did everything I could to make my world look better.”
Yet even with his naturally aesthetic mindset, Jeremy wanted to do more than art for the entirety of his life. With this desire to do something bigger, he veered away from fashion and down a path of service. In a huge leap of blind faith, he signed a contract with the U.S. Coast Guard at the conclusion of his high school career.
And that’s when his good karma kicked in. Jeremy was randomly stationed in the fashion capital of America: New York City.
Jeremy looked to the military as an opportunity to honorably fulfill a commitment and give back to our country. “I was stripped of everything I had learned in the first 17 years of my life and I was taught to do everything differently.” Jeremy says “The little lessons I was taught in the military, like to not look people in the eyes when they talk to you, ingrained resilience and inner discipline into my core being.”
Jeremy was soon assigned to an icebreaking tugboat. He was 18 years old, driving a $50 million, 140-foot vessel through the semi-frozen Hudson River up to Albany. When there wasn’t ice, he patrolled New York City and was a rescue swimmer for those who braved the city waters.
While his time in the military was quite the adventure, he never steered away from his main focus: going to school for design. After completing his service, Jeremy enrolled at Parsons School of Design. He initially began as a business strategy student, but fell back into a love for design craft and tailoring.
Between midterms and portfolio reviews, he launched a startup called Fitr, a fashion technology business that used a metric-based measuring algorithm to help consumers know their sizes in different apparel brands’ and retailer garments. Users provided their measurements, then the technology generated thousands of data points to tell users what size they are in any given brand. Because Jeremy had experience as a tailor, rather than a technical background, he had a fierce edge against others attempting to make similar products. He knew what made good clothing and how to best fit someone.
Although Fitr was a fashion-focused company, which played well to his talents, there was a huge technological side of the business Jeremy had to grow to advance the overall product. This created a pathway that ultimately led him into the tech industry. The transition displaced him from his very influential and comfortable expertise in tailoring and into the world of strategic technology design.
Jeremy admits it was difficult, but says “actually building something from a hint of an idea to a brand with value and purpose was completely magical.”
Fitr was ultimately put on pause a number of years ago and has since fizzled out, but its downfall was deliberate in allowing Jeremy to move forward in the evolving space of fashion technology.
Jeremy has since worked in a number of cities, exploring areas along each coast. He most recently moved to Northwest Portland, where he met some of our UCS colleagues and dove into his journey at our studio.
He made some amazing contributions to the team while he was here this summer. Among an assortment of other strategic design initiatives, he used his fashion technology background to develop a line of Uncorked key fob wearables to accompany our transition to the new studio. Something Jeremy has always been good at is finding opportunities in seemingly dire spaces—like in the design of our studio’s key fob.
Our bulky plastic-coated key fobs are essential to everyday mobility around the office, but Jeremy observed that many of us left our fobs at home or lost them completely. One day, out of curiosity, he disassembled the awkward plastic coating around the microchip, and used our prototyping facilities to reconfigure it into a sleek disk the size of a quarter. This streamlined version of the microchip has opened up new ways to reconfigure the tool— as watches, bracelets, and rings.
Now Jeremy is looking for his next adventure, and it’s in the studios’ hands to move forward with manufacturing. In the meantime, taping our fobs to the hair ties around our wrists and attaching them to clunky key rings will have to suffice.
Thanks, Jeremy, for helping our studio lean into fashion a little bit more.
Random final fact: Jeremy grew up in a southern Texas town that is about the size of Portland’s Rose City neighborhood. He says his high school was so small that it could have been the inspiration of Friday Night Lights. In the halls, his crew consisted of the class clowns, but if you consult him, he was “for sure the clowny-est.”