Alumni Stories

Bradley Soltis

Fashion Design

Owns Shop That Creates Custom Apparel, Ember
The Illinois Institute of Art — Chicago


One of the most valuable software programs I've used in my career is Adobe Illustrator, followed by Photoshop. It was great to have both of these under my belt upon entering the work force [because I'd learned them in school.] Bradley Soltis , Owns Shop That Creates Custom Apparel, Ember Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design, 2007 , The Illinois Institute of Art — Chicago

Owns Shop That Creates Custom Apparel, Ember

Bradley Soltis is the owner of Ember, where he coordinates the printing and production of all custom apparel and promotional product orders. “My sales team is the ground force and the voice of the clients, and I manage all of their sales orders and oversee them through full production and fulfillment,” he says. Prior to starting Ember, Bradley worked at Volcom Inc., La Jolla Group, and Sullen Clothing.

He says that there’s no typical day in the life of a self-employed creative person—but he enjoys ending his days knowing what’s in store for tomorrow. “I lay out all of my weekly tasks/activities on a dry erase board. I try to take on the most difficult task first and then I focus on tasks that will bring me immediate results. Ultimately, everybody is in business to make money so orders that will bring in immediate revenue get tended to first.”

Bradley is dedicated to following up on every email, text, and phone call to ensure that progress is made on each order. “Many times, the client leaves the deadline in your care and is unfamiliar with the production timeline. So it is up to me to inform them and stay on top of it. I do my best to make sure that no stone is left unturned.”

He advises current students to focus on research. “Read news articles, read blogs, and listen to what's going on around social media. If a company is hiring for many positions, see if news articles just posted about [the business]. There is a lot of free information out there and you will be the most successful if you use it to your benefit.”

He describes a time when he was challenged in his work. “I used to do all sample approvals. A designer had approved a sample but failed to mention that a certain detail was incorrect. When it came time for bulk production, this design detail was left out and we could not sell the garments.” At the time, both Bradley’s boss and the designer’s boss were traveling—and Bradley had to step in and find resolution. Instead of shipping the garments back, he had them fixed domestically—saving the company money and time. “I learned most of all to have confidence in myself and my intuition and to think quickly on my feet.”

Now that he’s self-employed, Bradley stays focused on building his portfolio and researching trends. “I tear through magazines, sign up for conventions, and visit trade shows to stay on top of my game. I read Yelp reviews, cross reference social media with internet and printed information, and do my research to make sure that I am in the know.” He understands that his clients rely on him to have the answers—and he takes pride in being able to deliver.

Bradley keeps his creativity flowing through getting out and meeting with clients. He attends events with them and attends social functions with them to better understand their needs. “I know if I find out about trendy new products or bring back certain trends, I can create a wave in this industry and think of creative ways to service my clientele.”

Bradley, who in 2007 earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design from The Illinois Institute of Art—Chicago, says that his education provided a well-rounded background in many areas—including some that he wouldn’t truly experience until he was working in the real world. “One of my employers was using Lectra software and [I’d learned it in school]. The company was considering a program called u4ia, and not only was I familiar with it, I used a presentation [I’d created while still in school] to list the pros and cons of the software.”

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