Fashion school alumnus unveils new clothing line, credits Kent State

Lauren Carll

Most 6-year-olds are concerned with crayons, coloring books and cartoons, but Tad Boetcher was not just another 6-year-old. He had sharpened pencils, sketchbooks and a strive for success suitable for a grown man.

As a child growing up in Pickerington, near Columbus, he loved sketching women’s clothing. Little did he know that the squiggily lines and eraser marks would allow him to leave his mark at Kent State 30 years later as the only fashion alumnus to launch his own clothing line.

Boetcher describes “tad b,” as a clean, classic American style with a twist, and starting in August, “tadb” will be in Dillard’s and Lord and Taylor stores across the country.

Boetcher describes the experience as a dream come true.

“This is something that I have always wanted,” Boetcher said. “We requested and talked to the buyer and explained that I am from Ohio, and that it is important for me to have my clothes carried somewhere in Ohio. ‘tadb’ will be in the Dillard’s store in Beachwood (Place). I’m excited because I know I can get the support from the Kent State students.”

Boetcher said his journey to success started when he enrolled at Kent State.

“Since both of my parents were school teachers, academics were always important to me,” he said. “I always had the desire to work hard and try to be the perfect kid.”

Although Boetcher loved sketching women’s clothing, he said he never had any kind of art training.

“I never took any kind of formal art class,” he said. “I didn’t know how to sew, so I went to Kent not knowing what a bobbin was. Then after I became a student, I obviously got the formal training I needed to succeed. I always felt the support from the teachers, and they really helped build my skill level to get me where I am today.”

Boetcher said he was also grateful to have supportive parents who allowed him to be on the “five-year plan” in college.

“It took me five years to get my degree,” he said. “I started out as a freshman taking fashion classes, and then in my fourth year, I took a lot of business classes for my business minor. I was really able to dedicate a lot of time to my pieces for the Senior Portfolio show.”

Boetcher graduated from Kent State in 1995 at the age of 23. One week later, he moved to New York City, where he shared a one-bedroom apartment with four other alumni.

“I moved to New York with only $2,000 worth of graduation money, and it took me three months to get my first job,” he said. “It was kind of tough to get recognized because this was back about 13 or 14 years ago when a lot of people didn’t really know about the Kent fashion program.”

He got his feet wet by working for Liz Claiborne, and then later worked for other designers including Michael Kors, Bill Blass, Ann Taylor, Adrienne Vittadini and Ellen Tracy.

Boetcher then started working for Dué Per Dué, a company that designs and manufactures modern styles in novelty fabrics, knits, silks and cottons. After about three years, Boetcher left the company because he said he wasn’t meeting his career goals.

A few months later, Dué Per Dué asked to financially back and support Boetcher’s own clothing line.

“I kind of have a different situation,” he said. “I do have financial backers who pay for the sample costs, give me the use of their show room and facilities and pay for the shipping. But I am the creative director of this brand, and it really is a true testament of who I am.”

He said it was difficult to develop a design vision for his own line.

“I had been working for other people for so long, so I was designing for what they wanted,” he said. “Now, I have the opportunity to say, ‘Who is tadb? Who am I?’ and I really haven’t had the opportunity to do that since college.”

Boetcher is known for his use of knit fabrics with a lot of intricate beading and embroidering.

“In my head, I design for a woman who is about my age, like 35 to 50, and I want the design to grow old with her,” he said. “But a lot of younger people who have seen my line feel that there are pieces that appeal to the younger customer.”

Boetcher said although the price range of his line (about $130 to $500) is not directed toward college students, there are ways for younger women to wear his clothes.

“The way I see it is: your mom has enough money to buy it, and you can go home and borrow it,” he said with a laugh.

Boetcher said he hopes to see his line at other department stores.

“I am so excited about the progression of the line,” he said. “In less than a year, I got in Dillard’s and Lord and Taylor. I really hope to soon be in Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.”

Boetcher said he credits the education he received at Kent State for his progression of success.

“I fully, 100 percent believe in the Kent State fashion program,” he said. “I think our program prepares the students very well. I don’t think being set in the Midwest is a disadvantage because I think it works for different people at different times. It worked for me because there was no way I could have moved there as an 18-year-old and have been ready to take on the city. However, when I moved there at 23, I was more mature, and I had the knowledge to get me where I am today.”

Boetcher said he hopes to show students that hard work and determination can truly lead to success.

“I was just a boy from Pickerington, Ohio, who wanted to make something of himself,” he said. “I want students to know if there’s something that you really want to accomplish in life, never give up and always believe in yourself.”

Contact fashion reporter Lauren Carll at [email protected].