BOONE, NC — Mitch Purgason’s time at Appalachian State University marked the start of his career in apparel design. Now the Mountaineer alum dresses a host of business executives and professional athletes – including NFL players Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle; NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace; and author, speaker and businessman Gary Vaynerchuk.
Purgason, who got a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Management of App State in 2015, was chosen for the class of 2022 of “30 Under 30 North America” from Forbes magazine, a list of some of the most notable young leaders, businessmen and journalists. In 2021, Charlotte Magazine awarded the Charlotte-based company Purgason “Best Men’s Suits” as part of its annual Bob Awards.
As a bespoke apparel designer, Purgason works with clients to design unique costumes or other apparel for events, special occasions, or everyday wear. “I incorporate their tastes and color profiles – what shades look best on them based on eye color, skin tone and hair color – as well as their personality traits, if they want something bold or more subtle,” he said.
Some of his designs include custom linings or other details, sometimes hidden under a collar or inside a sleeve. He can put together a quote that’s meaningful to the client or use a custom screenprint of a city skyline in the suit’s lining to individualize the design and add an “element of fun,” Purgason said.
On his own clothes, Purgason said he often includes the Italian phrase ‘una razza diversa’, which means ‘cut from a different fabric’ – describing how he runs his business and approaches his brand.
“I use classic elements with a bit of chaos – so the style is timeless but stands out at the same time,” he said.
From class to business
While attending App State, Purgason started his first clothing design business with two fellow students — Merrick Marquie ’15 and Ryan Sommerville ’15 — as part of an assignment for an experiential entrepreneurship class.
“We had to start a real business for the class,” Purgason said. “It wasn’t just a theoretical project.”
Marquie had traveled to China as William R. Holland Scholar through the Walker College of Business (WCOB), where he learned about supply chains as well as some of the basics of bespoke costume design. When he partnered with Purgason and Sommerville in the entrepreneurship class, he suggested they start a business to create affordable bespoke suits for students.
“The business operation was a great educational tool,” Purgason said. “We made a lot of mistakes, but we also had some successes.”
Marquie and Sommerville pursued other careers after graduation, but Purgason continued her work in clothing design.
Purgason said his “best value” from App State was his involvement with Walker College Transportation Information Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE).
Founded in 2006, CFE helps App State students, faculty, staff, and alumni design, grow, and launch new businesses. The center hosts each year Entrepreneur Summit Carole Moore McLeodwhich Purgason says provides students with a valuable opportunity to network, learn, and showcase their business concepts.
“The center helped me develop the mindset of starting my own business,” Purgason said, recalling his time “exchanging ideas” with CFE chief executive Erich Schlenker.
To broaden his education, Purgason took a few design classes in App State’s Applied Design Department in the College of Fine and Applied Arts. One class, taught by an associate professor Richard Elaverchanged her perspective on apparel design and function, Purgason said, adding, “I learned to think outside the box, in terms of problem solving and approaching business creatively.”
Develop your style
Purgason credits her eye for fashion to her mother, who is a former actress and set designer for off-Broadway shows. “She designed our house with lots of different colors and patterns, giving each room an identity of its own. I always paid attention to design elements because of her,” he said.
Purgason played basketball in high school and later played with App State’s men’s basketball team after his sophomore year in college. His love of sports put him attuned to the fashion scene among athletes.
“Sports culture is so visually driven – whether it’s the playing uniform, the shoes or what the athletes wear before the game and for post-game talks,” said Purgeson. “Athletes have a personal brand and they have a huge influence on the fashion scene.”
Purgason said he enjoys the challenge of working with athletes and other influencers. “They like to look good and wear different clothes,” he said.
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About the Department of Management
The Department of Management offers undergraduate and graduate programs to prepare students for management responsibilities in today’s dynamic environment. Learn more about https://management.appstate.edu.
About Walker College of Business
Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business provides transformational educational experiences that prepare and inspire students to become ethical, innovative, and engaged business leaders who positively impact our community, both locally and globally. The college emphasizes international experiences, sustainable business practices, entrepreneurship programs and real-world applications with industry. Enrolling approximately 3,000 undergraduate students in 10 majors and 175 graduate students in three master’s programs, Walker College is accredited by AACSB International – the world’s leading accrediting body for business schools. Learn more about https://business.appstate.edu.
About the Appalachian Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship
Appalachian State University’s Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship was founded in 2006 and is housed within the university’s Walker College of Business. The center helps Appalachian students — regardless of major — faculty, staff, and alumni to conceive, grow, incubate, and launch new businesses, turning their ideas into reality. In 2011, the center was renamed to include Transportation Insight in its name to recognize a $1 million donation that enabled the center’s renovation, as well as 10 years of funding. Transportation Insight is a nationally recognized third party logistics (3PL) company specializing in supply chain management. Learn more about https://entrepreneurship.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead meaningful lives as global citizens who understand and take responsibility for creating a future sustainable for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to gain and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and purpose, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system. Appalachia is home to over 20,000 students, has a low student-faculty ratio, and offers over 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.