Unitary Apparel is a new, Native clothing company started by 43-year-old Cody Miller.
Miller is a Colville tribal member with connections to the Entiat, Moses, Okanogan and Wenatchi tribes. Originally from Disautel, Miller spent his childhood in Omak and now resides in Richland.
Miller attended Omak High School, and Okanogan High School his senior year. In 1995, he obtained his GED and then went on to study at the Perry Technical Institute, receiving a degree in electronic instrumentation and industrial automation. He’s currently enrolled at Western Governor’s University and will soon receive a bachelor’s degree in business management.
In addition to being the founder and CEO of Unitary Apparel, Miller currently works as a chief power plant operator at Priest Rapids Dam.
Tribune: How did you come up with the idea for this clothing company?
CM: I’ve always had a passion for clothing, something I think I must have gotten from my father “Cactus Jack” Miller. He was a sharp dresser! I’m convinced that he was one of the OG cowboys that started the trend of starching his Wranglers! He wore matching boots and a hat always.
I came up with the idea of Unitary Apparel when I was purchasing “Native” style clothing from Zumiez and other department stores in the mall. I found myself thinking I could design more legit apparel that Natives or anyone who’d like to participate in Native culture could relate to. I design apparel that is fun, modern, and easy on the eyes.
Tribune: When did Unitary Apparel start? Where is it based and how many employees do you have?
CM: I started to make a plan and take small steps to create the company last August. In November I started to design my first garment, the “Rez Riveter”, which was inspired by the first Native women voted into the U.S. Congress, and it was a very fun piece to design. Now I’m off and running to see what visions come next!
Tribune: What products do you sell?
CM:To this point I have focused on “Street wear” T-shirts, hoodies and hats. I also have a line of Wampum Jewelry that is quite successful. Looking ahead, the sky’s the limit, as the more I expand the more products I plan to create and design until I get to “Connie” status, where I have a little of everything.
Tribune:How does the production process work from start of design to finish?
CM:Right now my production scheme is pretty simple. I brainstorm ideas, just going with whatever inspires me. When I see something that sparks interest, I write it down, or have a vision at that moment! After that, I put the idea on paper, draw my stick figures, figure out a color scheme, and head to the shop to create some garments.
I order the garments from a wholesale retailer, then print out my designs at my shop here in Richland. I’m working on purchasing what’s called a Direct to Garment (DTG) printer now. Once the DTG is purchased custom orders will be easier to create and I’ll be able to make almost anything individual customers desire. So far, I offer hats, garments, signs, vinyl and jerseys. It’s all a lot of fun!
All of my line is made for whoever wants to purchase the items. I do take custom orders, and will have that option on my website soon. I’ve been contracted by the Colville Tribe to produce a few orders, as well as an order for the Flathead Casino. Those are in process as we speak.
I’ve got a company website at unitaryapparel.com, and have set up as a vendor at the government building in Nespelem. I also plan to get out to some Powwows this summer. My products aren’t sold in any local stores yet, but I’m working on that.
Tribune: How is the company doing currently? Do you have an future goals or projects you’re working on?
CM:Unitary Apparel is thriving! I’m a little surprised by how well it took off, and humbled by the support and praise the line has received from our tribe and surrounding tribes. It makes me proud to see people wearing the gear I created, and how proud they are to wear it.
My future plans include creating a line that will focus on recovery. I’m a recovering alcoholic/addict and that seems to hit home for many of our tribal people.
I also want to create a special line whose proceeds will supply a fund that will help support our elders who are on fixed incomes and are raising grandchildren whose parents are struggling with addiction or alcoholism. My niece Jarae Cate gave me the idea.
Someday I hope to be successful enough that I can come back home and build new community centers for our youth, create scholarships for education, and help them to establish a better quality of life. I remember my dad doing that for individuals, and role models from the tribe like Joe Pakootas and Willie Womer, who would bring youth to tourneys and pay for entry fees, jerseys and gear for sports. Growing up, I didn’t really think about those things, and probably wasn’t as grateful at the time, but looking back I see how much that meant to kids, and I truly hope I can do the same for our youth.
Tribune: What do you enjoy most about running a clothing company?
CM: Running this clothing company has many positives, as well as many stressors. But the one thing I enjoy most is creating the apparel. I love to sit, let my creative visions flow, and make something that hopefully, the people love.
Tribune: What advice would you give to young readers who might be inspired to start their own business or creative venture?
CM: The first advice I would give is to pay attention in school! The more you understand about business, the more successful you’ll be! I always felt like I did just fine before pursuing higher education. But after completing a good portion, it was evident that I needed this formal education to understand the business world. From finance, to accounting, to marketing, it has opened my eyes and made me strive that much harder. It’s provided clear plans, attainable goals, and a greater purpose!