URC Profile

Nzimiro Oputa

Company: Jag Saint Joi
Year started: 2009
Industry: Fashion Design
Offices: New York City
Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA
Activity: Creating sophisticated menswear “for the corporate rebel”.
Annual Revenue: N/A
Employees: 1
Attended: Michigan State University
Degree: B.S., Package Engineering, 2005
Company website: jagsaintjoi.com

“Fashion design and engineering are a lot like Legos—they’re all about putting the pieces together.”

Nzimiro-RunwayThe youngest boy in a family of five children from the east side of Detroit, Nzimiro Oputa saw his share of hand-me-down clothes. Not wanting to be ridiculed at school, Oputa would cut, hem and re-fashion each shirt and pair of pants to alter the look of the clothes and make them “his own.” Styling his own clothes became a lifelong obsession and something that he became very good at, but it wasn’t going to pay the bills. So it was never a question that Oputa would follow in the footsteps of the other men in his family and become an engineer.

Upon graduation with a degree in package engineering from Michigan State University in 2005, he went to work for a number of large multinational companies such as Johnson & Johnson and BP, designing packaging and traveling extensively—experiences that would later help the budding designer understand regional differences in clothing needs and style. Eight years into his corporate career, a close friend urged Oputa to try out for the reality NBC TV show “Fashion Star,” and his life changed forever.

Oputa became a huge success on the show, and his designs were regularly picked up by mega retailers H&M, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. The show gained him important industry exposure and helped create a significant following—unusual for someone who had taken only one studio class where he learned to create patterns and sew.

“Never use your name as the company name in case it’s ever sold.”

Oputa has capitalized on the connections he made through the show and has been working retail events as a host and special guest designer, as well as occasional contract engineering work. Working for others will soon be a thing of the past though, as this year Oputa will be launching his first collection under the brand name “Jag Saint Joi.”

Designed for the corporate man who wants a bit of an edge, Oputa describes his style as “sophisticated street wear for the corporate rebel.” The name of his company is taken from his middle name and those of his siblings (“Jag” being the initials of his older brothers, “Saint” from his middle name Stephen and “Joi” from the youngest and only sister). Initially, the collection will be sold only online, with plans to later expand into boutiques and through collaborations.

Photo credit: Terrance Drake