West Virginia native Chris Yura took his experience as a Notre Dame football player, Four Seasons personal strength trainer, Ford model, and world traveler to grow his idea for a sustainable culture—creating SustainU, a thriving clothing company established in 2009 and modeled on educating consumers, empowering youth, and creating positive change.
WV LIVING – How did you get started in the clothing industry? And why was it important for you to headquarter SustainU in West Virginia?
Chris Yura – Growing up in West Virginia and having experiences away from the state really helped me understand how unique our state is and how many opportunities there are here. I wanted to take advantage of that and showcase our state as innovative. But you could say my journey really began as a fullback for the Notre Dame football team. The students would always wear the same shirt for every home game, and as a player, you noticed that kind of thing. Then, at the Ford Models agency in New York City, I experienced the fashion industry from behind the scenes and learned about manufacturing, sourcing, marketing strategies, and the common misconceptions of “environmentally responsible.” With SustainU, I figured, if we could develop authentic university apparel from which the proceeds would fuel change, that was something I could really get behind.
WVL – Were you always interested in the fashion industry?
CY – No, actually I wasn’t at all. When I went to school on a football scholarship, I was a 230-pound fullback interested in becoming a personal strength trainer. After college, I lost a ton of weight, got scouted for modeling purposes—once I actually had a neck again—and just really fell into it. I’m really spiritual, and I figured God had me working in fashion for a reason. Then these ideas for sustainability started coming, so I started developing them.
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