Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Omega Apparel is transforming from military outfitter to top fashion player.

If you ask Dean Wegner why he purchased Omega Apparel back in 2012, he might just laugh and wonder the same thing. Before purchasing the company, Wegner was an Army Ranger for seven years with no experience in the fashion and apparel industry.

When Wegner acquired Omega three years ago the company had one client: the United States military. For 20 years the Smithville, Tennessee based company has been the top supplier of dress clothing for the military, manufacturing dress pants, skirts and shirts for servicemen and women.

But when massive spending cuts greatly impacted Omega, Wegner knew he had to expand or face having to cut more employees. Omega is now a full-service company, offering customers design, sourcing and production services.

“It has not been the easiest journey, but we have taken a company that was built on a solid framework and expanded it to more than just producing military apparel,” Wegner said. “The previous owners provided us with a great foundation, which allowed us to build from there. We want to lead the way in rebuilding the US apparel industry.”

Wegner has been in the process of expanding operations into the Nashville area by leasing a nearly 20,000 foot factory. The Smithville factory will continue to produce items for the military, while the Nashville factory will be a retail space and showroom for the launch of the Omega brand and will accommodate smaller-batch production.

Although his military business has been cut in half, Wegner has grown his client list from one to more than 50, which includes local bridal designer Olia Zavozina and Oscar winning actress Reese Witherspoon, who launched her clothing line Draper James in the spring.

“Nashville is known for its music, healthcare and education. I don’t know if it will happen in three years or five years, but I believe that the next big thing we will be known for is fashion and apparel,” Wegner said.

With the acquisition of the new Nashville factory, Omega will be able to focus on the four divisions of the company— military, commercial, the Omega brand, and custom men and women’s wear. Omega will be able to produce one of a kind, custom made dresses, suits, shirts, pants, bags, and more.

“I'm most passionate about job creation, to provide for families, and to make a positive difference in their lives. In this industry it is painful to lose 100 jobs, so that’s why we developed a strategy that will help diversify our company,” Wegner said. “Over the next five years I plan to hire 1,000 employees.”

Aside from working to rebrand Omega Apparel, Wegner has dedicated his time to the newly established Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA). Wegner is a founding member of the NFA and sits on the board.

“As a board member I have a responsibility to deliver a production solution that works for our members,” he said. “The other piece that I am passionate about is helping to coach, mentor, and train young entrepreneurs. As the apparel industry increases there will be a growing need for skilled workers. We have to train the next generation.”

And training the next generation is just what the NFA plans to do. Together, the NFA and Omega are partnering with the Catholic Charities of Tennessee and The Housing Fund to grow its sewing program for underserved communities in the region and launch a six-week long sewing academy. The hopes of this program is that graduates will get a job with either a local designer or Omega.

Wegner hopes to employ the first graduates of Catholic Charities’ Sewing Training Academy in his new Nashville facility in August.

For now Wegner is focused on the opening of his Nashville factory, and continuing efforts to rebuild the Omega brand. But one things for sure, no matter what changes Omega goes through Keeping it made in America will always stay the same.