Phillipsburg native starts fitness fashion business

Turn It On offers versatile fashion for women.

Fashion has always been a passion for Juetta West. Formerly of Phillipsburg, West worked more than 30 years in the industry, including time spent as a high fashion runway model for the likes of Bob Mackie, Oscar De La Renta and Bill Blass.

“I began baton twirling at the age of 2 and modeling at the age of 6,” West said. “Then I found my niche in runway modeling and did very well, travelling and working with many designers and learning all the time.”

So it seemed a perfect fit when her son, Jack Omer of Kettering, suggested it was time for her to start her own fashion business.

“Jack told me it was time to start feeding my brain again,” West said. “We were in a place where everyone in the family was taken care of and Jack challenged me to find something I really wanted to do.”

The result is a fitness and casual wear company, Turn It On, which she co-founded with Althea Harper, a former Oakwood resident, a University of Cincinnati School of Design graduate and fashion designer with ties to “Project Runway.”

“My husband (Doug West) had a connection to Althea and contacted her to ask if she’d like to be involved,” West said. “She drew up some designs, and we loved them.”

The partnership to develop the company began about 2½ years ago, and according to West, was a trial-and-error process. “We knew we wanted to develop crossover clothing,” West said. “The idea is that if a woman exercises in the morning, she has the foundation with our designs. She can simply add her own wardrobe to it, like heels and accessories, and she is ready to go meet girls for coffee or even attend a board meeting. And if she works out in the evening after work, she already has her outfit.”

West said they searched for the perfect fabric and found a four-way stretch material that had a great feel. “It’s supple but adds compression and is perfect for a woman’s body,” she said.

West now lives in Maui, Hawaii.

The partners knew they would need someone to handle quality control to ensure they maintained a top-notch product. They found that person in Jerry Duncan, who had industry experience working for Jockey, Lands’ End and Haines. “He knows all about our fabric and how it performs,” West said.

“Althea is really up on what is trending in fashion,” West said. “She knows about this before the public does.” Duncan and Harper worked with West initially to decide upon their key pieces. “Once we made the decision, we had samples developed.”

Turn It On originally began with 16 pieces of fitness and casual clothing but today offers nine core pieces that will truly take women from the board room to the gym. “I always say if a woman looks good, she will feel good,” West said. “When we started looking at the fitness clothing available out there, we found that the pieces weren’t flattering to a woman’s body. Our line is all about enhancing what a women wants to enhance and hiding what she wants to hide.”

The nine pieces available now are the result of looking at trends and what women want, West said. “The designs and fabric and fit work with a woman’s everyday lifestyle,” she said. Those pieces include a reformer jacket that features color blocking and invisible zippers, several tops that feature ruching and off the shoulder styles, and skirts and pants that have a unique “V” waistband. “People love our waistbands because they are unique,” West said. “No matter the figure, they love our pants because of the fabric, fit and compression. They don’t pinch into your skin, and they stay put.”

In mid-November Turn It On was officially launched. West decided to launch her clothing line in her hometown of Dayton, along with Cincinnati and Columbus. “This area is a great place to market a business,” West said. “We had invitation only events in all three cities.”

West said that the sales are rather strong, but this is still a startup company. “In Ohio I asked my friends to invite their friends so I ended up meeting people I didn’t know,” West said. “Once they put on the garments, they knew immediately it was different and I knew I could sell it.

The products are currently being sold and marketed through the web site, “We will remain an ecommerce business until we can get some investors interested,” West said. “My goal is to eventually have a brick and mortar store and take this concept and run with it. We feel we have nailed this design and are filling a niche in the fitness apparel market. Our line is different from any other line out there and it’s really incredible. We would just love for women to try it and once it’s on their bodies, they will love it!”

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