Reggae music creates a soothing echo throughout the group’s warehouse and office space at 3402 Mars Court in southern Tracy.
The atmosphere is relaxed, and the four tell jokes among themselves, even reminiscing about old times, all while concentrating on the tasks at hand.
“It’s all about creativity and enjoying our jobs and working together as friends,” said aSociete co-founder Vanessa Gabriel.
Officially launched in October by the 19-year-old Gabriel, with the assistance of her father, aSociete is a fashion website geared exclusively toward selling cheap and trendy clothing to college students.
Gabriel, a 2010 graduate of Tracy High, came up with the idea while attending University of Colorado, Boulder, where “fashion and shopping aren’t the top priorities.”
“I didn’t have a car, and I didn’t have a mall in my town,” she said. “So I quickly turned to shopping on the Internet as a way of doing everything, because the nearest mall was 40 miles away and I’d have to take a bus.”
But Gabriel said she couldn’t find anything that fit her budget or her style as a college student.
“A bunch of these sites were still either targeted at an older demographic, still pricier stuff,” she said. “So I got this idea, and I started looking at how I could make this happen.”
Gabriel dropped out of UC Boulder and moved back to Tracy, where she enlisted the efforts of three longtime friends. She chose Jarrett Mattson for his “love of street wear,” Omar Jones, “a longtime friend from elementary school,” and Levi Lopez, who “has such a great eye for photography.”
“We all kind of just jumped into this and haven’t looked back,” Gabriel said.
Working all last summer to market the company through countless phone calls, emails and trips to Los Angeles finally began pay dividends by fall.
“We were talking to people, getting the word out there and really explaining our concept,” said the 20-year-old Mattson, a 2010 graduate of Tracy High. “It was great to go to the trade shows, because that’s where you meet the vendors and build those relationships. They really liked us, because we were the only people offering direct contact to college students, and that’s what they want for their brand.”
Securing inventory was the first step, and then Lopez, also a 2010 Tracy High graduate, began bringing the company’s products and brands to life.
“I knew he loved photography, and I knew he was good at it,” Gabriel said. “He has the ability to make things look good — all of our models always look good, so he’s a real important aspect of this.”
Lopez’s technique of using a flashlight during a photo shoot caught the eye of even seasoned industry photographers.
“You just turn the lights off and take a picture with a flashlight. It’s super-simple, but it looks so sick,” said the 20-year-old. “They tried to do the same thing, but they couldn’t. It’s just cool that they came on our site and tried to steal the way I take my pictures.”
Gabriel said such examples of the group “making people in the industry notice us” had also caught the attention of other interested parties.
The company is in the running to be featured on an MTV show about young entrepreneurs and is also a top-10 finalist for Founder Showcase in the Silicon Valley — in which more than 60 companies pitch business plans to more than 500 investors, mentors and advisers.
“It’s been a crazy ride so far,” Gabriel said. “I think we all just want to keep riding this out together and see where it goes. We’re different (from other companies), because this is what we want to do, and we are really putting everything into it.”
David Yanez serves as the company’s media director, while Liz Zepeda oversees the women’s fashion department. Jones manages the shipping department.
• Visit the company’s website at www.asociete.com.