Over the past few months, I’ve seen the snapbacks labeled with Ott popping up everywhere – from RedBlacks players to kids on the street to Ottawa’s hip hop head Peter Joynt. I got curious and sought out the man behind the brand, Billy Altidor of Over The Top (Ott) Lifestyle.
Altidor is part artist, part entrepreneur. I met him at LEVELS, an urban wear shop in Vanier that is currently the sole distributor of Ott products. On a beautiful sunny Sunday, we discussed the story of Ott, a story rooted in Ottawa pride.
Three years ago, Altidor had the idea to create a brand representing the city – “something we could all share together” he says. The idea percolated for a while before he came up with a logo and jumped head first into production in the summer of 2015.
“The first print was about 100 hats – they flew fast. We just built from there.”
Interestingly, he says that fashion is not an industry he ever thought he would enter. But fashion became a vehicle through which his civic pride could be shared. It made sense to start with hats, a common and accessible fashion item, and with Ottawa winters in mind, extend the line to include tuques.
The brand got a boost through its popularly with RedBlack players and received great exposure when The Joynt wore an Ott hat for his Sens video, which was projected countless times last year at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Altidor credits his Haitian roots and connection to the local arts and culture scene for his artistic abilities. “I’m inspired by a lot of things that I see and that I’ve been part of.” While he does collaborate with other people, Altidor is clear that design and ideas come from him.
He also has a strong connection to his home hood, Vanier. Altidor and LEVELS owner Herby Pierre have been friends since they were four years old. Having his products in a shop a few steps from where he grew up is a great thing.
“Kids come in and they can relate to us. The response has been very cool. It just shows [the kids] what it’s about – you can do positive stuff and give back to the community as well”.
Now, Ott’s taking it to another level, venturing into jackets and a whole wardrobe. Thus far, he has prototyped bomber jackets and other outerwear – all of which have clean lines and a patriotic flair. Asked what new product he’s most excited about, Altidor opens up about a special edition jacket and hat for Ottawa 2017. There’s also a line called White Me Down where products will be all white from tuques to polos, with very unique designs.
He’s very much open to extending his brand to other retail shops, but for now is working towards building his inventory. There are plans for an Ott pop up shop some time in June (location TBD) and expect to see another Ott pop up downtown for Canada Day.
Like what you see? We are giving away one Ott snapback. To enter the content, let us know in the comments section your favourite Ottawa neighbourhood. You can pick up Ott merchandise at LEVELS, 273 MacArthur in Vanier.