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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Bret D Schnitker


Stars Design Group

Location: St. Louis, MO

Founded: 2000

Industry: Apparel

Bret D. Schnitker began his career in fashion as a designer and moved his way up to senior buyer at a multi-billion-dollar company. The job allowed Schnitker to travel the world and learn about the manufacturing side of the fashion industry.

Through his travels, Schnitker made a point of learning directly from the artisans working behind the scenes. He visited the mills where raw materials are turned into yarn, sat down with the weavers who crafted the yarn into textiles, and met with the artisans who dyed the fabric and the factory workers constructing the garments.

He also immersed himself in the culture of each country, taking note of the nuances of each to gain a better understanding of the global community. These experiences reinforced Schnitker’s passion for the industry and eventually led him to create Stars Design Group.

The company has offices in five countries and has altered the clothing manufacturing model, which designs first, adds pricing and then eliminates elements or cuts quality to meet budget. Stars Design Group starts with a per-price unit and allows details to be added during the manufacturing process.

The company also maintains a fabric library in St. Louis, and, according to the company, the library is believed to be one of the largest in North America. It contains more than 40,000 samples from all over the world. It allows Stars Design Group to access samples for clients without having to request them from international mills, helping efficiency.

“Working my way up through a multi-billion-dollar retailer, having achieved a high level of success with the security of income and a known future, to then make the decision to move past the path established to start my own company was a risk that was not only challenging, but exhilarating,” Schnitker said. “Although the investment took years to realize, the impact of the decision has not only provided me a literal world of education but also provided a world of opportunity for those I employ globally. Now having made millions of garments with the support of services my team provides, I remain humbled at the opportunities, connections, relationships and career that have been born from this decision.”

Stars Design Group was one of the first companies to identify opportunities for apparel manufacturing in Ethiopia. Schnitker spent three years living in the country while he oversaw the construction and employment of a factory. Ethiopia is one of 70 countries Schnitker has visited during his career — researching and learning about the fashion industry in most of these countries.

In 2020, Schnitker continued his international travels consulting with the U.S. Department of Trade on a mission to El Salvador to assist in the development of the country’s apparel manufacturing. Through Schnitker’s leadership, Stars Design Group won St. Louis Business of the Year in 2017 and Neighborhood Business of the Year in 2015.

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Did you know?

Bret has been an artist all of his life, he learned to paint alongside his great grandmother and still continues to paint.


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