NYC police search for missing fashion designer Jay Ott, a Pine-Richland alumnus

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Fashion designer Jay Ott, whose couture creations began at Pine-Richland High School with garbage bags and staples, seemed to have realized his dreams, with a chic apartment in a Brooklyn loft and a top job with an up-and-coming fashion design house in New York City.

But this week, Mr. Ott disappeared from that beautiful world when he failed to show up for work on Monday morning. Fearing for his safety, his friends and family have spent every day since then desperately searching for any sign of him, blanketing the city with missing-person fliers and the Internet with appeals for information about him.

Back home, old friends say they are worried. In Donna Martin’s sewing class, where he learned how to construct clothing, Mr. Ott followed her around so he could listen to what she was teaching other students, she said Friday.

“He was like a sponge, he just soaked up everything — you don’t have too many kids who listen to every word you say, and he was one of them,” Mrs. Martin said. “He was a good kid, and I hope he’s OK.”

Mr. Ott, 31, was last seen by his friends in New York on Saturday evening, and was last spotted by a surveillance camera outside a bodega near his home in the McKibbin Lofts in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn just before 5 a.m. Sunday, according to numerous Facebook posts. Mr. Ott is about 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighs 180 pounds, has light brown hair and blue eyes and usually wears glasses.

Anyone with information about him has been asked to call Detective Thomas Pisano of the 90th Precinct Detective Squad at 1-718-963-5368, or email

Police told the New York Daily News that Mr. Ott’s credit cards and phone have not been used. But deepening the mystery, a friend reported that Mr. Ott’s Facebook account appeared to have been used as recently as Thursday and that someone from that account appeared to have “liked” the “Find Jay Ott” page. Mr. Ott’s parents could not be reached for comment.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Mr. Ott and his family moved several times to follow his father’s career in pharmaceuticals and ended up in Pine in 1997. He began subscribing to Vogue and other fashion magazines in seventh grade, and by the time the family moved to Pine, he was sketching designs and watching fashion programs on television.

In high school, Mrs. Martin said, Mr. Ott studied sewing with Mrs. Martin for two years and held numerous fashion shows, with friends all clamoring to model the fashion creations that quickly moved beyond trash bags.

“He would have all the kids in these fashion shows, and they got better and better every year,” she said.

His parents bought him a sewing machine and cleared a space for him to work in the basement of their Carrington Drive home, and his dad built him shelves to hold fabrics and other supplies.

A straight-A student, Mr. Ott attended the University of Cincinnati, and went on to work at The Row, a couture fashion house owned by actresses Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, who starred on “Full House” as children. Mr. Ott now works at the fashion investment firm The Dock Group as a fashion designer.

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: or 412-608-3618. First Published March 27, 2014 10:41 PM


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