CINCINNATI -- A former standout University of Cincinnati fashion student and New York City designer went missing more than a week ago, and has prompted the New York Police Department, family and friends to begin a massive search.
James Ott, known as Jay, 31, has worked for major fashion houses in New York City such as The Row and J. Mendel, according to the New York Times. He began working as a design director for a Los Angeles-based fashion company, the Dock Group, in 2013.
Coworkers of Ott knew something was wrong when he didn’t show up to work Monday, March 24.
“When we go into work, the first person that gets to work texts the other people, and asks, ‘What do you want for breakfast,’ or ‘Do you want coffee?’ ” Beatrice Kim told the NYT. “Jay never responded.”
Those close to Ott say it’s like he disappeared into thin air.
He has not been seen since Sunday, March 22 when a security camera showed him leaving his apartment building during the early hours of the morning.
The New York Police Department has spent more than a week searching for Ott without any clue regarding his whereabouts.
Family and friends of the missing man gathered at Ott’s Bushwick apartment in hopes of aiding in the search.
“He’s never done anything like this before,” Ott’s father, Kim, told the New York Magazine . “He never disappears. He always calls.”
Missing person posters have been plastered throughout subway stations and streets in the area, without any luck.
Ott spent Saturday before his disappearance at a friend’s birthday party in Brooklyn, according to the NYT. His family said security cameras show him returning home Saturday evening but leaving again at about 4:35 a.m.
Ott had changed clothes and was now clean-shaven. Friends told the NYT Ott had worn facial hair for two straight years before that morning.
His family said his phone, credit card, debit cards and email have not been used since his disappearance.
Sources say Ott suffers from emotional problems, but was “in a good place” the day before he vanished, according to the New York Post.
Ann Firestone has been with UC's fashion department for such a long time, that students and faculty call her "Mother Fashion." She spoke with WCPO reporter Scott Wegener about Jay's disappearance.
"My heart just sunk," Firestone said. "Jay and I go back a long way."
She met Ott during his first year out of high school.
"You knew Jay was a strong and driving force from the moment he walked into out department," Firestone said.
Ott's friend, Nancy Brinker stays positive.
"Perhaps he had just needed to get away, and by himself," she said. "He wouldn't do anything careless purposefully."
UC student Bree Qureshi met Ott once when he visited her class to critique the class's designs. She's concerned for his safety.
"I remember all of us left the studio being like, really excited to be a fashion designer," Qureshi said. "He had really good energy and made everything we were doing, no matter how tedious, seem exciting."
Brinker said, "All of our lives are different now, and I think they're going to be better because of Jay."
(Anyone with any information, call the Friends of Jay hotline at (718) 710-7919 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)