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Raglione taps inner artist for UGO

Baseball career gives way to new clothing line for Grant grad
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Paul Raglione, a former Grant High and minor-league baseball player, believes that he has a logo, UGO, and a niche that will stick in clothing fashion.

It is 6:20 on a Friday night and Paul Raglione is late to his own party. A few dozen people have gathered around Haberdashers, a clothing store in downtown Lake Oswego, to promote the store and Raglione's new UGO clothing brand. The conversations among people are strained and awkward.

'I love these T-shirts,' a pretty brunette says, preening in a white top with the UGO logo emblazoned on it.

Bets are placed on when Raglione will show up.

More than an hour after the party was supposed to start, a tall, dark, handsome 24-year-old walks into the store. Suddenly, the party comes alive. Drinks are poured, conversations begin anew, everyone is laughing.

In the world of popular cultural, the X-factor is as real as it is intangible. It is something Raglione possesses. After ending his minor-league baseball career in 2009, the former Grant High pitcher has entered the world of fashion with the same reckless abandon he had when pursuing being a pro pitcher.

'It's only the second thing in my life that has been in my heart,' Raglione says of fashion design. 'I couldn't stop it if I tried. I'm sprinting straight forward to the top.'

Even when he was an athlete, Raglione was business-minded. When he was 12, he began a business he called 'Paul's Baseball Company.'

Raglione poured his heart into the game. After his senior year at Grant, he was drafted in the 18th round by the Kansas City Royals.

The life of a minor-league player was not for Raglione, though.

'For two years my heart was like 'You've got to get out of here,' ' Raglione says. 'And I'm like, 'Shut up down there. This is my business since I was 12.'And (the urge) kept growing and growing until it was just screaming at me, 'Get the hell out of here.' I was sad, mad, bitter. I didn't want to be there.'

Finally, after spring training in 2009, Raglione reached his breaking point. He does not like to use the word 'quit.' Rather, he says, he sold his 'baseball company' for the college scholarship guaranteed in his contract with the Royals.

'I turned the page to move forward,' Raglione says. 'I was the happiest kid on planet Earth. It was just like I had the biggest load off my shoulders ever. I have not had a single doubt, or regret. Not once. It was 100 percent the right thing to do. My heart was telling me that for years. And once I finally did it, it was like I got out of jail.'

Raglione spent two years attending the University of Oregon. He already felt too old for the partying culture of college, though.

Story behind clothing

This winter Raglione returned to Portland. A few months later, Raglione finally admitted to himself what he had been trying to deny for so long: that he was an artist.

During his time in the minor leagues, Raglione had filled notebooks with drawings and sketches. Clothing was something he had always been into as a way to get close to girls. When the two collided, UGO was born.

Ugo, Raglione's middle name, was something he tried to deny the same way he tried to deny that he was an artist. With its simplicity and deep meaning to Raglione, it seemed like the perfect name for a fashion label.

'That's the worst name ever,' Raglione says. 'It's so embarrassing. It's Italian, it's my grandfather's name. Then I was like, 'It totally sounds fashionable.' It's those three letters, really distinct, really easy to remember. I liked the way it looked, and so I just rocked on with that.'

Raglione began finding blank clothing from places like Italy and Peru or small shops around Portland. He looks at the blanks as something that need to be filled, the same way a painter sees an empty canvas.

It is Raglione's drive, and the story behind the clothing that makes Brent Collier, the owner of Collier in downtown on Broadway, believe UGO could sell well.

'Everything in my store at some point has a back story,' Collier says. 'Somebody had to, at some point,care about it along the way. That's what I like about Paul. And my core customers convey that they like that around.'

Setting lofty goals

UGO is still in its infantile stage. Along with Haberdashers and Collier, Raglione is also selling tops on his website ugo raglione.com. The price of the tops range from $30-$85 dollars. Raglione eventually wants to get into other areas of design, like denim, cologne, women's clothing and accessories.

While the designing part has come easy for him, Raglione admits the business side is something he is still working on. Next fall he will begin taking classes at Portland State to learn about business and marketing.

With UGO so new, Raglione knows he has to be careful of potential business partners taking advantage of him.

'I've got something cooking here, but, I need to be careful of all the people,' he says.

Great ideas are a dime a dozen in this world. But, people with that X-factor, who will stop at nothing to succeed, are much more rare. And as Raglione talks about his current dream, he has no doubt that it will become a reality.

'I don't know about a time frame because I don't think about time frame,' Raglione says. 'In my mind it's already there. It's in every store. I just set lofty, lofty goals because that's the only way you get it done.'