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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

Fashion’s OG Instagrammers are building empires and, at the same time, growing their influence beyond the industry.

After being schooled for years on the workings of the fashion industry, mega-influencers including Danielle Bernstein (2.7 million Instagram followers) and Rocky Barnes (2.5 million Instagram followers) are graduating to careers less reliant on brands. To take it to the next level, they’re leveraging their prowess and communities, driving deals with effective business partners, and evolving their focus, based on the industry’s direction and their own passions. The emerging results, for both Bernstein and Barnes, are personally-backed brands and investment portfolios set to expand based on early successes.

“The plan is to grow, in a big way,” said Bernstein. “I’m a serial entrepreneur, so I’ll always want to introduce new businesses and categories to my brand. And I’m angel investing and joining the board of advisors for so many companies. That’s the future of the creator economy: harnessing and creating community around your existing followers and then figuring out how to monetize that.”

In 2019, upon inking a licensing deal with New York-based clothing company Onia, Bernstein launched the Shop We Wore What e-commerce site, populated with her expanding We Wore What fashion collection. The collection has been at the center of much recent controversy, due to allegedly including copycat designs. According to Bernstein, she turns to vintage pieces, editorials and travel for inspiration. Bernstein’s also become an investor and advisor for hair supplement company Wellbel and CBD brand Highline Wellness. In May, she became active on Patreon, offering exclusive video content to paying members of her community.

In addition, Bernstein heads up We Gave What, a charitable arm of her company. In 2019, she launched tech company Moe Assist with a project management tool for influencers, though its social accounts have been inactive for two-plus months. When asked for comment, a spokesperson said Moe Assist is in a new fundraising stage and “should have news to share shortly.”

Barnes, meanwhile, partnered with Reunited Clothing to come out with her apparel company, The Bright Side, in December. And she recently became a first-time investor-advisor, for 6-month-old SMS shopping platform Qatch. She announced the partnership in an Instagram post on Monday.

“I feel like a grown-up,” she told me, before confirming that she’s interested in investing in more companies. “Diversifying my business has been a really big [focus] for me. I interact with so many different brands and companies on a daily basis. Using my market knowledge in ways that can help other people is fulfilling and exciting for me. And I especially love when I can be involved with a company from the beginning.”

Building on their content creator role in fashion is a natural progression, both said. And it plays into many industry shifts: On its way out is fashion’s DTC era, largely fueled by Harvard Business School and Wharton graduates using a plug-and-play, marketing-heavy business model to launch brands. More consumers are prioritizing quality, differentiated products, making industry experience and style expertise greater virtues among insiders. At the same time, consumers are increasingly taking shopping cues from relatable, platform-native celebrities, moving on from authoritative editors and more closed-off celebrities.

The school of collaborations
The collaborator-to-founder shift isn’t the newest thing. Other longtime influencers that have made the pivot include Arielle Charnas, with Something Navy; Aimee Song, with Song of Style; Rumi Neely, with Are You Am I; the list goes on. Most often, the names behind these brands don’t have formal design and business training — for her part, Bernstein said she “went to FIT for two years, but didn’t study design and production.” But, for years, they’ve worked hand-in-hand with companies to bring their visions to life. And along the way, they’ve come to know what resonates best with their vast communities, from marketing to merchandising to product.

“My most successful collaborations have led to the largest share of my business,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein’s partnership with Onia came out of her swimwear collaboration with its Onia brand, in May 2019. On the collab’s launch day, it drove $2 million in sales, and an included style was the brand’s best-selling swimsuit of the summer. Also in 2019, Bernstein collaborated with Joe’s Jeans on multiple denim collections. The launch day of the first, in March 2019, marked Joe Jeans’ best sales day to date, said Jennifer Hawkins, the brand’s svp of marketing and innovation on a Glossy Podcast in October.

Both served as learning opportunities for Bernstein, who said — as with all of her collaborations — she took full advantage: “It was never just [uploading] a post, and then I went away,” she said. “I always wanted to know how the performance was, in terms of sales, and asked questions: ‘Can you share the analytics?’ ‘What did you see on your end?’ ‘What worked and what didn’t work?’”

She added, “They provided a ton of data, in terms of what I could sell and what the market was missing.”

Likewise, she said, she always followed and shared with partner brands the Instagram Insights and Google Analytics numbers around her corresponding posts. Doing so gave all parties a 360-degree view of a collaboration’s success.

“I’ve learned what works for brands so they get the largest return on their investment,” she said.

For example, she’s learned to lean on her audience’s tastes, versus rely on her own, by allowing them to offer feedback throughout the design process through Instagram. That’s included the selection of fabrics and colors and the fit sessions with models. She only spotlights her favorite styles and what she wears in her own social posts, as a play for authenticity.

According to Bernstein, the collaborations with brands allowing her to play an advisor role — by guiding them on influencer partnerships, marketing and messaging — are always more successful. And they often turn into longer-term investment or advising partnerships.

Bernstein chose to work with Onia on the We Wore What collection based on its prioritization of quality and fit, and ability to keep to affordable retail prices. Currently, prices on the We Wore What site range from $20, for a scrunchie, to $228, for a vegan leather jumpsuit.

Barnes was also ready to go out on her own after finding the right partners. Her Reunited Clothing partnership came after working with the company to create her Express product collaboration, in early 2019. On its first-quarter 2019 earnings call, interim CEO Matthew C. Moullering said the company had seen “a strong start to [the] collection both in-stores and online and [believed] it [was] helping to introduce the brand to a new audience.”

“Having your own brand is terrifying,” Barnes said. “But I like that I’m in control and not so dependent on doing the day-to-day posts promoting other companies.”

But, she added, “One of the huge benefits of working with all these different brands on all these different projects is that we’re constantly getting introduced to new people and seeing who we like working with.”

Barnes’ internal team consists of her husband, who’s the “business brains” of the company, she said, and an assistant.

Like Bernstein, Barnes stressed the need for outside support in the production process: “I love such quirky, crazy things, but I also understand what is realistic for a buyer and a normal girl buying clothes,” she said. “The experience of taking ideas and making them work for a bigger group of people was my learning curve going into a business. It’s important to have a good, diverse team around you who can make your idea something that’s marketable.”

For its part, We Wore What has seen “200x growth in the last year,” as it’s expanded to new categories, Bernstein said. Its ready-to-wear, swimwear, resort wear, and activewear are now sold in “dozens and dozens of retailers around the world,” many of which offer style exclusives; they include Revolve, Bloomingdale’s and Intermix.

“Launching my own brand was putting the proof in the pudding for the power of influencers, when it comes to selling product,” she said.

As with her Joe’s and Onia collaborations, Bernstein sees a rush-to-buy with We Wore What product drops. “The first 10 minutes is when we see the biggest portion of our sales for the entire collection,” she said.

To build buzz, Shop We Wore What’s Instagram account (213,000 followers) features in its Stories the line sheets of the soon-to-launch styles, allowing customers to thoughtfully plan their buy. Doing so has led to lower return rates, Bernstein said. The company’s marketing mix also includes text messages and emails, VIP discounts and user-generated content.

Bernstein has a staff of four people, which include a chief operating officer and a brand coordinator. She said she prioritizes establishing partners with skills and expertise she doesn’t have, so she can learn from them along the way. Ideally, she’d have learned about tech packs, fittings and production logistics in school, but she’s training as she goes.

Moving forward, Bernstein said she plans to extend the size range of We What What styles, which are currently available in sizes XS-XXL, and launch collections with collaborators to sell exclusively on her brand’s DTC site. In addition, she aims to eventually open “experimental” physical retail, starting with pop-ups.

As for her investment-advisor portfolio, she’s currently in talks with companies centered on the concepts of “being able to sell your closet and even rent your closet.”

As for Barnes’ Bright Side, she said it will hit “a bunch of new retailers this year.”

Moving beyond fashion
Up next for Shop We Wore What is a new product category that will hit before the holiday season. Considering her passion for home furnishings and decor — based on her @homeworewhat Instagram account (7,500 followers) and recent press coverage of her new SoHo loft — it’s a safe bet that a home-related category is in the cards.

Likewise, Barnes hinted at a future Bright Side home collection, following her recent, two-year home remodel, which she’s getting set to debut on social media.

Lifestyle brands are the clear goal.

“I would love to be a combination of Rachel Zoe and Martha Stewart, just having my hands in everything and creating this really beautiful lifestyle where you can entertain and be fashionable,” Barnes said. “That’s kind of the dream.”

She added, “Fashion is where my heart has always been, but I’m growing as a person and there’s so much more in my life right now: my family, my home — and I’m getting older, so beauty [and skin care] makes sense now. Sharing all of that with everyone seems so natural; it would be weird if I only did fashion.”

As for future investments, though Quatch fits perfectly into Barnes’ world, with its fashion-tech focus, she said she’s open to investing in any company where she sees opportunity.

What’s more, she has no plans to retire from social media, though she has yet to tackle TikTok.

“People’s need for content has only increased, so I’m posting and creating content more than ever,” Barnes said. “But I’ve learned to become more of a hard-ass with brands. The companies that are willing to work with me and [facilitate] the most like authentic relationship possible are the ones I move forward with.” Reunited can attest.

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The young designers shattering stereotypes around Indian fashion

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The young designers shattering stereotypes around Indian fashion

In a country of 1.3 billion, diversity in dress is a given. Still, perceptions of Indian fashion — both within and beyond the country’s borders — remain bound by stale visions of saris in blinding hues, traditional clothing and elephant, peacock and tiger motifs. These lazy assumptions are compounded by the fact that some of the largest players in the luxury fashion industry quietly contract thousands of the country’s artisans to embroider eyewateringly-expensive products in factories that fail to meet basic safety standards, as reported by GFN. And while outside of India, members of the diaspora such as Supriya Lele, Kaushik Velendra, Priya Ahluwalia, and Ashish Gupta are among the names known for helping to dismantle stereotypes attached to ‘Indian dress’, it’s time for the fashion world to acknowledge the young, India-based designers doing so, too.

These non-conformist minds deliberately refrain from dipping their feet into the nation’s lucrative $50 billion wedding market (in India nuptials are typically extravagant affairs spread over multiple days, and the quest for the perfect bridal outfit stokes high demand for full-time couturiers). By refusing to jump on the bandwagon and taking the path less trodden, the designers behind AKHL Studio, Bloni, Bodice and Aroka are consciously bypassing staid exoticist perceptions of India to celebrate how far we’ve come. Rooted in tradition but not restricted by it, their clothes are proudly ‘Made in India’ but globally relevant.

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

AKHL Studio

“We need to stop turning our craft into clichés just because we feel like the West will lap it up”, is Akhil Nagpal’s immediate response when asked to explain the premise of his Delhi-based avant-garde label. At first glance, AKHL Studio’s iridescent, sculptural silhouettes may not seem like an average Indian fashion consumer’s cup of chai (tea), but that’s precisely the point – the CSM alum’s driving motivation is to rewrite the narrative of what the global fashion community expects from the country’s fashion designers; to “push the envelope with what can be achieved with the Indian hand”.

With its metallic tulle dresses spliced with vivid lurex tapes, gradient-dyed silk organza tops and robust bustiers embellished with hand-embroidered glass yarn fringes, AKHL Studio’s latest collection, ‘Reflektor’, embodies this vision. A clue for what makes the collection so appealing is right there in its title. “The key garments in this collection have first been handwoven on the loom and then interlaced with upcycled yarn to achieve interesting shapes. Some of the biodegradable materials used such as thermoplastic polyurethane are light-sensitive and thus the title Reflektor seemed apt”, Akhil reveals.

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

The designer’s desire to create multidimensional pieces of wearable art was further consolidated by the support of his atelier, a group of weavers and artisans from villages across India, who shared a similar zeal for delivering the unexpected. “Our artisans can execute modern patterns and styles, however, it’s up to designers to push them in that direction and lead the way in contemporising Indian craft”, he says. What makes his practice yet more impressive is that he’s able to do that without succumbing to the “hamster wheel” of the seasonal fashion calendar. Instead, Akhil has opted to preserve the value of slow, ethical Indian craft which his tight-knit community cherishes. An important guiding principle for the designer is “creating something new and letting it find its people”, he notes.  It’s safe to say that AKHL Studio found theirs.

A model wearing a vinly outfit from Bloni

Image courtesy of Bloni

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Bloni

While boys his age spent their days playing gully (street) cricket and football, Akshat Bansal pored over yards and yards of intricately printed fabrics in the back of his father’s sari store. He wasn’t just a mesmerised kid in a sartorial candy shop, however. Instead, the interest in textiles he demonstrated back then was an indication of things to come.

After completing a formal fashion education at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Mumbai, before heading on to Central Saint Martins, he then landed a coveted apprenticeship at Cad & the Dandy on Savile Row. It was there that he received a year-long fastidious schooling in tailoring, learning to appreciate the importance of consistency, discipline and the accuracy of every stitch. Akshat then flew back to India only to realise the absence of homegrown brands catering to something other than the country’s booming wedding and occasion-wear market.

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And so, in Delhi in 2017, Bloni was born – a demi-couture brand that questions fashion’s norms through free-spirited storytelling and futuristic, genderless designs. “It’s all about cross-pollination and fluidity right now. Thanks to social media, we are all hybrids of sorts who aren’t limited by borders – our wardrobe needs to reflect that too,” Akshat says. A quick look at the brand’s previous collections – think jet black leather finished satin saris, flouncy skirts, fun tie-and-dye and cutout bodysuits made with nylon from ocean waste –is all it takes to confirm that.

If you’re after further proof of the brand’s sustainability credentials, step into Bloni’s flagship store in Delhi’s Dhan Mill compound. While you’ll find plenty of peppy clothing on the rails, these aren’t pieces you can pick up at whim. Be it their fluorescent tie-dye overcoats (hand-dyed by Akshat himself) or sequinned hoodie dresses, every garment is made-to-measure, and fitted to the body like a second skin. “I think the future of fashion comes down to this – if it’s more personal, it’s more sustainable,” he says. “If it feels special to you, then you want to cherish it regardless of the trend cycle.”

A model wearing an outfit by Bodice

Image courtesy of Bodice

A model wearing an outfit by Bodice

Image courtesy of Bodice

Bodice

“If I knew as much as I know today, there’s no chance I would have started Bodice back in 2011. It takes a certain naivety to plunge into a completely new space”, Delhi-based designer Ruchika Sachdeva admits. With the aim of challenging externally imposed distinctions between Indian and Western fashion, the London College of Fashion alum drew up the blueprint for her textile-driven contemporary label within a year of graduating. This line of thought may not be perceived as radical today, but it certainly was 10 years ago when Ruchika arrived back home to find a lack of options that celebrated India’s wealth of craftsmanship without succumbing to conventions of flamboyance, colours and bling galore.

Armed with enthusiasm for offering minimalist ensembles for the modern Indian woman, Ruchika built Bodice to highlight the nuances of Indian fashion that often get buried beneath all the glitz. “It might look pared down on the outside, but there’s so much going on inside – the seams, the cut and the fall need to come together perfectly so that a dress is tucked in just the right places and highlights a woman’s curves”, she says.

Just as crucial to Ruchika as the construction of her garments is minimising the environmental impact involved in making them and forming long-lasting relationships with artisans in different corners of the country. Bodice’s garments are made exclusively using locally procured natural fibres such as recycled cotton from Kolkata, silk and wool directly sourced from Bhutti weavers in the Kullu region of Himachal Pradesh, all in a bid to support India’s fibre producers. “Being in Delhi, the air you breathe is a constant reminder of the fact that you’ve got to be conscious and do your bit – if not now, then when?”, Ruchika says. Keeping in mind that India’s capital tops the list in having the worst air quality in the world and recently went into lockdown, not because of coronavirus, but because of the toxic smog that engulfed the city – it’s imperative for brands, now more than ever, to be mindful about the environment.

A model wearing an outfit by Bodice

Image courtesy of Bodice

Apart from having a strong focus on sustainability and versatility, there’s another defining feature of Bodice’s trans-seasonal apparel – pleats. Giving fluid silhouettes a “powerful” structure, she says, her yen for the technique was a reactionary result to her daily environment. “Being born and brought up in India, I’m used to an overload of sensory experiences; there’s a million things happening and it’s so chaotic. Sometimes I think my love for pleating stems as an innate response to that, almost like a need to streamline things and indulge in some sort of repetitive practice.”

Despite it being a time-consuming technique that requires mathematical precision, Ruchika relishes the challenge. What helps? Visualising the woman she designs for: “I like the fact that my customer is me – in her early 30s, independent and finally able to put her foot down. At Bodice, we are always striving to help this woman occupy space quietly but with a steadfast attitude. I believe that clothes are the first conversation you have with anybody without even opening your mouth; it’s a form of art that’s the closest to your body”, she says. Who knew pleats could be the new pillar of power-dressing?

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

Aroka

Āroka’s (a Sanskrit word that translates to light shining through woven threads) debut collection of vibrant pieces interspersed with traditional silhouettes like the lehenga and sari played it safe and won hearts.  However, it wasn’t close to the paradigm shift that its co-founders Karan Ahuja and Shweta Aggarwal wanted to accomplish. The duo yearned to cut through the existing noise and experiment with Indian textiles to present them in a globally relevant light. Despite the looming risk of losing its existing customer base and entering uncharted territory, they decided to push ahead with a complete revamp of Āroka’s design philosophy in 2019.

“I enjoy challenging the usual use of local fabrics. For example, we have re-introduced handwoven muslin with ruching techniques to create slinky halter necks and crop tops. India is well-known for its khadi (handloom cotton), but I give it a textural treatment by incorporating raw, frayed edges”, says Shweta, an Instituto Marangoni graduate who is also Āroka’s creative director. The Mumbai-based label’s repository now consists of understated jewel-toned slip dresses, funky asymmetrical outerwear they tag as ‘half and half jackets’, sultry bandeau tops and easy-breezy kaftans that gained a cult following which continued to grow even during the pandemic.

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

Shedding light on social issues that plague today’s society is the foundation upon which they built their proposal. Inducing conversations around sustainability, fair trade and mental health, where Āroka’s garments do all the talking, is pivotal to its DNA. Notice the subtle yet hopeful messaging embroidered onto the sleeves of its linen tops, belts and bomber jackets such as ‘This too shall pass’, ‘Still, I rise’, and ‘It’s okay to not be okay’.

When the nation was hit by a devastating second wave of the pandemic in April earlier this year, Āroka launched ‘Quote Your Price’, an initiative to recognize the unwavering efforts of its artisanal community. “Our karigars (artisans) can create something no one else can anywhere in the world. Yet, most of them are severely underpaid, exploited by middlemen and subjected to unethical working conditions – even more so during the pandemic. Through this initiative, we wanted consumers to become conscious of the handiwork and attention to detail our artisans pour into the making of each garment and then quote the amount they wished to pay for the same”, the duo explains. Proceeds from those sales were donated to Dastkar – a non-profit organization supporting Indian craftspeople.

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Ducks: the future of the fashion industry

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Ducks: the future of the fashion industry

A typical day in the life of UO sophomore Christopher Kiyota consists of checking his Instagram direct messages for new orders to his sneaker resale business, going through his inventory list and making a trip to the post office for new shipments — all between classes and study sessions. This is the ordinary routine of a young college business owner living out his dream with ambitions of taking his passion to new heights.

Running and managing a business is no easy feat as a full-time college student, but these four UO students have channeled their love for fashion into self-made brands and career ventures. They each hope to express their creativity and inspire others by making an impact on the world through their own fashion outlet.

The vintage connoisseur: Alexandra Webster

@approachvintage

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and UO’s track season was cancelled, student athlete Alexandra Webster had a lot of free time on her hands. Already known by friends and family for her unique curation of vintage outfits, she started developing her skill for thrifting and personal styling.

“I started to get motivated because you don’t have anything else to do,” Webster said. “I started getting into fashion and clothing to try to keep myself busy.”

Noticing her newfound interest in fashion and thrifting, her mom suggested the idea of turning what was a quarantine hobby into a monetary opportunity by opening her own store. With thrifting rising in popularity amid the pandemic, Webster realized her knack for hand selecting thrifted items could become her own business that could help others with their style too.






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Alexa talks about how she eventually wants to bringing Approach Vintage online one day. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started. (Ali Watson/Emerald)


She took the leap and opened up her own clothing store: Approach Vintage.

A resale store of unique vintage pieces and popular trendy items, Approach Vintage is located at The Woodlands Mall in her hometown of Houston, Texas, serving as a way to share her love of fashion with others. The store offers all kinds of original pieces, such as oversized jeans, bomber jackets, graphic tees, bucket hats and more. In the nearly two years since the start of her business, Webster has already seen massive success and growth, reaching six figures in sales within her first year of opening the store, she said.

Webster described how truly blessed she was to have that opportunity fall in her lap and be able to get her vintage store started right down the street from where she lived.

“People have been so supportive,” Webster said. “All my friends are always walking by, showing me when they’re at the store; they’ll take a photo and tell me that they’re there. It’s amazing.”

As a new small business owner, it can be difficult to promote your business and gain a wider customer base. Starting out, Approach Vintage was no exception to those challenges.

“The hardest thing was getting my name out there, because I’ve never really known what to do with marketing and promoting myself and a small business that just started out,” Webster said. “But once people started hearing about it, I saw that people love it, and they’re posting about it.”

In the future, Webster wants to expand her brand and branch out into other lines and chains under the same name, broadening her product line as well as her customer base. She plans to start Approach Athletics, a new business with a focus on athletic wear, in the near future.

“I like the idea of not being afraid to do something,” Webster said. “Life’s pretty short, so just do it.”

The ultimate sneaker plug: Christopher Kiyota

@whasiankicks

Christopher Kiyota started out with $180 in his pocket and one pair of used shoes to scrub, clean and resell. Then, one pair turned into two. With consistency, dedication and curiosity about the sneaker resale business, the UO sophomore built his business, WhasianKicks, from the ground up, figuring out how to run and manage a reselling business all on his own.

“I feel like for once I was able to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself,” Kiyota said. “Growing up in San Diego, you don’t really see a lot of opportunities to grow as something different than just a student or an athlete.”






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Christopher built his successful business all on his own from the ground up. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Kiyota)


In the fashion world, nothing can quite compare to the competitive demand and almost religious reverence some people have for sneakers. Entrepreneurs like Kiyota have taken advantage of the thriving culture of sneaker reselling, which allows sneakerheads to make a profit from buying and reselling high-demand or rare sneakers.

With over 18,000 followers on Instagram, Kiyota has taken his love for sneakers to new heights by becoming an in-demand sneaker reseller and supplier in Eugene. Drawing in hundreds of customers per day through his social media, Kiyota said he has sold sneakers to countless customers, including fellow UO students and some major names and athletes as well, such as Deebo Samuel and Noah Beck.

His sneakers are kept in a storage unit where customers can set up a reservation to shop in person, but high customer demand can make it overwhelming to manage, he said.

“As it got bigger and bigger, it started to get harder to maintain these people,” Kiyota said. “When you’re getting 120 DM requests per day about shopping, you get so flooded.”

Kiyota plans to open a storefront for WhasianKicks in the downtown Eugene area by January so he can reach more people and provide better customer service.

“I want to have an optimistic influence on people and make sure I create an atmosphere surrounding my business of happiness and memories,” Kiyota said. “Just something along the lines of you’re going to remember it for years to come. It’s not going to be like you remember my name just because of the shoes I sold you, but you remember it because of how it made you feel.”

The bling buff: Emily Roberts

BlackCatsSparkle on etsy

Emily Roberts grew up in the tiny town of Big Bear, California, and spent most of her life there. She moved up to Oregon during the peak of the pandemic, which was a somewhat difficult experience, she said. She had a hard time finding a job in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic as well as making friends during a completely remote first year at the university. Soon enough, Roberts began making jewelry.

She decided to make some earrings with her friend one day for her birthday, and that friend was quick to suggest Roberts start her own Etsy shop with original jewelry pieces. Despite the immediate support for this potential small business venture, she was originally skeptical of the idea.






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Emily has been making artistic pieces since a young age. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started.(Photo courtesy of Emily Roberts.)


“Slowly over time, my family and my friends here and everyone I knew were basically pressuring me to open an Etsy, and I was just like ‘It’s not going to do well guys,’” Roberts said. “But I opened it anyway, and it’s been doing better than I thought.”

Pursuing creative projects and making artsy pieces since she was young, the UO sophomore has used her artistic roots to create her own small business of handcrafted crystal jewelry. She primarily sells her pieces from her online shop on Etsy, BlackCatsSparkle, but also recently began setting up her own stand to sell her creations in person in Salem.

Crafting everything from earrings and bracelets to necklaces and even wreaths, she has seen success with her business in the UO community. She caters to students with fun crystal, skull and mushroom designs, keeps prices inexpensive and delivers to local customers. She has even reached beyond her Etsy shop and sold some of her pieces in the Halicuna Bay Mall in Salem, selling over $60 worth of products on her first day.

“I just really love seeing people wearing my product,” Roberts said. “I adore seeing people around campus and my friends wearing my stuff in their photos. It’s just really rewarding and makes me really happy.”

Her goal is to inspire students and all people to shop locally and from small businesses, a more sustainable, cheaper option that supports good people with good causes.

“If I can make jewelry forever as like a secondary job, that would be fantastic,” Roberts said. “It’s really nice to have that creative outlet; it’s something I can see myself doing for a long time.”

The game day aficionado: Noah Gould

@boxenautzen

A typical Oregon Duck football game is electrified with the energy of thousands of die-hard Duck fans. If you’ve been to a home game recently, especially in the student section, you might have noticed the word Autzen in a green, Supreme-like box logo plastered on the shirts, hoodies and beanies of many students and other fans. If so, you have witnessed the work of UO 2019 graduate Noah Gould and his revitalized game day clothing brand BoxenAutzen.

With a focus on providing gear for football games, Gould was inspired to create his brand when he noticed the large price margin of common game day gear while studying abroad in Italy in the fall of 2017. Being the first time he had interacted with game day outside of Eugene, he had an epiphany.

“Something I noticed quickly was that everyone was wearing the same things,” Gould said. “It was pretty much Nike jerseys and a couple beat tees sprinkled here and there. You’re looking at a beat tee, which they’re giving out for free, and you look at a Nike jersey and they retail for $150.”

Gould realized the majority of game day attire fell on either end of this cost spectrum with no real middle ground. That was the moment he was inspired to fill this gap.

After his time in Italy, his newfound inspiration led him to design some shirts intended to only be worn by his friends. Through the fall of 2018, the orders simply kept coming in, eventually passing 500, Gould said. It was not long before he received backlash from the university’s brand management, claiming he was making a profit by infringing on their word: Autzen. By early 2019, Gould said he received a cease and desist letter from the university to stop his business, and he did.






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Noah Gould, a UO graduate, sports gameday apparel from his Autzen-inspired clothing brand, BoxenAutzen. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started. (Photo courtesy of Henry Ammann)


With a dwindling sense of spirit for the university amid this legal turmoil, he eventually connected with a local manufacturer that had an existing pipeline to get products licensed and to work directly with the university.

“I figured out a way to get my products through this licensing funnel where I can sell products and the university can make royalties off of them,” Gould said.

By the middle of 2020, he finally had UO’s support to sell his product and was receiving sales orders from the Duck Store. Designing from his home in Los Angeles with his production and shipping teams based in Eugene, his business came back in full swing, and Gould has been amazed by the success he’s seen for this season.

“Going into Autzen the night of Nov. 13, I was blown away at how much BoxenAutzen I saw around the stadium,” Gould said. “It’s really rewarding to see it where it’s supposed to be seen — in its natural habitat on a Saturday.”

With plans to grow the business and reach beyond a football focus and branch out into gear for all sports all year round, Gould said he wants his brand to be something that will stick around in five to 10 years. Being immersed in such a large market of Duck fans pouring in year after year motivates him to want to make a bigger impact on UO culture and future generations to come.

“I want to share my love for the Ducks with the world,” Gould said. “I want to make you feel or at least remember what it was to be a student and to be in Autzen with all your best friends on a Saturday.”

A creative spirit, a consistent dedication and a passion for their craft is what set these students apart as individuals who have been making waves in their community and establishing their mark on the world one sale at a time.

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Serena Williams’ transformation from tennis champ to fashion icon

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Serena Williams' transformation from tennis champ to fashion icon


5:10am PST, Nov 18, 2021

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