From funky jewelry to tie-dye fashion and bedazzled loungewear, these University of Miami students are creating customized looks and combating fast fashion trends with their small businesses.
Launched by University of Miami senior Kendall Nelson, Kenni’s Collective is a shop specializing in handmade resin jewelry and crafts. Nelson said she got the idea after having trouble finding earrings her style. So she decided she would make her own. For Nelson, who said she doesn’t have the skill to mold clay earrings yet, using resin was an easy starting point. “Resin is kind of like baking. You add whatever you want and you can just make whatever you want,” said Nelson. She began making earrings with basic molds to start learning the material such as flowers, leaves and geometric shapes. “I just had to make do with what I had,” Nelson said. Taking on a new hobby, she said, also helped her cope while in quarantine due to COVID-19. “I needed to make something I could hold in my hand because I was going to lose my mind.”
Eventually, people began asking for custom orders. Nelson’s online shop opened at end of August 2020, and she’s already had over 50 orders placed. In the future, Nelson said she plans to have more than just resin designs. “I named it ‘collective’ because I want to try other mediums and sell other things,” Nelson said. But one thing she won’t be changing is the store’s vibe: “funky-fun jewelry.” You can shop Kenni’s Collective on Instagram @kenniscollective.
Started by sisters Raquel Cueto and Alexandra Cueto, Crystal Rags specializes in one-of-a-kind custom and vintage pieces. “We came across sweatshirts that had plastic crystals with vinyl designs, which work, but the quality wasn’t there,” said Raquel. “We were looking for high quality, one-of-a-kind pieces. That’s when my sister and I said: ‘We can do this, let’s reawaken one-of-a-kind vintage college sweatshirts with crystals.’” The sisters decided they would specialize in Swarovski crystals to elevate their brand and products. “Once we have the item, we go through our proprietary process, in which we clean, recondition and add our crystal design,” said Alexandra.
The brand launched in December 2019 and now, according to the Cueto sisters, most of the items on their site sell out in a day. “We’ve been so lucky with the response we’re getting, and it’s only just the beginning,” said Raquel. But, the sisters said, their success does not come without difficulties. “We had a huge set back when our Instagram account was hacked and stolen from us,” said Alexandra. “The hackers reached out to our followers falsely stating they had purchased our Instagram. We were forced to start a new page and are currently rebuilding our social media presence.” You can find the brand on Instagram @crystal.rags.
SweatSuited is a shop specializing in handmade tie-dye apparel, started by two childhood friends, Marisa Menist, a junior at University of Miami, and Jordyn Siegel, a junior at the University of Buffalo. During quarantine, the two decided to hop on the growing tie-dye trend. “After many compliments and people asking where we got our clothing from, we decided to start selling it,” Menist said. “We never even thought of tie-dye until we saw various influencers and people posting it. We were both super bored quarantining and wanted to put a smile on people’s faces with our bright and fun designs.” According to Menist, the two look at social media and analyze trends to decide on the designs of their new products. “This summer a big trend was beaded bracelets, therefore, we incorporated beads on the strings of our hoodies,” she said. SweatSuited began designing their pieces for teens and adult women, but have recently added men’s clothing to their line, using darker colors to attract the male audience.
SweatSuited has gone from selling via Instagram direct message to having their own website and space in 10 retail stores across the country. “We honestly did not expect to still be working while at school this semester,” Menist said. “But because business was so good, we had to keep going.” The two have been using Zoom to continue collaborating now that they are hundreds of miles apart. “The most important thing that we have learned from starting up SweatSuited is that there are a lot of different components to running and starting a business, and you really can’t take any short cuts around the little stuff,” Menist said. “Dealing with negative comments or a customer who complains, even making a sweatshirt that comes out horrible. It only makes you stronger in the end. I think just keeping our chins up and staying inspired is most important.” You can browse their latest collection on Instagram @Sweatsuited.
words_keagan larkins. photo_ tiana torkan. design_jess morgan.
This article was published in Distraction’s winter 2020 print issue.