Posts in: accessories

Independent Designers

BreakThrough DESIGNER Label: The Sway

The Sway - StartUp FASHIONWith a mission to create all products using various sustainable methods of production, fashion label The Sway’s goal is not just to produce edgy jackets and handbags, but to promote honorable business practices to other developing countries around the world.

As Australian designer Belinda Pasqua started her handbag and biker jacket brand in 2010, she had a goal to make quality pieces using up-cycled materials.

As Pasqua journeyed across the world,  she eventually found her way to New York City, where she currently crafts and dreams up all of the things she can do to push The Sway to even greater success. Yet, as every designer starts somewhere, Belinda started her studies in Sydney, Australia and finished in Florence, Italy. She gained the majority of her manufacturing technique experiences in Italy where she worked with a variety of extremely exclusive couture houses.

Belinda tells us her vision for The Sway was born when she, “Witnessed incredible amounts of waste where tons and tons of fabric and leather off cuts are discarded in factories around the world due to inefficiencies in pattern-making.” As a result, Pasqua uses excess high-quality leathers, sourced from a motorcycle factory and cuts each piece into useable shapes minimizing waste in all of The Sway’s products.

Staying true to the brand’s original mission of using up cycled materials to craft each collection isn’t exactly easy. Having the intention of making accessories that are beautiful, contemporary, functional and sustainable can sometimes prove to be difficult when there aren’t millions of textiles and materials to choose from. However, this is where Pasqua shines in the fashion industry, as is made evident by the quality and aesthetic of her work.

You can connect with The Sway on Facebook.

Independent Designers

BreakThrough DESIGNER Label: KAYU

Although Jamie Lim, founder and designer of KAYU, is a born Texan, it was her time spent in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong that truly shaped the kind of designer she is today. Lim knew that starting her own label would be anything but easy, however she had the perseverance and strength to prevail and show the world her talent and passion for creating beautiful accessories.
Kayu-Designer - Jamie Lim - Start Up Fashion business resource
As an observer of the world around her, Lim takes so much of her inspiration from the environment in which she lives in. As she grew up in Hong Kong, it wasn’t the nature that made her mind spin; it was rather the bamboo and how it was incorporated into the skyscrapers that gave her the curiosity and inspiration to start designing.

Lim eventually entered the fashion industry  with KAYU (meaning wood) in 2008 in San Francisco, where she crafted eyewear that was based on her interest in bamboo. Because she stayed unique in her design aesthetic she received outstanding reviews and was quickly demanded in stores around the globe as well as featured in magazines such as Vogue, Elle and InStyle.

With a strong belief in expanding her collections, Jamie also started designing a line of handbags in 2010, which she tells us was inspired by the beautiful things in nature such as shells, wood and straw. KAYU is also sold worldwide, giving Lim’s customers the chance to easily access or purchase her sunglasses and handbags all around the globe.

Not only does Jamie Lim make sure KAYU stands out in crowd, but she also takes pride in producing elegant bags that lessen the impact to the earth and always give back to the community. With a larger push in accessories ‘going green,’ Lim is proud to say that her collections have always been eco-friendly.

This darling designer makes sure to spread her love throughout the community, as she donates 2% of each sunglasses purchase to the organization Unite for Sight which funds sight-restoring surgeries in developing countries. And with every handbag sold, she donates 2% to the organization Awareness Cambodia, which helps buy backpacks and school supplies for children.

But most importantly, Jamie Lim strives to spread her joy and gratefulness through KAYU and believes that if you stay true to what you love, there is no doubt that confidence will be radiated throughout your collection.

Connect with KAYU on Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to check out the brand’s Blog


Fashion Fabrics Spotlight Independent Designers

Hair Pieces in Fashion: Kerry Howley

Animal fiber is nothing new to fashion- from mink coats to lambswool sweaters. And while fur can be shocking due to its controversial standing, as a material, it isn’t exactly groundbreaking. In a contemporary fashion scene where we’ve managed to spin thread from mammals, bugs and wood, what is the next step? Is it possible to push the hunt for new materials further? The answer of course, is “always”.  WGSN recently pointed out a very unlikely trend that has begun to emerge: the use of human hair!

hair necklace - kerry howley - start up fashion business resourceLove it or hate it, it can’t be denied that the concept of using hair in fashion definitely makes us consider our comfort level with animal products, as well as ourselves. A dress made of silk (that comes from a tiny, wriggling worm!) is considered luxurious. Yet most people would cringe at the thought of a hair-dress, despite its familiarity and the fact that collecting it does not harm anyone. It is this mentality that inspires the work of accessory designer Kerry Howley.

Howley’s collection, Attraction/Aversion is an experiment in psychology. She has crafted stunningly elegant necklaces from human hair. Howley meditates on the idea that while on our heads, hair is a precious possession, something we “take pride in.” Yet once it is cut off, we gain an aversion to it.

The collection gives a new life and beauty to hair that has been disposed of; each piece takes on the appearance of delicate lace. The perfect symmetry within the patterns establishes familiarity, returning the wearer to the close relationship we feel with any part of our bodies. In the end, the material has been completely transformed from being perceived as waste to its former, more elevated status as a gorgeous accessory to complete a look.

Howley is available for commissions, and can do more than just jewelry! For more information or to contact the designer, visit www.kerryhowley.co.uk.

Fashion Marketing Sales

The Cools: A Lifestyle and Fashion Marketplace

I have 10 pairs of shoes that I’ve never worn. I just open the box and smile from time to time.”  That’s the description I wrote in the About Me section on The Cools, a new social marketplace that has recently launched.  With that insight, and the other details that I filled out in my profile section, The Cools will tailor selections of merchandise for me in categories such as apparel, accessories, furniture and a handful of other products.

The Cools

Talk about a way for a designer to really reach their target audience. And vice versa for the consumer. Like the name says, the site is just that: cool.  Although I’m tempted to discuss all of its many features in the first paragraph because the site is just that stellar, I’ve decided to break down this lifestyle marketplace for easier understanding. You’re welcome.

The Basics
At its core, The Cools allows users to buy and sell products that are new, used,or vintage in a variety of categories. It matches people with brands, other members, and boutiques that have similar interests through their curation technology.

StartUP FASHION - Business Resource - The Cools

Profile Creation
When you start, you’ll be asked a series of questions that will help determine your taste profile in a few mighty clean, savvy and beautiful typefaces. Clearly, my selection was getting the details on the latest iPad feature vs. learning about what the latest “it” celebrity did last night.

From here, you can fill out more details about your lifestyle like your hobbies and keywords that describe your shoe, clothing and handbag preferences. For example, since I like shoes, I can tag that field with heels, wedges and platforms (I’m a fan of any style that will make me taller).

Your Dashboard
Each user has a wall, product page, album and network tab. The sleek site entices you to create a profile to showcase your personal style by uploading your favorite looks, moodboards and any other element that strikes your fancy. You can also share content, pictures, video, links and follow others.

The Cools Fashion and Lifestyle Marketplace

So You’re An Emerging Designer
For an emerging designer,  The Cools is a great way to get discovered while also knowing that you are interacting with a community that shares your style, aesthetic, and of course, is cool.

With the share function, you’ll get passed on to others and show up in multiple feeds, especially the more you tag. On each page, shoppers can select a variety of words to see a range of items that appear on their suggested products page. The site caters to all types of designers whether you have a small amount of inventory or want to showcase your entire product line. The registration process seems simple. Designers sign up, start selling and cash in through their PayPal account. Once a sale is made, there’s a small fee taken.

Why We Like The Cools
It takes a pretty confident brand to coin themselves a name that is a top-notch sentiment. Thankfully, they deliver throughout on the execution of their site and the tone in their content. They’ve also created a two-way dialogue to make a shopping experience that’s social and authentic, which over time, creates stronger relationships and brand loyalty.

So, if you think your product is a fit with this community, then be sure to sign up for a spot on The Cools.

UPDATE:  HEre is a sign up link especially for StartUp FASHION readers! 


Independent Designers

Organik Clothing Line Dedicated to Preserving Green and Natural Life

In recent years the fashion industry has taken strides towards promoting philanthropy, social good, and saving the environment. Sustainable products are becoming more popular as designers are embracing the idea of designing for a cause. Brands such as TOM’s, FEED Projects, Falling Whistles, and Organik have been promoting design for a cause for a few years and are successfully expanding as they help the world.

Organik Clothing

“We started [to make sustainable products] before the big rush of the companies started doing it. All of our stuff is based on that premise. We don’t make any products that are not sustainable,” said Ed Fernandez, co-founder of Organik, an organic clothing line based in Honolulu, Hawaii that produces clothes in America made from organic cotton, bamboo and organic cotton blend, micro modal (a material made from beech wood tress and have a sheer look and silky feel), and recycled plastic bottles.

Organik’s collection consists of soft graphic shirts for men and women, a stripped nautical-inspired dress, yoga pants, bags made from jute (proceeds from the sale of this bag goes to support Tiare Lani Coffee and Kona coffee), limited-edition eco flip flops, and scarves.  “We’re doing more accessories, we have a duffel bag coming out made out of sail cloth,” revealed Fernandez.

Fernandez lived in New Jersey all his life until one day he decided to move to Hawaii to experience a new lifestyle. Inspired by the prominent nature, surf, Hawaiian culture and values, he started his own clothing line back in 2006 with his business partner and cousin Brian Jones. “When I moved to Hawaii it changed my outlook on how things are run and how people are more than a number,” explained Fernandez and added, “The values in Hawaii are very old school. There’s a lot of Asian and Japanese influences so a lot of that is based on respect and trust. If you can’t do that, you’re not going to be in business here.”

Organik products are produced in the U.S.- a rarity in the fashion industry today due to high production costs- but Fernandez took that route because he realized that having the pieces made here were coherent to his goal of producing great products and doing social good. “The benefits to that is that you pay a little bit higher premium but you have better quality control, better product than getting it overseas,” stated Fernandez.

When the recession hit it simply made him even more determined to keep making good products and making sure that his mission of helping save the environment was accomplished. Organik’s motto is to preserve green and natural life. “The benefit of wearing organic clothes is that you’re doing your small part to preserve the green, natural life, and our resources,” said Fernandez.

Organik’s summer plans include sailing from Hawaii to Rhode Island as part of their New England tour for several trunk show events at surf boutiques in the Jersey shore and then a pop-up shop at Kailani, a surf shop in Montauk, NY.

You can follow Organik @TheOrganik

Fashion Industry Resources

Envision: The Young Accessory Designer’s Guide to Collection Development

Many people have the desire to design and launch their own collection of accessories but they don’t know where to start. Meca McKinney, designer and author, just released her first book, Envision: The Young Accessory Designer’s Guide to Collection Development.

Envision Accessory Designer

The book is meant to guide aspiring accessories designers on how to launch their own business from beginning to end. Designing a full collection of accessories is no easy feat, and there’s no better way to learn about the ins and outs of this process than from an accessories designer who has been in the business for years.

We were lucky enough to get a minute of the author’s time and here’s what she had to say:

StUF:  Why did you decide to write a book on how to create a line of accessories from beginning to end?

MM: People who want to start their own line of clothing or accessories constantly approach me. Many think it’s a fast, easy way to become rich and famous. Hilarious! I’m also approached by other emerging designers who just want a little insight. This book was made for the second group but hopefully will inform the first group on what designing a collection actually entails.

StUF: What was the process of writing the book like and how long did it take you to finish it?

MM: It took me 6 months. I have been in school full-time simultaneously and running my business, Jypsea Eclectic Handcrafted Leathergoods. I’m also a mom so originally I figured I would write when I felt inspired and had the time, but I rarely felt like I had the extra time. After a few months of barely finding time to write, I decided to simply put it in my work schedule. Once a week, I wrote until I had nothing else to say, whether it was 1 hour or 5 hrs. I started with the table of contents and built the book to answer the question of each topic in the table of contents. I reached out to my talented group of indie designer friends to find out about their design process. That was my smartest move. I think it makes a huge difference to see that the design process is consistent across the board.

StUF: Do you think that there’s a niche of people who are interested in learning how to design their own accessories collection?

MM: Yes. With jobs becoming ever more scarce, people are using their creative talents to make extra money and to make ends meet. Some people are finding that they are interested in designing full-time and are not going back to a traditional job. This book is for them.

StUF: What feedback have you been getting from the readers?

MM: I’ve been getting such an amazing feedback from indie/emerging designers and design students thanking me for making the process crystal clear for them. One designer stated that it was comparable to taking a course at a leading design school in just a few hours.

StUF: If you could change or add anything to the book, what would it be?

MM: I would like it to be longer, strangely. However, it is my style to be very concise. I can’t draw out a process unnecessarily. I am quite curt and to the point, which led to a much shorter page count than I expected. I’m proud that it reads quickly; it is a chock full of useful information.

StUF:  Do you personally mentor up-and-coming designers?

MM: Yes, but through Facebook, email, and phone to answer questions regarding techniques, suppliers or even marketing.

StUF:  How was the book tour? Did you participate in talks and/or panel discussions?

MM: The book tour began in April. I went to several schools and colleges, including Princeton University! I did participate in panel discussions, Career Day presentations, and speaking engagements.

StUF: Would you be interested in writing more books in the future?

MM: I’m considering writing a series of design books. This one was on accessories design; the next will be on apparel design. Jewelry and footwear design books may follow.

StUF: The fact that you’re donating 30% of proceeds from the sales of the soft cover version of the book to the organization The Girl Effect is great. Why did you choose that specific organization to support?

MM: The Girl Effect does exactly what I believe a charity should do. It has found the core of a problem, poverty, and researched solutions that make sense. They’ve found that making sure the girls in impoverished communities are educated and have opportunities to flourish, a community can radically change. I understand the power of supporting young women and therefore I will always support this endeavor.

Author Note: “Envision: The Young Accessory Designer’s Guide to Collection Development” is available at Jypsea.com and is on sale during the entire month of May. Take 15% off at checkout by using discount code: MAYSAVE305

Fashion Industry Resources

Judging the Independent Handbag Awards & 5 Things to Remember as an Applicant

A few days ago I had the pleasure of being a preliminary judge for this year’s Independent Handbag Awards. Myself, along with a handful of other influencers in the fashion writing world, were invited to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon at the beautiful Paramount Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, looking at handbags, nibbling on treats, sipping cocktails and coffee (LOTS of coffee!), and ultimately helping to decide the fate of some of the world’s emerging handbag designers.  Pressure?  Um, yeah.

Independent Handbag Awards
Independent Handbag Awards Preliminary Judging Event

You may think I’m exaggerating about helping to determine the fate of the applicants but, honestly, I’m not.  I don’t think I fully understood the impact of our little group’s decision making until I arrived at the judging event on Sunday. While having a good time, sipping Figenza Fig Vodka and enjoying things like manicures by Incoco were all encouraged, we were ultimately asked to really give our full attention and a discerning eye to all contestants.  We took this request quite seriously once we learned the following:

Independent Handbag Awards
Last Year’s Winner for Best Overall Handbag

Best Overall Handbag Winner will receive a booth at WWDMAGIC , the opportunity to develop a capsule collection for Saks Fifth Avenue and the chance to design a limited-edition bag for Isabella Fiore.

Impressive, right?  So serious we were (well, we did have our share of fun mind you) and we proceeded to sift through 1200 handbag submissions, choosing the top 10 in each category, for final judging by the event sponsors.  It was an enormous but fulfilling task.

Independent Handbag Awards
Independent Handbag Awards Founder Emily Blumenthal Getting Down to Business

In addition to being exposed to some of the most impressive globally based handbag designers out there, another exciting part of the experience was being introduced to, learning about , and connecting with 10 of the most innovative and forward thinking bloggers and writers that New York has to offer.  Who are they?

So, what happens when you put all this great talent in a room to help decide on the future of other great talent? Something grand!  We discovered amazing labels we didn’t know existed, learned about some labels that still need a little guidance, came to realize that the indies are just as active in determining trends as their more established counterparts, and each put in our 2 cents to determine who should move on to the next round.

Independent Handbag Awards
An entry I found to be quite lovely

Oh, we also collectively made a few points about what not to do when submitting your work for the Independent Handbag Awards, or any other fashion competition for that matter.  (Kind of inevitable, right?)  So I thought I’d share that as well:

  • Photography: there is nothing more important when submitting online than the image of your work being absolutely wonderful.  This is the only representation of your work that the preliminary judges will see.  Make it great.
  • When asked to submit only one image, don’t submit an image of the inside of your bag.  We cannot possibly get a good handle on what the bag looks like.
  • When there are several categories from which to choose, do your research and think hard about which one best suits your work.  There were several beautiful bags that we saw that, sadly, were submitted in a category that was not at all relevant to their work and therefore disqualified. When in doubt, submit to more than one.
  • When sifting through your collection to choose the design you want to submit, consider asking several people in your circle (and even out!) which they would choose and why.  Tally the votes, analyze the feedback, and make an informed and discerning decision.  You get one shot, then you have to wait until the following year’s awards to try again.
  • READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.  A surprising amount of designers submitted sketches in the categories that required produced bags and submitted produced bags in the categories that required sketches. Don’t be careless.

OK, I think that’s all I can share about Sunday’s festivities.  In the next few weeks we will learn about the finalists and I will absolutely share all the juicy tidbits.  Until then, you’re just gonna have to sit tight. 🙂

Fashion Industry Resources Retail Sales

Pink Indigo Boutique Welcomes New Designers

You may or may not know this, but we here at StartUp FASHION are working very hard to become a resource destination for emerging and independent designers.  Currently, we are working to expose new designers to boutiques, both brick-mortar and digital, that love to support and highlight independent brands.

Recently, we were introduced to Pink Indigo, a chic little online boutique featuring a variety of clothing and accessories from emerging and slightly more established labels.   As we are always excited to learn about new retail outlets for designers (and we believe you are too), we asked Nikki Venus, the woman behind the business to share about about Pink Indigo and what she looks in a brand.


Pink Indigo Boutique


StUF: Are you online only for do you have a brick and mortar? If B&M, where are you located?
PI: I’m an online boutique only. No B&M as of yet. 

StUF: How long has your boutique been around?
PI: Started working on my boutique in 2009, while pregnant with my son. I launched the website July 2010. Very exciting! I currently wear all that hats for PinkIndigo! I do EVERYTHING! Hiring a summer intern soon…

StUF: What is your background in fashion? i.e. How/ why did you get started?
PI: I started Pink Indigo, LLC because I’m so passionate about fashion. I love to shop, I love to put pieces together and create great ensembles. I’ve always been the family member or friend to come to for fashion advice.

StuF: Do you buy wholesale from designers or is your policy consignment first?
PI: I buy wholesale from designers.

StUF: What do you look for in a designer?
PI: The first thing I look for in a designer is their style (collection) and see it fits into my boutiques style. I look for edgy yet glam chic. It needs to say buy me!

StUF: What is the best way for a designer to submit their lookbook or website?
PI: All designers can email their lookbook/website and line sheets to info@pinkindigo.com for consideration.