College startups can be hard work, time-consuming, and short-lived. For Vanguard students Kaitlyn Erickson, Zac Kinninger, Tommy Croft and Connor Rickman, they appear to have found success in their blooming clothing lines.
“The Where Abouts” is the unique clothing experience created by juniors Thomas Croft and Connor Rickman. They create clothes for the sole purpose of “making it easier to rep where you’re from” and using clothing as a sense of self expression.
“The website will be up in about a week, and you will be able to upload any photo that you have taken of your city or where you live and be able to customize your apparel with that photo on it,” Rickman said.
“Basketcase” is another fashion apparel account, created by senior Zac Kinninger. For him, design began as a creative outlet for about four years and was something that he was doing on his free time.
“I wanted to use my passion for graphic design in a medium that would be the most acceptable to me, which was clothing,” Kinninger said.
Kaitlyn’s Closet, owned by junior Kaitlyn Erickson, is a fashion business that sells second-hand clothing off an Instagram page. Since Kaitlyn’s Closet began, she has taken advantage of the opportunity to make it a legitimate business, Erickson said.
“By creating a logo, a uniform aesthetic, consistent packaging, reliable delivery and treating my customers and vendors as clients instead of just friends has allowed for me to keep it very professional,” Erickson said.
Design and branding have become focal points for all three of the student businesses.
Croft stated that they get their inspiration when designing the apparel from their love for cities and different places around the world.
“We didn’t know what we wanted to be on the apparel at first, but we knew we had one thing in common, we loved where we were from,” Rickman said.
Kinninger is often inspired by music, architecture, blueprints, advertisements, and culture from the mid-1970s to the 1990s and keeps these eras in mind when designing.
“I think in my immediate audience, my clothes are very different,” Kinninger said. “To be totally honest, I am creating clothes for myself and I believe in my own taste, but everything is a reiteration of something else, philosophically speaking.”
Just as important as design for the companies are their media presence. How they market themselves on social media has become a key factor for their ability to reach customers.
The Instagram account of “The Where Abouts” was made some time ago, but according to the creators, only gained popularity recently.
Kinninger stated that he didn’t expect for the clothing line to grow as much as it has. Kinninger said that he never thought that he would be talking to really interesting people on social media nor having people asking him if they could work for Basketcase.
“I wanted it to be more like a creative outlet and not really a business, but its turned into one, which demands a lot of my time, which has been its own challenge,” Kinninger said.
Erickson also had less serious inclinations when she began clothing Instagram. She explained it all began because she loves to shop, and she is always cleaning out her closet. She ended up getting tired of taking her clothes to Goodwill and decided to try selling them on Instagram.
“I expected a few items to sell, but I didn’t expect them to sell so quickly. I especially didn’t expect the page to last as long as it has,” Erickson said.
Erickson gained a great deal of followers after reaching out to other schools out of the area who are willing to pay for shipping. Erickson believes that because she has kept her Instagram page very professional; it has allowed her to outlast other accounts that have the same concept.
Being able to grow their own fashion business accounts through Instagram has allowed them to be more creative and use it as an opportunity to learn about themselves and their businesses. Many of the followers on the “Kaitlyn’s Closet” page are people that Erickson doesn’t even know, they are just Vanguard students or students from another school that she has never met before.
“I have students from CBU, APU, TMU, and even GCU that follow and buy from my page,” Erickson said.
Being accessible to more than OC seems a key strategy for these student startups. The Where Abouts slogan is “Your City to Share,” because they wanted people to be able to represent where they are coming from and to add a sense of travel and adventure to the base of the business, according to Rickman.
“We design the logo and prints on Adobe software, and we have a screen press and a garment printer. So we do all of the designing and everything ourselves which makes us really unique too,” Rickman said.
Croft explained that it was a learning experience, because they were very new to how the whole business would work out in the end.
“We are really just having fun with it and are interested to see how it will further grow in the future,” Croft said.
Kinninger uses his entire wall in his room as a mood board to refer to when creating his clothes.
“The name Basketcase is referencing someone who has lost their marbles, and I am a firm believer that creativity is closer to being insane than it is sane,” Kinninger said.
Being able to grow his love for graphic design, photography and clothing through Basketcase has become a way for Kinninger to fully express himself.
“Creativity is operating from the assumption that I’ll never actually be completely unique, and that’s really freeing to understand and to be aware of,” Kinninger said.
For each business, they provide available and unique fashion to Vanguard’s student body in beyond. Each brand has a specific aspect that gives it something special to offer its customers.
“I like fashion because it’s a way of self-expression and nobody’s taste in fashion is the same, but what I think really sets apart from other apparel brands is that we allow our buyers to design what they want to buy,” Rickman said.