‘Ethically handmade:’ Sewing talent and disdain for ‘fast fashion’ drive teen small business | Fashion

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Teenager Page Powell designs, sews and sells swimsuits. {Photo by Chuck Fong)

Page Powell was in third grade when her grandmother gave her a great gift: teaching her how to sew. Sewing became Powell’s passion and she spent the last eight years perfecting it. Now 16, he has turned that passion into a small business, Lazanya Sunwear, whose name in part honors his late grandmother and the beloved lasagna he used to make for his family.

Powell’s friends have always benefited from her sewing skills, often coming to her with requests for alterations or custom-made clothing, from shorts to prom dresses. Two years ago, her friend Mary Miyamoto asked her to try making a swimsuit for her, and Powell was excited to do it.

“I wanted to try on a swimsuit because I have all these ideas in my head of what I want in a swimsuit, and I couldn’t find it anywhere,” says Powell, saying that most swimsuits on the market today nowadays they are expensive, bad. appropriate and mass produced.

“I absolutely hate ‘fast fashion’ – the overproduction of things and the use of unethically sourced materials,” he says. “Personally, that’s one of the reasons I love to sew. That is an important value of mine.”

As more friends began requesting swimsuits, Powell overcame the early frustrations of learning to sew on the thin, stretchy fabric, getting better with each suit. She created her own patterns of her own and came up with various designs. The outfits became so popular with her friends that she decided to try selling some on the Etsy website, and her little business was born.

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She sold a few suits through Etsy, but says most of her sales came through word of mouth, as she prefers to focus on sewing rather than marketing her business. So, in March of this year, he hired Miyamoto, 17, to serve as Lazanya’s media manager. Miyamoto has taken the reins of all marketing and sales aspects of the business, including handling all orders and accounting, creating daily social media posts, and trying to get some of Powell’s creations into local boutiques. .

'Ethically handmade:' Sewing talent and disdain for 'fast fashion' drive teen small business | Fashion Two Piece Designs credit Page Powell
Some of Powell’s Lazanya swimwear designs

In the three months since Miyamoto partnered with Powell, Lazanya Sunwear’s monthly sales have more than tripled and its Instagram presence has grown from 60 to 280 followers. Suits range from $55 for a custom two-piece to $65 for a one-piece. , and so far, most of their customers have been high school students from the State College area, allowing the suits to be easily customized and hand-delivered.

In keeping with Lazanya’s theme, Powell names her designs after pasta shapes, such as the “Fusilli” one-piece swimsuit and the “Orzo” top. Each suit is double lined, with no exposed seams, and Powell is particularly proud of the way each suit is tailored to her individual clients.

“All the reviews we get say something like, ‘It fits perfectly; it’s the best fitting suit I’ve ever had,’ which makes me very happy,” he says.

She is also proud of the way she has stayed true to the values ​​that brought her to sew in the first place.

“Each suit is ethically handcrafted and extremely comfortable and functional. They are not overproduced or overpriced.”

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Powell has an exclusive sewing studio in the basement of her parents’ house and primarily uses two sewing machines: a standard machine and a “serger,” designed for use with stretchy fabrics. He has made trips to New York City and Atlanta to shop for fabric and also buys some through Etsy.

“Some of these suits are completely original, which means you’ll never see them again because the fabric was out of stock or I only bought a certain amount,” he explains. “A lot of the costumes are unique, which I think is really special.”

Powell says it takes her up to two hours to complete each swimsuit, and she’s built sewing into her daily routine, averaging one each day after school. As the business grows, he understands that keeping up with orders can become a challenge, but for now, he says, “we’re handling it as it comes.”

'Ethically handmade:' Sewing talent and disdain for 'fast fashion' drive teen small business | Fashion Page Powell 2 credit Chuck Fong
Photo of Chuck Fong.

Powell and Miyamoto have met with consultants at Happy Valley LaunchBox for advice on how to grow their young company. As high school seniors, both girls recognize that running a small business will be a great experience as they move into the next chapter of their lives.

Powell says she plans to go to design school after graduation to study fashion or interior design. She is considering attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York or the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. When she gets there, she says, she may have to put Lazanya on pause.

“How do you run a business and also go to design school? I feel like it would be very difficult,” she says.

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But until then, he’s considering expanding his offerings.

“I’m thinking of selling pajama bottoms in the winter. I make furry pajama bottoms and everyone loves them. I’m also thinking of making men’s shorts,” says Powell.

For her part, Miyamoto believes this kind of hands-on experience will help her when she applies to Penn State’s Smeal College of Business.

“Page gave me a good opportunity,” she says.

All designs and most fabrics available can be viewed more easily through the “Custom” modules on Powell’s Etsy page at etsy.com/shop/LazanyaSunwear. Orders are also accepted through Lazanya’s Instagram page, @lazanyasunwear. T&G

Karen Walker is a freelance writer at State College. This story appears in the July 2022 issue of Town&Gown.