This post originally appeared on News@Northeastern. It was published by Alena Kuzub.
Two friends and Northeastern University students have started an online fashion platform seeking to connect small designer brands with fashion connoisseurs.
“The world of fashion has financial barriers that have long been insurmountable hurdles for small creators, resulting in the premature death of valued creativity,” says Lukas Dudzik, one of the founders of Sewn Boutique.
The platform strives to “break down these walls and bridge the gap between small fashion and consumers” by showcasing one brand per week, while telling the stories of the companies and their creators.
Dudzik and his business partner Alder Whiteford met through a Northeastern fraternity.
Dudzik is a rising fourth-year student in the College of Science, studying mathematics and economics with a marketing analytics minor. Whiteford is a rising third-year student at the Khoury College of Computer Sciences, where he studies computer science and business administration.
Yet the two of them bonded over their interest in fashion.
“When you are dealing with courses that are very rigid, there's only one answer—to look for other outlets in terms of creativity, I suppose,” Lukas says.
He became interested in fashion his senior year of high school because, he says, he wasn't good at playing musical instruments or drawing but was pretty skillful at knowing what clothing represented him and expressed his style, feelings or emotions on a given day.
Whiteford used to spend countless hours buying and reselling the most coveted sneakers that were coming out when he was in high school, he says.
“This was my entry point to the world of fashion,” Whiteford says. “And I grew this immense appreciation for the shoe market as well as the designers behind them.”
A friend from back home who had his own fashion brand mentioned to him the difficulties of entering a market dominated by a select group of fast fashion and designer companies, as well as financial and promotional barriers for a small brand, which got Whiteford thinking.
Last fall, while at the library, he shared an idea that brewed in his head for a while with his fraternity friends, including Dudzik.
“I thought it was really interesting, and it was just a more defined version of something that I wanted to create in the past,” Dudzik says.
They took some time to research the marketplace for small brands and competitors and came to a conclusion that most online sellers were too saturated with brands, giving little chance to them to stand out. The websites and platforms they checked out were oversaturated with hundreds of pages of brands, Dudzik says.
“There was very little story to each of the brands or any sort of description on what the smaller brand even stood for, which is something very important to people looking for unique clothes in the first place,” he says. “If you're going to buy something from a brand that you've never really heard of, ensuring that they have a good story and something meaningful to them is very important to the buyer.”
Dudzik and Whiteford decided to create something very curated that would allow brands to tell their story and reach audiences outside of their usual orbit.
Whiteford learned from scratch how to design websites and built sewnbtq.com in about six months, while Dudzik concentrated on finding small brands with which they would like to collaborate.
Given that one of their goals was to let brands tell their story and give customers a feel for the products they are buying, Whiteford made the Sewn Boutique's website dynamic and customizable. They get to sit down with each designer to discuss imagery, fonts and information about the brand that will best communicate their unique identity.
“It allows us to nail down our value proposition of presenting these brands … instead of just placing them on a product page where you're intertwined with a bunch of other things, and it is all standardized,” Whiteford said.
For their launch Dudzik and Whiteford decided to showcase a fellow Northeastern student and designer Matias Belete and his unisex brand Foreign Resource. Belete, who is currently a junior majoring in economics and business administration, started to design clothes about six years ago.
As he grew up in five different countries—China, India, Kenya and Vietnam—Foreign Resource stands for international citizenry as well as sustainability and circularity.
“Most natural resources are finite,” Belete says. “A finite resource can one day be depleted and gone, [which] could make it foreign to humans, meaning that it's out of reach to us.”
In spirit with the brand concept, Belete tries to use sustainable and ethical producers for his ready-to-wear garments, jewelry and design objects like rugs.
He is hoping to attract new customers outside of his direct audience through this collaboration with Sewn Boutique.
“If a brand is small, and they don't really have an audience, this can be the best way to gain a good platform in the beginning stages,” Belete says. “We are bit later in our life cycle, so we do have our own audience. But the reason why I think this is going to be so effective for us is because one main problem brands have these days is being insular, meaning that sometimes I get to the place where we're only selling to the people that already buy our product.”
Currently, Sewn Boutique focuses on streetwear brands, a style that both Dudzik and Whiteford enjoy and understand the most. They are looking to expand the selection of items on the platform in the future to include jewelry, handbags and other accessories as well as high fashion items.
“I am a huge fan of the high fashion industry,” says Whiteford. “But that is going to come with time, with us bringing on more people who have a little bit more of an expertise in that field.”
The target audience of Sewn Boutique is young people, from high school age to their late 20s, who desire to have a unique closet with items that mean something to them, Dudzik says.
“Streetwear tends to be on the more reasonable side when it comes to pricing [of individualized designer clothing],” Whiteford says. “We are not necessarily going to be looking to throw up items on the website that are exceeding the $200-$300 mark, unless it is something we believe that we are going to be able to sell.”
The partners expect a gradual growth of their business, Dudzik says, and they are eager to see what customers will like or not like to give the audience the best up and coming brands.
“I view it more as a fun project, a learning experience to get involved in the entrepreneurial world. And that is something that I intend to pursue after I graduate,” Whiteford says.
“I hope for this project to have a solidified platform that the two of us have made that we are both very proud of,” says Dudzik. “We are going to make sure that it will be as successful as we can make it be.”