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Selina Sanders

Digi-Zine

Virtual Shops: {Re}brand @ Home

Designing Sustainable Couture

Selina Sanders, a former corporate fashion designer, talks to us about the impetus behind starting her own label during the pandemic. Her line satisfies customers’ thirst for one-of-a-kind creations. She is grateful for her rapid success and maintains an open dialogue with her following on social media, responding quickly to produce the wonderful bespoke items they seek!


After being active in social media for a time, you finally launched your online shop at the end of June! What made you start a new business at a time that is so tough for many existing businesses?

Selina: My business was truly born out of the pandemic. I had been working full-time as an apparel designer and the fashion industry got hit hard by closures and order cancellations from retailers, forcing the company I worked for to lay off over 80% of their workforce. To be very candid, I was already feeling quite unhappy with my work there.

Working at a fast fashion company, I didn’t really feel like I was utilizing my creativity to its best potential. I spent hours daily “copying” designs from brands that customers aspired to and the price points made it nearly impossible to make quality garments. On top of that, I was aware of the massive amounts of waste generated by the industry that was providing my livelihood.

I had planned on quitting, and I knew that if I did, I would start my own company and basically do the complete opposite of what I had been doing at all the companies I had worked for in the past, in terms of production and design execution.

I had already pledged to buy only secondhand a year ago. I was always thrifting and mending my own clothes.

Reaching Customers

Zine: What are some setbacks or advances you made commercially, that you felt were specific to being a female founder? How did you overcome the struggle and repeat your successes? Can you share these experiences with others who might be experiencing something similar?

Selina: My customers are mainly women, with occasional boyfriends buying their girlfriends or significant others gifts. I feel fortunate that I am a woman designing for women – it is definitely a convenience as a person who tries the clothes on, critiques them, and makes changes based on my own wear testing. Although, I hope to one day cross the line over to dress our sisters in the trans community too.

Playing to a Strength

It’s important to focus on one item and perfect it, instead of creating multiple products at a time. I’ve found a hero product in my tea towel tops. Establish a “look” for yourself that will make your work identifiable.

Fortunately, I already amassed a nice collection of thrifted and vintage materials, as well as the machines/dress forms to start a small operation. I didn’t have to fork out a big sum of money at once to invest in my business. The internet is a wealth of knowledge. I usually look on YouTube to help me with roadblocks while working on a project or even things like how to service my own machines at home. Necessity is the mother of all invention. Pay attention to resources around you and don’t be afraid of taking a hands-on approach to troubleshooting. Whether you are just figuring out how to ship items more efficiently, or cheaply from home, or if you cannot travel, ask your friends who might be local to that area and have them source the materials you need. It’s amazing how far you can go with networking and utilizing the help of friends and family.

Zine: What are some challenges (or advantages) your business model may have encountered due to the pandemic? Any local laws imposed that were unexpected or altered your business plans?

 Selina: Sourcing has been tough. Prior to the pandemic, I purchased fabrics from flea markets, and traveled to other states to shop at antique malls and flea markets. But friends have been very generous with their time and offered to do the shopping for me, shipping me the items they find. I’ve had people donate their own collections because they believed in the work I was doing. With social distancing, it’s been difficult to hire help. So I have to make do and manage my time, to make sure I am meeting my deadlines. It’s a lot of work and I look forward to the day when things ease up and I can grow a team.

Zine: What changes brought about by the pandemic do you want to keep in your lifestyle? What changes are causing an inconvenience or hardship that you are anxious to move past?

Selina: The isolation has given me a lot of time to reflect. It also reinforced the notion that life and our time on this planet is precious and volatile. This thought has really pushed me to stay unafraid of my design choices and just go for it. I’m just grateful that people think it’s cool. But I do miss the physical interaction with others. I miss going to museums and traveling to seek inspiration. I also have dreams to attend shows and events to sell my work, and just help spread the message of buying slow and sustainable fashion. Being a mother and a small business owner simultaneously, and all done from home is a tough balancing act. I have to keep a very tight shift to make sure that I am doing the best that I can with both duties.

Reaching Customers

Zine: What are some setbacks or advances you made commercially, that you felt were specific to being a female artist/organizer/founder? How did you overcome the struggle and repeat your successes? Can you share these experiences with others who might be experiencing something similar?

Selina: My customers are mainly women, with the occasional boyfriends buying their girlfriends or significant others gifts. I feel fortunate that I am a woman designing for women – it is definitely a convenience as a designer who tries the clothes on, critiques them, and makes changes based on my own wear testing. Although, I hope to one day cross the line over to dress our sisters in the trans community too.. Although, I hope to one day cross the line over to dress our sisters in the trans community too.

Playing to a Strength

It’s important to focus on one item and perfect it, instead of creating multiple products at a time. I’ve found a hero product in my tea towel tops. Establish a “look” for yourself that will make your work identifiable.

Fortunately, I already amassed a nice collection of thrifted and vintage materials, as well as the machines/dress forms to start a small operation. I didn’t have to fork out a big sum of money at once to invest in my business. The internet is a wealth of knowledge. I usually look on YouTube to help me with roadblocks while working on a project or even things like how to service my own machines at home. Necessity is the mother of all invention. Pay attention to resources around you and don’t be afraid of taking a hands-on approach to troubleshooting. Whether you are just figuring out how to ship items more efficiently, or cheaply from home, or if you cannot travel, ask your friends who might be local to that area and have them source the materials you need. It’s amazing how far you can go with networking and utilizing the help of friends and family.

Zine: What are some challenges (or advantages) your business model may have encountered due to the pandemic? Any local laws imposed that were unexpected or altered your business plans?

Selina: Sourcing has been tough. Prior to the pandemic, I purchased fabrics from flea markets, and traveled to other states to shop at antique malls and flea markets. But friends have been very generous with their time and offered to do the shopping for me, shipping me the items they find. I’ve had people donate their own collections because they believed in the work I was doing. With social distancing, it’s been difficult to hire help. So I have to make do and manage my time, to make sure I am meeting my deadlines. It’s a lot of work and I look forward to the day when things ease up and I can grow a team.

Zine: What changes brought about by the pandemic do you want to keep in your lifestyle? What changes are causing an inconvenience/hardship that you are anxious to move past?

Selina: The isolation has given me a lot of time to reflect. It also reinforced the notion that life and our time on this planet is precious and volatile. This thought has really pushed me to stay unafraid of my design choices and just go for it. I’m just grateful that people think it’s cool. But I do miss the physical interaction with others. I miss going to museums and traveling to seek inspiration. I also have dreams to attend shows and events to sell my work, and just help spread the message of buying slow and sustainable fashion. Being a mother and a small business owner simultaneously, and all done from home is a tough balancing act. I have to keep a very tight shift to make sure that I am doing the best that I can with both duties.

https://www.selinasanders.com/

Workshops and the zine are organized by Slow + Sustain through the volunteer efforts of our contributors. Funding comes from both the contributors and the public.

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