It’s 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning; the streets are quiet and nearly everyone is fast asleep. But seniors Haley Catton and Anna Martin are wide awake in the comfort of Martin’s garage, doing what can only be described as unconventional activity for that hour of the day: sewing. They’ve been working for hours on end, but for them the time has flown by. To another, this sounds like an absolute nightmare, but to Martin and Catton, creating clothes is a pastime they love.
Martin and Catton recently created their own original brand, Kailoe. Though the name has no meaning in particular, the duo believes it captures fun and creative essence of their business. Their clothing company utilizes a process called “upcycling,” which essentially means taking apart articles of clothing and making new ones by combining different scraps and pieces. Catton described how their style of manufacturing lends itself to making individual items for different customers, creating clothes that steer away from mainstream trends.
“I was talking to someone the other day who was interested in dropping off a pair of jeans for us and I was saying ‘Oh we can always get jeans for you,’ but she said, ‘Well, I like the idea of bringing my own because I don’t fit into a lot of pairs of jeans and so when I do find ones that fit, that’s exciting. So it’s helpful for me that I can bring my own jeans and you do something with them,’” Catton said.
Martin agreed that the services provided to their customers is on a case-by-case basis. Each creation is new and specifically tailored for their client. There are no replications, unless a customer asks specifically. Both designers hand stitch all of their articles of clothing as they have yet to begin using a sewing machine.
“People can also bring us something as small as a button to put on something random that we make, or as big as a dress and we can completely transform it into what they want. It really varies with what they want to bring to us,” Martin said.
The duo decided to start their brand because of their desire to create clothes that fit their own personal style. As they’ve grown older, they began to feel like fashion and style were a bigger part of their identity than they had in previous years, therefore sparking their interest in upcycling.
“This is the most transformative year that I’ve had so far,” Catton said. “We talk all the time that we really feel that we are coming into a sense of ourselves. Style is a part of that—not for everyone—but for us it has been. We’re getting ready to leave here and do our own thing so it’s part of forming an identity.”
Martin explains the theme Kailoe’s designs are made to fit.
“They fit the theme of light and delicate and kind of simple. These clothes stray away from the typical mainstream kind of clothes that girls are wearing who are following those mainstream trends, so these pieces being really unique really separates us from that,” Martin said.
Although neither of the girls consider Kailoe to be a long-term commitment, they are still figuring out the logistics of the project. These days it is important for a business to have an online presence in order to gain traction.
“We want to make a lookbook type of thing where we can show off a piece that we made. Hopefully that will showcase what we can do,” Catton said. “We’re still trying to figure out the logistics of the website. We will probably have a place where people can submit requests for certain types of items.”
One of their peers, senior Leana Ngo, has made strides in pursuing a similar project as Kailoe. Her brand, called Die to Divide, is also in its beginning phases as a business, though she is working to expand it.
“The business is geared towards a streetwear brand, and it’s in its beginning stages; we’ve only put out two pieces of clothing so far. It follows the streetwear trend where people really like camo and big oversized hoodies that people can wear for everyday purposes but also dress them up a little bit, depending on what they want to do,” Ngo said.
According to Ngo, she is often asked about her brand name—what it means and why she chose it. Die to Divide is intended to send a message of unity and to ignite change in today’s tense social climate.
“The reason i named it that is is because I was thinking about how there is so much separation in gender and race and such, and I wanted to have a name that would bring people together,” Ngo said.
To further promote that message of inclusivity, Die to Divide’s instagram currently features models of different genders, ethnicities, heights and sizes.
Ngo’s interest in business and design originated back in middle school when she had an internship with the co-founders of Benefit Cosmetics, a popular makeup brand that is based in San Francisco.
“[The founders] are twins, Jean and Jane Ford, and I worked with the both of them. I did small things like coming up with names, because they wanted a younger perspective on their products,” Ngo said. “They had me organize their design files, and they ended up giving me feedback on some of my designs—my very prepubescent designs.”
The internship taught Ngo a number of valuable skills beyond designing. Through her work with Benefit Cosmetics, she learned about the intricacies related to running and operating a business. Ngo said her experience working with a successful brand gave her the skills necessary to create her own designs.
“You think most of designing is just writing it on a piece of paper and putting it on a computer, but it really is a lot about business and marketing, which I started getting into during sophomore and junior year,” Ngo said. “Designing and marketing exposes me to things I might be doing in the future, after college.”
While Ngo looks to the future, Catton and Martin are keeping their eyes on the short term. Although their brands have different styles, processes and next steps, both of these clothing lines are the product of endless hard work and creativity.
“We’re not trying to make this go super far; it’s probably going to be a short term thing until we graduate, or at least go away to college,” Matin said, “but it will always be something we enjoy doing and continue throughout our lives.”