In a world of fasts—fast food, fast tech, and fast fashion—it’s refreshing to hear of a start-up brand that promotes sustainability and hands-on creativity. Sewsquad, a line of “easy-to-make, fun-to-wear” sewing patterns, is the brainchild of Zoey Washington, an editor, writer, and stylist who has worked in the fashion industry since an early internship with Story + Rain Founder Tamara Rappa. "I met Tamara when I was 16 years old", Zoey says, "I became her intern at Cosmopolitan magazine where she was the Senior Fashion Editor. I wrote the fashion director every day for weeks until they finally just let me come and work even though I was the youngest there". Finding classic sewing patterns lackluster and complicated, and fast fashion brands “too expensive, too junior, or too revealing,” Zoey set out to empower customers to take ownership of their own unique style. Each Sewsquad kit comes with a beginner-friendly sewing project with the season’s top trending looks, an inspiration booklet, and a “Leftover Look” that Sewsquad'ers can create from scrap material. The best part? No sewing machines required! Everything can be easily hand-sewn with a needle and thread. (Don’t worry, there are simple-to-understand instructions.) In other words, this is a DIY project that people will actually do. Story + Rain Writer Amy Zalneraitis talked with Zoey about how Sewsquad came to be and where she sees it going.
When did you originally come up with the idea for Sewsquad, and how did you know you needed to make it a reality? I came up with Sewsquad in 2017 and originally thought that it would be a great project to take to a larger sewing pattern brand through my company, Creative AF, but as I began to refine the idea and work on the concept I realized that I had a passion for this product line that couldn't be matched by anyone else. In a lot of ways, I had been dreaming of making this brand since I was a teen sewing in my basement and I wanted to create something truly special. Sewsquad became a reality last year in April 2019, when we launched our site and put our first drop of patterns up for sale. As a fashion editor, I am constantly talking with young people about how to get started in the fashion industry and how to create their own style. I always wished that there had been a line when I was younger that married my love of fashion and trends with my very basic skills for creating my style. I was always shopping at Goodwill for something I could reimagine, or making tiny totes using fabric from Joann Stores, and I never really saw myself reflected in the products that were out there — whether they were sewing patterns or DIY kits. I was surprised to find, all these years later, that it is still an issue. I wanted to develop something that was fashion-forward, easy-to-use, really fun to make, and more about creating style than becoming a master seamstress. Enter Sewsquad.
Sewsquad sounds like a dream come true and a refreshing antidote to the fast fashion companies that target your demographic so aggressively. It has to be empowering to create something from scratch. Yes! We are really here to empower young people on all levels, boys and girls and everyone in between. Sewsquad is about celebrating and growing your own style and working with the clothes you might buy from a store, items you thrifted, or something you've made. We want young people to take ownership of their look and really have a hand in creating who they are on every level, and that includes fashion. So often young people feel out of place in fashion — items are either too expensive, too junior, or too revealing. Sewsquad offers them a chance to make their voices heard in the way they are comfortable with, at an affordable price, without ignoring that they might want to own the latest designer bag or the trendiest accessories as well.
Ever since 7th grade Home Economics class, I've had an aversion to sewing. Are these kits really for anyone? Even those of us who've never come close to owning a sewing machine? They are! Sewsquad patterns were developed specifically so you can make them without the use of a sewing machine, but of course, you can use a sewing machine if you have one. We are really trying to ignite that spark of curiosity in our customers about not just sewing, but about being more creative with personal style and thinking outside the box. That isn't to say our products are really avant-garde. We want to foster an excitement about fashion and personal style at a young age because teens are the most creative, inspiring, and fun demographic for fashion innovation, if you ask me.
I really love the eco-friendly vibe of Sewsquad (with sewing patterns that are still 100% on-trend). Can you talk about your views on sustainability in fashion and how that contributed to your decision to start Sewsquad? Personally, I've seen how far the fashion industry has come in terms of sustainability, but I think we can do so much more. When I was starting out as an editor, sustainability was about hemp fashion lines and unattractive cuts using specific materials, and now things have developed and it's exciting. I think Sewsquad helps young people to really see value in their clothes, not just because they might have made the garment themselves, but also because it allows them to extend the lifecycle of an older item, upcycling it to a totally new design. It gets them to see fashion as more than just a temporary, disposable buy, and it's essential to making the industry and shoppers keep sustainability top of mind. We want to lower the barrier to entry, for people of all ages really, to make their own items. That leads to a more mature view toward a circular economy.
Where do you see Sewsquad in five years? What about ten? In the next year, I would love to see Sewsquad grow its product line to include all the things a young person would need to create their own style, and that can mean anything from the chicest sewing kit you've ever seen to accessories, beauty, and home categories. We are also focused on sharing our ethos of making your own style easy on different platforms, including a new podcast we are working on called The Sewsquad Pod, where we'll speak to famous fashion and style creatives about their teen years, and launching in-person events with a major store chain. In five years we want Sewsquad to be the go-to introductory brand for DIY style. In ten years we would love to have a physical presence so that we can interact with our passionate Squad on a daily basis, and really redefine what the DIY space looks like for the demographic.
Shop Sewsquad patterns, which happen to make great gifts, here.
Sewsquad Founder Zoey Washington