'Ethically Handmade:' A Talent for Sewing and Disdain for 'Fast Fashion' Lead to Teen's Small Business – Statecollege.com

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 has spent the past eight years honing her skills. Now 16, she has turned that passion into a small business, Lazanya Sunwear, whose name in part pays homage to her late grandmother and the beloved lasagna she used to make for her family.
Powell’s friends have always benefited from her sewing skills, often coming to her with requests for alterations or custom-made clothing ranging from shorts to prom dresses. Two years ago, her friend Mary Miyamoto asked her to try making her a swimsuit, and Powell was excited to oblige.
“I wanted to try 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,” Powell says, saying that most swimsuits on the market today are expensive, ill-fitting, and mass-produced.
“I absolutely hate ‘fast fashion’—the overproduction of stuff and use of unethically sourced materials,” she says. “Personally, that’s one of the reasons I love to sew. That’s an important value of mine.”
As more friends began requesting swimsuits, Powell worked through early frustrations of learning to stitch on the thin, stretchy fabric, improving with each suit. She created her own patterns and came up with several designs. The suits became so popular among her friends that she decided to try selling some on the Etsy website, and her small business was born.
She sold a few suits through Etsy, but she says most of her sales came via word of mouth, as she prefers to focus on sewing rather than on marketing her business. So in March of this year, she hired Miyamoto, 17, to serve as Lazanya’s media manager. Miyamoto has taken the reins on all marketing and sales aspects of the business, including handling all orders and accounting, creating daily social media posts, and trying to place some of Powell’s creations into local boutiques. 
In the three months since Miyamoto teamed up with Powell, Lazanya Sunwear’s monthly sales have more than tripled, and its Instagram presence has grown from 60 followers to 280. Suits run from $55 for a custom two-piece set to $65 for a one-piece, and up to now, most of her customers have been fellow State College Area High School students, allowing for suits to be easily custom-sized and hand-delivered.
In keeping with the Lazanya theme, Powell names her designs after pasta shapes, such as the “Fusilli” one-piece and the “Orzo” top. Each suit is double-lined, with no exposed seams, and Powell is particularly proud of the way each suit fits her individual customers.
“All of the reviews we get say something like, ‘It fits perfectly; it’s the best-fitting suit I ever had,’ which makes me really happy,” she says.
She is also proud about the way she has stayed true to the values that led her to sewing in the first place.
“Each suit is ethically handmade, and extremely comfortable and functional. They’re not overproduced and they’re not overpriced.”
Powell has a dedicated sewing studio in her parents’ basement and mainly uses two sewing machines—a standard machine and a “serger,” meant for use with stretchy fabrics. She has made trips to New York City and Atlanta to buy fabric and also purchases some via Etsy. 
“Some of these suits are fully original, meaning you’ll never see it again because the fabric was either dead stock or I only bought a certain amount,” she explains. “A lot of the suits are one of a kind, which I think is really special.”
Powell says it takes her up to two hours to complete each swimsuit, and she has incorporated sewing into her daily routine, making an average of one each day after school. As business grows, she understands that it could become a challenge to keep up with orders, but for now, she says, “We’re handling it as it comes.”
Powell and Miyamoto have met with consultants at Happy Valley LaunchBox to get advice on growing their young business. As rising high school seniors, both girls recognize that managing a small business will be great experience as they move on to the next chapter of their lives. 
Powell says she plans to go to design school upon graduation to study either fashion or interior design. She is considering attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York or 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 that would be really difficult,” she says. 
But until that time, she is considering expanding her offerings.
“I’m thinking about selling pajama pants in the winter. I make fuzzy pajama pants and everyone really likes those. I’m also thinking about doing board shorts for guys,” Powell says.
For her part, Miyamoto thinks this kind of hands-on experience will help her when she applies to Penn State’s Smeal College of Business.
“Page gave me a nice opportunity,” she says.
All designs and most available fabrics can most easily be seen through the “Custom” modules on Powell’s Etsy page at etsy.com/shop/LazanyaSunwear. Orders are also accepted through the Lazanya Instagram page, @lazanyasunwearT&G
Karen Walker is a freelance writer in State College. This story appears in the July 2022 issue of Town&Gown.
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