The buzz of a sewing machine filled the small College Hill apartment in Pullman as Audrey Hawthorne transformed a thrift-shop bargain into a new outfit.
Old and vintage sports crewnecks are given a new purpose as Hawthorne cuts and sews them into trendy and unique two-piece sets for women.
Taking simple, worn, single-purpose clothing items and turning them into a complete outfit has helped this budding designer stand out from the crowd.
Hawthorne, a sophomore at Washington State University, originally from the Vancouver, Wash., area, said being so close to Portland left her surrounded and influenced by the streetwear styles of the fashion-forward city.
“Portland is very unique,” Hawthorne said. “The people there are always expressing themselves through fashion.”
Hawthorne began creating her own clothing back in middle school. She would cut up old pieces and try to give them a new purpose.
Unable to relate her style to clothes found in stores, she became motivated to learn how to create her own. And she was quite comfortable with thread and a needle.
Hawthorne’s aunt, Christine Sprague, taught her how to sew her own purse when Hawthorne was 7 years old. It was Hawthorne’s first sewing project.
She was hooked.
Hawthorne enhanced her hand-sewing skills by watching countless hours of YouTube videos, and eventually her oldest sister taught her how to use a sewing machine.
Hawthorne had no intention of creating a business or even showcasing her work online, but friends became intrigued and began asking where she bought certain items.
“I always knew (Hawthorne) was very stylish, but it was so cool to learn that she makes the clothing herself,” said Madison Smith, a sorority sister of Hawthorne’s. “Especially in college, everyone has a similar closet, so it’s cool to see someone stand out.”
Friends convinced Hawthorne to start selling her work. They gave her the confidence to post about it on Instagram, which then led to followers begging to get their own Hawthorne-made apparel.
After creating a few orders, Hawthorne then decided to host a giveaway on Instagram where a lucky follower could win a gray, two-piece Adidas set. In order to enter, followers posted a picture of the set on their Instagram story, tagging Hawthorne in the post.
The giveaway grew Hawthorne’s following tremendously, as interested buyers flocked to her page.
Now, Hawthorne’s personal hobby is becoming a business, with almost a thousand followers on Instagram and new items designed almost weekly.
The process of creating an item for a customer begins with a consultation. Hawthorne goes over what the buyer wants and how they want it to fit.
Hawthorne’s sets run from anywhere between $20 to $60, depending on material and the intricacy.
“After taking a few hours to plan, I jump right into it,” Hawthorne said. “It’s a lot of measuring, cutting, pinning, sewing, trying on and adjusting.”
The process can take anywhere between two hours to a couple of days, depending on the product and the design. Though it can be time-consuming, Hawthorne is motivated by the reward of someone wearing something she created.
She’s also learning to design clothes that cater to all body types, shapes and sizes, and she working on men’s apparel to expand her market.
“I never want to be limited to one style or clothing type,” Hawthorne said. “My only expectation for myself is to be creative and innovative.”